Magazine article The CPA Journal

PC-Based Client-Server Accounting Systems

Magazine article The CPA Journal

PC-Based Client-Server Accounting Systems

Article excerpt

Today there are many computer ized accounting systems on the market, from inexpensive systems, retailing for $100, to expensive, with retail prices over $10,000. With this abundance to choose from, it is sometimes difficult to decide which is the right one for you. For example, you or your client is in the middle of reviewing a trial balance, when questions arise in relation to the sales account. Who made a particular sale? What was on the invoice? What promotional or marketing strategy prompted the sale? Has the customer paid the bill? You don't know the answers but do not want to leave the current on-screen report to find the answer, if indeed an answer can be garnered from the accounting system.

The heart of any accounting system is the data contained within its structure. One purpose of an accounting software package is to make the task of entering, compiling, and auditing data, not just accounting data, easier. All the major accounting systems, regardless of cost or functionality, provide the user with the accounting database. The user, however, is not always given the tools to get all the needed information. Standard reports provided by most computerized accounting systems are geared toward the financial report, not management information.

Traditional accounting systems utilize a flat or relational database, which preclude creating reports based on ad-hoc queries. With today's quest for information, and critical time constraints, accounting professionals require the ability to easily drill down through the accounting data for answers.

Client-Server Systems as a Solution

A client-server computer system, as defined by industry standards, is a computer system that contains a host (server) computer and at least one workstation (client). The computer system has multiple duties, with the host computer acting as traffic agent for file management, access, printing, and communication, while the workstation actually runs the program and does the number crunching locally.

Client-server as defined by Dr. Tsay in the November 1994 issue of The CPA Journal is a system that "...contains at least two common characteristics: cooperative processing and flexible end-user applications." An accounting system is the perfect product to run in a client-server environment. It requires large databases, which must be maintained in a central location, while many users are able to run multiple programs aimed at entering or retrieving information.

Most programs can run in a simple form of client-server relationship. However, products that are written to exploit this unique computing environment are capable of providing the end-user with complex information at the drop of a keystroke.

The Traditional Accounting Package

In the traditional accounting packages and the new breed client-server systems, users will find many similarities, both basic and advanced. A full fledged accounting system contains the five areas of accounting: general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory, and payroll. It is the robustness and functionality of the programs that distinguish the lowend systems, such as, One Write Plus and Peachtree for Windows, from the highend systems, Macola Accounting System, Navision Accounting System, and Platinum Accounting System. (See Exhibit 1). Robustness means that the computer system is powerfully built, suited to endurance, and marked by richness and fullness. Functionality refers to that designed for or adapted to a particular function or use. The following are distinguishing characteristics of robustness and functionality:

* Ease with which information is pulled from the accounting data base,

*Quantity of information that can be kept in the database,

* Intensity of use, e.g., total number of daily transactions,

Ability to modify and customize* source code to add new fields * output (i.e., format invoices, statements, checks, etc. …

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