For decades, accounting software has helped small to medium businesses save on accounting costs in some cases, eliminating the need for an accountant altogether.
This software can simply reduce the time their accountant needs to spend on their accounts and in the last decade or so, offline accounting software has been usurped by the even more convenient online cloud-based accounting solutions.
Able to be accessed online from anywhere whether from a desktop or mobile device and by a number of different players in your business, such as the director, accountant or bookkeeper, these online cloud-based accounting platforms are intuitively designed to accommodate each business’ accounting needs, keeping the process as easy and efficient as possible.
There are countless ways that cloud-based accounting solutions can aid businesses, but here are just a few:
There are numerous factors to take into account when deciding which cloud accounting software to use, and with a number of different top quality accounting software to choose from, it can be difficult to know how to make that decision.
Really, which accounting software you choose should depend on your priorities and needs as a business, as well as your own personal preferences, as many of the cloud-based accounting options provide a pretty comprehensive set of features for their customers to make use of.
So, what should you be looking for?
Pretty much all cloud-based online accounting solutions have the ability to connect to businesses’ bank accounts, as the bread and butter of any online cloud-based accounting platform.
A common rookie mistake to make when choosing a cloud-based accounting solution is forgetting to check whether your (business’) bank is compatible with the platform – if it isn’t, then you can cross it off your list of accounting options, as without bank compatibility there’s very little point in having a cloud-based accounting software at all.
Most major banks are usually catered for by these platforms – especially if the solution is based in your home country – but it’s always worth double-checking anyway.
Do you have a particular image in mind for how your invoices should look? Or maybe you have a specific invoice design that you use now that you want to keep exactly the same?
Whatever your invoice design preferences, you need to make sure that your chosen accounting solution accommodates this, as some can be a little limiting if you have a fancier design in mind.
Moreover, you should make sure that if you want to be able to send recurring or bulk invoices, your chosen cloud-based solution offers this functionality.
Again, based on your unique needs as a business, you’ll need to check that your solution and the pricing plan you’re considering from that solution – as some cloud-based accounting software hides more advanced reporting behind higher paywalls – provides the reports you want for the KPIs you need.
One of the advantages of cloud-based accounting is the extensive range of integration possibilities available to enhance your accounting experience, in addition to being able to connect your accounting to the other online aspects of your business.
Most solutions will have app integration possibilities ranging from CRM to payroll and advanced reporting, but if you have specific needs and wants with regards to the apps you need – for example, if you have an e-commerce store with WooCommerce or another e-commerce platform and want to be able to integrate with your accounting – then you should double-check before purchasing a plan that your chosen solution is able to connect with the specific apps you need.
While most accounting software will provide the standard of what small businesses need to execute their accounting well, some have more specialist features that your business may be able to benefit from, such as budget setting and payroll functionalities, for example.
However, if you don’t need these features then it's probably not worth opting for a software – or a pricing plan – that offers them as this will incur additional costs compared to a solution that doesn’t.
One of the key considerations for any business is keeping costs low and profit high. Naturally then, choosing a cloud accounting solution with the right pricing plan, providing the functionalities you need at the lowest cost should be one of your top considerations.
While you want to make sure you’re choosing the best solution for your business, single-handedly comparing all the features and various pricing plans can be overwhelming.
Bearing this in mind, we’ve pulled together a comparison of three of the most popular, well-equipped cloud-based accounting software. These platforms are perfect for small to medium UK businesses.
Hailing from New Zealand, Xero’s cloud accounting software caters to over 2 million users, including thousands of accounting businesses who use Xero as their primary accounting solution, in addition to over a million small-to-medium businesses.
+ Xero has one of the most attractive, intuitive user interfaces of any cloud-based accounting platform, making accounting seem less like a chore, and more like fun, thanks to Xero’s stellar UX
+ Xero has a number of advanced automation features that enhance the accounting experience, such as automatic invoice reminders, the ability to set up recurring invoices and one-click transaction reconciliation
- Xero only offers a single invoice template – however, this is highly customisable so you can still make it your own
- For businesses who work with international customers or clients, multi-currency is only available with the premium plan, while other options offer multi-currency for a smaller price
A staple of US accounting, QuickBooks has been providing accounting software for businesses since the 80s, before launching their cloud-based accounting software QuickBooks Online.
+ Despite being more costly than its competitors generally, QuickBooks provides the least expensive option for businesses to use multi-currency as part of their cloud-based accounting experience, and converts over 140 currencies
+ QuickBooks offers advanced, customised reporting and cash flow forecasting at even the most inexpensive pricing plan, which is rare for a cloud-based accounting platform
- On the whole, QuickBooks online offers the most expensive pricing plans, due to the added VAT, and coveted features such as employee time tracking are only included with the most expensive plan
- At every pricing plan, QuickBooks limits the number of users that can have access to and manage the accounting, which shouldn’t be a huge problem for small businesses, but if you want more hands-on accounts (up to 5) then you’d have to upgrade to the ‘plus’ package even though you might not need all of the plus features
As well as being the oldest accounting solution provider listed, the Sage Business Cloud Accounting platform is also the only UK-created software listed here.
+ Sage is the least expensive well-equipped cloud-based accounting solution suitable for businesses
+ Sage’s bank reconciliation process is super easy to use, and Sage automatically matches your transactions to your invoices so that all you need to do is click to approve the match and reconcile
- Sage’s UI isn’t as attractive or intuitive as its competitors, having a more dated design and UX
- Sage’s ‘getting started’ process isn’t as quick and easy as that of its competitors, and Sage doesn’t have as many automation features, meaning you’ll probably spend a bit more time completing your accounting tasks
When it comes to choosing the right cloud-based accounting software, it should depend primarily on your needs and wants as a business, and keep in line with your budget.
Having said this, we believe that certain cloud accounting solutions are better suited to some businesses than others, so we’ve compiled our picks to help you make the best choice for your business.
Xero might be the choice for you. Particularly if you’re someone with little accounting experience – and want your online accounting experience to be as friction-free as possible – then Xero is your go-to.
As well as having an attractive interface and intuitive UX, Xero automates – or allows you to set up automation – for essentially everything, allowing you to spend as little time on your accounting as possible and operate at maximum efficiency.
QuickBooks might be the best option for you, as the accounting solution provides multi-currency functionality in the middle-range plan, making it the most affordable choice for businesses that need to be able to conduct business in multiple currencies.
QuickBooks is also a great all-rounder in general, offering a comprehensive range of features to suit the needs of any business. Having said this, it isn’t the least expensive accounting software on the market, so for businesses on a budget – that don’t need multi-currency functionality – you might want to look elsewhere.
The Sage business cloud accounting platform might be the best choice for you, as both their ‘start’ and ‘standard’ packages are feasible choices for businesses, and they contain all the features you’d expect and need from cloud-based accounting software.
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