|Q.Some of my clients like different report styles than others. What can you do for me?
A.Within each client's preferences, you can select which report style will be used for their information. You also select whether these reports will be printed, faxed, e-mailed, or sent out as a data file to each client. ALIS then handles these preferences automatically each time you run samples for these clients.
Q.What operating systems are supported by your program?
A.Generally, 32 bit Windows operating systems are supported. This means Windows 95, 98, 98se, NT (sp6), 2000 and XP. ALIS is happy running on either a Windows server (NT4 sp6, 2000 or 2003) or a Novell Netware network, 3.12 or newer. Also, we are told that a Linux box running Samba will serve as well, although we haven't tried this for ourselves.
Q. Are you SQL based?
A.No, however, the engine we use is quite capable of running large amounts of data through without instabilities or slow downs. Also, using ALIS means you do not need to have a special database administrator or additional licensed software. The theoretical limits to our database engine are as follows: 1024 concurrent users per file, 2 GB File limit (per each individual file), 2 billion records per file, 240 keys/indexes per file, and we have automatic file cleanup, and user utilities to verify data integrity, all incorporated into ALIS.
Q.I have never heard of your product, who else is using ALIS?
A.Our software is fairly new, so you may not have heard much about us. We have ALIS installed in both private labs and major universities. Call us and we'll be happy to arrange for you to talk to some of our satisfied users. If you want a hint, try Kansas State University, Iowa State University, Soiltest Farm Consultants, and others.
Q.I need to simplify my lab. I don't have a life during the growing seasons here. How can you help me?
A.Let's start by using the automation you have available. Let the computer do more of the work, and more quickly so that you and your husband/wife/kids/significant other can have the time to get re-acquainted! Let your equipment feed answers directly into ALIS to prevent human keying errors. Let ALIS create the reports for your clients, including fertilizer recommendations for soils, based strictly on your accumulated knowledge of crops and soils in your area. Review and approve the results and let ALIS print, fax and/or e-mail out the results to each of your clients per their individual preferences at the touch of another button. Even if different clients want different report styles, ALIS handles it all for you. Now export the invoices into QuickBooks or Peachtree or ALIS' own internal accounting module, again reducing the human error factor. Check one quick report to see how many samples have come in and are lined up for tomorrow so that you can call in extra help if needed. Go home and enjoy your supper while it's still warm for a change!
Q. My application service provider (ASP) informed me we have find a new LIMS because they are discontinuing their service. Is ALIS going to leave me "high and dry" some day?
A. ALIS is installed on your own hardware, you have the CD disk to reload whenever you need. ALIS does not depend on any outside services to run, so if the Internet is "down", or it's a holiday or whatever, you are still able to keep right on running with no interruptions. We've been around for years, and expect that this will continue.
Q. How easy is it to get information into and out of ALIS? What if I need to move information out to another program?
A. ALIS has several import/export routines built in to assist you. Your information can be imported from ASCII files, and exported to ASCII, Comma delimited, and dBase 3 and 4 formats. An ODBC driver is also available to allow you access directly into the TPS data files.
Q. I've compared ALIS to other LIMS of similar quality. Why are they so much more expensive than your product?
A. That's easy. We want ALIS to be the standard in agricultural, environmental and industrial laboratory information systems. That means we have to keep ALIS affordable for everyone, even for hard-pressed agricultural labs. Also, we are not a pharmaceutical LIMS or a general purpose LIMS, we wrote ALIS from the ground up for a specific purpose, with those features and functions that make sense and can help labs run efficiently and effectively.
Q. Why is there a need for your particular product?
A. The world is a finite place, its resources are limited. In order to sustain humanity, we must sustain agriculture and in doing so, the environment. Therefore, in order to fine tune our practices for posterity's sake, the various disciplines must cooperate with each other. ALIS assists you with this.
Q. Is ALIS just one of many isolated and isolating LIMS or can it be used across interdisciplinary workgroups?
A. ALIS was designed for sustainable agriculture and resource management in natural and man-made environments. ALIS is the first interdisciplinary LIMS. ALIS can be used by and between the following types of public and private, rural and urban, analytical research and testing facilities, both large and small:
Drinking and Wastewater Quality Labs - both agricultural and environmental (e.g., Municipal Waterworks, Estuaries, Watershed Fisheries, and Irrigation)
Soils/Grids Labs - both agricultural and environmental (e.g., Agronomists, Erosion Experts, Landfills, and Civil Engineers)
Plant Tissue Labs - both agricultural and environmental (e.g., Crop Scientists, Horticulturists, Aquatic & Land-Based Weeds Personnel, and Foresters )
Feeds and Forage Labs - both agricultural and environmental (e.g., Feed Manufacturing Plants and Rangelands)
Animal Waste, Compost and Sewer Sludge Labs - both agricultural and environmental (e.g., AFOs-CAFOs, WTP Reuse Facilities, and Fertilizer Manufacturers)
Q. About search and find capabilities, can I find my reports and samples by lab number, customer name, location, date, and other criteria?
A. Yes! If you need to find a report or sample from the past, you can search by any of those locators and several more. No more digging through boxes 18 months after a test has been completed to find the information you need or to reprint a report.
Q. Can I import test results directly from my equipment?
A. Yes! In addition to our own built-in import and interface routines, we have used TAL Technologies' WinWedge successfully in the shop to filter the data stream down to just the necessary information that must be recorded in various different reports. Done once per machine during the equipment setup, this becomes permanently transparent to the lab tech. If you have equipment that produces a data file, each module is capable of importing that file into the database after, again, a single setup procedure.
Q. Can we change our soil fertilizer formulas and plant tissue sufficiency ranges without having to mess with the source code?
A. Yes! There is no need to poke around in your source code looking for a specific formula or to get a programmer to change things. Each formula for your nutrients is easily accessible and user alterable any time you need to change something. That is also true for your sufficiency and comparison ranges.
Q. If I change my formula, does it alter previous reports?
A. No! Even if you have ALIS recalculate current recommendations based on the new formula for current reports, unless you specifically choose to alter previously reported information, your old reports remain unchanged.
Q. Can I export my reports and results from ALIS to other packages?
A. Yes! There are several exports programmed into the system. If you have a specific need for a specific format, an optional external Report Writer allows you to lay out custom file exports and report forms, like chain-of-custody reports.
Q. Can I reprint reports whenever I need to, without a hassle?
A. Yes! Reports can be reprinted or faxed with ease.
Q. Some of our formulas are not simple straight-line formulas. Can we use conditional statements in our formulas?
A. Yes! The syntax is not 'plain English' for such formulas, but is easily learned, and utilized.
Q. Does your software have a way of flagging out-of-range values for samples and reference materials while entering results?
A. Yes! You define the detection limits, ranges, mean values, standard deviations, and both warning (+/-2 SDs) and action (+/- 3 SDs) control limits. If an expected value range is exceeded, the technician is immediately notified to confirm or reject the results. If either detection limit value is exceeded, only a supervisor can override ALIS' objection (as in the case of an inserted spike) prior to its acceptance and an exception is permanently added to the file.
Q. Do I have to enter a client into each module separately, and once they are in the system, how easy is it to edit addresses, phone numbers and so on?
A. All the modules draw from the central client data file, and so a single entry or edit there is simultaneously available everywhere.
Q. Do I have to pay for those parts of the ALIS program that I don't need?
A. No, ALIS is modularly designed. You can buy a license for the core data engine and as many or as few of the modules as you need. Others can be added later, if you desire.
Q. Do you have an automatic assignment (autoincrementing) of lab numbers for each sample as it is logged in and a log-in printout for a set of samples for record keeping?
A. Yes! All samples are given a unique identifier as they are entered into the ALIS program. At the end of the day, or whenever you choose, you may print a report of the samples entered for a specific date range for your logbook.
Q. I don't have a big lab. I'm afraid your product may be out of my price range. Am I out of luck?
A. No, we have leases (including municipal leases for public operations), payment options, and other easy options for smaller labs to consider. Give us a call, and we'll be happy to show you how we can fit ALIS comfortably into your budget.