Suggestions for Improving Network Performance with CS Professional Suite Software

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Important! Your decisions about installing network hardware or software, or about adjusting any hardware or software settings, should be made only in accordance with the specific advice of a certified network professional.*

While network hardware and operating systems are not a specific area of expertise for Thomson Reuters, we would like to offer some tips that might help you and your firm's network administrator to create a more efficient computing environment for running your CS Professional Suite software products as well as programs from other vendors. This document describes some of the measures your firm can consider for increasing your network speed and software resources. These suggestions are based in part on the experience of other accounting firms and on our in house testing at Thomson Reuters.

Because most accounting firms use a variety of software programs from several different manufacturers, it is very important to consider how any changes you might make would impact your other software programs.

Furthermore, because every firm is unique in its equipment and activity, you should not consider the suggestions included here to be a comprehensive list of steps that would guarantee increased network performance in all instances. Nor can we guarantee that these suggestions will work for your own particular computing environment.

The CS Professional Suite software License Agreement states, in part: "Network Installation & Support: To assure successful installation of Network and Terminal Server Software Products, you will provide a qualified network installer to install and configure network hardware and software per the applicable Thomson Reuters (Tax & Accounting) application installation instructions. You will provide a qualified person to handle all network administration functions including, but not limited to, handling new user accounts and workstations, network passwords and file-sharing status, hardware, and printers. Thomson Reuters (Tax & Accounting) will only provide telephone support for Network and Terminal Server Software Products installed on local area and server-based networks, which incorporate hardware and network operating software officially supported by Thomson Reuters (Tax & Accounting)."

Suggestions for improving Network Performance:

Make sure your network and operating systems meet the recommended system requirements

While your firm's network and operating systems may meet the minimum system requirements, increasing the processor speed and RAM to the recommended requirements will ensure that you have plenty of resources available to run CS Professional Suite applications as well as background processes that run concurrently, such as antivirus software. For the most current system requirements, refer to our System Requirements page.

Increasing disk space can also improve performance. Disk drives with less than 20 percent of available space slow down system performance because the read/write heads must cover a greater area to retrieve data. Due to the low cost of disk space, we recommend purchasing enough disk space not just for today's tasks but for the life of the workstation.

We have found that professional accounting firms experience the best performance when they follow a plan of investing in new computer hardware and operating systems on an approximate three-year rotating basis.

In addition, using professional versions of operating systems increases stability and performance because they were built specifically for heavy business use. It is also important to invest in business-grade hardware and to keep a qualified technician available to install and support your network.

Make sure your network is set up for optimal performance

Your firm's level of activity dictates the optimal choice of several server configurations. The most inexpensive and simple network to assemble is a peer-to-peer server, in which one computer shares data with all other machines on the network. If you are using a peer-to-peer network, you can optimize performance by upgrading the operating system to Microsoft Windows 7 or higher. Also, when it can be avoided, the computer acting as the server on the peer-to-peer network should not be used for an employee workstation.

For better performance, consider upgrading to a dedicated server running a network operating system such as Windows 2008 Server or higher. These systems are built specifically for processing large amounts of data and may significantly increase network performance. Thomson Reuters does not support Novell, UNIX or Linux, or any storage-based devices such as SNAP servers.

For increased file serving, consider using a RAID system ("redundant array of inexpensive disks"). A RAID system uses multiple disk drives for fault tolerance and performance enhancements to reduce the time it takes to access data. As programs access data on the server, the RAID distributes the activity to multiple disks, thereby reducing the completion time. RAIDs are available in levels from 0 to 5, each of which offers an increasing benefit in performance and/or fault tolerance. RAID 5, the ideal choice if possible, provides both performance enhancements and fault tolerance.

An often overlooked component of network speed is the infrastructure connecting the machines on the networks. Switches, for example, manage the flow of data better than hubs, and therefore can increase speed over the network. Hubs are an increasingly outdated technology and usually capable of only half-duplex 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. Switches, on the other hand, are usually full duplex 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps and manage traffic more effectively.

Network cabling can also be a factor in performance. Thomson Reuters recommends at least Category 5 UTP cable and suggests Category 6 UTP cable backed by a written warranty, tested with proper data grade testing equipment, routed to minimize any electrical interference (such as fluorescent lighting and HVAC equipment), and properly terminated at an organized and labeled patch panel. Any patch cable used to connect patch panels, networking equipment, or workstations should be certified to the same or higher level as the main cabling plant. Experienced data networking cable installers are essential to installing a reliable network. After installation, it is important to periodically test with cable test gear such as a Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) to ensure reliability. Do not neglect to test workstation drops and other small runs of cable. Remember, a network is only as efficient as its slowest point.

Review the role of your server

Your network server may perform more duties than file serving. For example, it may act as an email server, web server, print server, or terminal server in addition to any number of other tasks you may require from it. Before assigning tasks to your server, have your network administrator carefully consider how much your file server should be doing. Each task creates an additional load on the server, slowing down processing time. Therefore, you may want to consider dedicating your file server to serving files only, and using separate servers for additional roles.

Utilize the Windows system tools on a regular schedule.

Consult with your firm's network technician to determine the appropriate frequency for using the following Windows system tools, which can be accessed from the Windows taskbar by choosing Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools.

Schedule and install Windows critical updates regularly

It is important to stay current on Windows updates, especially critical updates, to protect your network from existing system security exploits and viruses. Visit www.Windowsupdate.com for critical updates, or access the site by clicking Start > Control Panel > Windows Update. If you do not receive notice from Microsoft when critical updates are available, consult with your firm's network technician to determine the appropriate frequency for installing Windows updates.

Review the settings of your antivirus software.

Antivirus programs provide essential protection to your files by detecting, containing, and eliminating viruses, which can slow down your network by monopolizing bandwidth. You may remember, for example, the SQLSlammer worm that infected computers in late 2003. The worm caused increased traffic as it spread, slowing Internet traffic and local networks. On the negative side, antivirus programs can sometimes degrade network performance. A few precautions can help reduce such degradation.

First, be sure that your antivirus program is appropriate for your operating system. Some antivirus software does not perform well on certain server operating systems and can cause network delays. Next, because virus scanning consumes many resources, consider scheduling automatic scans during off-business hours. Finally, if you have antivirus software installed on both workstations and servers, do not allow the workstations to perform real-time scanning on server drives. Letting the server scan its own drives will reduce network delays and cut network traffic. Refer to your antivirus software instructions to determine how to shut off the real-time scanning of network drives.

Disable background programs such as spyware

Programs can be installed on workstations without your knowledge or consent. Sometimes they are installed along with the operating system or another program you are using. Spyware and malware can be discretely added to computers through the Internet, and these programs can dramatically affect network performance because they run in the background, using large amounts of bandwidth and processor load. We suggest that your technician review and install anti-spyware that meets the needs of your firm in order to eliminate these nuisance files.

To determine if background programs are slowing your network, first disable all background programs. The method of doing this will vary by operating system, but in most instances rebooting the computer into "safe mode with networking" will prevent those processes from starting up. If your network speed issues are lessened by disabling background processes, take steps to prevent these processes from loading on startup. Because the method of disabling programs varies, your network technician is best qualified to disable background processes.

Disable Client Side Cache on Windows Machines

This is just another term for the Offline Files feature in Windows operating systems. It is most widely known as offline files only but the cache location is named CSC under the Windows directory. If enabled, this can slow down the application's performance. Based on your version of windows, click the appropriate link below to view instructions on how to disable the Client Side Cache feature.

Disable Offline Files or Client Side Cache in Windows 7

Compact both client data and global data

It is also important to use the utilities within your CS Professional Suite applications to maintain the database files. Some programs include options for compacting or cleaning the client database and the global or shared file. For example, we recommend compacting your Creative Solutions Accounting data at least once each year as part of normal maintenance for your client data, much like you would use the Windows Disk Defragmenter utility on a periodic basis to enhance file storage for your computer's hard drive. Compact the client data more often if the client is processed on a more frequent basis (weekly or monthly) or if the file size is very large.

Take steps to eliminate system-specific issues

The following issues can negatively affect performance speed.

Consider these as possible factors while you troubleshoot your system, and take steps to eliminate them.

Screen savers

Because screen savers can use a lot of resources, when troubleshooting speed issues you should turn off the screen saver.

Non-standard program directories

Universal Naming Convention (UNC) Paths are the actual computer-pathnames on the network. While we support UNC paths, mapping the path as a drive letter may increase performance. Refer to Microsoft Knowledge Base topic 150807 for more information.

For firms running on a Windows Server 2008 R2 network with all Windows 7 machines, the UNC path is the recommended method of accessing your network shares. We recommend that you use a consistent method of mapped network drives. In order for your Windows 7 machines to properly utilize the mapped network drive resource, it will be necessary for you to disable the User Account Control (UAC) on those machines. This can be done by accessing the User Account option within your Control panel.

Another variation from standard paths are long path names such as N:\program files\applications\tax\Ultra Tax\Wincsi\UT08. Consider installing to a shorter path such as N:\Wincsi\UT08.

NTFS file storage

When using the NTFS file system, do not use compressed or encrypted files for Creative Solutions application or data files.

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