Quadrant Software Upgrades AS/400 Fax Management Products

Quadrant Software (Taunton, Mass.) recently announced an upgrade to its flagship AS/400-based e-mail and fax management product, FastFax/Enterprise. New features in version 4.1 of the fax server hardware and software, introduced in June, include enhanced e-mail and AS/400 application integration, an e-mail gateway for Lotus Domino and Notes, new report writing capabilities and easier administration.

Quadrant Software has made a name for itself by supplying AS/400 users with a line of fax management products under the FastFax moniker. In fact, the company claims to own about half of the burgeoning AS/400-based fax management software market, with the remainder divided among just a handful of competitors. More and more AS/400 users in fax-intensive industries, such as production and manufacturing, are moving their batch-based fax operations from the AS/400 to a dedicated fax server.

In the case of Quadrant Software’s FastFax/Enterprise, fax services are accessible from the AS/400, PCs running Windows NT and 2000, and Novell NetWare. The company also provides integration services to link FastFax to leading AS/400 ERP and line-of-business software, including J.D. Edwards & Co.’s WorldSoftware, Mapics Inc.’s MAPICS, and Application Plus from daly.commerce.

All told, the FastFax/Enterprise system consists of the AS/400-based FastFax software, a standalone fax server which is preconfigured with Windows NT and FastFax software, connectivity software for the AS/400 (Ethernet, Twinax or Token Ring) and LAN connectivity software.

According to Mark Carlin, director of marketing at Quadrant Software, most FastFax users integrate the product’s fax and e-mail management capabilities with mission-critical supply chain management, manufacturing, health and financial applications running on the AS/400.

“We target large companies that want to link e-mail-based faxing to their AS/400-based ERP systems so they can add functionality to their e-commerce transactions with partners and customers. Many of our users fax hundreds of purchase orders and invoices per day. With FastFax these documents can be linked to J.D. Edwards’ WorldSoftware running on the AS/400, for example, and FastFax handles all the fax management,” says Carlin.

Beefed up e-mail integration tops the list of new features in FastFax/Enterprise version 4.1. A new e-mail gateway developed specifically for Lotus Domino on the AS/400 lets users create, send and receive faxes directly from their Lotus Notes clients. The Notes client integration expands on the product’s existing integration with Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook. The aim is to let users access email and fax services from a single, familiar desktop environment.

FastFax/Enterprise also now includes the FastFax Extractor, which, when FastFax links to secondary database files on the AS/400, can search through additional records for selection criteria. According to the company, this provides easier, more flexible integration between FastFax and existing ERP and line of business applications.

Quadrant Software positions its FastFax products as time- and money-saving fax and e-mail management systems that provide seamless integration with AS/400 applications, and according to Mark Oetinger, director of information systems at Protective Enclosures Co. (Buffalo, N.Y.), a manufacturer of plastic caps and plugs, the product lives up to its billing.

“We can send and receive up to 500 faxes per day with about 28,000 customers, including invoices, purchase orders and requests for quotations,” says Oetinger. “FastFax saves us lots of time. The processes that used to take hours or days can now be e-mailed or faxed in a few seconds. Previously we would have to retrieve a form from our optical storage systems, print it out, load it into the fax machine, dial, and transmit it, or send an order acknowledgement by regular mail. We had people lining up at our five fax machines and inbound faxes weren’t getting through.”

FastFax is integrated with the company’s home-grown AS/400-based ERP system, which lets users produce purchase orders the moment they receive a phone call or e-mail from a customer. In addition, the ERP system can e-mail reports to the company’s sales reps.

“We used to send monthly reports from our ERP system to our reps, but now we can simply e-mail them from the AS/400 using FastFax. They can get the reports faster and more often. They can see that if a customer has a payment problem, for example, and they can call the customer immediately,” explains Oetinger.

“Eventually, we’ll receive requests for quotations directly through e-mail, and rather than having them entered manually, we’ll be able to turn around orders the same day,” he adds.

Oetinger says that FastFax was the most expensive of the three products the company evaluated, but its features and integration with email clients and AS/400 applications made it worth the investment. “Whether your looking at FastFax on the AS/400 or a PC, it looks the same and you can do anything on either platform.”

Pricing for FastFax/Enterprise version 4.1 starts at $7,500 for new purchases. FastFax/Ultra starts at $6,500. The e-mail gateway for Lotus Domino and Notes is priced separately at $4,995.

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