SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - A new breed of accounting software is proliferating: Web-based programs that enable you to access your data from any Internet-connected computer equipped with a recent Web browser. Peachtree Software Inc., a venerable name in PC-based accounting, enters the fray with EPeachtree.com, a Web-based service that costs $10 per month for a single user and $5 a month for each additional user.
The number of users determines whether the Web version is cheaper or more expensive than Peachtree's $249 (for up to five users) desktop product (assuming that you upgrade every year or so). But the Web-based product will eventually offer more features than the desktop version. As with other Web-based apps, upgrades are part of EPeachtree's service, and you won't need an IT staff to handle installation and maintenance.
EPeachtree requires you to use Internet Explorer 4 or 5 on a Windows 9x or NT system. Though the program runs primarily on Peachtree's servers, you must download Crystal Reports (a nearly-500K report-writing module) to run on your computer. Peachtree says it will support other platforms by year's end, and by this summer will have a payroll service running (priced at an additional $10 per month).
I tested EPeachtree over DSL and 56-kbps connections, and found that either way it ran a bit slower than the desktop program. Setting up a new company involves following an easy-to-use checklist similar to those used in Peachtree's desktop products, and online help is clear. You can generate inventory management forms, invoices, checks, and reports in a snap. And EPeachtree includes budgeting and flexible reporting.
The downside? Although Peachtree is capable of converting a Peachtree Office Accounting file for use online by new subscribers, the Web version can't import data from other programs, so data entry may take a lot of time. And you can export data only to Excel or Word. Otherwise, if you want to keep your books on hand wherever you go, EPeachtree is well worth a look.
Pro: Easy to set up; powerful accounting features for mobile users.
Con: Can import only Peachtree Office Accounting data.
Value: Web-based accounting can save money and hassles.
Street price: $10/month for one user, $5/month for each additional user.