In the 1980’s, Sage Software (formerly known as Best Software) launched Abra Suite—an HRMS for small to midsize businesses based on FoxPro, a file-Server application that was introduced on the DOS operating system. Now, more than 30 years later, Abra Suite users have the opportunity to migrate to Sage HRMS—based on Microsoft SQL Server. Here are 9 reasons why this infrastructure upgrade alone, going from FoxPro to SQL Server, is worth putting on your technology roadmap.

1. Improved Performance

Microsoft SQL Server’s performance strength is recognized by Gartner, placing SQL Server in the leadership section of its Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems.

Unlike FoxPro, which returns the entire table to the memory of the local client, SQL Server was designed from the beginning as a client/server database. This means SQL Server reduces network traffic by processing database queries on the server before sending only the data requests to the client, not the entire table.

2. Tightened Security

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) public security board, SQL Server reportedly has the lowest number of security vulnerabilities across major database vendors. In addition, SQL Server has been deemed “the most secure database” by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC).

Microsoft SQL allows for maximum security.  Your data is protected from unauthorized access by integrating network security with server security.  Since user level security is available, users can have restricted access to the data records thus protecting them from modification or retrieval by specifying user-level access privilege.  In addition, with the data stored on a separate server, the server acts as a gateway that limits unauthorized access.

With FoxPro, since data is store in flat files on a file server, network security is all or nothing.  Once a user has access to the data, they can add, modify, or delete or copy the information. 

3. Built-In Recovery Mechanisms

Microsoft SQL Server is a transactional database. A transaction denotes a unit of work performed within a database management system against a database, and is treated in a coherent and reliable way independent of other transactions. Transactions on the database are able to be rolled back if they are not completed properly (e.g., due to power or connectivity loss).

FoxPro does not “wrap” units of work in a transaction, which can result in data integrity problems if processing is interrupted. The best the database administrator can do is recover the entire database from an earlier backup and re-do any work that was lost.

4. Automated Scheduled Backups

Microsoft SQL provides for automated scheduled backups under three different database Recovery Models, including a full model where all transactions are written to the log. A full database backup provides a complete copy of the database and provides a single point-in-time to which the database can be restored.

Together with Microsoft Azure, SQL Server can help you reduce costs, lower recovery time objective (RTO), and improve your backup and disaster recovery capabilities. SQL Server Backup to Microsoft Azure enables you to configure your backups to be stored in the cloud. The backup files can be compressed and encrypted for fast, secure storage.

Smaller, secure files enable greater data protection and faster transmission speeds. Backups can be stored on premise. If you add additional applications that use SQL Server to your environment, you can cost-effectively store backups in the cloud without having to purchase additional on-premise storage.

A database administrator must remember to manually back up FoxPro databases.

5. Automated Indexing

A database index is a data structure that improves the speed of data retrieval operation and storage space. Data additions and deletions change the contents of the database and can cause indexes to become out of data and data storage to become fragmented.

SQL Server can be configured to automatically re-index the database at scheduled intervals. This optimizes the performance of database interactions and optimizes how the data is stored within the database. Automatic re-indexing keeps the indexes up to date without requiring additional manual effort.

It is recommended you manually re-index a FoxPro database daily to ensure optimal performance.

6. Grows as Your Company Grows

SQL Server can support your company as it grows because of its scalable data warehousing capabilities. SQL can scale to petabytes of data for enterprise-grade relational data warehousing. In essence, there’s no limit to the size of a SQL database.

Therefore, Sage HRMS has no limit to the amount of online check history you maintain in the system.

As a flat file system database, FoxPro has a limit of 2 gigabytes for a table file. This table file size limit along with performance issues often require Abra Suite to use a third party archival tool for  storing check history offline.

7. Supported Platform

SQL Server has been a central component of Microsoft’s Windows Server since Version 1.0 was released in 1989. Here are some notable events that occurred since its release:

  • In March 2007, Microsoft announced that there would be no future releases of Visual Fox Pro (VFP) beyond VFP9 (released to manufacturing on December 17, 2004).
  • On January 12, 2010, mainstream support for Microsoft Visual FoxPro ceased.
  • SQL Server 2014 was released to manufacturing on March 18, 2014, and released to the general public on April 1, 2014.
  • Microsoft continued support FoxPro under their extended support until January 13, 2015.
  • SQL Server 2014 SP1, consisting primarily of bug fixes, was released on May 15, 2015.
  • On May 4, 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the next major release of the company’s flagship database management system, Microsoft SQL Server 2016.

8. Data Reporting Analysis Tools

A quick Google search shows more than 20 tools that provide additional functionality for Microsoft SQL Server, with many that integrate seamlessly into the SQL Server 2014 management console. Data reporting and analysis tools range from Microsoft Excel to more robust reporting platforms. Here are three examples:

  • SAP Crystal Reports improves your organization’s performance by accessing your data and transforming it into actionable information with interactive reports.
  • SAP Crystal Server is an entry-level business intelligence server that can help you securely view, share, schedule and deliver business information over the Web, via email, portals and Microsoft Office.
  • Aspose Components for Reporting Services is a range of components for SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

While third-party tools exist for FoxPro, support for these tools is slowly dwindling.

9. Opportunities for Integration at Lower Costs

Updated developer tools are integrated into Microsoft Visual Studio and are available for download to build next-generation web, enterprise, business intelligence, and mobile applications across on-premises and cloud. Developers can use industry standard APIs (ADO.NET, ODBC, JDBC, PDO, and ADO) across varied platforms including .NET, C/C++, Java, Linux, and PHP.

Since SQL Server is Microsoft’s flagship database offering, many individuals and companies provide technical support and development services.

FoxPro resources are in short supply and can be difficult to find. Few people are learning FoxPro, and few companies are investing in offering services around the platform since it’s no longer supported by Microsoft.

There are many other reasons beyond the database infrastructure improvements to plan a migration from Abra Suite to Sage HRMS. The nine advantages of Microsoft SQL Server over FoxPro focus on the database level improvements.  Sage HRMS also offers additional process improvements and new functionality.

I’m curious. Have you started to plan your migration from Abra Suite to Sage HRMS? Have you looked at the return on investment (ROI) to upgrade your current platform to the latest from Sage Software?

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Learn about the Automated SQL Migration for Sage Abra Suite

The Automated SQL Migration for Abra Suite (ASM) by Delphia Consulting, is a conversion tool that reduces the overall cost of moving to Sage HRMS payroll. Once configured, ASM empowers end users to run the migration and complete parallel testing. Watch our recorded webcast to learn more.


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Joe Rotella, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Joe Rotella, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Chief Marketing Officer at Delphia Consulting
Joe is a leading thinker and a professional speaker in the areas of HR technology, marketing, and web usability. He is a well-recognized speaker for the Society of Human Resources Management.