Informer Helps Keep Emergency Notification System Data Fresh for Westminster College

Posted on July 10th 2012

Q/A with Kyle Rima at Westminster College

Westminster CollegeWhat challenges were you facing that required improved / more timely information, Kyle?

The college purchased a new emergency notification system and they wanted the system updated frequently. We created an online form that students, faculty, and staff could use to update their emergency contact information in our database but we needed a way to get the data to the emergency notification system.

How did Informer help you to address the challenges stated above? 

We had originally thought we would ship the data once each day, but the institution decided that they wanted it to be done more frequently. The solution we came up with was to schedule Informer to create a new file every hour and place the file in a directory on the Informer server. Then we created a scheduled task (in Windows) that SFTP’d the file to the emergency notification system where it was pushed into that system.

What features of Informer were useful in meeting this challenge?

We used quite a few features that made this challenge much easier. The first thing was used was the Informer calculated columns. We had data coming into the report in a multivalued field that needed to be broken out into individual fields based on a type. So our calculated column looked at each position in the type field and if the type was the one we were looking for it would grab the associated phone number out of the phone number field and populate the new calculated field. We could have accomplished this inside of UniData® but it was so much easier and flexible with the calculated column.

Another feature we used was the scheduler. We created a custom cron expression to run the report every hour except during our nightly backups. It was great to have the flexibility of a custom cron script to be able to create the schedule.

The final feature we used was the export a hard copy to a file or folder. This allowed us to create the file in a secure location and then securely transfer it to the vender that was hosting the emergency notification system.

What organizational benefit was realized by this approach? 

This project was a high priority for the College. We needed to be able to get messages out to the students, faculty and staff in case of emergencies. One of our big concerns going into the project was how to keep the data current so that when we needed to use the system we would be able to the most up-to-date contact information for everyone.

Now we know that the data is being refreshed and the only maintenance we have to do is to change the semester the report is pulling for at the beginning of each new semester.

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