What is the best cloud accounting solution for you and your business?

Head in the CLOUDS?

Software

Cloud accounting claims to have changed the way that small and medium sized business run and process their accounting and bookkeeping affairs, but has it really? Within this article we will take a look at some of the major players within the cloud accounting market and some of the merits and shortfalls of each, which should enable you to make an informed decision when choosing YOUR software provider.

Selecting an accounting system to use IS a BIG DEAL (as once you’ve committed to this you’re in!)

There are typically no long terms contracts or commitments for the software itself, but the actual set up of the system, bespoke to your business, is time consuming, and once you’ve entered in your business data, it can be quite difficult to transfer this to another system in the future – as you would expect the data formats in each system are different to – a cynic might say for the exact reason of making it difficult for the user to change system.

If you already have a cloud accounting system but are not happy or impressed with it – FD Analytical can help you to change systems or get the most out of your current system.

There are a huge number of cloud accounting software providers available such as , Kashflow, Clearbooks, Liquid Accounts, Freshbooks and many more, but, for the purposes of this short article we are going to concentrate on the three key players within the market being; Xero, Quickbooks and Sage.

What’s the cost?

Possibly one of the first points to consider is the cost of the software, this is typically a monthly charge, but remember as you will never “own” the software, this cost will be one that you continue to pay EVERY month.

Each provider has a number of different monthly packages available; below we’ve simply taken the intermediate or standard package for each provider to give you an indication of costs:

Software Package Monthly Charge
Xero £22.00
Quickbooks £15.00
SageOne £20.00

It is also worthy of note that, as at the date of this article both Quickbooks and SageOne have promotional offers in place giving the user a 50% discount on the standard (above) monthly price, for example, today, you could receive Quickbooks for as little as £7.50 per month.

Other cost implications include; as you effectively “rent” the system, there is no immediate, one off huge outlay AND as the system is cloud based you won’t need to purchase your own server and back-up system to hold the data.

Before you consider a cloud system…..

A cloud based system is completely internet based, the speed and accessibility of your new cloud accounting system is based upon the speed of your internet connection, and although fast broadband links are pretty much standard in larger cities today, this is not always the case in outer regions or quite often units and warehouses on industrial parks or estates. Always check the speed of your internet connection before committing to a cloud system.

Functionality….

The truth is Sage and Quickbooks have been around for a LONG time, they understand the accounting market very well and as a result the highest compliment that we can pay these systems are that they are solid – this is huge compliment. They’re well structured. Easy to use and do exactly what you need an accounting system to do.

SageOne definitely feels a little more basic, while Quickbooks is detailed, robust and has the feel and functionality of a mature, well tested system with modern functionality.

Xero on the other hand is comparatively the “new kid on the block”, the system is good, it has plenty of “bells and whistles” and does everything that you would expect it to do and more, but then we feel a little let down when, for example, the payroll system doesn’t quite do everything that you may expect.

Plug Ins……How to Bespoke YOUR system

As cloud accounting systems have developed, they are today much more than just accounting systems, they are full business operation systems that are bespoke, exactly to your business requirements, and this is where Xero REALLY shines.

Xero has software development partners, who have created plugins, which seamlessly integrate into and allow you to bolt on additional functionality to Xero – as at the last count there were in excess of 50 plugins available – everything from inventory management control to forecasting tools.

FD Analytical have recently set up Xero for a client and utilised a stock control and warehouse system called UNLEASHED and we have to say, it is one of the best and most flexible systems that we’ve come across. Our clients received a fully bespoke system, all for a total monthly cost of less that £75.00 – the system has literally saved their business £000’s each year.

Looking to the future, Xero certainly feels like the software company that is developing more apps, integrated platforms and ongoing features. But take nothing away from SageOne and Quickbooks – these are GOOD systems, really good.

Other points to consider……

Many small business owners like the sound of a cloud based system and “dive” in to purchase one, but before doing so, it is well worth considering whether you actually need such a system – if you’re not sure, contact FD Analytical for a free discussion and if a cloud based system is not suitable for you, we’ll give you a free copy of our small business bookkeeping system – completely FREE with NO ongoing rental or support costs.

One of the key selling points that software providers use to promote their systems is the ability to “access your information on the go!” and it will often have an image of a successful business owner reviewing his business accounts in a coffee shop or in a business meeting – BUT, we feel that this message is somewhat confused; you CAN access your financial information “on the go” but this information is only as up to date as you have entered your invoices, bank entries and data – so if you only input your invoices once a month or once a week – this is how often your financial information will change!

What to do next….

Most systems have a free trial version available so we would recommend taking the time to sign up for the free trial and test each system yourself – if you don’t have the time for this, contact us at FD Analytical, tell us a little about your business and we will give you some specific advice on which system may suit your needs and budget best.

How FD Analytical can help YOU….

Unlike many accountants FD Analytical do not have an affiliation to one particular brand of software, currently we’re Xero certified advisers, SageOne certified advisors and have a huge amount of experience with Quickbooks, as a result we can offer truly independent advice when helping you to select your system, we can;

  1. Help you choose your cloud system and bespoke this, exact to your business needs and requirements.
  2. Discuss system options and demonstrate how a modern system could save your business £000’s each year.
  3. Design clear reports (not standard templates) exactly as you want to see them, containing the most important numbers within YOUR business.
  4. Set up forecasting tools to help set targets and predict how your business will develop and grow.

Useful links: Free trials to cloud accounting software providers

Xero – https://www.xero.com/uk/signup/

Quickbooks – https://www.quickbooks.co.uk/accounting-software/price-plans/

SageOne – http://uk.sageone.com/accounts/

Author  Adam Carter Chartered Accountant