Decades after you installed Quicken, QuickBooks or Lotus 1-2-3 on your Mac or Windows PC and hoped that nothing happened to corrupt the database file that was the heart and soul of your business, the new frontier for accounting software is cloud-based.
Which is definitely new, but isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In addition to some reliable tools on your Mac or Windows PC, many of the top accounting programs are now web-based, letting you log in from just about any desktop or mobile web browser, make quick changes, pay bills, create and send invoices, get reports and receive regularly-scheduled cloud-based backups.
Here’s a look at four cloud-based accounting applications that may be right for your business:
FreshBooks (www.freshbooks.com): One of the newer kids on the block, FreshBooks does the cloud-based accounting trick well and is available for as little as $15 per month under the Lite plan, which allows you to bill up to five clients. For $50 per month, you can scale up to a Premium plan and invoice as many as 500 clients. Nice features include customized branding tools, estimate creation, time tracking, a clean layout, quick views of income, active invoices and what’s owed and a handy system to help plot income from outside of your core business.
Enter your bank credentials and FreshBooks can hook into your account and pull data as needed. This, combined with the ability to switch between FreshBooks’ new look and FreshBooks Classic, provides for an inviting experience that’s worth looking into.
AccountEdge Pro 2018 (www.accountedge.com): Even if it’s apparently not trying to ride the entirely cloud-based, web-based trend that some of its competitors are opting for, AccountEdge has never been a slouch in its field. AccountEdge Pro 2018 holds its own and more. Full functionality requires installation on a Mac or Windows PC. Licenses go for $399 for the first user, $249 for each additional user and $999 for a bundle of five user licenses with a 30-day free trial to test the software. Even so, you can do a ton from its web-based interface and/or its mobile app for iOS and Android and this comes in handy.
AccountEdge Pro 2018 arrives with everything you’d expect. It’s easy to set up a business profile, import data as needed and perform functions such as billing, payroll, invoicing, tracking inventory and the like. While it doesn’t immediately jump out at you, it’s easy to link your bank accounts as needed, which is par for the course with any financial software these days. In addition to providing links to AccountEdge’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, its blog and its YouTube feed), AcountEdge Pro 2018 provides links to its help network, including built-in help, online support center, a searchable knowledge base and its YouTube channel of support videos, which comes as a nice touch. These may not answer every question you might have, but they’re a definite step in the right direction.
Intuit QuickBooks Online (www.quickbooks.com): Intuit has never rested on its laurels and has made a graceful transition into web and cloud-based computing with QuickBooks Online. The software arrives in an assortment of flavors with its Simple Start application (which allows for basic income and expense tracking as well as invoice and estimate creation and syncing with your bank account) for $15 monthly, while its high-end Plus version adds in inventory tracking and 1099 creation for $50 monthly. Granted, these are the subscription rates should you go with the free 30-day trial and, as of the writing of this article, the prices are halved if you buy now.
Hop online, create an account and QuickBooks Online eases you in, allowing you to easily sync your bank account and get started. From here, it’s easy to set your business up and go about your day-to-day tasks. QuickBooks Online uses a bright, easily digestible user interface that handles things well and has obviously been through significant amounts of user feedback to get things right.
The only complaint: Intuit QuickBooks doesn’t seem to offer the same level of immediate access to help channels as AccountEdge Pro 2018 does and the help system feels typical for most accounting software. If you get stuck, you can usually find tutorials and walkthroughs on YouTube, but his feels like an extra step.
Wave Accounting (www.waveapps.com/accounting): Though it is one of the newest accounting applications on the market, Wave has learned its lessons over the last few years to become a killer Web-based accounting solution that’s worth your attention if you’re a small or freelance business. First and foremost, the free price tag will make a few eyes pop, although Wave does turn a profit from payment transactions, payroll transactions and premium support services.
Still, the app turns its attention to what needs to be done and does it well. Create an account, log on, connect your bank account and you’re off to the races, with Wave handling the standard business and accounting tasks via a well-designed user interface. The layouts are clean, easily understood, have improved well with user feedback and it’s easy to generate reports that show your financial position.
Larger businesses may stumble over its lack of a time tracking feature , but Wave is just about perfect for a smaller business and an easily-accessed help menu can keep you on track. Wave isn’t the big kahuna; it’s not trying to be everything to a Fortune 500 company. But it’s clean, accessible, imports account data well and is worth a look for almost any small new business getting underway.