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Businesses clear paths

Two firms release software to make it cheaper and easier for small companies to use electronic data interchange systems.

Two firms have released software to make it cheaper and easier for small companies to use electronic data interchange systems, a form of electronic commerce that involves filling out and sending electronic forms.

Premenos, a major EDI software vendor, has added two new products PowerDox and WebDox to its Templar family of EDI tools.

Harbinger, an EDI firm that both sells software and operates its own secure network for private companies, has likewise unveiled both software and a service for smaller companies.

Both companies are playing to a receptive audience: businesses who want to do be able to do business with other businesses online.

"There's a tremendous segment of businesses out there just waiting for an easy, inexpensive way to get themselves online with electronic trading partners," said Allen Bonde, director of Internet computing strategies at Yankee Group, an industry research firm.

Harbinger Express is an Internet-based service that lets companies use a Web browser to exchange business documents with trading partners by translating HTML forms into EDI documents and vice versa. It costs $495 to set up, then $30 a month for 15 transactions; each additional documents costs $1.50.

Harbinger's new release of its TrustedLink commerce software also ships with TrustedLink Guardian, which lets companies decide whether to send EDI documents over the Net or through a private, secure network.

"Unlike other Internet EDI products, there is no requirement that both trading partners use the same software," Harbinger's Jim Davis said. "A TrustedLink Guardian user can send a document via the Internet to a trading partner on a VAN, who can receive the document using their existing EDI translation software."

The new Premenos offerings have easier-to-use forms, can work in conjunction with a company's business applications, and let trading partners get into EDI for under $300 apiece.

Templar PowerDox is deployed over private, secure networks including the IBM Advantis network and the value-added networks run by AT&T. Templar WebDox is an Internet-based product. WebDox functions as a browser companion but promises secure transactions by relying on Secure HTTP and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) security protocols.

PowerDox is now available in the United States and Canada for MVS priced at $40,000. The company is set to start beta testing in January for a Windows NT version that will cost $25,000. PowerDox Remote, which runs on the desktops of trading partners, is $299.

WebDox, which goes into beta testing next month and is due to ship in the first quarter. It will cost $25,000 for the NT server and $299 for WebDox Remote.