ROTC site automates HTML conversion

Posting documents on the Army ROTC Web site used to be a time-consuming affair.

There were about 25 sections on the site, at www.rotc.monroe.army.mil. Each section was assigned a different Web author responsible for its content, which ranged from scholarship documents to forms for cadet summer camps.

Preparing documents for posting was a chore that used to take most of each day for Sherman Jones, network engineer and Web administrator for the Army Cadet Command. Since the command began using Web publishing software, that workload has lightened considerably.

Now Jones has more time to devote to the quality of the site's content, although he used to have one of the toughest jobs in the IT shop of the Cadet Command, based at Fort Monroe, Va. The command administers junior and senior ROTC training and leadership programs at 1,469 high schools and 270 colleges and universities nationwide. The Cadet Command Web site gets between 1.7 million and 2 million hits per month.

Under the old system, each day Jones had to download files sent to him by the various Web authors, usually Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel documents, and convert them to Hypertext Markup Language to post them on the Cadet Command Web site. That took up to six hours a day.

'It was pretty intense,' he said.

These days, the heavy-duty conversion is done by Net-It Central document publishing software from Informative Graphics Corp. of Phoenix.

The software automatically formats the documents in HTML, cutting Jones' workload by 75 percent, he said. The software license cost $600.

'With Net-It Central, we're able to get the word out faster and more reliably than ever to the people who need it,' Jones said. 'We're able to be more responsive without increasing our workload, and our users know the information they need will always be fresh and available.'

In late 2000, Jones installed Net-It Central on a Compaq ProLiant Dl360 server with two 36G hard drives that the 25 Web authors can access.

Like clockwork

Content managers copy and paste their own files into folders, and at 9 p.m. every day, Net-It automatically updates them on the Cadet Command site, Jones said.

'It's kind of like set it and forget it,' Jones said. 'Most of the time when the Web authors contact me now, it's 'Can you set up another folder for me?' '

The decision to automate HTML conversion and much of the publishing process has saved the command $140,000 per year in salary and mailing costs, Jones said.

Now, not only can you copy a document to download, but you can also send it to a printer, so you cut out all of the other middle activity,' he said.

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