Which FAS system is best for me?
FAS offers systems that are affordable for even the smallest of shops, and we offer systems that are capable of handling the automation needs of the largest, multi-location shops. After discussing a shop’s specific needs, i.e. number of workstations, number of locations, wire order network requirements, floral accounting software requirements, etc., with the shop owner or manager, FAS can propose a system that will best meet those needs.
Do I have to purchase my hardware from FAS?
While FAS normally provides complete “turnkey” systems, including hardware and software, we do not require a shop to purchase all of its hardware from FAS. FAS will use hardware that a shop already has, provided that equipment is compatible with FAS products. Virtually all FAS customers however, purchase their servers–the main “brain” of the systems–from FAS.
I’ve noticed that on-site installation and training is optional with FAS’s smaller systems. Should I consider purchasing this service?
FAS provides on-site installation and training services as a standard service with its larger systems. This service is optional, though recommended, with FAS’s smaller entry-level systems. The benefit of on-site assistance increases substantially with and in direct proportion to the size and complexity of the system. A shop using a FAS system only for invoice entry and billing can get the assistance it needs by calling FAS’s support staff. A shop with multiple workstations and/or multiple locations interfacing their systems to Mercury, Dove, FASnet, and/or a credit card processor will find that the on-site assistance is worth every cent. With any software application, it’s much easier to learn a system while being taught by an experienced instructor than it is to read a manual and hunt for the features you desire to use.
Should I choose a system with a Windows (graphical) user interface or a text (non-graphical) user interface?
With FAS you do not have to make a choice between the two environments. You can have BOTH within the same system. Users who prefer the Windows interface will be perfectly comfortable and familiar with FASwin-FAS’s graphical software-while users who may not be so computer-savvy may be more at ease with FAS’s simple, text interface. FAS is the only floral technology vendor who offers this level of flexibility within the same system. Some vendors offer either only a graphical or only a text system. Other vendors may offer multiple systems, some of which are graphical and some of which are text-based, but each of those systems uses exclusively either one type of interface or the other.
The type of interface used by a shop is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Most major retailers do not use graphical systems for their point-of-sale (POS) workstations. Think about any of the large stores you’ ve been in recently. Chances are that few of these stores, if any, had clerks rolling a mouse around on the sales counter as they checked out the items you were purchasing. These companies must use systems that are extremely stable, reliable, and secure. However, with FAS you have the option of using the “point-and-click” environment of Windows to enter transactions, or you can just as easily and efficiently enter transactions by making simple, one-key selections on the POS station. Why consider any system that restricts your choices?
Why does FAS use a Linux server instead of a Windows server?
As discussed above, the FAS system fully supports Windows applications and a Windows graphical interface for the FAS software at the workstation level. At the server level however, FAS uses Linux (and Unix with older systems) instead of Windows. The primary reasons for this choice are reliability and security. In general, a Linux/Unix server-and consequently a business management system built around a Linux/Unix server–will be more reliable and more secure than a Windows-based server and network. FAS users routinely go weeks, months, or even years without having to reboot their servers, which run 24 hours a day, often for as long as 8, 10, 15 years or longer. Most web servers, which have extremely high requirements for performance and reliability, are also based upon the Linux operating system.
Companies doing large volumes of transactions simply can’t afford to experience repeated system crashes that frustrate customers who would be forced to wait while sales clerks “reboot” their POS networks. Users of some floral technology products frequently experience these very situations. Windows is notorious for having issues related to stability and security. From the fatal “blue screen” to the “Out of memory” message to the “Illegal operation” message you often receive just before the system freezes up. Windows workstations and Windows servers are also routinely shut down by viruses, adware, or spyware that is acquired over the Internet. Linux does not share this level of vulnerability.
FAS offers the best of both worlds-the power and stability of Linux at the server level, along with the flexibility and ease of use of Windows at the workstation level. FASwin allows a PC to access the data and functionality that reside on the Linux server, just as a PC can access a web application running on a Linux server on the Internet. And that same PC can also run FAS in the non-graphical mode.
See the related links below.
Symantec Security Response.
Linux vs. Windows Viruses.
Linux and Windows security compared.
10 Reasons to Switch to Linux in 2012
Does FAS offer financing?
Yes, many florists take advantage of the financing programs offered by FAS. The simple credit application requests a bank reference, a couple of trade references, and owner information. Applications are normally processed within an hour or so. Most shops choose the 60-month finance option, although shorter terms are available. While the programs are known as “lease/purchase” programs, after the term of the agreement, you own the system without having to make additional monthly payments.
Wouldn’t I be safer buying a system from a larger company, such as a wire service?
Not necessarily. A few short years ago, there were six “larger companies”, i.e. wire services. Today, only two of the original Big Six are still with us. Two disappeared in bankruptcy. A third was forced to sell out to a competitor because the owner found his company suffering from a “cash shortage”, and the fourth also found it attractive to sell out to a competitor. The wire service industry will continue to decline as consumers’ buying habits change and as wire service membership and traditional wire orders continue to decline. Teleflora’s Eagle™, RTI™, and Daisy™ are all products that have been through at least one change in ownership, including a couple of previous wire services. Many RTI™ users have actually experienced three owners of that product, including A&T Express™ and Redbook™. FTD’s Advantage™ was originally the privately-owned Data Rose™ system, and FTD™ itself has gone from a member-owned co-op to an investor-owned company to a publicly-traded company and back to a private investor-owned company, and back to a public company, all since 1994. Both FTD™ and Teleflora™ experienced significant changes in senior management in 2004 and FTD™ was sold yet again in 2008. Obviously, size does not guarantee success or stability.
On the other hand, buying from a company too small to meet the needs of its customers can be risky. I’ve heard from users of other systems who were unable to get support from their vendor when the programmer or support rep went on vacation. You also have to question the long-term viability of a company that has only a couple of dozen users, with almost half as many employees, after years in business.
FAS has a 34-year track record of success. FAS has turned down numerous very attractive offers to sell out to its primary competitors and to go to work for these companies. However, FAS believes remaining independent has always served the best interests of its customers and its employees. FAS has achieved a critical mass of customers that will sustain the company for many years to come. Unlike FAS’s primary competitors, the programmers who wrote the original FAS system 34 years ago are still the programmers who write FAS programs today. In fact, they are the owners of FAS. Large corporations owned by “hands-off” investors tend not to have the personal vested interest in making certain their customers’ needs are being met. You are far more concerned about making sure your flowers get to a wedding or funeral on time than a clerk working for a corporate chain store whose headquarters are a thousand miles away. Similarly, FAS’s owners work closely with FAS’s customers to provide a quality product and a high level of customer service.
Does FAS offer a technical support program?
Yes, FAS offers whatever level of support a florist chooses. FAS’s comprehensive program provides for unlimited technical support, software upgrades, wire service directory updates, payroll updates, FASnet’s monthly access, and membership in IFA. However, FAS does not mandate participation in these programs. If you don’t want any of these services, you pay absolutely nothing. Or, you can selectively choose which items you want to purchase.
I’ve heard and read that FAS has been around for 34 years. Does that mean your products are old and outdated?
Absolutely not! This makes no more sense than a new flower shop suggesting that a shop that has been around for 34 years is selling old, wilted 34-year-old flowers. In most other industries, a company’s long successful track record is considered an asset, rather than the liability our competitors try to suggest. FAS has consistently released new software upgrades each and every year during its entire history. Our hardware represents the absolute latest and most advanced technology that manufacturers have to offer. Our systems allow you to use PCs, flat-screen terminals, or low-cost CRT terminals as workstations. They allow you to send email confirmations to your customers and to automate the receipt of orders from your own web site. FAS’s software includes marketing and delivery management software that is unsurpassed by any of its competitors.
Is FAS or FASnet a wire service?
No, not at all. FAS is strictly a technology company. FAS has never charged a cent in “membership” fees or clearinghouse fees. FAS’s floral accounting software does support florists’ use of wire services though. For example, with a FAS system, you can process Teleflora orders over Dove; you can process FTD™ orders over Mercury™ and you can process FTD™, Teleflora™, and IFA’s™ Florist Direct orders over FASnet–all with a single FAS system. Similarly, with FAS you can process credit cards through Teleflora™ or through our independent FAScash program that routes your funds directly to your local bank. FASnet is the only independent network that provides universal coverage through all major wire services. However, orders sent over FASnet are cleared through the respective wire services, not through FAS.
Other vendors have promised me rebates and more incoming wire orders if I purchase their technology. What do I get with FAS?
First, you have to carefully evaluate some of the “too-good-to-be-true” offers being made to some shops. Shops that send 100 outbound wire orders a month or less find that their rebates are quickly eaten up in membership fees, network access fees, low-sending fees, reciprocity surcharges, directory fees, magazine fees, etc. In most cases, shops find that the high monthly fees far exceed the rebates they receive. As far as increasing the number of wire orders you receive, that would be questionable at best. After all, who determines which shops fill your orders? You do, of course. As a filling shop, you must rely on the sending shops to select you, not a technology provider. It is entirely possible that a technology vendor who is also competing against retail florists through its “order gathering” practices could route more orders to you, but how many “preferred” shops can there be in your town? Then, you should be very cautious about relying too heavily on incoming orders, particularly orders from competitors, as the basis of your business. Costs of goods sold and labor can each run about 30%-35% of gross sales. When you consider that incoming wire orders are discounted at least 40%-45% after factoring in the costs of wire service membership, network fees, transmission fees, etc., how much profitability can these orders contribute to your bottom line? Unless your operating expenses–advertising, utilities, insurance, gasoline, supplies, taxes, etc.–are less than 5% of gross sales–a virtual impossibility, incoming orders filled to full value contribute very little to additional net profit. In fact, processing these orders could actually be making you lose money.
What you do get with FAS is a company that is committed to the success of its customers. FAS has successfully provided its customers with the tools they need to flourish and prosper in increasingly difficult and competitive times. You get a system that is as solid as the company standing behind the product. You get a great product at a fair and reasonable price. You get a company that has never competed against its customers and that will never compete against its customers. And most important, you get your own independence. Some technology companies use their systems to restrict or control the way shops do business. The shops sometimes find themselves working for the technology provider, rather than the technology provider working for the shops. Technology should expand your business options, not restrict them.
Do I have to use third-party software for payroll, accounts payable, general ledger, checkbook, or inventory functions?
No. FAS offers a comprehensive, integrated floral accounting software system. Some systems require you to use generic, off-the-shelf software for these critical management functions. Since FAS has developed these programs itself, its support staff and programmers can provide a much higher level of general and technical support and can more effectively address requests for software modifications and enhancements. Companies that are “resellers” of third-party products can usually provide only a superficial level of basic user support and most often are prohibited from modifying the software.
Of course, if you prefer to use third-party, off-the-shelf accounting software with your FAS system you can certainly do so.
I already have a system in my shop. If I convert to FAS, can my data be automatically converted?
Yes, FAS has formal agreements with FTD and Teleflora that allow users of FTD or Teleflora technology to have their data exported by those companies and imported into FAS. FAS has also cooperated with other companies under informal relationships in exchanging data, and FAS can import data from virtually any system that can export data in text (ASCII) format. Due to the different file structures, data field lengths, data types, etc. used by the various floral technology systems, there can be limitations to the scope of data that may be converted. However, at the very least, you could expect your entire customer database, along with outstanding account balances, to be automatically loaded into your new FAS system.
Some companies charge a monthly user fee instead of a one-time, up-front purchase price like FAS. Why should I pay more for FAS when I can get one of the other systems for little out-of-pocket money?
Some floral technology companies do provide their software on a “subscription” basis, i.e. you don’t really buy a license to use their product as you do with most software, but you pay a monthly subscription fee for as long as you use the software. Our competitors present this feature as a competitive advantage over FAS and other floral technology companies, when in fact, this type of program can present a huge financial disadvantage to a florist. If a business, floral or otherwise, changed computer systems every few months or even every year or so, the subscription-based program might make sense, but that’s simply not the way things work in the real world. It’s not easy or cheap to continually train your employees to use new systems, and the value of critical business data that is usually lost when converting from one system to another is significant. The reality of the matter is that businesses don’t jump around from system to system every few months or every year or so. Instead, they usually commit to a management system for the long term. Sure, these subscriptions may require a smaller initial investment, but over the long term, the subscription-based programs can cost far more. For example, one floral software company’s web site states that its single-user software can be essentially rented for $100 a month. In five years, you would pay that company $6,000 and still not own anything! And remember, this doesn’t include the cost of hardware. In 10 years, the software fee would double to $12,000, and you still own nothing. The subscription fees are considerably higher for multi-user versions of the software. In contrast, you can purchase from FAS and own a high-powered, multi-user computer system, laser printer, and our 3-user software for $5,695 and use the software forever without paying another dime, if you so choose! FAS’s approach provides far greater value to a florist.
Is FAS’s software web-based or would I have a local server in my shop?
Each FAS user has a server in his shop. All data and programs needed by the shop reside on that server. This approach provides numerous advantages in performance and reliability, compared to a web-based application, i.e. a system that requires you to retrieve your programs and data from a remote server over the Internet. You can access and process data stored on a local, in-house server much faster than you can access and process data over the Internet, even though you have high-speed Internet service. With a web-based application, when your local Internet service goes down, YOU go down. You can’t access customers, invoices, account balances, or any other shop data.
With a web-based application, when your host’s Internet service goes down, then the ENTIRE GROUP OF USERS WHO RELY ON THAT HOST is down. In fact, web-based floral systems have gone down, preventing all users of those systems from continuing normal operation of their businesses. Losing access to your shop data and software functionality at any time of the year would be terribly disruptive and costly, but losing access to shop data and software at any of the floral holidays would be catastrophic to the entire group of users who depend on that system. A “distributed” environment in which each shop has its own server greatly reduces these vulnerabilities. Furthermore, having your data stored on a server in your shop, instead of being stored on a server owned by someone else at another location, helps you protect the privacy and integrity of sensitive business and personal data.
Which FAS system is best for me?