Threads on Webledger Systems for Networked Accounting and Business Services

Bob Jensen at Trinity University

WebLedgers are accounting systems that are available on the Web for companies who do not want to go to the time and trouble of maintaining their own hardware and software for accounting purposes (including account collections, inventories, and payrolls).  There are enormous advantages in that small and medium sized firms do not have to pay for high cost hardware and specialists in systems, accounting.  There are also tremendous protections against system failures.  Another main advantage is that authorized personnel can access the system over the Web from anywhere in the world.  Webledgers commenced as the brain child of the CEO  of Oracle.

Webledger alternatives are becoming a much bigger deal in accounting information systems.  I suspect that many accounting educators are not really keeping up to date with the phenomenal growth in vendor services.

I am a strong advocate of Webledger accounting and information systems.  
In my viewpoint they are the wave of the future for small and even medium-sized business and other organizations.  The main obstacle is overcoming the natural tendency to fret over having data stored with a Webledger vendor.  But the advantages of cost savings (e.g., savings not having to employ technical database and IT specialists. savings in hardware costs, and savings in software costs), advantages of worldwide access over the Internet, and advantages of security (due to the millions invested by vendors to ensure security) far outweigh the disadvantages until organization size becomes so overwhelming that Webledgers are no longer feasible for accounting ledgers, inventory controls, payroll processing, billings, etc.

Webledger software and databases offer accounting, bookkeeping, inventory control, billings, payrolls, and information systems that can be accessed interactively around the globe.  Companies and other organizations do not maintain the accounting systems on their own computers.  Instead, the data are stored and processed on vendor systems such as the Oracle database systems used by NetSuite.

There are various Webledger alternatives, but one of the earliest major providers was NetLedger that later changed its name to NetSuite.

SAN MATEO, CA AND NEW YORK, NY – September 18, 2003 – The company formerly known as NetLedger, Inc. announced today that it will change its corporate name to NetSuite, Inc. The new name is driven by the success of the company's NetSuite integrated ERP/CRM/E-Commerce business application for mid-sized companies. The NetSuite product was introduced more than a year ago, and today the majority of the company's more than 7,000 customers are using the product to run their business operations. NetSuite, Inc.'s products also include Oracle® Small Business Suite, an integrated business application for small companies. The Oracle Small Business Suite name is used under license from Oracle Corporation (Nasdaq: ORCL).

Vision, product delivery, and customer satisfaction have been the hallmarks of NetSuite for the past five years. Founded in 1998 by Evan Goldberg and three Oracle colleagues, Goldberg and his seasoned team have successfully built the first Web-based, completely integrated ERP and CRM suite for small and mid-sized companies. In 1999 the company delivered NetLedger, a suite of financial management applications that provided the backbone for future product development. With this solid foundation, the company then broadened the application not only to manage back-office and e-commerce applications, but also to manage front-office sales, support and marketing activities. Since the introduction of the NetSuite CRM/ERP product, the company has grown five-fold in revenues and has surpassed the 7,000-customer milestone, making NetSuite, Inc. the largest application service provider for mid-sized companies.

"Our name change from NetLedger to NetSuite is a natural evolution of the company," said Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite. "While our financial applications are a key product differentiator, we are now better known for helping companies automate their end-to-end business processes. The vision of NetSuite to enable companies to manage their operations in a single, integrated solution permeates everything we do, and our name reflects that vision.”

Delivered as an online service, NetSuite enables companies to manage all key business processes in a single system. Delivered as a Web-based service, there is no hardware to procure, no large, up-front license fee, no maintenance fees associated with hardware or software, and no complex set-ups.

About NetSuite Founded in 1998, NetSuite, Inc. is a leading provider of ERP and CRM application software for small and mid-sized businesses. Formerly known as NetLedger, the company's products include the flagship products, NetSuite and Oracle Small Business Suite, as well as NetERP and NetCRM. The company is the largest application service provider of mid-market business applications with more than 7,000 companies using its products. The company's products have won many prestigious industry awards, such as the PC Magazine Editors' Choice Awards in 2001 and 2002; PC World Best Bets 2001; PC World 2001 World Class Award; Forbes.com's Best of the Web 2001 and 2002; and Upside Hot 100 2002. NetSuite also provides enhanced, integrated solutions through its strategic partnerships including Oracle, (Nasdaq: ORCL), Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), HP (NYSE: HPQ) and VeriSign (Nasdaq: VRSN). The company's investors include Larry Ellison, StarVest Partners L.P., ADP and UBS PaineWebber. For more information about NetSuite visit www.netsuite.com .

 

Free Video on NetSuite Systems
A short video is very informative at http://www.NetSuite.com/portal/home.jsp 
To run the video,  Click on the link in the lower right of the screen called "Watch the Video."

As a project in Fall of 2000, a team of my students set up an accounting system on NetLedger.  This team's project report is available at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/acct5342/projects/NetSuite.pdf


Cloud Computing --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

QuickBooks Will Cloud-Host Clients' Software and Data Files
Intuit has its head in the clouds this week as it publicly announces a new hosting program for QuickBooks, allowing QuickBooks professionals to host their clients' software and data files. This month we also have several useful tips to share with you. These tips, written by QuickBooks experts, are designed to help you make the most of your QuickBooks experience. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.
Gail Perry, Managing Editor of the AccountingWeb, email message, February 19, 2010
http://www.accountingweb.com/topic/technology/intuit-introduces-hosting-program-quickbooks

Bob Jensen's threads on WebLedgers are at
http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/webledger.htm


November 18, 2002 reply from Todd Boyle [tboyle@ROSEHILL.NET

Bob, 

I've been obsessed with webledgers for several years, and worked directly with countless users, developers, designers and some of the CEOs of these firms.

First of all please uncouple the idea of a webledger, from the particular applications and use cases that most benefit from hosting on an XSP on the Internet. We can get most of the valuable things (a selling presence, a transaction inbox, etc.) without a comprehensive hosting of the root ledger and all of its modules on a single, monolithic provider.

Please give me a chance to argue, some functions really benefit from *decentralization*. http://www.gldialtone.com/P2Paxes.htm#conclusion

IMO you've under-weighted the costs to the individual or SME of monolithic XSP, and overestimated the cost savings. The vast majority of companies are paying peanuts for their Quickbooks or other setup, often have not upgraded hardware or software in years. The relative stability of Win2000 and mature Win32 apps gives users crucial market power to extract better terms from software vendors.

The law of software is that once you're immobilized on a platform, the software vendor can raise prices. The role of competition only arises when there are efficient markets, low barriers to exit, etc.

The behavior of NetSuite, IntAcct, Intuit, Sage/ePeachtree, SAP, and "every" webledger to date, demonstrates an unmistakable intention to immobilize their customer and capture above-normal returns. My communication with them is 6 to 18 months old, but they do *not* adopt standard semantic vocabularies or methods. They shun interoperability with each other's functions. Instead they work to aggregate communities of VARs and ISVs in a battle for domination. This behavior is perfectly consistent with the previous generation of software, obviously I am referring to Win32 applications we're all completely immobilized on. Do these webledger providers even have a choice? --NO. Not until consumer awareness increases, and demand for open interfaces is measurable in market behavior.

As a result, when you subscribe to these webledgers, ironically you're just getting a standalone accounting system in a browser. It is designed *only* to be sticky. It is a financial venture to make money. All of the potential for automatic reconciliation or improvement in settlement etc. is avoided by these capitalist ventures. The software industry is willing to waste countless millions of hours, of useless manual processing, just to make $1 for themselves because if they had open standards necessary for electronic business, that would allow users to migrate to other platforms.

Normal returns, in the computing environment, *should* manifest as in any other market: the marginal cost of any given computational function and its networking and infrastructure costs. Those marginal costs should become quite small of course.

The software market doesn't behave like a normal market of course, because of our diseased IP laws, which have been corrupted by a generation of legal strategy and lobbying by such people as Jack Valenti, and Bill Gates, scion of a wealthy Seattle lawyer.

The software market appears to exhibit some other behavior, a mixture of cartel phenomenon and coasian efficiency. Prices approach marginal costs, eventually, if well-informed buyers of software avoid getting themselves needlessly trapped. Businesses should of course, stick with their current LAN-ledgers for the time being, until the lifetime-cost of accounting web services becomes much lower.

That cannot happen until web accounting software products appear, having thoroughly standard interfaces for both their semantic content and their methods/APIs for the sales journal, purchase journal, AR/AP, and settlement. Sooner or later, one of the vendors will blink. They will adopt a comprehensive open interface for interoperability. This can happen on the desktop, or it can happen on an XSP. SAP right now is far ahead of any of the others in Open Source, as they have actually released a free version of the SAP DBMS, and have contributed some great engineering to ebXML and the UBL Technical Committee on OASIS. UBL was founded by Jon

Bosak one of the inventors of XML to provide a working e-business vocabulary. UBL is near completion, and set to become the first integrated library of ebXML Core Components. The UN/CEFACT library is looking like many years in the future.

Intuit's recent joining of the UBL TC could be the first crack in the dam, as far as I can see, but they are neither contributing visibly, nor standardizing their semantics in any way.

I would recommend, forget about NetSuite, Intacct, and Quickbooks/Web for now. They have completely incompatible XML interfaces and are competing only to build large, incompatible communities. It is almost like a deliberate effort to create English measures and Metric measures just to sell more wrenches. Even the developers of SMBXML, Intacct XML and QBXML are not allowed to harmonise their functions by their capitalist bosses. Folks-- I am committing professional suicide in my business, to tell you the unpleasant facts, as I see them.

Forget about the open source accounting projects as well. From GNUE to SQL-Ledger. I have communicated at length, with many of the developers of these software projects. All of them, place nearly zero priority on standards-based APIs or methods, or semantics at the interface. They are building precisely what functionality they need, for themselves, in their own assessment. The linux accounting developer is, in my experience, openly hostile to ISO, OMG, UN/CEFACT, EDI, etc. and to UML modeling itself,

Finally-- the importance of avoiding capture by Microsoft cannot be overstated. They've bought the best midrange software and are spending $5.2 Billion/year figuring out every move on the future chessboard. http://www.google.com/search?q=microsoft+%22R%26D+budget%22

From, http://news.google.com/news?q=microsoft+quarterly+results+2002

Business Solutions, Microsoft's new business software division that includes the Navision and Great Plains acquisitions, had an operating loss of $68 million on revenue of $107 million Hmmm that means, their costs for the division were $175 million? hmmm that's $700 million per year, going into just the business software. And this, they are confident they will recover in the future --from us!

Todd Boyle CPA

http://www.gldialtone.com/ 

Todd refers to "Coasian Efficiency."  You can read about this at http://law.gsu.edu/wedmundson/Syllabi/Coase.htm 
A slide show called "The Coase Theorem and the Net Monetary Benefit Efficiency Criterion is available at http://www.humboldt.edu/~envecon/ppt/423/unit5b/tsld005.htm 


May 25, 2002 message from Todd Boyle

Hi Bob,

First of all it would be interesting to define precisely what you mean by a webledger. The 1st generation webledger idea achieved no transaction or ecommerce capability and was nothing but a "standalone ledger on the web". That idea is totally dead. The market rejected it on high cost, lack of trust, lack of any incentive, poor performance, etc.

There are at least ten different axes to the centralization/decentralization http://www.gldialtone.com/P2Pdimensions.htm Some of these dimensions are completely orthogonal to each other. In any case it turns out, relatively few of these dimensions need to be centralized in order to reach the transaction integration that is most valuable to users. Certainly, it is overkill to centralize the whole accounting data repository and the logic by which it is managed. The only dimention that was left decentralized by 1st generation webledger capitalists, was the interface in a browser!

I worked 18 months for Netaccount, in Oslo between the December 2000 comments and now. Netaccount went out of business this spring and my last paycheck was April 30 :-( Now have been a fulltime web accounting consultant or architect around 3 years. http://www.gldialtone.com/about.htm

Anyway-- would you please update the Links that you quoted from my site? You're welcome to copy the existing links in whole or in part http://www.gldialtone.com/links.htm 

There is really a lot to talk about but I'm not sure the list is the right place for it. And anyway, it appears the prevailing practice in the internet industry as well as the wider software industry, is that 99% of the people who have good knowledge won't talks about it publicly, for free. In particular, they do not share information about markets, what they have learned about customer demand, business models, or shares technical information anymore, even in the largest standards efforts.

What to do? Is there a "Clash of Civilizations" between accountants working for public disclosure and candor, versus the software and information industries who can only make a living by secrecy and game theory, gaming the user?

Finally-- if you're interested I will be willing to write 1,2,3 pages on the current state of the webledger market and "the truth" about the market as I see it.

Todd Boyle CPA 
9745-128th Ave NE Kirkland WA 
International Accounting Services, LLC www.gldialtone.com  
425-827-3107 AR/AP everywhere www.arapxml.net 

The links provide by Todd are as follows at  http://www.gldialtone.com/links.htm 

GL Dialtone's awesome Links - 2002  

Home

Contents: Webledgers 
ASP/xSP directories, news, and information sites 
Web Services Directories  
Peer-to-Peer filesystems 
Accounting Software Locators and Lists 
Open Source accounting software 
Old '99 Links 

Webledgers 
   Having U.S. versions

cemetery of deceased webledgers.  more to follow. 

Baport 12/2000  very good code mysteriously vanished, probably into the Sage orbit.
Biztone 2/2001  java 1.1 code/business for sale $million-ish
eLedger 4/2001  vb/javascript etc. code for sale; license the whole webledger host software $5000 on CD 
teConto of Germany 12/2000 code went to eastern europe.

Web Services directories and registries

 
ASP/xSP News Websites   ( ....their directories/search tools help find any service. )

Peer-to-Peer filesystems   ( ...an unregulated internet within the internet.)

Some Electronic Transaction Notaries   ( ...making transactions less repudiable.)

Website audit/assurance links

Crypto links

Open Source accounting software links:

Inactive projects

links

 

Accounting Software Locators and Lists

Todd Boyle CPA   Kirkland WA, tboyle@rosehill.net -- http://www.gldialtone.com



RiverGuide provides in-depth profiles, comparisons, and reviews of accounting software products, and would be a valuable resource for users of your site --- http://www.softwareadvice.com/construction

 

 

November 30, 2006 message from Austin Merritt [austin@riverguideinc.com]

 

  • Bob,

    I am writing to suggest RiverGuide for the accounting software locator and lists section of your page Threads on Webledger Systems
    ( http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Webledger.htm#software ). RiverGuide provides in-depth profiles, comparisons, and reviews of accounting software products, and would be a valuable resource for users of your site.

    Thanks,

    Austin

    ________________________________

    Austin Merritt
    Director, Operations
    RiverGuide, Inc.
    http://www.softwareadvice.com/construction

    Phone:     (415) 516-1769
    Fax:         (360) 838-7866

    Blog:        
    www.latemajority.com


  • The message below from Evan Goldberg illustrates the problems of distributed computing on Webledgers and the advantages of dealing with a well-funded operation. NetSuite is a Webledger owned my Larry Ellison (who, as CEO of Oracle, has bet the farm on distributed computing for Oracle as well as NetSuite). I guess Ellison is something like the second richest man in the world. My threads on Webledgers are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/webledger.htm 

    Dear NetSuite Customers,

    You may have heard about California's troubling power crisis. Business and individuals alike in the state have experienced numerous power outages which may continue for the foreseeable future. This issue is in the process of being resolved by government and industry authorities. However, in the meantime, I wanted to assure our customers that they can conduct uninterrupted business without worry using NetSuite. This is because from the launch of our service we have been based on an infrastructure that transparently handles just these types of circumstances.

    Your data is housed at a bunker-like data center that has an extensive triple redundant system of surge-protected power which will be utilized throughout any blackout or any loss of utility services. This includes both uninterruptible power supply and back-up diesel generators which allow us to operate indefinitely despite power outages. In point of fact, NetSuite Corporate lost power for 90 minutes today but there was absolutely no loss of service to our customers who had power.

    For our customers that are in California or other areas with power issues, this should drive home the benefit of securing your data offsite using an Internet-based business application. Not only is it possible to continue to utilize your business system from another location on the internet, but times of power outages are when data on desktop PCs are most vulnerable to corruption.

    We hope this email will ease any concerns you may have.

    Thanks,

    Evan Goldberg CEO 
    http://www.NetSuite.com/
      


    Web Hosting For Peachtree and QuickBooks,  by Monty Dillavou --- http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=42457#trans 

    Summary e-Controller is a B2B Accounting solutions provider that specializes in services and support to small businesses and accountants who use QuickBooks and Peachtree Software. At this AccountingWeb workshop, Monty Dillavou, President of e-Controller presented information about the company's e-WebHosting System for QuickBooks and Peachtree Software.

    e-WebHosting is their Internet based, secure hosting service whereby they host, via their web-enabled, secure servers, QuickBooks and Peachtree software applications along with company data files.

    Simply put, this means that a QuickBooks or Peachtree user can move application and data file(s) from their local PC or LAN to e-Controller?s web-enabled, secure servers. The user can then access and work with the QuickBooks or Peachtree file via any Internet connection rather than on just the local machine. The application still looks, runs, interacts and prints the same as the user is used to.

    Some of the advantages to this are access from anywhere, anytime, and users can work with their accountants in real time.

    The complete transcript is at http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=42457#trans 


    "What We Sell Is Between Our Ears," by Michael Hayes, Journal of Accountancy, June 2001, 57-63 --- http://www.aicpa.org/pubs/jofa/jun2001/hayes.htm 

    TOOLS THAT MAKE IT WORK

    Because the firm’s staff is not housed in the same building, it doesn’t have to worry about networks, but both staff and clients must have high-speed access. “That’s one of the things we’ve had to tell everybody to use. In some cases, we went to cable modem about four years ago,” says Sechler. “Its speed and access were unsurpassed at that time.” In areas where cable is not available, the firm now uses DSL as an alternative.

    Of the accounting packages available as ASPs, Sechler prefers NetSuite (www.NetSuite.com). Funded by Oracle, it’s “basically a QuickBooks living on the Web,” Sechler says. “My clients and I can look at the accounting at the same time anytime—in some cases while one of our firm’s bookkeepers with access at a different level prepares the monthly activity.”

    A user can set an astonishing number of levels of access. “I can have the treasurer look at everything, or everything except payroll, or write a check but not make deposits. There are many areas where we can make the rules,” Sechler says. “It costs just $10 per user per month to use NetSuite, and there is no charge for the subscribing CPA. I explain to my clients, ‘You can go out and buy a $5,000 software package—or pay $10 a month for this.’ For clients relying on grantor or contribution money, it’s a great opportunity.” An expensive package may have a few more bells and whistles to produce reports automatically, but by exporting data from NetSuite to Excel Sechler can customize reports so clients get what they want.

    “I’ve got clients with board members in many countries. NetSuite’s been a great solution for our clients in Belgium, Budapest, Dublin, Melbourne and London because they don’t have to wait for anything. I can have this moment’s activity sitting in NetSuite when they decide they want to take a look at what’s going on.”

    Sechler also uses Office 2000, SuperForms, QuickBooks and Intuit’s tax package called ProSeries, which QuickBooks talks to (see “Tools You Can Use”). “I can upload and download updates smoothly from the Web with it. The support’s very good, and I like using it. It’s been good to me. It’s one of the few that were really doing a good job in the 990 area, which is for the nonprofits’ tax return—a nonstandard area. Not a lot of packages really support that area well,” she says.

    Tools You Can Use
    NetMeeting
    www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting/download/
    Online conferences and collaboration. ASP. Free.
    PlaceWare
    www.placeware.com
    Excellent tool for larger groups, online seminars and conferences. Pricing varies based on size of audience and frequency of use.
    CoWorking
    www.coworking.com
    Updates on telework techniques and collaborative online tools.
    Gil Gordon
    www.gilgordon.com
    The guru of telework has tons of tips and techniques.
    NetSuite
    www.NetSuite.com
    Accounting ASP. $9.95 per user per month.
    QuickBooks Pro
    www.quickbooks.com
    Accounting software. $90 to $500, depending on user needs.
    Quicken Deluxe
    www.quicken.com
    Personal accounting software. $50.
    ICQ
    www.icq.com
    Instant messaging software for collaboration, communication and file transfer. Free.
    Yahoo groups
    www.yahoo.com
    Discussion groups, list servers, custom-moderated communities. Free.
    uReach
    www.ureach.com
    Unified messaging software, virtual fax and voice mail, file storage. ASP. $4 per month.
    Adobe Acrobat reader
    www.adobe.com
    Reads messages sent in PDF format. Free.

     


    WebLedger Questions from WSJ Accounting Educataors Review, August 2, 2001
    TITLE: Under the Radar: Start-Up Uses Oracle Link to Stay Competitive

    REPORTER: Rebecca Buckman

    DATE: Jul 26, 2001

    PAGE: B10

    LINK: http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?id=SB99609795384196339.djm

    TOPICS: Information Technology, Accounting Information Systems

     

    SUMMARY: Buckman reports on the alliance between NetSuite and Oracle for the

    marketing and product-development of NetSuite's small-business Web-based

    financial/accounting/marketing software.

     

    QUESTIONS:

    1.) Who are NetSuite's main competitors? Who are NetSuite's main customers?

     

    2.) Why is the competition expected to get fiercer? Why is the

    "small-business" market niche so important to the principal players?

     

    3.) What do you think the similarities are between the small-business products

    provided by NetSuite and those products offered by SAP, Oracle, J. D. Edwards

    and PeopleSoft? How are the products dissimilar?

     

    4.) How are the offerings of NetSuite different from those companies, like

    Peachtree, that offer accounting information systems software to businesses?

    How are they similar?

     

     


    Bob Jensen's other threads are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/threads.htm