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Direct Connection with ClientBase Windows or Trams Back Office
There are several aspects to this type of connection and all points should be discussed with agencies before they decide to make this type of connection.
The simplest thing that we can tell an agency is the following (feel free to use this with agencies via email, etc):
“You will need to configure the router at the office to forward ports 3050 TCP and 8090 TCP to the internal IP address of the server. The remote workstation will use the office’s external, or WAN, IP address in its alias path. For example: If port forwarding has been set up correctly and the external IP address for the office is 18.104.22.168 and the path do the database at the server is C:\ProgramData\Trams\Database\Trams.ib, then the remote computer’s alias path would be 22.214.171.124: C:\ProgramData\Trams\Database\Trams.ib.”
This may be enough for some offices, but there’re a lot of details here that can and should be addressed. The key to all of this is that we cannot help them configure their office’s router, though there are some things we can assist with and questions we can answer.
- How do I get the office’s IP address?
- Should the office have a static IP address?
- What if they decide to not get a static IP?
- They’re setting up the router and just need to know how to get the server’s IP address, how do they do that?
- It’s working, but very slow, is there anything they can do?
- It’s still slow… why is it so slow??
- It was working fine, but now it doesn’t. What happened?
- What if we already have a VPN?
How do I get the office’s IP address?
The easiest way is to go to any computer in the office and direct a browser to http://whatismyip.com. That site will report back the correct WAN IP address for the office. You could also get that IP from the router configuration if you knew where to look. Hint… we can’t help them do that.
Should the office have a static IP address?
Yes, it probably should. The agency should contact their ISP (the Internet Provider for the offices’ internet service) and see if they are already being given a static address, if they are currently using it (or one of them) and if not, how to get one and set it up. The ISP should be able to handle all of that with them. It may cost them more money each month for internet service to have a static IP.
What if they decide to not get a static IP?
They need to be prepared to look up the office’s WAN address any time it stops working. Routers pick up new IP addresses from the ISP at different times for different reasons. Maybe it has a setting that refreshes and picks up a new address every time it’s idle… who knows. The point is that if it stops working, they’ll have to know that this is something they’ll need to check.
They’re setting up the router and just need to know how to get the server’s IP address, how do they do that?
Everyone should already know this with all of the workstation connection help we provide, but if you go to the server it should be quite easy. If on Windows XP, Server 2003 or older go to Start, Run. Type cmd and click okay (or press enter). Type ipconfig at the command prompt and hit enter. It will report back the IP address.
On Vista or Windows 7, go to the Start icon (the Window flag button where Start used to be) and go to Programs, Accessories, Run. Do the same as above after getting to the Run Prompt. You can also type in Run in the search box after clicking the Start icon and it will suggest the Run program as an option. Also note, they want the IPv4 address, not IPv6 if both are listed.
FYI - All versions of Windows should allow you to hit Window-Key + R to get the run box up.
It’s working, but very slow, is there anything they can do?
Yes and no. There are a couple of settings that can be changed that will help some, but ultimately it will be rather slow anyway. Here’re the primary settings that will help:
- Under Global Defaults, Reminder Alarm settings, the option there should be set to Polling. What this does is change the way alarms are handled by the system. With IBEvents, the Server is constantly checking the workstation connections if they require an alarm. Changing to polling makes the workstations just check if they need an alarm every 2 (this setting is fine as is) minutes.
- The next settings can be done either through Global or Workstation Defaults. All of the Automatic query settings should be disabled. This includes all managers as well as the Travel History Tab, Payment History Tab and Indicator Buttons. Having these enabled will cause CBPlus to populate all of the information on those tabs while a profile is being opened. This can be quite slow for profiles with a lot of history.
It’s still slow… why is it so slow??
The best answer that I can give is that you’re dealing with a bandwidth bottleneck. Most internet services provide very fast download speeds, but not necessarily very fast upload speeds. In a nutshell, each side of the connection can only receive (download) information as fast as the other side can send (upload) it. Therefore, it’s the upload bandwidth that both sides need to examine if they are going to actually try to research ways to improve the connection.
It was working fine, but now it doesn’t. What happened?
All of the things that could have broken a regular workstation to server connection need to be considered. If the server has updated or new Antivirus software and a new firewall, that could do it. If the remote station has a new antivirus software with firewall, that could do it. The primary thing, would be to question whether the office used a static IP address or not. If they didn’t that could have changed. They also have to consider, if the server’s local IP address at the office changes, then the port forwarding rules built into the router will need to be updated. I’m stressing this because this is very likely, and would be easy to determine if they have local workstations that had to have their paths updated recently.
VIII. What if we already have VPN?
All support for connecting to a VPN needs to be handled by an agency’s own IT department. However, once they have made a VPN connection, they should be able to connect with either CBW or TBO in the same way as a workstation would inside the office network. The path can use the server’s local IP address or name, if the VPN is configured correctly. I’m saying “should” only because there is some chance that there is other VPN security in place that might block the ports our software connects over.
Options for Connecting Remotely to your database
There are several options for connecting your remote users or multiple branches to your database.
Direct Connection - Connect using TCP/IP through the Internet. Requires 100K bandwidth per simultaneous User (both directions) for this option to be fast enough. ClientBase is installed on the workstation(s) and data is processed at the server and the results of the processing are passed to the remote location. Existing firewalls must be configured to allow access to the data. It is important to note that for a direct connection to be safe it should be made over a secure VPN. It is possible to connect directly over the internet via port forwarding, but the connection would not be encrypted.
Terminal Server - A connection through the Internet to a machine that sits on your network and allows you to operate the computer from a remote location. The data is processed at the network location and viewed remotely. This option involves a server that can handle all of the simultaneous users and licensing for the Terminal Server software which is provided by Microsoft. In order to use the PNR Import feature in ClientBase your GDS must also be set up to run in Terminal Server (For more information contact your GDS).
The options below only pertain to ClientBase
Browser Access - The ClientBase Browser program is designed to be an add-on program to the Windows version of ClientBase, providing Browser access to your ClientBase database for remote Users. In order to make your ClientBase database accessible via an Internet Browser program, you will need to setup and maintain a Web Server. The Browser version of ClientBase targets front-line agent functionality and includes a subset of the functionality included in the full Windows version.
Database Synchronization - This option is currently available for syncing between the primary database and one additional branch. It involves making a copy of the primary database, putting a copy in the branch location (soon it will be multiple locations) and then synchronizing any changes. Each ClientBase database location needs a separate license. Speed when working in a synchronized database is the same as using your regular database since it is running on a local server, and you can set this up to automatically synchronize using Windows Task Scheduler.
ClientBase Online - ClientBase Online is a web version of ClientBase that can be accessed anywhere in Internet Explorer. ClientBase Online includes most of the traditional ClientBase Windows functionality. Future versions will include tighter integration with Sabre booking tools, as well as enhanced functionality.
Cloud Options and Trams
The biggest problem is determining first, what they mean by “Cloud Environment.”
The agency, more or less, should be referring to about 1 of 3 different scenarios. If someone calls about moving to “The Cloud” please do a little question and answer to figure out what they are looking to do so you can guide them with how they work, or don’t work, with our products.
- A full ASP Environment (Application Service Provider)
- This is what most people mean when talking about “the Cloud.” A company would host the product in its entirety, installing Trams and/or ClientBase on a remote Windows server (likely a Terminal Server). This is basically the only scenario we would recommend. Agents would not load the software on their own stations. Instead, they would connect initially via Remote Desktop and then launch Trams or Clientbase. This is basically the same as if the agency hosted their own Terminal Server, with the major exception that the server is administered by the company hosting it for them.
- Moving the database to Cloud Storage
- This is the second most common thing that people mean and it will not work! You can’t simply toss the database off of your network onto some “cloud drive” and hope to connect to it. Embarcadero documents that Interbase must be running on a Windows system and the database MUST be on a local drive connected to that machine.
- Moving just the server off-site
- It wouldn’t be very common to refer to this as “the cloud.” In this case, the server is moved to a remote location and the workstations would keep the software installed locally. This would not be recommended. It falls under the category of making a direct remote connection and would be subject to bandwidth/speed issues.
Static vs. Dynamic IP Address for Direct Remote Access
Here’s how it works:
An IP address is either Static or Dynamic. Doesn’t change or could change.
If an ISP is assigning an agency a Static IP address, every time their office router restarts it will always pick up the same IP address from the ISP. This is ideal.
If the ISP is issuing an agency an address Dynamically, they still have an external IP address and could still use it to make a connection. They just have to be careful as if the router restarts or resets it will get a new IP address from the ISP and remote users will have to update their Alias paths to contain the new IP.