Subject: Re: GNU/Linux accounting software (was Re: Linux accounting software)
From: skud+usenet@netizen.com.au (Kirrily 'Skud' Robert)
Date: 20 Feb 2000 23:55:24 GMT

In article <20000214071209.B32477@timebills.com>, Geoff Crawshaw wrote:
>Another alternative for non-windows based accounting software is the
>rapidly growing group of web based application service providers
>(ASP's) offering various combinations of these services to small
>businesses. Some examples follow: (disclaimer, I'm CTO at TimeBills)
>
>TimeBills.com, Elite.com, RedGorilla.com - Time billing and invoicing
>NetLedger - General Small business accounting
>FreeWorks - Business forms automation
>NetAbacus - Purchase orders
>
>None of this stuff is currently open source but does fit the criteria
>of non-windows based accounting software.

With no offense intended towards you or your business, I have grave
misgivings about letting important business data and processes being
stored and handled by a third party.

I haven't actually checked out the sites in question (and our net link
just died, so I can't for now) but I would guess that their EULAs
disclaim all responsibility for everything (which, from their POV, is
good legal sense).  What if I'm a small business using TimeBills or one 
of these other sites, and the site is cracked or falls to a DoS attack?  
What if they simply go out of business?  What if they change the way
they work and their applications are no longer useful to me, or they
change their prices and I can no longer afford to use them?

All of these are situations which could easily have a serious impact on
a small business.

I fear the rise of ASPs.  I worry about people like my Dad, who's not
too net savvy, using something like that (or even Hotmail) then losing
important business data and having no recourse... and worse, no ability
to prevent it happening in the first place.  At least with QuickBooks or
similar, decent backup procedures and not running it on an
Internet-connected machine will guard against most such problems.

I personally believe that the rise of personal computers, and more
recently of Open Source software for personal computers, has given end
users a level of power and independence that they've never had before,
even if they don't take advantage of it most of the time.  Application
Servers such as the ones you describe take away much of the user's power
and put it in the hands of ISPs, telcos, and other big corporations.
I'm not usually a raving lefty, but this is nevertheless an issue that
concerns me.

I'd be less concerned by it, however, if the following things happened:

1. Open Source software used for Applications Servers, so that security
holes or other problems are more likely to be found, and so that smaller
groups can run apps servers without having to rely on ISPs, telcos, etc.

2. Shrinkwrap/clickable EULAs not considered binding; users given some
recourse if the software or hosting service causes loss of data or
interruption of business

3. Big education drive to inform end users (especially "ma and pa"
businesses, like my dad's) of the pros and cons of ASPs vs having their
own software.

Me, I'm working on numbers 1 and 3.

K.

-- 
Kirrily Robert -- <skud@netizen.com.au> -- http://netizen.com.au/
Internet and Open Source Development, Consulting and Training
Level 13, 500 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9614 0949  Fax +61 3 9614 0948