Watch the video and then complete the to-do list.
- Video Transcript
While it is easy to import data files into Connect 5, there is an even easier way keep your contacts up to date: automated data transfers. There are multiple ways to set up these transfers, and some of them you can do yourself. But we also have a team of integration analysts who can work with you to set up and test the transfers to ensure that they are successful and that the info being pulled from your database and loaded into Connect meets your needs. Blackboard Connect does not charge extra for data automation. The four types of automated transfers available are:
- The Connect Data Uploader (CDU)
- Connect 5 API
The Connect Data Uploader
The first option is a program developed by Blackboard Connect called the Connect Data Uploader, or CDU. The CDU supports Windows only, but there are 32-bit and 64-bit versions. You select the version that's right for you, then download and install the software onto your server, or onto a local machine that can access your data files or database directly. Then, you simply follow the steps in the CDU's setup wizard to enter your Connect user credentials and select whether you want the CDU to utilize a flat file your database already outputs, or whether you want the CDU to run a query off of the database. Either way, the CDU lets you map the headers in the resulting file to the required Connect 5 headers, and lets you select the time of day you want the information to be sent to Connect 5. Then at the appointed time, the CDU transmits the file to Connect 5 via secure HTTP (aka HTTPS).
You can see the results of each upload right in the CDU, you can turn off the transfer at any time and even execute a transfer immediately. You can set up multiple transfers. For instance, one for each contact type, and even set up automated outreach messages using the CDU. If you are interested in this option, submit a case via Behind the Blackboard, with the Request Type of Connect Data Uploader. You will be sent a link to download the software along with an instruction guide that will walk you through setting it up step by step.
The second option is to set up your database to automatically export a file on a daily basis, then have a scheduled task run on your server (or a machine that can access your data files directly) that causes a script to run. The script formats the file and sends it via secure HTTP (aka HTTPS) to Connect 5. If you have a Windows environment, it will be a Visual Basic script. If you have a Mac environment, it will be a Curl script. If you are familiar with scripting language, you are free to write the script yourself. Otherwise, one of our integration analysts will write one for you at no additional charge.
If you do not house your server on-site, but rather it is hosted by a third party company, you will need to reach out to your hosting company and find out what methods they will provide for you to get an automated export of your data. Some hosting companies will allow you to have a read-only ODBC connection to access your database. This would allow you to write a query to pull data directly from your database or utilize one of our queries that have already been built. Some third party hosts will require that they set up an automated export on your behalf, so the only part you or our analysts would need to set up is the automated transfer of the file to Connect 5. If you are interested in having auto scripts created for you, open a case in Behind the Blackboard, and select Auto Script as the Request Type. You will also need to attach the exact files as they come out of your database, so our analysts can see what needs to be done to the file by the script. If you wish to automate both data transfers and outreach messages, you need to open two separate cases. For automated outreach messages, you will need to already have the template created in Connect 5 and include that template name in the Behind the Blackboard case. The general turnaround time from case opening to automation up and running ranges from 10 to 15 business days.
The third option is secure FTP. For this option, you need to be able to produce a file that meets the exact specifications required for upload into Connect 5, meaning, it has the right headers, is in the comma or tab delimited format, and does not require any manipulation (such as to remove contacts, concatenate fields, etc.) If your file is already perfect, we can automate the transfer to Connect 5 via secure FTP. You will have a dedicated directory on our secure FTP server. To have this directory created, open a case on Behind the Blackboard with the Request Type of sFTP. For contact imports, please include the exact names of your file(s) in the request, and what contact type is in each file. For auto notifications, please include the file names, the template name to be used, and the time of day the message should be sent. The address and directory information will be sent to you within a few business days.
Connect 5 API
We also offer the ability to automate contact updates and send notifications via Connect 5 APIs. For contact updates, the API is meant to be used in a 'real-time' fashion, contact by contact. This method cannot be used for bulk imports of data. If you are interested in using the Connect 5 API, open a case on Behind the Blackboard with the Request Type of API. One of our integration analysts will provide you with the API key and documentation. This method will require you to understand how to work with APIs and require you to code your system to work with the Connect 5 API.
Whichever method of automation you decide is best for you, it is important to check on it periodically after it is implemented. Various things can cause automations to stop working -- from scheduled tasks being turned off to passwords changing -- and it's easy to forget about a process that runs silently in the background. You can always check your import history by logging in to your account. If the automation has stopped for any reason, contact Support for assistance with troubleshooting at (866) 360-2155.
The To-do List
- Decide whether you want to automate the import of your data, and whether you want to import it via the Connect Data Uploader (CDU), autoscripts, sFTP or the API.
- If you want to automate your data, submit a case on Behind the Blackboard. (To access Behind the Blackboard, login to Connect 5 and click "Behind the Blackboard" found on the top of every page in yellow.)