When Written: Mar 2005
Prices start from £1950 for a 2-user system
– Currently only available with on-site installation from Actinic, which for a limited period is included in the price
Additional users £450 each
SUPPLIER Actinic Software 0845 129 4888 firstname.lastname@example.org
VERDICT: With each version Actinic Business gets more powerful and versatile; now with this multi user version Actinic have a product for the larger customer.
Actinic Business is probably best described as an ‘Internet Shop in a box’. It allows the owner to create and run an eCommerce web site simply, and yet have very extensive features available, including full order processing. The product details, page information and orders are all held in a database and the web pages created from this using customisable templates. We have reviewed Actinic Business fully in issue xxx, so will not be covering the features shared by both products here; instead we will just concentrate on the extra features that Multi-User has over its single user cousin.
The first of these is obviously the ability of more than one user at any one time to access the data. Once set up, an administrator can create users who are either administrators or order processors. Whilst you can have as many order processors logging in as your licence allows, only one administrator at a time can be logged in. Should a second user with administrator rights try to log in, they are informed and are offered to log in as an order processor.
Currently Actinic prefer to do the installation themselves at the client’s site and this is included in the cost. However, for this review they allowed us to do the installation so that we could evaluate the process. A copy of Actinic Business has to be installed on each user’s machine and, on first loading, the location of the shared database is pointed to, either through a mapped drive letter or using UNC names such as \\server\myshare. It is recommended that Actinic is first installed on the machine with the shared database rather than having the database on a remote server on the network, as this configuration has worked more reliably in trials.
The first time the system is run the administrator logs in and sets up user accounts with username, password and whether they are an administrator or an order processor. An administrator can update the product details on the site and make other changes in very much the same way as the single user version, although some changes to these settings can only be made if all other users are logged out. The administrator can log users out at anytime using the same admin screen. One observation here is that the user is only given a warning message box telling them that they have been logged out by the administrator. This could be infuriating if one was in the middle of completing an order; a better way might be to give the user a chance to finish what they were doing or at least save the page they were on. This is a small point, however, and obviously an administrator would use this facility with caution in the real world.
Whilst a user is editing an order, it is shown as being edited by that user and everyone else is locked out it. As with the single user version, a useful feature of Actinic Business is that users can create and process orders manually to allow for non-web orders. However, new in the multi user version is the ability for a user to edit the product price for a particular order, which is handy for orders typed directly into Actinic where a special price might be agreed whilst on the phone to a customer. However, an omission in our view is that there is no audit of such alterations, unless the operator enters notes in the Journal field. We would prefer to see some indication on the various reports that the price was changed by the operator. This option can be switched off by the administrator if it is felt that it is too dangerous to the profit line to leave on.
The standard printouts of picking list, invoice and data entry now have the option of being printed with bar codes containing any of the following; post code, order number, customer name, address lines and on the data entry report only; credit card number. This feature is in request from a number of existing customers who are handling a large number of orders a day and need an easy way to track the status of the order at the warehouse stage.
Continuing on the theme of speeding up Order Processing, Actinic has added what they call ‘One Click Order Processing’. Instead of operators having to go through several stages which include printing packing note and invoice, emailing the customer, accepting the payment and marking the order as picked and invoiced, you can now select ‘complete order’ and all the stages that you have defined in the settings under One-Click Order Completion will be executed. This is great for processing the majority of the orders as quickly as possible.
Actinic have moved their product up a level and currently none of their competitors offer a full multi-user version. Existing customers of Actinic who are happily finding that they need more staff to deal with the orders will no doubt upgrade to this new version
EASE OF USE 6/6
VALUE FOR MONEY 5/6
Bar Code printing and the ability to alter product prices are two new options
User status window: Here an administrator can create and log out users
Software System requirements:
Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP or NT4
Minimum 64MB memory (128MB preferred)
100MB free disk space
Recommend 65536 colour display
Internet Explorer v5 (and higher)
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton