National Academies Press: OpenBook

Safety Reporting Systems at Airports (2014)

Chapter: Appendix B - Information Technology Primer

« Previous: Appendix A - Detailed Survey Responses
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - Information Technology Primer ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Safety Reporting Systems at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22353.
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Page 57
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - Information Technology Primer ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Safety Reporting Systems at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22353.
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Page 57
Page 58
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - Information Technology Primer ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Safety Reporting Systems at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22353.
×
Page 58
Page 59
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B - Information Technology Primer ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Safety Reporting Systems at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22353.
×
Page 59

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56 Primer—information technologies and software system oPtions In today’s technology world, several system architecture solutions are available to support data collec- tion, management, and reporting, including stand-alone applications, client-server solutions, and web- based or hosted solutions and various combinations of the above. As with any comparative analysis, pros and cons exist with each system option. Total Cost of Ownership, Technical Support, System Access, Security, and Control are some of the aspects to consider when evaluating architecture and ultimately a safety reporting software or database solution. aPPlication architecture stand-alone A stand-alone application (see Figure B1) is an application that runs on the user’s local computer (or tablet). The application (program logic and presentation logic), the data storage, and the data access are all running locally on the device. This solution obviously limits the number of users sharing the process and the data. Pros and Cons: For safety reporting, which is inherently a multi-function, multi-person effort, a stand-alone application may not provide an adequate solution. The initial cost is typically low and includes the local computer (or tablet) and the software application. Although application updates may or may not include additional costs, updating the program is usually completely controllable by the user. Data backup must be implemented locally otherwise a lost or damaged computer or tablet can result in a complete loss of the application and the associated data. Most local computers do not employ Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) as a storage technology and thus subject local computers to possible single hard drive failures placing the stored data at risk. client-server Client-server (see Figure B2) describes a type of computer application architecture that designates tasks between clients that make requests and servers that process requests and provide replies. Previ- ously (and in some cases today), both these system resided within a company’s network. In current technologies, this client server configuration can include interfaces with the Internet and web browsers; however, for the purposes of this discussion, we will define the client-server paradigm as one with “fat client” applications running on servers, mainframes, or mid-range computer systems connected to local computers acting as “terminals” with user interfaces that are applications running on the local computers. This means that the data storage and data access are on the server side and the user interfaces (forms, data entry, reports, etc.) run on the user’s local computers or devices. The application program functions are divided between the server and the client. The server handles data storage and data access. The client handles presentation logic. The program logic may be split between server and client or assigned to one of the two. This is considered a traditional multi-user system that works well; however, deployment of application updates requires a tremendous effort, and hardware maintenance costs are a large factor. Some companies provide client-server software that runs on an Application Service Provider (ASP) or “hosted” model by using either Terminal Ser- vices (TS) or Citrix to provide remote and multi-user access from a single deployment architecture. This is a secure system and allows easier updates as there is a single deployment to update; however, performance issues can arise, including user support issues and costs associated with the constraint of accessing the application through TS or Citrix. In this scenario, software is typically paid for up front, and the initial cost of the system can be high. aPPendix b information technology Primer

57 Pros and Cons: System and application upgrades and database migrations can occur at the system owner’s discretion, not on an ASP schedule. As the system owner is in control of the upgrades you can cut ties with the software provider if you are unhappy with newer features, support, or service. Internal staff is in full control of the environment. You can make IT decisions that you believe are most effec- tive for your organization. All costs to purchase, maintain, and upgrade the network are the owner’s responsibility. Assigning maintenance and upgrade tasks to an ASP can, at times, save money and gain efficiencies; however, high exposure may exist if the system does not ultimately meet your business needs and a long-term contact has been signed. Additionally, licensing may require a service contract of as much as 20% of the system cost per year, whether support services are used or not. hosted (saas/asP) In a hosted solution (see Figure B3), the server performs all application program functions: data stor- age, data access, program logic and presentation logic. The client computer merely captures the user’s keystrokes and sends them to the server and then receives and displays the response usually through a web browser over the Internet. The application is a web application that “displays” within a browser on the local computer, yet “runs” on the server. In most cases, the solution is hosted by a provider company Tablet Stand-alone Computer FIGURE B1 Stand-alone system. (Source: Chase Stockon, Panther International LLC.) FIGURE B2 Client server system. (Source: Chase Stockon, Panther International LLC.) Database Server (Data Storage) Processing Server Various Client Types (Running applications that access Database and Processing Server)

58 referred to as an ASP and the pricing model is usually called Software as a Service (SaaS) and is paid for as a subscription. This model allows multiple software or system deployments from the same server. Similar to the lease of a car versus the lump sum purchase, the application is never actually owned and the cost is usually lower, but the SaaS payments continue for the life of the system use. The Hosted/ SaaS/ASP model is generally safe and if architected properly it works well; however, the application— completed located on the server—is susceptible to bottlenecks, over-subscription, and infrastructure failures. However, all systems require monitoring the application and the database, and the added cost of maintaining the infrastructure. Under a hosted solution, risks and responsibilities are transferred to the ASP. In house IT staff is virtually uninvolved in system or application upgrades, service, support, or database migrations, drastically reducing overhead and exposure. Issues with upgrades are typically managed globally, not on a customer-by-customer basis and hardware, operating system and database software are included in the price of the application. Internal costs to purchase, maintain, or upgrade the network are limited or entirely removed from the cost of ownership and maintenance. Pros and Cons: A hosted system is typically offered on a subscription or usage basis, allowing control of the costs and the ability for the business to grow into the system without an extensive up- front expense. In some cases, owing to long-term subscriptions over multiple years, the system can appear to cost more than an owned application (though a true cost comparison would have to include many other factors). imPortant considerations: Factors to consider when deciding which architectural model is best suited for you and your organi- zation may include: Application Updates/Scalability/Flexibility Do you possess the resources and talent to maintain the software over time? Is the solution flexible and scalable to meet your needs now, in 3 years, and in 5 years? Availability Requirements Can the application be hosted externally? Does the user need to access the application when no connection is available? Can you afford to have the system be down for a period of time? Note that should you use an ASP, you would require a solid Service Level Agreement that spells out required availability and acceptable downtime. FIGURE B3 Hosted solution. (Source: Chase Stockon, Panther International LLC.) Internet Various client types running browsers to access applications on servers Application Server Database Server

59 Data Integrity A centralized database is valuable for the entire organization delivered through the network, enabling the database to be used to identify, correct, and reduce repetitive or erroneous data throughout the network. Security, data protection, redundancy, and backups all assist to preserve data integrity and are either provided internally or paid for through an ASP. Security Although hosted solutions possibly expose the applications to more users, they also centralize all security to one portal allowing the ASP to focus on the security of the portal, the application and the data. Risk Mitigation Data Ownership Ensure that in every purchase (including hosted systems) the data ownership is maintained by you or your organization. The application may be provided as a Service and owned by the ASP; how- ever, the data belong to you, and you should ensure your continuous access to the data (including frequent backups.) Code Escrow A hosted solution brings efficiencies, scalability and some of the other benefits discussed previ- ously. However, with these benefits also come risks. Once you incorporate the application into your daily operations, it is important to mitigate or address possible risks such as vendor legal or financial disasters including bankruptcy, insolvency, business discontinuation, or litigation. Code Escrow requires the vendor to place a copy of the application and the code—which they rightly own—in an escrow account. The escrow agreement then states that should something happen to the vendor, the purchaser assumes ownership and the right to use the application and the code as your own. This is recommended as a suitable protection for protecting your interest from ASP failure. Total Cost of Ownership When evaluating the total cost of ownership, employing a 5-year assessment should include hard- ware, software, updates, support, training, SaaS subscription fees, and internal maintenance per- sonnel labor costs. Hidden costs associated with both the hardware and software such as the lost productivity of staff during downtimes or training should also be considered. While other factors will also come into play, these comparisons should increase your awareness of the differences between the types of application architectures and help you plan a more educated software selection.

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 58: Safety Reporting Systems at Airports describes safety reporting methods and systems for airports certificated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 139 by assessing current practices, processes, and systems used to collect and analyze safety data and information.

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