ASP NetLedger Upgrades Accounting Package

SAN MATEO (08/08/2000) - NetLedger Inc. has unveiled the latest version of its accounting software, which was designed from the outset to be delivered as an Internet service, accessed via a Web browser.

Key changes in Version 4.0 of the application service provider's (ASP) software-based service include a new payroll program that handles paychecks, withholdings and W-2 forms and lets users tailor reports to meet their needs.

For the first time, a company using NetLedger can give outsiders, such as customers, business partners or an outside accounting firm, access to its NetLedger data. Customers can view and pay invoices online, for example.

The ASP says it has signed up about 20,000 customers since launching its services last September. These customers pay at least US$4.95 per month per user for the basic accounting software. The new NetLedger Payroll program costs an additional $4.95. Other services also carry fees; online customer ordering, for instance, costs $19.95 per month for unlimited orders.

NetLedger is one of a group of ASPs that offers software designed from the outset as a Web service. Traditional software vendors are moving aggressively into the ASP market, either by building browser front ends to their client/server packages or granting remote access to their software via third-party software such as Citrix Systems' MetaFrame.

The NetLedger user interface is pure HTML, which typically lacks the speed and interactivity of a Windows application. But the NetLedger interface, and overall design of the application and underlying systems architecture, have been built for extremely fast interactions, company officials say.

"With an Internet application, we had to move the whole [user interface] over the Internet, one page at a time," says Chris Blum, NetLedger co-founder and director of quality assurance. "It had to be very lightweight, so it was fast enough for the users."

The server side of the application, written in Java and Java Server Pages, relies on the Oracle 8i database to store and manage the accounting data for each customer. Several of NetLedger's founders are from Oracle, with Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison listed as an investor.

The accounting application and the database run in a data center in San Mateo.

NetLedger is building a second data center in New York, to share the growing workload. Both sites will maintain a copy of all customer data so if one fails, the data will be safe and users can be redirected quickly to the operating data center.

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