• United States

Putting the books online

Jun 18, 20032 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Small offices turn to Web-based accounting services

For almost 60 years, the bookkeeper at Foster’s Promotional Goods handled the firm’s financial records the old-fashioned way: With pencil and ledger, and more recently, boxed software.

But in early 2002, Foster’s signed on with NetLedger’s Oracle Small Business Suite and transferred its financial files from QuickBooks to the Web-based service. Now the bookkeeper and the firm’s three executives access the books from any browser. Bookkeeping is simpler, and working from home or the road doesn’t cut anyone off from vital records, says Paul Brancaleone, partner with the Boston promotional products company.

Online accounting applications offer many of the same features as existing software. You can manage and track suppliers, customers, accounts receivable and payable, handle payroll, and manage inventory and projects. The NetLedger suite includes sales force automation and customer service applications, which Foster’s mobile sales people use to access customer accounts. The suite also lets users track employee time sheets: Waged employees log on when they arrive at work, and log out when they leave; the system reports hours worked to the bookkeeper. Another benefit is IRS tax code changes are updated automatically.

Web-based small business services, including finance and accounting packages, are growing in popularity, says Laurie McCabe, vice president and practice director with Summit Strategies, a Boston research consultancy. Providers such as Intuit, NetLedger and ACCPAC International have seen a bump in business as more companies grow comfortable putting their books online.

In May, ACCPAC launched a hosted version of its 15-year-old Simply Accounting. Already, some 500 people have signed up for the 30-day free trial, the company says. After the trial, users will pay $25 per month, per user for up to 25 concurrent users, and a one-time $25 set-up fee.

To access Foster’s records, Brancaleone visits NetLedger’s Web site, clicks on “Customer Login,” and enters his e-mail address and password. Between password protection, nightly tape backup of his files, and redundant storage of his data, he’s confident his books are secure. And he likes the price: The package, which includes access for 12 people as well as a suite of business applications, costs $3,600 per year, or $50 a month for one user.

“All that was good enough for me,” he says.