Improve Performance in a network


Capable 21C is designed to be operated either on a single PC or in a network environment. When operated in a network environment, the underlying data is stored on one PC, and the other PCs retrieve and update the information through the network. This knowledgebase article describes steps that can be taken to improve the performance and responsiveness of Capable 21C in a network environment.

Underlying challenge

Capable 21C is in the class of applications known as client/server applications. These applications share their workload between a server computer and a client workstation. Whenever an operator clicks the mouse, the PC they are working on performs some of the work to respond to the click, and then requests that the other ‘server’ PC to perform some work, waits for it to complete, and then finalises any work required to respond to the click. This interaction between the two computers may be very simple, or it may be quite complicated.

In addition, Capable 21C performs some housekeeping activities every few seconds to update the appointment book, update the Things To Do list, and update the Patients Checked In window. These housekeeping activities operate much the same way.

The combination of these activities can generate a lot of network activity; particularly if there are several PCs in the network. Not only does the ‘server’ PC need to respond to all these requests in a timely fashion, quite often the ‘server’ PC is also located on the front desk, and used by staff to process appointments and invoices. If this is the case, the server PC needs to do its own work in addition to responding to requests from other PCs in the network.

The resolution and detailed instructions sections of this document describes a number of steps that an office can take to reduce the workload on the network and the server PC to improve performance and responsiveness of all PCs.


Hardware considerations

The server PC will do significantly more work than any other PC in the network. As such, it should have the fastest processor, the most memory, and the fastest hard drive. Note that it does not necessarily need the biggest hard drive. Most hard drives are advertised in terms of their size rather than their speed. Consult with your local computer technician to help determine the speed of your hard drive.

In a network environment, certain metrics are used to measure the performance of the network. The key metrics are collisions, bandwidth and latency. Collisions refer to the number of errors that require information to be re-transmitted. Bandwidth is a measure of the volume of information that can be transferred, and latency is a measure of the delay between a request being submitted and the response being sent. Reducing collisions is good. Increasing bandwidth is good. Reducing latency is good. For Capable 21C, latency is usually the most significant factor.

Operating System considerations

Microsoft Windows ™ has the capability to run many applications simultaneously, but when doing so, it allocates a portion of the PCs resources to each application. Running many applications will gradually deteriorate the amount of resources left to run Capable 21C. In particular, anti-virus and firewall software can impede the performance of all other applications running on the PC.

Capable 21C considerations

Capable 21C uses a Microsoft Access database as its underlying data store. This is an advantage as it is an inexpensive option, it performs well in small networks, and is an open architecture that readily supports reporting tools and statistical analysis. However, a downside to Microsoft Access databases is that they can become fragmented in the same way that the hard drive can become fragmented.

Detailed Information

Hardware Recommendations

  • Position the fastest and most powerful PC as the office server PC.
  • Consider purchasing a dedicated server PC that will not be used to process any appointments or receipts. This is typically not necessary unless the network exceeds 5 PCs.
  • Upgrade the memory on the server PC to 1Gb or higher.
  • Upgrade the hard drive on the server PC to a higher speed hard drive, or install a set of RAID hard drives for optimum performance.
  • Upgrade the performance of the networking equipment to increase bandwidth. 100baseT or Gigabit networking is optimal.
  • Consult a network technician to determine if there are configurable options in your network that could reduce latency or collisions.
  • Wireless networks have an element of convenience, but are typically accompanied by significant latency and collisions. If this is the case, acquire higher quality wireless equipment, or consider switching to a hardwired network.

Operating System Recommendations

  • Remove any applications from office PCs that are not absolutely essential.
  • Try to run as few applications as possible at any one time.
  • Pay close attention to the performance implications of your anti-virus and firewall software. Test the performance of Capable 21C with these software packages disabled. If they impact system performance too much, switch to another type of anti-virus or firewall software.
  • Review Microsoft’s knowledgebase articles on improving the performance of Windows. In particular, wallpaper artwork, screen savers, and animated cursors or icons significantly impair the performance of Windows.
  • Use the Microsoft Windows tools to repair and defragment the hard drives of all computers regularly (eg once per month).

Capable 21C Recommendations

  • Defragment the Microsoft Access database by opening the database using Microsoft Access, and selecting ‘Compact and Repair’ from the Tools|Database Utilities menu. This can only be done when all copies of Capable 21C are closed.
  • Remove any damaged database entries by using the Repair Financial Database option in the tools menu.
  • Ensure that all images and attachments are saved in the most space efficient form. Reducing the size of these files will allow them to be transferred through the network much more quickly. Images should be saved as JPG files, with the lowest possible resolution that meets the needs of the business. In particular, photos should be saved at a low resolution and image quality.
  • If Capable 21C is not being used to record Visit Notes in the treatment areas, set the workflow settings such that patients are automatically checked out as soon as they are invoiced and automatic Assistance Alerts are disabled. Refer to the knowledgebase article entitled KB-Limitations with Checked In People for more information on how to do this.
  • Reduce the frequency that Capable 21C performs its housekeeping tasks. In particular, increase the "Waiting Room Refresh" setting (in the Workflow system component) accessible through Setup|Settings on the ‘Other’ tab. This value is set at 2000 (milliseconds) by default. It can be safely increased as high as 30000, but performance seReduce the frequency that Capable 21C performs its housekeeping tasks. In particular, increase the "Waiting Room Refresh" setting (in the Workflow system component) accessible through Setup|Settings on the ‘Other’ tab. This value is set at 2000 (milliseconds) by default. It can be safely increased as high as 30000, but performance seldom improves once the value has been increased above 10000.
  • Note that it is possible to fine-tune the Waiting Room Refresh on each PC on version v1.5.659 or later. However, to do so requires some knowledge of the Windows registry.  Refer to KB-Performance Tuning Advanced.asp for more detail.
  • Enable the Patient Quick Search feature. To do this, go to Setup|Settings, and go to the New Clients/New Patients tab.  Tick the box for Quick Search Enabled.
  • Optimise patient registration using the instructions in KB-Improve performance for registering new patients
  • Consider using the consolidate and archive feature to consolidate old financial records.  Refer to KB-Consolidate and archive for more details.  If any client/patient files are particularly large (eg more than a few hundred invoices), consider archiving the client/patient file, and creating a new file to replace it.
  • Consider migrating to SQL Server.  This may require additional, or upgraded hardware.  Refer to KB-SQL Server.asp for more details.
This knowledge resource is designed for use on a Windows (tm) XP system operating at a screen resolution of 1024x768 or better. Windows Media Player must be installed for this training resource to operate correctly.

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