Jack Henry & Associates Inc. is going after a larger share of the document management business by offering a hosted image archive service.

The Monett, Mo., vendor announced Wednesday that it plans to offer the service, Synergy Express, to customers both inside and outside the financial services industry.

"Our customers are asking for a different delivery model," said Stacey Zengel, the general manager of Jack Henry's image solutions unit. "We think this will be a growing business for us."

Jack Henry acquired the document archive company Synergy in December 2004, but until now its Synergy ECM platform has been available only for clients that wanted to use it in-house to handle their enterprise content management needs.

By providing the hosting and offering the software as a service, the vendor says it can ease security and compliance concerns for customers and eliminates the need for users to track and manage their own storage capacity requirements, Mr. Zengel said.

Though some in-house customers may decide to switch to the hosted service, he said the main goal is attracting new customers. "Our primary focus is net new business."

Some customers already have begun using the service, though he would not say how many are active now, nor would he say whether they are banks or from other industries.

The advantage of the hosted archive for many clients is the minimal hardware investment, Mr. Zengel said.

Users need only a workstation and document scanner to image and index the paperwork, and this could attract businesses that do not now use a digital archive, he said. "It's a good strategy for a lot of customers."

The new service is housed in Jack Henry data centers that provide information and transaction processing services to more than 500 financial institutions, Mr. Zengel said.

Other financial companies using their imaging capabilities to pursue broader markets include JPMorgan Chase & Co., which introduced a service in March to help organizations manage their archived records online.

eGistics Inc. of Dallas offers an archive hosting service with workflow features. It counts Fidelity National Information Services Inc. among its archive clients.

Mr. Zengel said the Jack Henry service is designed for the final storage of documents, including checks, rather than a business-process management system for documents that are being worked on and modified by various employees.

"Customers want to keep those checks for seven years for research," Mr. Zengel said. "We think that will be a nice niche for us."

A growing number of financial companies are using electronic versions of paper documents to process loans and other banking products, and observers say demand for a way to archive and manage those electronic files is increasing.

Rod Nelsestuen, an analyst at TowerGroup of Needham, Mass., an independent research group owned by MasterCard Inc., said many banks are likely to look at outsourcing functions such as document management and storage.

"It's not going to be a differentiator for the business."

Companies, especially those that have grown by acquisition, are likely to use a variety of approaches to record storage, he said.

"If it's being done in 100 different ways in 100 different business units, it's not very economic or efficient," Mr. Nelsestuen said. "It's an evolutionary process in the institution. That's where software as a service can leapfrog the process."