Sage Review 2021

Updated:
August 26, 2021
By:
Simon Childs

Hailing from Newcastle in the UK, Sage was founded in 1981 to create estimating and accounting software for small businesses.

In 2011, Sage launched the cloud-based, online version of the software – Sage Business Cloud Accounting – in addition to the Sage Business Cloud Payroll service.

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So, what’s Sage Business Cloud Accounting like to use?


Although Sage has plenty of great qualities – and is fairly easy to navigate and use – compared to other similar online cloud-based accounting solutions it doesn’t win points for ease of use, and isn’t quite as intuitive.


Though it’s a highly functional software, those with prior experience of using the Sage offline accounting software – or any other prior software beforehand – will probably be able to get to grips with Sage cloud accounting more quickly than those who are using an accounting software for their business for the first time, and who have no prior accounting experience. 


In terms of set-up, you can find everything you need to set up your account in the ‘Getting Started’ tab, which will be presented to you at the beginning of your cloud accounting journey. Although everything is right there for you to input, it’s quite a long onboarding process and less intuitive than other cloud accounting platforms’ set-up process.



The last way in which Sage’s ease of use isn’t quite up to scratch with its competitors is that there aren’t quite many opportunities to automate processes – although there are still a number which can be automated – so there will be more admin involved in using Sage, and probably more repetition and time spent on similar tasks.


Having said this, Sage offers UK-based 24/7 customer support both online through a live chat and over the phone; in terms of additional support and human-led help, Sage probably has a leg up on its competitors. And, the platform has a comprehensive ‘help’ section with instructions, guides and videos to aid you with every step of your cloud-accounting journey.


So, while Sage might not be as intuitive as other cloud-based accounting softwares, they do have the help and support to counteract this.


In terms of Sage’s User Interface, you might find it a little dated compared to its competitors – and it might not be quite as attractive, although it’s certainly not bad looking – but in terms of features and ease of navigation its just as good.


Allowing you to browse tabs pertaining to sales, expenses, contacts, products & services, banking, journals, reporting and settings, in addition to the snapshot overview provided in the summary, the Sage accounting software displays clear, easy-to-understand data and graphs that highlight the important trends in your accounts.


What features does Sage offer and how good are they for small businesses?


Sage offers an impressive, comprehensive range of accounting features which are reliable and offer great value for money. 


Banking


It’s easy to connect your business’ bank account to your Sage account – all you have to do is navigate to ‘banking’, click ‘connect bank’ and type in the name of your bank account. Sage is compatible with a ton of banks – especially those based in the UK – including Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Natwest, Tide, American Express, Danske Bank and more, a complete list of which can be found on the Sage website.



Once you’re connected, your transactions are synched with your Sage Business Cloud Accounting interface and match automatically to your invoices – all you need to approve the match is to click the ‘match’ button when these transactions are presented to you, to keep your data and graphs up to date with your business’ most recent transactions.


Moreover, you can categorise your transactions yourself into categories, setting up rules to allow Sage to automatically categorise your transactions for you, based on the reference code or value; doing this right at the beginning of your Sage cloud-accounting journey will save you an enormous amount of time long term.


It’s also easy to report VAT returns to HMRC with Sage – a necessity for businesses earning over a certain amount per year – as you can simply navigate to ‘reporting’, where you’ll be provided with a ‘create VAT return’ option under the ‘VAT returns’ tab. You’ll be presented with your VAT report to approve, which you can then submit to HMRC via Sage.


Invoicing


Invoicing with Sage isn’t quite as seamless a process as their banking functionality.


You can create a new invoice by navigating to the top right corner of Sage’s UI where you’ll see a red plus, which you can press to create either an estimate or an invoice.


Unable to customise your invoices after clicking ‘create’ you have to edit your invoice settings – specifically, your logo and document template settings – before you create your invoice.


Sage offers nine templates – three of which are quite basic, three are templates for product invoices and three are service invoices – all of which can be customised to change theme colour, add your company logo, add accreditation logos, customise headings and more.


Although this method of designing new invoices is a little more inconvenient, once you’re used to Sage this won’t really present a problem anymore. 


More than this, Sage has a couple of automation features to make invoicing less time-consuming, such as the ability to create recurring invoices in addition to single invoices. You can also send invoices in bulk with the ‘quick entries’ functionality, rather than sending to each individual customer or client.


You can also track and view when invoices have been seen by customers, check which customers owe you money and when customers made payments. Moreover, if you have international customers, with the Accounting Plus plan you can ensure that exchange rates, adjustments and charges are dealt with automatically so you don’t have to manually spend time converting currencies.


All invoices can be created and sent via the desktop or mobile version of the Sage cloud accounting software.


Reporting


With all payment plans, Sage offers standard reporting covering: profit and loss; balance sheets; aged debtors/creditors; cash flow statement and forecast; profit analysis; sales revenue and VAT return. 


However, once you upgrade to the more advanced payment plans, you can gain access to Sage Intelligence, which allows you to see really detailed insight into your business.


Sage incorporates these reports into a set of interactive dashboards, charts and tables, which you can click through to investigate the finer details of the reports.



Integrations


The Sage Business Cloud Accounting software integrates with over 200 different apps, allowing you to assimilate your business’ accounting and finances. These apps include cashflow tracking, e-commerce, inventory, invoice, payroll HR, reporting and forecasting and more.


Sage Pricing


Sage offers some of the most competitive pricing of any cloud-based accounting platform, and they often run special deals. Right now, for example, as Sage celebrates its 40th anniversary, new customers are able to enjoy 3 months free.


In addition to being split into three pricing plans – start, standard and plus – Sage provides the opportunity to take online payments through stripe, or easily add payroll services to your Sage account, for an extra fee.


Start


For £12 a month, Sage ‘Start’ users can create and send invoices, track what they’re owed, enjoy automatic bank reconciliation, and calculate and submit VAT. However, only one user can access and manage your business’ Sage account.


Standard


For £24 a month, Sage ‘Standard’ users gain access to all of the features offered with the ‘Start’ plan, plus the ability to manage and submit CIS, run advanced reports (make use of Sage Intelligence), send quotes and estimates, forecast cash flow, manage purchase invoices and snap receipts with AutoEntry.


Moreover, ‘Standard’ plan customers are able to have an unlimited number of people access and manage your business’ Sage account.


Plus


For £30 a month, Sage ‘Plus’ customers are able to enjoy all of the features provided in the ‘Start’ and ‘Standard’ plans, plus the ability to invoice in multiple currencies, in addition to inventory management functionalities.



Sage: the Verdict


Although there are some definite weaknesses of Sage compared with its cloud-based accounting competitors, such as its slightly dated design and fewer ‘smart’ automated features, Sage is still an incredibly good accounting solution, with quick, smart banking reconciliation and highly advanced reporting in the ‘Standard’ and ‘Plus’ plans.


More than this – where Sage outdoes its competitors – the Sage Business Cloud Accounting software offers some of the most inexpensive pricing plans on the market for the reliable, comprehensive range of accounting features offered.


So, if aesthetics and efficiency (a.k.a. as little admin as possible) matter most to you, then the Sage cloud-based accounting solution might not be your ideal choice. However, if your business prioritises cutting costs where possible – while sacrificing none of the quality of the service – then Sage might be the perfect choice.