The Return of the ASP

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Slowly but surely, the sound of the ASP is being heard in the land. For those of you who are not ardent technologists, ASP stands for application service provider, which basically means applications that can be accessed via the Internet, although there are technically a few different ways that happens.

This is not your father's dot-com and the hyped expectations of 2000. Instead of being Internet applications for the sake of Internet applications, the ASP model is starting to make inroads with firms and companies that can see real uses for it.

Topping the list is the ability to have staff members work collaboratively on the same documents, which ties the ASP movement to the spread of document management, certainly the hottest topic at CPA firms. Having documents in a central place and accessed via the Web also provides greater security through version control, and the ability of employees to work remotely.

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Do you need four hurricanes to get the message that you need to plan for disasters? Even if you don't live in Florida, Michael Cohn's story "Staying Afloat" explores the lessons the Sunshine State's weather this year has for all businesses.

In "Plan Ahead" Paul Demery talks about another kind of preparation--the use of tax planning software to get ready for tax season. The right application can make busy season a lot easier.

The exploding interest in document management is the focus of "On the Paperless Trail," by Editor Robert Scott, which surveys the approaches that tax and accounting firms use to successfully manage documents, if not actually eliminate paper.

Creative Solutions, with its Virtual Office, touts the users ability to access all CSI applications via the Web. Petz Enterprises is entering its second year with its vTax, online tax preparation system. With its purchase of the SIAN document management system from Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, CCH is promising that the product, renamed ProSystem fx Document, will be an ASP product by 2006.

But there are other examples. At UHY Advisors, which is being melded into one firm from the five that formed what was originally called Centerprise Advisors, chief information officer Matt Camden is moving his firm to the Web-based Global fx Tax from CCH. New Jersey's WithumSmith+Brown, which was an early user of RIA's GoSystem RS, also uses the Immediatech GoFileRoom, which its MIS director, Jim Bourke, describes as an almost ASP type. Bourke touts the ASP approach as fitting into his firm's disaster recovery model.

Disaster recovery is also on the minds of a few people in Florida who survived this year's hurricanes, and that issue also appears to be making Web-based accounting more popular.

Certainly the folks at Intuit believe that the combination of collaborative work and security concerns are driving the growth of QuickBooks online. The business is doubling every year, although with 25,000 users it's still not in wide use.

It's not an Internet flood. This is not going to be the Year of the ASP, and 2005 probably won't be either. But things are starting to happen.

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