Legacy Software Upgrades

It finally happened, my childhood caught up with me. Back in high school and college I was building out some pretty basic windows applications using VB6 and eventually VB.Net. I thought I had left all those behind as most of the world moved to more modern web and mobile applications. But… I was wrong.

It turns out a lot of those old legacy applications (most of them are Windows apps but some are still older web applications) have been running for the last decade.  The problem is they also need to be upgraded. It’s pretty weird that the skills I used back in college are now needed again as we are starting to see a lot of clients reach out to use to help upgrade those application to a more modern framework.  

With that said, we are seeing some trends when it comes to upgrading these applications and we thought we would give you a quick rundown on what to expect and think about if you are currently in need of a windows application update.

Security Concerns.

Old windows applications are almost always end of life support, and are by nature no longer secure. They often are built on older technologies like Microsoft Access DB or need DLLs or other services that are also no longer supported and no longer secure.

Hardware dependent.

Legacy applications sometimes need to run on old versions of Windows (Windows 2000 for example) and those operating systems are not secure and not supported. In addition, it is hard to maintain those computers since they run slow and are more likely to crash.

Minor, but Legacy Applications don’t benefit from modern User Interface and easy accessibility and more modern tools. 

We see legacy applications that run extremely slow because the faster ways for writing code, or faster services, didn’t exist when they were written. Making the user experience less than ideal. 

Training other staff members.

Often there is only one or two people in the office that know how to use them. Leading to a bottleneck of information if those people are not available to assist with urgent tasks needed for the application. 

Features are decaying.

It’s really common for us to hear “Oh that button doesn’t work anymore;” or “I used to be able to print this report but it hasn’t worked for a few months so I do XYZ to work around it.” This shouldn’t be how you have to work around your software to run your business. 

Creating problems with other modern applications. 

What I mean by this is, if you have an old application you are using but you also have modern applications in addition to the legacy application, the applications are probably fighting with each other. Making it difficult for you to use them both together. For instance, web applications tend to be able to automatically share data. If you have a legacy app you might need to export data to excel, then import it into a newer application. Maybe you must print data on paper and then manually enter it into the new application or the new application has a really great feature (like having pictures of your products) but the old system can’t collect that data so you can’t use the feature on the new software. This makes the two systems incompatible, which in turns makes your team spend more time on a specific task. 

Interested in upgrading your legacy software applications? Contact us today to see how we can help you and your business!

Blues.io and Internet of Things

Switchbox is kicking off another IoT initiative. In the past we’ve done a number of projects including tracking farm machinery, ensuring safety in manufacturing nuclear pharmaceuticals, helping campers reduce electricity usage and to keep their eyes on their campers, and even just a little work with drones over golf courses for keeping the course green.

This time we are proud to announce that we are starting work with blues.io which is quickly growing in the IoT space.  We have a dev team working on integration with their core API and using their starter kit for mobile monitoring and data reporting through the 5G network.  

If you have wanted to get into IoT, or just have a project you think might be a good candidate contact us today.  The blues.io hardware comes pre-certified by the FCC and works in and out of the USA over multiple international data networks so they have removed a lot of the original barriers to custom IoT hardware.

Business Optimization

How to optimize your business to work smarter, and to save you money along the way.

Our last series was on Business Automation (found here & here), but now we’re moving into Business Optimization within your company. So the real question is how to take an inefficient part of your operation and make it efficient.

We take our clients through several phases to help them optimize their operation. The first is looking at existing systems to see where the there could be wasted time, energy, or money.

Wasted Time, Energy, or Money

Time Wasters

Duplication of effort. For instance, entering data into one program and then entering in the same data into a different program. A simple solution is creating an API to join the two applications together. When one application gets data it automatically updated the other application without a human being involved.

Another time waster is requesting or looking for information. For instance, one medical client of Switchbox’s was constantly having doctors call the internal lab to request patient lab results. The lab would then pull the results and email the physician. The simple solution was to pull all the lab results into a secure application and let the doctor look up the information when needed without wasting time on the phone or digging through email.

Energy Wasters

This one can be a bit tricky to find but there are many examples in businesses.

A company rented medical equipment to their customers. They were required to service the equipment after a certain number of hours the equipment was used for the safety of the equipment and customers. They didn’t have a way of knowing when the equipment was due for a service so they simply required clients to mail the equipment back every 3 months. This resulted in equipment being packed, mailed, and serviced well before it needed to be. There was an extremely simple solution that we helped them with. We created a portal that emailed customers every month and simply asked them to submit the “tachometer” for each device so the company can see when the device was ready to be serviced. The result was a 60% reduction in shipping and the labor associated with servicing devices.

Money Wasters

Everyone wants to save money in their business. But, often the problem is that they don’t understand how a simple application of technology can do that.

Example 1: A client of ours manages utility bills for large apartment complexes. Their clients pay for all water used and their renters pay for only the water they use. The problem is that any leak in a pipe results in the apartment paying for the water but the resident doesn’t.  Without getting into the details a simple report allows apartment owners to see the different in between where water is used vs. how much is being billed which let them quickly identify likely leaks.  The results is thousands of gallons of water being saved each month.

Example 2: A large parts reseller was shipping all their packages with UPS because they generally got a better shipping price from the company.  We implemented a quick change in their software that checked UPS, USPS and FedEx in real time the second before the shipping label was produced.  The solution was to have a label printer print the label for the cheapest shipping provider. There was zero change in printer hardware, zero change in training their shipping personnel, zero changes to the loading dock. All that was needed was a quick look that computers can do in less than a second.  While the daily result was saving a few pennies on shipping thousands of boxes each day, the larger results was several thousands of dollars saved to their bottom line each month.

So the question really becomes how can you optimize your business using technology? Switchbox can help you find areas that can be better optimized, contact us to chat about it!

Using Push Notifications to Increase Web Application Usage

How to Increase Web Application Usage

We hear it all the time from our clients, “I have a great web application but my users don’t come back to using it regularly.”  It’s a common problem with web applications and mobile applications.  How do you get users to go back regularly and use your online application?  People are extremely busy.  They might have downloaded your mobile app to help them solve a task, they liked it, they intended to use it again, but they forgot about it.  You’ve tried to send them online alerts that read “Our mobile app is great, come back and use it again.”  But that isn’t working.  A great solution is to get users to check your application by regularly pushing them data.

Setting up a Relevant Push Email to Users of your Web or Mobile Application

I’m a Google Guide.  If you don’t know what that means I basically rate a lot of companies, restaurants and post a lot of pictures of places to Google.  If you want to see one of the awesome web development companies (Shameless self promotion 🙂 ) you can see some of the content I’ve created as a Google Guide.  What’s really neat about how Google get’s me to keep using their application is that they send me regular updates via email and mobile phone push notifications to keep me updated about how my content is doing.  See the image below for an example.  They don’t tell me how great their app is, or try to tell me why I should use it, they just push me regular information that is personalized to me.  

Web Application Data Pushes


Things to Include to your Application Users in a Push Email

1. Information that is new since the last time they used your application

2. Information that is built around their last interacting with your mobile application.  For instance (Last time you used our mobile app you looked at Resturant X, here is information about Resturant X).

3. Some type of number that shows that your application is changing and that they should therefore use/check it often.  For instance on the image above Google tells me that I have lot’s of users that view my photos.


Welcome New Switchbox Employees

Switchbox is excited to announce that we’re growing by two! Meet Michelle the new Executive Assistant, and David our newest Full Stack Web Developer.

Michelle came to us as a Graphic Designer and Marketing Coordinator with previous experience working with car associations, and doing freelance design work. With her background, and intense love of organizing, she’ll help Switchbox elevate the office work environment as well as our marketing and social media presence. Michelle likes to spend time outside (when it’s not too hot), watch Star Wars, and check out the newest art exhibits at Columbus Museum of Art.

David comes to us with previous experience as a Full Stack Web Developer, having his latest work be for a lighting fixture e-commerce company in New York City. With David’s talent, he’s a great addition to the Switchbox Developer teams, helping to give our clients the best project experience. One of David’s favorite projects that he’s worked on was a web application called PottySpot, which is designed to show on a map the locations of all publicly available restrooms near the user! Some of his hobbies include cooking, weight training, playing competitive trading card games, and watching anime.

Welcome to the team Michelle & David!

RightTrack Infusion Pump Software and Web Application Launch

Check out the press release for our newest business process management workflow and tracking application.  All custom built by our development team here in Columbus.  It’s nice to work with local companies and RightWay Medical was great to work with.


Why do Small Businesses out Innovate Large Corporations?

What does it take to get a large company to become innovative around web applications?

Before we answer that lets look at why small companies are so innovative when it comes to IT projects.  First, small companies don’t have the same fears around security.  A small company can ignore the possibility of it’s confidential client information being stolen because they probably don’t have any.  Of maybe they do but it’s all housed in an online application like Quickbooks online.  A large company has to make sure that everything it controls is completely protected.  So when their internal innovation team comes up with a new idea for a web application the IT department has to make sure that that one tiny new web app doesn’t create a security threat that will compromise all the other IT systems in the company.

Another reason small companies can innovate faster is that they make decisions faster.  As a recent example with a large company here in Columbus, Ohio I met with an internal innovation team to discuss an idea they had to automated the tasks they were using an Excel spreadsheet fo.  The ROI on the idea was huge.  They needed to manage over 100 facilities across the US with multiple issues that changed based on the location, time of year, weather, and government regulations.  That is a tasks way too complicated for Excel.  After speaking with them and laying out an idea for how we could move forward they realized they needed to do the following to get their web project moving…

Ways Corporate America Kills Innovation within their Company

These are the steps they had to go through before they could even figure out if the company would fund their idea(the idea with a clear ROI).

1. Ask coworker for the form they had to fill out to start their Innovation Project (TPS form maybe?)

2. Fill out cumbersome form

3. Send form to unknown boss (they were not sure who this was)

4. Setup meeting with boss (not easy to do in a big company)

5. Bring Vendor out for second meeting with boss

6. Refill out Innovation Form based on new information boss wanted

7. Meet with IT (By the way this is the kiss of death for most web projects because the non-IT people don’t know how to work with their IT department)

For more information on these types of projects see our other blog post (Handling Backlogged IT Web Projects)

8. Assuming IT let the project move forward go back to boss for funding…

You geth the picture.

How do small companies build innovative web applications?

1. Talk to boss about idea

2. Bring in 1-2 web application companies to talk about project

3. Decide if pricing the development firms gave you is worth it.

4. Sign contract.

How can large companies innovate more like small companies?

1. Innovation has to occur at the small department level not the corporate level.  If you want to empower your teams to find creative ways to build a new web application or a mobile application to solve their departments problems you need the department to innovate, not the company.

2. Build in small rewards for everyone (including IT and finanance) for launching a new web application or mobile application.  Employees are afraid of what will happen if they fail and quite frankly there is no reward for success.  Build success into the process.

3. Create a time every month for employees to meet with their Innovation Boss so that meetings are easy to schedule and are expected to happen.

If you need help getting your online application moving call us.


Custom Product Configurations and Javascript

Custom Online Product Configurators

In case you were wondering, “Configurator” isn’t actually a word but WikiPedia defines it as an online tool.   With that out of the way… we are all familiar with online configurators like what we see with shopping cart websites.  Typically in a case like Shopify, Magento or even WooCommerce you see simple product configurations like changing the color or an item or the size.  Typically these require the owner of the website to upload different images for each configuration.  So if you have coffee mugs for sale on your website and you want to sell them in green, red and black you would need to upload three images.  The site displays the correct image depending on what the user selects.

Common Problems with Online Product Configurators

So the example above works okay if you only have a few variations you need to create unique images for.  What happens if you have a product with lots of variations.  Say, 25,920 unique options?  We had a client with just such a challenge and the answer was to use so javascript trickery around overlaying images, image transparency and some other magic.  Check out their online product configurator and you can see what we mean.  The solution was to have a seperate image for the “Trim” at the top, and seperate image for the bottom.  We then used javascript to do image overlays to change the colors, add the appropriate shadows and ultimately piece the image together into a single image.

Browser Compatibility

Let us know if it doesn’t work in your browser but we used Browser Stack for some quick testing and the javscript compatibility with modern browsers seems to work flawlessly.  We are currently working on another custom tool for CAPSA for their online medical cart sales and will blog about that when it comes out to the public.  If you have a product that you want to display online and it doesn’t work with a standard shopping cart give us a call or fill out our Contact Us to contact the best web development company in Columbus.

10 Ways to Tell if your Organization Procrastinates on IT Projects

How does my organization rank on the IT Project Procrastination Scale?


We work with a lot of clients and this is a lot of what we hear regarding starting their web application projects.  To our clients we say… “We totally love you all but some of you have some big problems getting things moving.”  Please don’t take it personally but you need a little help.


Answer the questions below and count the number of “Yes” answers to get your score.

1. I’m required to fill out some type of multi-part form to show business value for my IT project.

2. After my last IT project meeting my boss told me to “Provide a revised business case for the project based on new information that was ‘uncovered’ during the meeting?”

3. The term “ROI” was used more then 10 times during my last meeting to discuss my project.

4. My boss blames his/her boss for not approving the project and says that “My boss will need more information before they will let me approve this project.”

5. Everyone on your team agrees this project has tremendous value, completely agrees on the need for the project, wants the project, and is excited about the project but… it still isn’t approved yet.

6. During the last meeting our “IT Guy” blamed “security concerns” as a reason to slow the project down but was unable to state specific concerns or next steps to address the concerns.

7. You heard the phrase, “I think we made great progress here today…” and “… so let’s discuss this again at our next meeting” with 5 minutes of each other.

8. Your IT project costs less then your last company party, will be done before the end of the fiscal year, and will require fewer internal resources then the last “sales brainstorming session” and everyone still has some reason they don’t want to start the new web application project.

9. You are still tracking mission critical data for your company on an Excel spreadsheet and your boss thinks that is a good idea.

10. You still use an IT vendor that screwed up the last 5 projects, always comes in over budget and never gets the work done on time and you still won’t fire them and try out a new company.


Your Score:

0-3: You lied! Just kidding.  Your company is great at embracing change and willing to try new things.  You are in the top 4% of companies.

4-6: You need some help.  You are still using Excel to run your business but you’ve decided the internet is not a fad and you are trying to move into the modern era.  Good for you.

7-10: Give up.  Stop using technology and buy some papyrus, a big stone tablet and a chisel…  Or call Switchbox.

When big companies use bad UI (User Interface)

How Big Companies Make Bad Website User Interface Decisions

The bank shall remain nameless but I came across this question…

Notice how instead of using a drop down for education they ask the user to enter a number?  Why on earth would I enter a number for my schooling instead of using a drop down to select (High School, College, or Graduate).  Also, what happens if I enter 19?  Does that mean I went to graduate school but didn’t finish?  Again, I’m not trying to be negative here but really?  Web developers and web designers have been using the drop down box since HTML was invented.

Later in the online form I was asked for my “Relationship Status”  I answered “Married.”  So the site asked me for my wife’s information.  It then asked me “Spouses marital status?”  Seriously, you are asking me for my spouses Marital Status?

Yes this was a bit of a sarcastic blog but for those of you in the web or application development industry please do not repeat these mistakes.