The breadth and depth of online resources available to enhance the education and performance of production professionals seems to stretch to infinity. Added to the mix of trade publications, industry organizations, vendor and corporate Web sites, is a new category of online production tools: application service providers (ASPs).
As the name implies, ASPs provide software applications that are usually bundled together to improve workflow productivity and efficiency. While most ASPs target printers and prepress providers, many have modules that directly benefit print customers, too, making production operations smoother, faster, more accurate and more predictable. Some ASPs deal with the complete operations chain—from creative through distribution—while others pick up links of the chain at specific points in the process. Most applications are accessed online, capitalizing on the speed and volume capabilities of the Internet and are either hosted and serviced by an ASP or reside on a users server. The following list provides a handful of diverse ASPs and their offerings:
Digital Art Exchange (DAX) was the first managed Internet and ASP for the graphic communications industry. It offers ad agencies, creators, designers, printers, publishers, separators and their clients scalable solutions enabling the im-plementation of a variety of digital technologies. DAX-It's managed FTP (file transfer protocol), for example, affords customers unlimited transfers and storage capacity in secure, bi-directional folders. It comes standard with robust e-mail hosting, with plenty of e-mail addresses, and the capability to accept very large e-mail attachments. DAX charges a monthly fee and maintains 24/7 tech support.
Impoze is the granddaddy of all production planning software and the forerunner of similar programs now being packaged by ASPs. Truly a publisher's tool, Impoze automates the magazine production process, from issue layout to billing estimates, from edition management to print optimization, and from binding instructions to postage calculations. Impoze recently introduced a new Web-based communication platform, www.impozeonline.com, a service that visually connects a publisher's production team, ad sales staff, printer and other authorized users with shared issue plans, thumbnails, production data, bindery instructions or an XML summary of an entire magazine, catalog or book. The solution, which is priced on a per-title, per-month basis with no minimum contract term, also features interactive chats and notes.