Key to any system are the design characteristics upon which the system was built. Below are listed what we define as the 'ity' factors upon which the National Emergency Alert Notification System was designed and built.
- Security - The ability to insure that security of communications, transactions and data storage is paramount. The system was designed for and built upon a UNIX based operating system (LINUX) known for its security, and the Apache internet server utilizing RSA certificated 128-bit encrypted transmissions.
Our servers reside behind state-of-the-art firewall technology, and utilize
other features, applications and functions to monitor system security.
Our public notification database utilizes encrypted data and is kept off-line. Notification targeting occurs internally, and when data is transfered to
geographically separate dialer facilities none of the name and address
information is transmitted. The pull of applicable notifications is made
against the database utilizing our GIS database interface, and only a list
of telephone numbers and the voice file to be distributed is transmitted
across the network.
- Modularity - The ability to add, modify and remove pieces of the architecture without fundamental redesign or reprogramming. All aspects of the system, including hardware and software have incorporated a modular design structure that facilitates the addition of functions/capabilities. These components can be added to the system as "plug-ons".
- Flexibility - The ability to grow and contract the architecture as required. Both hardware and software are designed to be configured in multiple operating modes. Clustered systems (from 1 to n systems) can be configured to operate in parallel, serial (with breakover points based on transaction volume), or serial-parallel, with groups within the cluster working parallel with breakover points to other groups.
- Scalability - The ability to scale the architecture by the dimensions of transaction volume, data storage volume, concurrent users, and/or total users without the need for fundamental system restructuring and/or replacement. Using cluster technology, the system can be scaled at will to meet any combination of demands.
- Reliability - The ability of the system to provide optimum "up-time". The system utilizes the proven reliability/security of the UNIX based LINUX operating system and SUN servers.
- Portability - The ability to move applications across the architecture or clone the system for concurrent operations, even across differing hardware platforms. Again, the use of UNIX based LINUX allows for the portability of the system across virtually all hardware platforms, including up to mini and mainframe computers (although there is no reason to do so... but it does have the capability). The system uses standard UNIX based programming and utilities.
- Maintainability - The ease of maintaining, monitoring and controlling the entire architecture including hardware, software, facilities and communications. The system was designed to operate on systems built using standard PC based computer systems/components that are readily accessible and easily replaceable/maintainable. It is based on standard servers (supplied with the operating system) and the application software itself is written in the standard PERL language so as to be easily maintainable/extensible and portable across multiple platforms.
- Appliance Connectivity - The ability for a wide variety of devices with a variety of human interfaces (character, graphics, virtual reality) to attach to the architecture as required. The system utilizes standard interfaces available and integrated as a part of all mainstream internet browsers and computer platforms/operating systems. Such devices are transparent to the system, and thus easily integrated as requirements dictate.
- Data Accessibility - The ability to access data locally and remotely both in normal operations and during system failures. The system is designed to accommodate both scenarios. The primary access method is via the Internet; however, optionally, a direct modem connection with the system can be provided for access during internet communications failure. Other than users dialing directly in to the system via their modem rather than accessing it through the internet, the system will operate in the exact same manner, through thei internet browser.
- Inter-Operability - The ability to work cooperatively between multiple heterogeneous processors, and deliver the product without the need for client download across and to any hardware, any operating system platform, and internet browser. All are inherent in the design of the system.
- Adaptability - The ease of changing the architecture as requirements dictate. Because the system is designed to operate on open-architecture hardware, and within the open-source UNIX based operating system utilizing standard languages and utilities, the system can be quickly adapted to virtually any configuration/extension.
- Viability - In the system context, the system's ability to perform efficiently and effectively within fiscal reality. Current hardware technology obsoletes itself within 18 months. Software is continually in the process of enhancement. The cost of computer facilities and personnel is continually rising. By developing the system in an Application Service environment, users need not invest in hardware/software that will soon be obsolete. Hardware can be upgraded anytime. Software is continually upgraded, but since the system delivers the application through a web page, each upgrade is available immediately at the next logon, without the need for download or installation. Users do not require computer facilities, nor do they need computer personnel such as computer operators, programmers, network engineers, or maintenance personnel. For most organizations, this methodology makes the most sense from an economic/fiscal standpoint.
- Accessibility - The ability to access the system from a wide variety of platforms, operating systems, access software, and devices. The system was be designed to utilize the internet as the primary access means, allowing access from virtually any geographic location. Remote access will be capable through wireless equipped lap-top computers, cell phones, PDA's and even packet radio, and will allow for modular "plug-on" modules to allow access via other.
- Availability - The system must maintain high "up-time" availability to the user. Each of the factors previously defined herein support the ability to be available to the user 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any system utilized in today's high-speed business environment must support high availability.
- Openness / Standards (ity)- the compliance of the architecture with open standards which enables many of the aforementioned attributes and the definition of a single set of system-wide standards and procedures. Inherent in the UNIX open-source operating system, open-architecture hardware and use of standard applications, programming language and utilities.