CATEGORY: Data Quality, Profiling & Augmentation
REVIEWER: Scott Barstow, chief software developer for Bandwidth.com.
BACKGROUND: Bandwidth.com provides Internet connectivity to small and medium businesses anywhere in the United States, offering a wide selection of carrier services, low pricing, monitored installation and ongoing customer support. Bandwidth.com's Web-based Internet connectivity procurement application prequalifies any business address for service, delivers actual pricing for each offer in real time and supports secure online ordering. Bandwidth.com supports customers after the sale by providing access to a full suite of installation tracking and trouble ticket management tools, empowering them to manage their connectivity in a time and cost effective manner. Since 1999, Bandwidth.com has served thousands of business customers needing a better way to source, install and manage their Internet connectivity.
PLATFORMS: Melissa Data's Data Quality Web Service (DQWS) clients run on Debian Linux servers, with Java as the development platform. The hardware platform consists of Dell PowerEdge servers running Intel processors.
PROBLEM SOLVED: When Bandwidth.com introduced its online Internet service procurement application in January of 2003, there was a need to cleanse and validate the addresses that customers were entering in the quote request form. Invalid address data was causing undue load on our real-time pricing systems and causing customer frustration with longer wait times. The address validation process had to be real time, and we did not want to maintain any resources locally to validate the data. We started looking for a Web services-based solution and found Melissa Data DQWS to be both reliable and very reasonably priced.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We introduced the DQWS into our quote request submission process at the point immediately after the customers enter their address and submit the form so that if there is an address discrepancy, the customer can fix the problem right away and resubmit the form. We recently began using DQWS to do street searches for addresses where the range submitted was not valid. This has proven to be very valuable both to us and our partners in providing alternate addresses when there is not an exact address match. We are beginning to use DQWS to validate phone number information as well.
STRENGTHS: DQWS is very accurate. We have had fewer than five addresses in the span of one year where a customer submitted a valid street address that the DQWS did not validate successfully. DQWS is also very fast. The typical response time is one second or less, which is extremely important because of the real-time nature of our application.
WEAKNESSES: DQWS is not a true Web service and, as such, requires parsing of the messages back and forth. In the future, we hope to see DQWS be a true .NET Web service, which will simplify and speed up development time when new features and options are released.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We had four major criteria in making the choice to use DQWS, in no particular order. The first was speed of implementation. We were able to get a trial account and begin writing sample applications within one day of contacting DQWS. The second was data maintenance. We did not want to store and maintain a database of information and constantly need to be updating that data. With DQWS, all data is maintained centrally at their facility, and all of the related tasks associated with keeping the service current are pushed off to Melissa Data. The third was platform independence. We are an open platform company and, as such, did not want to be locked into using any particular technology. The fourth was the speed and reliability of the application. Because of the real- time nature of our applications, we had to be able to reliably and quickly connect to the vendor's systems. DQWS was a fit for all of our criteria, and with the improvements made this year in having colocated, load-balanced systems, we have experienced very little downtime.
DELIVERABLES: We pass standard address information to the DQWS via an HTTP post. The DQWS returns a message containing the cleansed address, as well as any errors that occurred during validation. This cleansed address information is then sent to our real-time pricing engine to determine Internet service availability for that address.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The technical support staff has had an acceptable level of response. When we were getting started, we were one of the first customers to use the application, so there were the issues associated with getting ramped up. However, over the course of months we have been using it, the support staff has become more knowledgeable and helpful when things are not working correctly. The development staff responded in a timely manner when issues were identified.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation included with the product was adequate for developing our application. Melissa Data also included some sample Java code that was helpful.
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