Reading and following all recommendations in this article is the only guaranteed method of ensuring ShoWorks runs stable for your fair. Our attempt in this article is to provide a comprehensive guide to ensuring stability which can be achieved. By following these guidelines in their entirety, we can guarantee a stable experience when using ShoWorks. In the same sense, exception of any one of these recommendations will almost guarantee instability of ShoWorks.
Best Practices for ShoWorks Usage
The purpose of this article is to provide technical guidelines in regards to the most stable use of ShoWorks – more specifically, program crashes and speed issues. Business applications such as ShoWorks require practices that conform to the design intent and limitations of the software and these should be employed for trouble-free operation. These Best Practices are provided below.
Part A: Requirements
Though ShoWorks will install on almost any Windows machine, we break our requirements down into both minimum and recommended requirements to provide an all-inclusive representation among fairs and their budgets. Please understand that adhering only to the minimum requirements does not guarantee stability, but rather an elimination benchmark for the minimum use of ShoWorks in limited environments.
Basic Hardware Requirements
- 8GB available RAM or higher.
Note that "available" RAM is not the same as "installed" RAM (see here).
Generally, 8GB of installed RAM equates to nearly 5.5GB of available RAM (depending on how many applications are open at any time).
- 2GB of free disk space (the software only needs 200MB to install, however Windows operates smoother with more available disk space).
Networking Hardware Requirements (when using more than one computer at a time)
- Wireless networking is not recommended.
- 100Mbps Ethernet (NIC) card on each computer (1,000Mbps/1Gbps recommended).
- 100 Mbps switch or router (1,000Mbps/1Gbps recommended).
- Only one switch or router between the data file and any client computer (multiple switching is not supported).
- 7200 RPM or faster hard drive speed for the machine hosting the data file.
- SATA 3.0Gb/s or faster hard drive interface for the machine hosting the data file.
- Microsoft Windows 7, 8 or 10 Professional (including Ultimate and Enterprise Editions) 64-bit.
- Home Editions of any version of Windows are not supported.
- (optional) Microsoft Office Professional 32-bit 2010, 2013, or 2016.
Part B: Software Configuration
Version of Windows
ShoWorks is a business application. Microsoft has released different versions of Windows designed to accommodate various market segments, breaking these into two groups: home users and business users.Per Microsoft's own product description, Home editions of Windows are not intended for business application use, regardless whether they are physically used in the home or in a professional environment. Database applications such as ShoWorks require the memory handling of business editions (Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise) of Windows. Running ShoWorks on the Home Edition of Windows will cause instability, most noticeable when creating or editing custom reports. If you have the Home Edition of Windows and plan to upgrade, we recommend re-formatting (wiping) and installing a fresh, full version of Windows Professional since upgrades leave remnants of prior versions. Keep in mind that a machine which originally came with Windows Home Edition installed was probably configured with lesser quality components and intended to remain in the home (see more discussion on quality and components in the next section) so a simple upgrade to Windows Professional still may not resolve stability issues.
Click here for more information on why ShoWorks is supported only on certain versions of Windows.
Version of Microsoft Office, and older versions of ShoWorks
Though Microsoft Office is not required for ShoWorks to operate properly, it does use a Microsoft Office based engine (Microsoft Access) which can conflict with older versions of Office that are currently or have been previously installed on a machine. Therefore, if Microsoft Office is installed on a machine, it must be 32-bit and version 2010, 2013, or 2016. If a machine has (or even at one time, then removed) any different version of Office than these outlined, ShoWorks will become instable, most noticeable when creating or editing custom reports. If you have or had an incompatible version of Office on your machine, it is strongly recommended that you reformat (wipe) the machine and install a fresh, copy of Windows and the new version of Office since upgrades and uninstalls leave remnants of prior versions. This rule also includes having older versions of ShoWorks. For example, if you are installing ShoWorks 2016 onto a machine that has ShoWorks 2012, then you should reformat (wipe), reinstall Windows, then optionally install the proper version of Office, then the correlating version of ShoWorks downloaded from our website. You may omit this lengthy process, however stability cannot be guaranteed until you have done so.
Part C: Networking ShoWorks among multiple computers
In addition to the networking hardware requirements outlined above, one must understand that the inherit definition of networking is a connection of multiple devices. As such, a fault in one component will result in a cascade of errors to all connected computers. Remember the familiar cliché: "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link". ShoWorks uses a file sharing architecture. This means that the entire data file (which can grow quite large) is constantly sent back and forth across the network during the communication where data is processed on each client and then sent back to the main file. Because of this, network traffic demands of ShoWorks is extremely large compared other, non-file sharing applications. In other words, a network may seem to function correctly under regular usage (such as the transfer of files, communicating, etc.) but heavy data demanding applications such as ShoWorks will often draw out any flaws in the devices. The following practices should be considered:
Best Network Practices
See Article 117030 for a stability tips when running ShoWorks on a network.
- Avoid mixing operating systems (different versions of Windows) and versions of MS Office among the networked computers.
- Do not use wireless networks. If this is not practical, then consider using Remote Desktop (see below).
- Use only one switch between all computers including the host. If this is not practical, then consider using Remote Desktop (see below).
- The startup time of ShoWorks will take up to 4 minutes if other users have data menus open on other machines running ShoWorks. This time may be reduced to under 20 seconds if other users close to the main menu of ShoWorks while subsequent users start ShoWorks on the network. This only affects startup times as once in the program, normal speed should resume.
- Make sure that cables are not near any power outlets or electrical boxes, which cause interference.
- For long distances (300 feet and over), consider using Remote Desktop (see below).
Using ShoWorks over Remote Desktop
Remote Desktop (sometimes referred to as Terminal Services), is a built-in component of Microsoft Windows to allow connecting one or more machines to visually interact with a host (server) computer without having any significant processing brought across the network. In other words, the user "sees" the desktop of the server and opens applications that remain entirely on the server. This reduces network traffic and increases speed tremendously, since only graphics are streamed across the network and the server does all of the processing of ShoWorks, even with multiple users. A Remote Desktop configuration has the advantage of yielding impressive results for even the most underpowered clients and network, as well as connections through the Internet.
Steps on configuring ShoWorks for Remote Desktop can be found in help article 115004 "How to use ShoWorks in a Remote Desktop setting".
Remote Desktop has the following advantages:
- Speed – the feel should be almost as fast as running ShoWorks locally, without a network.
- Accessibility – a connection can be made from virtually anywhere, including wireless and over the Internet.
- Good for low-end machines – almost any machine can be a "thin" client (even Macs, netbooks, tablets, smart phones, and the cheapest computers).
Remote Desktop has the following disadvantages:
- A server is required and must be configured, often requiring technical expertise.
- Creating and editing custom reports requires special configuration of ShoWorks. Contact Gladstone for steps in configuring ShoWorks for use on Remote Desktop.
Part D: Quality of hardware components, bloatware and purchasing a computer
As the number of computers among households have increased over the years, competitive and market forces have driven the price of these units down to often less than the cost of the software which runs them. The age of the "throw away" computer has arrived and unfortunately, these are often disguised and mistaken for their higher quality compliments that are 4 or 5 times the price. Consumers today have been trained to base their purchasing decision on only one or two numbers that supposedly represent quality or how powerful a computer is. Much like the number of megapixels alone does not represent the quality of a digital camera, the amount of RAM (memory) does not represent the quality of a computer. A compromise in quality becomes apparent when using process and memory intensive business applications such as ShoWorks, when components with a lower tolerance are prone to fail and sometimes crash the application. A good example of this was the "e-machine" (later bought out by Gateway). One could buy a complete PC for $400 advertised with great specs that checked email fine, but the end result was a computer that crashed, locked up or bogged down at the nearest hint of demanding application. One should not expect a $10,000 business application to run smoothly on a $400 machine (though there are less costly editions of ShoWorks, they all run on the same engine and the number of entries allowed in each edition is the only distinguishing factor). In reality, ShoWorks does not need a high-end machine to run trouble-free but also one should not expect performance from machines that were intended for the home or light Internet usage.
Aside from the possibility of a faulty hardware component (bad RAM/memory and network switches are notorious causes for otherwise unexplainable behavior); poorly configured or mismanaged computers also play a role in application stability. Most manufacturers subsidize costs by pre-installing various "free" programs onto these machines before they are released to retail sales. Anyone who has purchased a new PC in the past 10 years will be familiar with this concept of "bloatware" (also known as "crapware"). These are typically trial editions with limited functionality in hopes that the consumer will purchase them after the trail period is over. Examples of such are photo editors, anti-virus or malware protection, games, etc. The problem is that even after uninstalling these programs, they may continue to have remnants which consume resources that in turn, affect the overall performance of the machine and thus ShoWorks. A best practice is to always "wipe" (reformat) a new machine with a fresh install of the operating system (Windows) to prevent otherwise pre-installed applications from consuming resources.
Furthermore, since users often install and later uninstall various applications over the lifetime of a given computer, it is common business practice to wipe (reformat) a computer every year or two just to keep it "clean" and free of error causing remnants of these uninstalled programs
Part E: Checklist for Trouble Shooting Problems
See Article 114000 for a complete checklist to troubleshoot starting and stability in ShoWorks.
Random crashes when Office 2010 SP1 is installed (published by Microsoft)
Crash when Office 2013 is installed (published 'fix' by Microsoft)
Corrupt Microsoft Access Causes - Software
Corrupt Microsoft Access Causes - Hardware