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The most remarkable attribute of an AS/400 solution is the issue of reliability. While customers utilizing merely PC server technology must fiddle with their computer systems almost daily, an AS/400 system requires a service call, on average once every 18 months. This is not to say that PC networks are bad. With an AS/400 as the main server, they can be quite powerful. I canīt stress too strongly, the advantage of knowing that your computer system will be on-line and functioning every hour of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year. Simply put, our customers rarely if ever have periods when they canīt do their work, and having a full-time computer person on hand is merely a convenience and NEVER a necessity. Think about it! What are the hidden cost involved in your PC network configuration?

I began my career in the computer business in 1978, long before the birth of the PC, at a time when Bill Gates [Microsoft] was only dreaming about writing an operating system for computers. Back then, we called these small computers "microcomputers". Like Gates, I too saw a great potential for these small machines that IBM and even the manufacturers of these small computers did not see. I wrote my first convenience store and oil marketing software in 1981, using one of the most popular small computers on the market - the North Star Horizon - one predecessor of the modern day PC.

It wasn't until 1983 that I had the opportunity to work in an environment other than that of a microcomputer. At which time I discovered what a "real" computer was like. These "real" computers were called "minis", because they were smaller than their big brothers the "mainframes" that were found only in the largest of Fortune 500 companies. The one attribute that made "minis" stand head and shoulders above microcomputers (or PCs), was the fact that they seem to work all the time, and that they cost more than $80,000 to acquire. Put simply, they never crashed, they never locked up, there were never any GPFs and the infamous "This Program Has Performed an Illegal Operation and Will Now Shut Down - OK?" messages that we PC users know by heart, never appeared. (By the way, it is NOT OK, and it never WILL be OK and I wish they would change that part of their message.)

It didn't take me long to get spoiled by "minis" and each time over the years when I had ventured back into the world of PCs, it didn't take me long to run back to the safety of the mini systems. It's a difficult position to maintain because so many of you are convinced that PCs are the "wave of the future."

While "minis" have evolved to be faster, bigger and cheaper, they have also retained their outstanding reliability. PCs on the other hand have gotten faster, bigger and cheaper as well, but in the area of reliability there has been little progress. In fact, in some ways they have actually gotten worse. The problem is that PC architecture was originally designed to perform one function for one person at a time. Because of upward compatibility issues, regarding a customer's software, we have been unable to break away from this base technology and on to a more reliable platform. (Remember the PS/2 micro-channel? IBM tried and failed to make more reliable PCs popular over a decade ago.)

The problem we face as a society is that we tend to follow the leader-of-the-day regardless of which direction he or she is leading us. When something new catches on, it becomes the de-facto standard and the rest of us get stuck with it. That is the one thing that stunts our growth and cost tens of millions of dollars to correct. I have learned to accept the fact that the "majority" believe that PC technology is on the cutting edge and that there is nothing that I can do to change that, so I won't try. But I do feel that it's important to point out that PC technology is not the epitome of computer technology at its best, but simply an integral part of the total computer technology picture.

So rather than try and explain the AS/400 computer, I'll simply state why I feel that the AS/400 should be an important part of every small and medium-size business:

    The AS/400 computer makes and excellent server on a PC network. Losing data on an AS/400 is so rare that I have never heard of such an incident. Not that AS/400s never break, but when they do break, repair is simple and data is rarely lost. Using the AS/400 as your PC file server is the best way to safeguard your information.

    The AS/400 is far more reliable than any of the PC alternatives. The average downtime on an AS/400 is about 4 hours per year. Can you imagine that?

    AS/400s are less expensive than PCs. Since the AS/400 operating system comes with all the necessary database tools built right into it, the cost of setting up and running an AS/400 is two-and-a-half times less expensive than running a PC network.

    You deal with one vendor. The cost to maintain an AS/400 is typically about $1,000/year and the up front cost is generally less than $12,000. Since the accounting software is no more expensive than typical PC software, the savings can be substantial. Operating system upgrades generally come in one package and can be scheduled to arrive automatically as they are available.

    The AS/400 is fast. Transaction processing time on an AS/400 far exceeds that of a typical PC network and speed plus reliability make the AS/400 the most efficient solution for a small business. PC proponents are quick to demonstrate how fast their user interfaces are, but then you waste hours of productive time waiting for the computer to perform updates and process transactions.

    Because of the reliability of the AS/400, the software is written in a more integrated fashion. Typically PC systems require more steps before the final results can be obtained, delaying the deliverance of valuable information to management.

    The IBM DB2/400 Relational Database is a marvel in its own right. I constantly hear sellers of PCs talk about how they utilize a relational database in their software, but no one can know a "true" relational database until they have experienced DB2/400. Foxpro, DBase and Clipper are child's play when compared to DB200/400, and Oracle is an unnecessary add-on product that requires much more expertise to maintain. What does DB2/400 mean to you, the computer user? Quite simply the ability to access you company's information completely and non-restrictively. With easy to use query tools and even more powerful SQL tools, an AS/400 user will never have to ask their programmers to produce reports for them again. Data in an AS/400 is easily accessible to anyone that has been given the authority to access it. Without DB2/400, data is be locked in an impenetrable fortress that can only be extracted by highly trained data processing engineers. And DB2/400 comes free with every AS/400 shipped.

These are only a few reasons that make AS/400s #1 in my book and that's why I continue to use them and recommend them to others. Maybe you should investigate using an AS/400 in your business.

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