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Choosing the Right Small Business Accounting Software

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11 / Feb / 2013

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You’ve decided it’s time to invest in new accounting software.   “What should I think about before deciding,” you ask.

Well we’re glad you asked.  We know you don’t want to expend a lot of energy on your accounting software but the decision is surprisingly important.  You want to ensure you are set up with a system that suits your business, provides you with the information you need when you need it and can grow with you as your business grows.  Once you’ve made your choice it’s going to be painful to change, so you want to choose wisely.

Here is a quick look at the important things you need to consider.  But before you invest in new software we encourage you to contact us.  We would be very happy to discuss your needs and ensure you’re making the right decision for your business.

Online or desktop?
The first question you need to settle on is whether you are going to purchase a desktop system or an online system.

The online systems have a lot of plusses:
* They can be accessed from anywhere and generally have good mobile apps available.  Perfect if you are running a mobile business or doing a lot of travelling.
* As accountants we prefer the online systems because it ensures that when we look at your data we are seeing the same thing that you are.
* You always have the most up to date software as providers automatically roll new features onto your service.
* Security is no longer an issue with online services.  A reputable service is as safe as online banking with a reputable bank.
* The online providers host multiple backups, so you aren’t reliant on your own backup process.
* Most systems allow you to set up a connection with your bank account, receiving a daily feed from your bank account to your accounting software.  It’s easy to keep accounts up to date.

The downsides are few but enough to persuade some to stick with the desktop versions:
* Online systems can be affected by performance problems.  If your Internet connection is poor these may not be the right choice for you.
* You are vulnerable to Internet outage.  No Internet, no accounts.
* Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of keeping their company financial records with a vendor, regardless of security promises.
* A desktop system is a one off cost, whereas online systems charge on a monthly basis, which means the total cost can be considerably higher.

In Australia we have two primary desktop providers:  MYOB and QuickBooks.  For an online system you should consider MYOB, QuickBooks and a newcomer Xero.  (For the sake of transparency we should let you know that we have become a partner with Xero.  We will try not to be biased in this article, but we do love this product.)

Windows or Mac?
If you want to run your accounting software on a Mac then your options are more limited.

MYOB has a range of desktop software for Mac, which provides good basic software but sometimes presents problems when communicating data to Windows based computers.

Xero and QuickBooks both offer online services suitable for Mac users.

What Functions Do I Need?
All of the accounting software providers offer a number of tiers, and the tier you choose will depend on the functionality you require.  Here are the options to consider at different tiers:

Sole trader, freelancer, home office
Requiring only very basic accounting functionality.
Desktop:  MYOB AccountEdge Basics (MAC), QuickBooks Online Simple Start
Online:  Xero Small Plan, MYOB AccountRight Live Basics, QuickBooks Online Simple Start

Small Retail Business
Requiring inventory and supplier management.
Desktop:  MYOB AccountEdge Standard (MAC), QuickBooks Accounting
Online:  Xero Medium Plan, MYOB Account Right Live Standard,  QuickBooks Online Essentials

Small Business with Employees
These packages add payroll management, including employee record keeping and PAYG.
Desktop:  MYOB AccountEdge Pro (MAC), QuickBooks Plus
Online:  Xero Medium or Large Plan, MYOB AccountRight Live Plus, QuickBooks Online Plus

More Complex Business
For businesses that need to operate in multiple currencies, and/or use more advanced inventory tracking, employee tracking and business performance charting
Desktop:  MYOB AccountRight Premier, MYOB AccountEdge Network Edition (MAC), QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier
Online:  Xero Large Plan, QuickBooks Online Plus

Don’t Forget to Factor In Support
When you are considering the pricing for the various options available, ensure you factor in the cost for support.  While all software usually offers unlimited help for the first few months after you purchase, thereafter you may be expected to pay for help either on a per use basis or as part of a quarterly or annual plan. Only Xero offers unlimited help as part of their regular online monthly fee.

If this all seems too much to consider then pick up the phone and give us a call.  We are here to help you make the right decision.

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