During 2006, the New England cluster of Entercom Communications was evaluating traffic software when we learned about Wideorbit for Radio. At the time, Wideorbit's traffic software was a relative newcomer to radio, although it had been used by TV stations for quite a while. Entercom's Sacramento cluster had successfully implemented Wideorbit (WO) the previous December and was pleased with the results. Because this gave us a model to follow, we decided to make the change as well. Our WO system went live on Aug. 1, 2006, and we have not regretted making the move.
Unlike many traffic software packages, this one is written from the ground up for Microsoft Windows, and takes advantage of all that Windows is capable of, particularly multitasking. Our previous traffic software was limited to one function at a time — a limitation that hurt productivity. With WO there's no need to close windows and open others to check something in another area of the software. Minimize the current window, return to the WO menu window and open another window.
Dual monitors on the traffic workstations makes this even easier; just drag open windows to another part of the desktop. Because account executives can enter sales orders themselves, the traffic staff can now devote more time to assembling the best possible log for each broadcast day, which helps increase station revenue.
Revenue reporting is a significant feature of any traffic software package.
Revenue reporting is a significant feature of any traffic software package, and here again Wideorbit shines. The financial reporting is outstanding, and with ever increasing regulatory oversight (particularly the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act), this is an important consideration. Any report is available instantly.
As an IT manager, there are several aspects I find to be a vast improvement compared to systems I've used in the past. Wideorbit features multiple levels of security, which enable the system administrator to grant access to several station employees without worrying that orders, logs or financial data will be compromised.
There are two big advantages of this software. One is having remote access to WO through our firewall without any access restrictions. The other is that account executives can enter their own sales orders. Sales orders progress through every necessary step from the AE through to the log without using a single sheet of paper. At each step of the way, WO sends an e-mail back to the AE to track the progress of the order. If an order is not approved or is bumped from a log for any reason, the system will generate an e-mail to the AE explaining why.
Yet another use of the software's e-mail functionality is for self-diagnosis, system status reporting and crash analysis. Its support staff receives these e-mails directly from our servers, and can then take any necessary remedial actions.
Performance at a glance
Real-time scheduling and processing of orders
Supports single, multistation and multistation/multichannel environments
Multiple levels of access and security
Interfaces with on-air automation systems
Remote Internet access to all system functions
Automated notifications of potential problems
Electronic order entry and invoicing
As with any traffic system transition, start planning as early as possible. The software's operational backbones are Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and some robust hardware. The WO staff assisted us in mating their systems with our requirements. The Entercom New England cluster comprises eight radio stations and originates the play-by-play broadcasts for Boston Red Sox Baseball, Boston Celtics Basketball and the Boston College Eagles. All programming elements are stored on and assembled by the Broadcast Electronics Audiovault automation system. So, plenty of interaction is necessary to make it all work as a unit.
Because ours was one of WO's early roll-outs in radio, the implementation specialists needed some help integrating the log formats with Audiovault, but this problem was resolved by having WO and BE collaborate before the software went live.
The server-side hardware needs to be robust. Be sure that when lots of people are logged in the software will not bog down because of deficient hardware. We ordered our servers and licenses directly from Wideorbit, but that's not mandatory. The company provides thorough documentation detailing the needed hardware so a user can buy his own servers.
For our operation we ordered two application servers and one database server. The application servers, which each user logs into using a client provided by WO, feature two Intel Xeon Dual Core CPUs with 2GB of RAM. The database server offers four Intel Xeon CPUs and 16GB of RAM. We also ordered an external drive array for database storage, which houses 14 36GB SCSI drives. All hard drives are configured as RAID-1, and each server features dual gigabit-Ethernet NICs.
WO obtains servers from Dell with Silver support: three years of 24/7 on-site support with four-hour response. We had to use that support almost immediately because we ran into a RAM problem with one of the application servers. However, Dell support responded as promised, and the problem was solved well before we put the server online.
We purchased 100 run-time licenses for SQL Server, which has proven to be more than enough for our needs. If the hardware is ordered from WO, the company will set everything up at its offices before shipping the servers to the user.
While implementing our traffic system I compiled this list of tips to keep things running smoothly.
WO recommends excluding the entire data folder from real-time antivirus monitoring, because that would slow system response. To protect those files, we run a weekly scan during off-hours (Sunday evening).
WO recommends disabling the combined download and installation of automatic updates. We experienced a slow-down in server response when updates requiring a reboot were downloaded and installed, so we set automatic updates to download the patches but not install them. Installation should be done during off-hours.
The people who use the system a lot (the traffic and business departments) should have PCs with dual monitors and at least 1GB of system RAM so they can handle multiple windows.
Spelling counts. We had an early snag with e-mails being sent out of WO not being delivered. It turned out that some of the addresses entered in the system were misspelled.
Have a plan for backups. This is, after all, the system that creates revenue and financial reports for the station.
Schweiger is IT manager of Entercom New England, Boston.
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