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Advice on file transfer software required

My company has 300 shop-based laptops that dial-up head-office servers via PSTN daily to transfer their sales data and to collect a group of other files at the same time.   The files normally exchanged are quite small - about 10K - but ocassionally we have to sent 1-2Mb files up to the laptops.  They are transferred at any time of day or night and the dial-up lines are frequently problematic so we often get breaks, failures and re-tries.  The servers are running NT4.

We have been using Kermit under Windows 95 up to now to make the dial-up connection, negotiate the connection an therafter manage it.  The problem is that we are moving to a VPN later this year and will need to use Dial-Up Networking to make the connection.  We have experimented and find that Kermit is flakey over DUN.  It is still a single-user system and we are having to create multiple windows on the server.  The negotiation between Kwermit and DUN is not very reliable and sessions can hang under some circumstances.

We would like to move away from Kermit and use FTP.  However, there is nothing in FTP to manage the connection.  I wonder if there is a wrap-around aplication we can use to manage the session, retries, logging, timing out etc.  I'd rather use a proprietry product if one exists as I want something that is very robust.

---------------------------
Rob Wheeler
IT Development Manager
The Windsmoor Group
London, Great Britain (UK)
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theherring
Asked:
theherring
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1 Solution
 
dbusherCommented:
theherring,  tell me more.
*Are the files that you are sending and receiveing always named the same? Or do the names of the files change?  
*Are they always going to reside in the same subdirectory on the client and server or does this change also?
*When you send data to the server is it entered into a database automatically or is it just a file that is dropped off for someone at that end to do something with? *When you connect to the server can you ping the server (i.e. do you and the server have a STATIC IP? or DHCP).
*Does the server have FTP enabled?
You are making a good decision to get off kermit. FTP is much better. Based on your answers above I have several reliable solutions for you.
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sergeisCommented:
Rob,

Have you tried WS_FTP? Here is what it has:

"WS_FTP Pro provides advanced support for handling frequently visited FTP sites, time-outs, port numbers, passive file transfers, and firewalls. It also automatically resumes interrupted transfers and includes file-maintenance options to help prevent overwriting files. The program also enables remote-to-remote transfers and has command-line support for automating file maintenance operations."
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theherringAuthor Commented:
Replies to comments from dbusher...

*Are the files that you are sending and receiveing always named the same? Or do the names of the files
change?  

They always have the same names


*Are they always going to reside in the same subdirectory on the client and server or does this change
also?

The directory locations never change and names are always the same but the set of files sent each day is not always the same.


*When you send data to the server is it entered into a database automatically or is it just a file that
is dropped off for someone at that end to do something with?

The files are dropped off and then the server performs some post-processing.


*When you connect to the server can you
ping the server (i.e. do you and the server have a STATIC IP? or DHCP).

Static IP addresses

*Does the server have FTP enabled?

Yes


You are making a good decision to get off kermit. FTP is much better.

Why do you dislike Kermit?  I'd be interested to know


Based on your answers above I have several reliable solutions for you.


Thanks - I am very interested to see what you can offer.

****************

Replies to comments from sergies...

Have you tried WS_FTP?

FTP clients are no use as we need a negotiation to be performed as there is both pre- and post- processing of files.  Both client and server need to know how successful they are in exchanging data.






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vsamtaniCommented:
Have you considered dealing with the whole transfer by email? If you implemented a standard email server at head office, each of your remote laptops could have an account. The protocols SMTP and POP3 are virtually bullet-proof, so you could be pretty confident that information will get from remote sites to the server and vice-versa. And there are hundreds of good email handling tools that could assist with pre- and post-processing the sent data at both ends.

Vijay
(also London)



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theherringAuthor Commented:
Have you considered dealing with the whole transfer by email? If you implemented a standard email server
at head office, each of your remote laptops could have an account. The protocols SMTP and POP3 are virtually
bullet-proof, so you could be pretty confident that information will get from remote sites to the server
and vice-versa. And there are hundreds of good email handling tools that could assist with pre- and
post-processing the sent data at both ends.

Vijay
(also London)


Reply...

Funny you should mention it - this is something we have recently discussed in the team and have decided to explore.  We are currently using OUTLOOK 2000 on all the laptops and they all have mail accounts already.  However - getting information on how to interface VB programs with Outlook has proved difficult.  I wonder if anyone knows of books, on-line docs, training courses, development software etc that one needs for this exercise.

***************************
Rob Wheeler
IT Development Manager
The Windsmoor Group
London, Great Britain (UK)
***************************




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vsamtaniCommented:
Have a look at www.slipstick.com as a starting point.

Vijay
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dbusherCommented:
"Why do you dislike Kermit?  I'd be interested to know."
I DO NOT DISLIKE KERMIT. I JUST PERFER FTP. KERMIT IS OUTDATED. ALSO I DO A LOT OF PROGRAMING AND ALL MY SOURCE CODE USES FTP FOR TRANSFER. THATS ALL.

"FTP clients are no use as we need a negotiation to be performed as there is both pre- and post- processing
of files.  Both client and server need to know how successful they are in exchanging data."
THIS THROWS ME FOR A LOOP. CAN YOU DISCRIBE BY WHAT MEANS THIS IS ACCOMPLISHED? MAYBE ELABORATE A BIT. ARE THE CLIENT AND SERVER POLLING FOR NEW DATA OR...? WHAT IS THE PRE AND POST PROCESSES?

"I am very interested to see what you can offer."
STILL WOULD LIKE MORE INFO BUT...AS MENTIONED, EMAIL IS GOOD. I WOULD HIGHLY SUGGEST WRITTING YOUR APP. DEPENDING ON WHAT THIS PRE AND POST PROCESSINNG IS, THIS APP COULD EASILY BE WRITTEN ( I ALREADY HAVE SOURCE CODE FOR THAT ). AS FAR AS MAKING SURE THE TRANSFERS ARE COMPLETED (I.E. NO CRC ERRORS) THAT IS HANDLED BY THE CODE.

Take care.














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theherringAuthor Commented:
Kermit presents two problems:

1) It is really a single-user system so that if you have a number of laptops polling in at various times during the day you have to have a separate window open for each session.  This can be a bit flakey as windows sometimes lock or crash out.  Our programmer has therefore had to write a lot of code to make sure that if one window has disappeared the clinet will jump to the next etc.  There are so many possibilities of error that you have to write baroque code to cater for the many possibilities.  This of course make the whole thing inherently unstable.  We are pushing Kermit to its limits in my opinion and "bending" it to uses it was not intended.

2) We will be moving to use of a VPN later this year so we will have to use Dial-up-Networking.  We have written code to make Kermit work over DUN but there is no built-in communication between DUN and Kermit - therefore at times Kermit hangs.


What we do is have laptops poll in at various times during the day and drop off files and collect others.  As Outlook email is also used on the laptops this looks like a good candidate for transferring files.  We are looking at the moment at how we can automate Outlook and the slipstick site has proved very useful.  I have also found references to some books that detail how to program Outlook.  

The aim will be to start up Outlook in a minimised and locked window; ZIP all files for transfer, create an email, insert address and subject line, attach the ZIP file, send it then close the window.  

Pre- and post- processing is already dealt with by existing VB code in our application.  This just involves extracting flat files from a database ready for trasmission and at the server end reading them into various locations.  It's just the transfer of the data that needs to be robust and there needs to be some recovery if the PSTN line collapses.  In the case of FTP you can be left with half a file if the comms falls over.  To implement FTP we would have to wrap it in a lot of code which checked whether all the files sent had ben received and that they were intact.  I would rather use a proprietary product that dealt with all that behind the scenes.

Thanks.

Rob Wheeler

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dbusherCommented:
Sounds like you are moving in a good direction. Let us know how it goes.
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theherring:
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NetelligenCommented:
No comment has been added lately, so it's time to clean up this TA.
I will leave a recommendation in the Cleanup topic area that this question is:

Accept vsamtani's comment as an Answer

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