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By Scott Gregory

If you like the idea of anytime, anywhere access to your business finances, a Web-based accounting solution may be in your future.

Traditionally, accounting software has been purchased in a box and installed from a CD. When an upgrade to a newer version is desired, it is purchased and delivered either in CD format or downloaded and installed from the Internet. In some cases, the accounting software vendor charges an annual software maintenance or support fee in addition to the purchase price of the software.

Using a Web-based accounting solution, everything you need is accessible from any computer that has a high-speed Internet connection. Your accounting software is now hosted online by your vendor, and no longer installed on the desktop or server computers in your office. Instead of paying an annual fee or one-time charge for the purchase and maintenance of your accounting software, you pay a monthly per-user fee. In this environment, it is no longer necessary to worry about losing the installation CD or suffering downtime while upgrades, new versions and patches are installed.

Data Backups and Security

A distinct advantage of using a web-based accounting solution is that your critical accounting data is continually being backed up. Since your data resides on the vendors servers, they will be backing it up for you on a regular basis. Compare this to your current backup plan (assuming you have one that is!). Can you say that your accounting data is backed up on a regular basis and a copy of that data stored off-site?

One issue that your business will need to address within the Web-based accounting realm is security. The leading Web-based accounting vendors realize this is a critical issue for their customers, and they have taken significant measures to ensure the security of their customers’ data files.

Some businesses are simply not comfortable putting their sensitive accounting data on another computer at any time. Others will find that this solution may actually be more secure than their current network configuration. Either way, you will want to investigate this issue in more detail as you explore the benefits of a Web-based accounting solution for your business.

Web-based accounting is just one example in the “software as a service” marketplace. This area is starting to grow and gain more acceptance as small and medium size businesses realize the benefits they can enjoy by using them. They no longer have to have an IT person in-house to deal with their software issues – a phone call to the vendor gets them a resolution instead.

Some vendors of web-based accounting software include: QuickBooks with their Online Edition; Peachtree with their ePeachtree Edition, NetSuite and Intacct. Each vendor has their own pricing structure for their service, but the common denominator is that you will be paying by the month, rather than by the year or product as you have done in the past.

It’s important to compare the features offered by the web-based products to the related CD-based versions. In many cases, the Web version is a completely new entrant that was built to take advantage of various features of the Internet. These versions may not have some of the features you have come to enjoy when using the CD version. The vendors listed above have easily accessible comparison charts to help you decide which version of their software will best meet the needs of your business.

Web-based accounting solutions are starting to gain momentum and subscribers. The users like the always on, always available features and functionality that are provided. Make sure to evaluate this alternative the next time you upgrade your accounting software package.

Scott Gregory is the President of Bond Technology Ltd.
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