How do companies such as AOL, British Airways, Yellow Pages and Citro'n get closer to their customers? They turn to the experts at Identex, a marketing solutions specialist that has been at the forefront of customer communications for more than three decades. We offer companies such as these a wide range of services that includes everything from sophisticated marketing campaign automation and database management to state-of-the-art information quality management.

Utilizing best-in-class marketing software, we are able to leverage our clients' data into a true business resource for closer, more profitable customer relationships. We begin by storing all of a client's data in a single, secure location where it is cleaned and deduplicated. With more than 100 million records from our clients to sort through each week, this can be a very time-consuming process.

To cleanse and sort the large volume of records, we were using MicroFocus COBOL. Because the data was originally held on a mainframe, this was a natural choice. But once we migrated to an NT- based system, we quickly realized that this became impractical for two reasons. Not only was the process taking too long, but a problem developed where we were unable to sort individual records beyond a certain length.

At this point, I remembered a powerful utility that offered the speed and practicality we needed. I suggested SyncSort for Windows/NT, a high-performance data management product from Syncsort Limited, a subsidiary of Syncsort Incorporated. I used SyncSort in a previous job and saved a considerable amount of time in data sorting. Because of this experience, I highly recommended it for Identex.

The daily data crunching takes place in the Bureau Operations division of the company. The records we process include name and address as well as database information such as a customer's purchasing history with a company. We use our software to cleanse and verify these records and upgrade people's addresses. After that is complete, we do duplication processing on the data. A deduplication tool is then used to reduce the number of repeat names that appear in a client's database.

Obviously, there is a lot of sorting that occurs between certain stages, which is why we brought in SyncSort. The software is used to sort files into the necessary sequence for processing after they've been through the data cleansing routines prior to merge/purge. All of this data crunching takes place on an NT-based system with an eight-way CPU running on EMC storage network client. The database is primarily SQL Server 2000.

After initially bringing SyncSort in for file sorting, we found additional uses for this software. We were using another product for file manipulation. We would read a file in, manipulate the data and write a file out into a specified format. We did the manipulation in a way that was similar to working with another language. We'd use that process for matching a customer file before it was processed to what it looks like afterwards in order to review the results. Now we do that in SyncSort as well. It saves us from having to code error-checking routines to catch potential mishaps with matching two files together, and the speed at which SyncSort compresses the data is phenomenal.

Having solved the functional and performance problems, we have achieved such outstanding results with SyncSort that we decided to explore the possibilities of Visual SyncSort. Visual SyncSort provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that lets us create, maintain and run SyncSort applications on a local workstation or in an integrated system with SyncSort for Windows NT. We just rolled out Visual SyncSort on our desktops, and people were immediately able to set up batch jobs without having to know any specific coding just by using the GUI. It's a lot easier and faster, while maintaining the high performance achieved by SyncSort. For example, the production controllers now do all their data manipulation simply by using the GUI.

We are very pleased with the results of SyncSort and Visual SyncSort at Identex. Overall the performance is amazing. We are saving hours and hours of time by using SyncSort as opposed to our previous methods.

SyncSort by Syncsort Incorporated is a high-performance application accelerator that improves performance in many areas including data warehousing, data mining, data marts, CRM, ERP, BI, Oracle Financials and legacy migration. It speeds ETL transactions by up to 90 percent, facilitates clickstream processing and cuts hours off of typically long-running jobs with large data volumes.

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