For around $70.00 USD you can have a solid appointment/scheduling application that will run over a network or on a single machine.
Recently I discussed replacing Exchange with a much more affordable groupware solution. Although an outstanding, feature-rich solution (the software in question was eGroupware), this method can be a bit daunting for someone who does not have the IT chops to install such a beast. For those of you who prefer a much simpler, inexpensive solution for your calendaring, I have one.
OrgBusiness focuses on keeping certain business-types organized. They offer two types of products for different business types. The products they offer work on one of three models:
- Single PC: Running a scheduling tool on a single machine.
- Local Area Network: Running a scheduling tool with access granted to any machine on the internal network.
The products OrgBusiness offers are:Single PC: Generic scheduler, Medical Calendar, Salon Calendar, Rental Calendar, Sports Rental Calendar, Repair Shop Calendar, Restaurant Reservations, Hotel Reservations, School Calendar, Courier Business, PhotoLab Calendar, Gantt Chart, Password tool, and Birthday Reminder. Local Area Networks: Generic Calendar/Scheduler, Medial Calendar, Salon Calendar, Rental Calendar, Sports Rental Calendar, Repair Shop Calendar, Restaurant Reservations, Hotel Reservations, School Calendar, PhotoLab Calendar, Gantt Charts.
The tools offered by OrgBusiness require very little system resources and run on the following platforms:
Windows ME, 2000, 2003, 2008, XP, Vista, 7 (32 & 64 bit versions.)
These products range in price from $29.95 to $69.95. Of course, each product offers a trial period, so you can test it out before you drop those precious dollars. But when you look at the low price of these tools vs. the prices competitor products sell for, you might wonder how in the world the OrgBusiness tools function.
Here's the real skinny on these products: I've deployed the Salon Calendar product for both Single PC and Local Area Network. OrgBusiness products do a great job of keeping pace. They may not compare feature-for-feature to more expensive products, but they do what they say they do and they do it well. And what's best (outside of the very low cost) is that these products don't require a degree in administration to get them up and working. How easy are these tools to install? Let's examine one and find out.
The tool I will demonstrate is the Salon Calendar tool. This will be set up on a Local Area Network so a "server" and client installation will be done. I place server in quotes, because the machine does not have to be a server by design (a standard desktop machine will do fine). Below are the steps for installation.Step 1: Download and extract the necessary file. The file to be downloaded and installed can be found here. Once the file download is complete (it will be named SalonCalendarFWG.zip) extract it and open the resulting new directory (named SalonCalendarFWG). Step 2: Install the database server. The SalonCalendar For Work Group (aka LAN) does not require any third-party database tools, as it has its own database server built in. Within the SalonCalendarFWG folder locate the two installation files: ServerSetup and UserSetup. The ServerSetup file installs the database server tool and the UserSetup install the interface for the calendar. For the server, double click the ServerSetup icon and walk through the very easy installation. Once this is installed a new tool, Data Security Agent (see Figure A), will be present allowing for the management of the users that are able to connect to the server. By default, the database user credentials are:
- User: sysdba
- Password: masterkey
Open up the Data Security Agent now and create a new user. This is done from the Server Users tab by clicking the Add button and filling in the information. Although it is not necessary to add a new user in order to connect to the database, I would suggest doing so to avoid running the risk of corrupting the admin user, thereby rendering the database server unreachable.
This tool also allows for backing up and restoring the data file. This is a very critical feature that can easily prevent catastrophic loss of appointments. I highly recommend taking advantage of this feature to back up the Salon Calendar data file to an external drive on a nightly basis.
One final configuration is to click on the Options menu and make sure both "Enable on Windows startup" and "Minimize on startup" are checked. If these are not enabled, Salon Calendar will have to be manually started upon boot.Step 3: Install the client. With the ServerSetup complete, it's now time to install the client. The client can be installed on the server machine or any client that can see the server machine. To install the client, simply double-click the UserSetup file and walk through the simple installation. When the installation is complete, start up the tool and connect to the data file server. Step 4: Connect the client. The Salon Calendar database will already be running so the client will be ready to connect. When the client is started a very simple connection window will appear (see Figure B).
In the Security Panel enter:
Server IP address or name: IP address or hostname of the machine running the server.
User name: A username that has been added to the Data Security Agent tool.
Password: The password associated with the above username.
Once authentication succeeds, Salon Calendar will be ready to start with the addition of resources and the, ultimately, appointments. Install the client on all machines that need to view the data file.I have noticed that, in order to see any changes made from clients, other than the one you are working on, you must hit the Refresh button regularly, or the AutoRefresh feature must be enabled from the Home menu of the ribbon interface (see Figure C). If neither of these are done, no updates from other clients will appear and overlapping appointments can then occur.
Using these scheduling tools is very straightforward, so the learning curve is about as shallow as anyone will find with a scheduling tool for businesses of this nature.
I have seen appointment tools in the salon industry go for thousands of dollars. Those tools are all fine and good if the budget is available for them. But when a budget is as tight as most mom-and-pop shops are seeing, that budget must concentrate every penny toward usefulness and cost-effectiveness. I have not found a better way to take advantage of network-able scheduling tools than the low-cost solutions from OrgBusiness. For around $70.00 USD you can have a solid appointment/scheduling application that will run over a network or on a single machine. That certainly beats dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on a piece of software that will have users taking advantage of only a fraction of its power and features.