Prophet 21 is offering an application service provider option to its customers and prospects to enable them quick and easy access to business-critical applications via the Internet, such as Prophet 21's Acclaim and CommerceCenter products.

"We wanted to provide a lower-cost solution to those companies with either an out-of-control IT budget or a lack of qualified technical people to maintain the infrastructure," said John Seaner, senior vice president/marketing. "Going to an ASP allows a company's IT personnel to focus on more money-making ventures such as e-commerce and eliminates unnecessary tasks that don't give a bottom-line savings."

The ASP option is based on the assumption that customers do not want to be system administrators. A distributor can outsource its entire network, removing the need to upgrade software or invest in new computer equipment. Migration to the P21 server is seamless with no loss of data, Seaner noted. Once on the P21 network, the distributor can access its business applications anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Prophet 21 co-hosts the site with Cable & Wireless, which provided the ASP infrastructure. However, Prophet 21 personnel are onsite, providing the same support and special services that its customers expect.

"We didn't want to be a backbone provider," Seaner said. "Our customers trust their relationships with us, but wouldn't necessarily trust a third party. So the decision to co-locate with a provider partner gave us the best of both worlds."