"What is Exact and how do I use it to archive my databases and signature?"
Exact is a product included with your Vault or Elite system purchase, and it archives your databases, signatures and software settings, like your column headings in the File Cabinet or MLS import settings. After installing Vault, click Start, Programs, a la mode Vault, and then choose Configure Exact. Like Vault, you can configure it to run automatically, as well as specify what you'd like to have archived. There are numerous backup methods available today, but Vault and Exact are the only ones designed specifically for appraisers.
"Can I use WinTOTAL on multiple PCs?"
Yes. WinTOTAL's licensing is much more flexible than the traditional software licensing with other companies. Your WinTOTAL license is a "User" license, rather than a "PC" license. So if you have a home PC, laptop and an office computer, you can install WinTOTAL on all your machines, as long as you're the only user. And if you have a network, you can install WinTOTAL on the server and all your networked PCs can run it without needing extra licenses, no matter how many workstations you have. Just remember, if you're the only user of WinTOTAL then you can use it on all your PC's. If someone else will be using WinTOTAL (i.e. not the license owner), unless they're using it on your office network, they need their own license of WinTOTAL.
"I'm trying to improve my search engine rankings. What will have a bigger impact, keywords and descriptions, or content on the actual pages?"
There's an age old saying on the web that "content is king". Definitely pay attention to what your site pages say and everything else will fall into line. If you want a search engine to pay attention to you, your site needs to offer content that nobody else does. One of the great things about XSites is the pre-written content we provide, but you need to customize it to match your market and target audience, as well as create some of your own pages. For ideas on writing content, click here.
"I have over 10,000 reports and I want to store them digitally and offsite. How?"
I would keep the last several years of files on Vault so you have instant on-demand access, they're stored offsite, and it's economical. I'd then store the rest of my reports on a 500GB external USB hard drive. You can get them for less than $150. I'd back up my older files onto that drive periodically and keep it in a saftey deposit box - offsite but easily available. There are a host of different backup methods available today, and the method I propose is hardly the only way. But no matter what you do, "stuff" happens. The Boy Scouts had it right. Be prepared.
"What exactly are SureReceipts, and should I be using them to deliver my reports? "
SureReceipts is like certified e-mail, and delivers hundreds of thousands of reports annually. The SureReceipts delivery plugin is free, integrated in WinTOTAL, and allows for seamless upload of your report's PDF to the XSites Network. Your recipient receives an e-mail with a link to download the report, and you get a message letting you know they got your e-mail. And when they download the report you get another message. Because there are no attachments to the e-mail, just a link to download the report, there's no concern about the size of an attachment causing it to not be delivered. And perhaps the most important benefit is the added security. The report isn't being delivered "in the open." If someone intercepted the e-mail, they'd get nothing of value and you wouldn't be responsible for a GLBA violation.(pq)
"I like the idea of storing my paper workfile digitally, but how do I get my field notes and other printed papers into WinTOTAL?"
Excellent question. Typically you'll get back from the field with a manila folder with graph paper, handwritten notes, MLS sheets, etc. With a Tablet PC, you don't need any of that. You can print your MLS sheets to PDF, do your note taking on the tablet, including your sketch, and anything else you need. That's why we made DaVinci Mobile Pro.
Assuming you'll keep killing trees (says the guy writing a newspaper), you have several choices for converting paper to digital. The first is a scanner. For scanning multiple pages, try a sheet-fed scanner that does multiple pages at once, saving them into one PDF file. Then you can take the PDF of your scanned documents and add it to your report's Digital Workfile. Or, you can use DirectFax, which is easier, provided you have an XSite. From inside your report's Digital Workfile, print out a DirectFax cover page. Take the cover page and everything you need to convert to digital format, drop it in your fax machine, and dial the toll free number on the cover sheet. It's all faxed to your XSite server, converted to PDF and then automatically synchronized into your report. And since you've got everything in your Digital Workfile, when you archive the report, you're paperless AND USPAP compliant. For more on going paperless, see "Going paperless in 2009" on p10.
"What's the difference between QuickLists and my Recent Response dropdowns?"
Recent Responses are the last 10 entries typed into a specific field and remembered automatically by WinTOTAL. QuickLists, on the other hand, are far more powerful, can span multiple fields, and are created and saved by you. You can also "daisy-chain" several QuickList entries together to fill out entire sections. Best of all, there's no limit to how many you can have. If you prefer, you can even have WinTOTAL show QuickLists in the drop down attached to each field, instead of showing the recent responses.
"Can you offer a brief glossary for these confusing terms and acronyms?"
It can get confusing fast. Here are some of the ones we're frequently asked about.
AMC - Appraisal Management Company
AVM - Automated Valuation Model
HVCC - Home Valuation Code of Conduct. This result of a settlement agreement between Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the then OFHEO and the New York Attorney General, which mandates a separation between appraisers and loan production staff.
OFHEO - Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Formerly an agency within HUD, responsible for oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and now part of the FHFA.
FHFA - Federal Housing Finance Agency. The federal regulatory agency formed this year by the combining of OFHEO and the Federal Housing Finance Board.
GSE - Government Sponsored Enterprise. In the appraisal industry, "the GSE's" typically refers to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Plugins - A computer application enabling interaction between a host program and a third party program. For example, XSites host delivery plugins to allow you as a user to deliver reports in a format needed by a third party, like RELS or FISERV.
“I’m getting ready to get a new computer. How do I get all of my a la mode software from my old computer to my new one?”
First, you’ll want to click here to read our backup documentation. There are a number of things to consider when moving from one PC to another. None are too complex, but do depend on your specific circumstances. For example, are you moving WinTOTAL Aurora, or Athena, and are you moving with or without the aid of Vault and Exact? Also, we recommend having the latest install or CD. Just visit www.alamode.com/MyAccount, and from there you can request a CD or download any of the software you own.