The world of small business accounting has traditionally been dominated by Quickbooks and Peachtree. Both of which I have had to become familiar with out of necessity for my own sake and my clients. However, with this great paradigm shift towards the “Cloud”, we have seen a number of cloud accounting services spring up. We’ll look at a few of them in this post: Trapp Online, Quickbooks Online, Wave, Freshbooks, OpenBravo and MyERP.
Trapp Online. For those of you who love full-featured Quickbooks, Peachtree or pretty much anything else and love the idea of not being tied to a server at the office, Trapp offers an excellent hosting service. They’ll take you’re existing Quickbooks license and deploy that for you to access from anywhere. The upshot is, no backups, no network security concerns, access it from anywhere and excellent support. Price-wise, it starts at $49/month for one user with free accountant access and $25/user after that.
Quickbooks Online was once considered to have quite a handicap as compared to Pro or Premier. And it still does, but not anywhere near what it once had. It’s very comparable to Pro, for the most part and from what I can tell, for the average small business owner, it’s not too expensive. Around $40/month for the Pro-equivalent. It has a good, intuitive web-based interface, which for me, is a distinct advantage over the Trapp solution (since, for my purposes, I really don’t need all the bells and whistles).
Wave Accounting, which I have used for the past two years, is really simplistic, easy to use and about as full featured as you’d need. It has an online payment gateway built in, a fairly inexpensive payroll system built in and an option to have CPA-level professional support. Reporting is fairly full featured, in terms of tracking and running end-of-period reports, journal entries still need to be made. That being said, I’ve seen actual small business owners do far worse using Quickbooks and give themselves bigger headaches. It ties into your bank accounts and credit cards, doing a nice job of automatically categorizing expenses and income correctly (you can still edit, if need be). Best of all, for a simple, single user it’s free.
Freshbooks. I’m currently working with Freshbooks and have been pretty enamored with their product so far. It does an excellent job with everything P&L related. The invoicing system is flawless, they’ll even mail your invoices with a return envelope for you. The electronic invoicing allows for several different payment gateways, online reviews that can flow to Facebook or LinkedIn. Clients can even access the system via a portal where they can view outstanding invoices, shared documents and support tickets as well as progress on any projects. All in all, a nice system. And it has a really nice app for your iOS/Android devices with time tracking, which flows ever so nicely into project and invoicing. The down side with this system is it really doesn’t deal with balance sheet items very well. You can mock up and save a balance sheet, but forget about elegant liability tracking or depreciation. Leave that to your accountant.
OpenBravo is a heck of a system. Too flexible for most people to really make sense of. It takes forever to setup, but once it is, it has absolutely everything. I’d recommend this to someone shifting from Dynamics GP to the cloud. Pricing varies and hosting options are varied, you can deploy it on Amazons EC2 servers, have it hosted on your own or have some other third-party hosting service take care of that (i.e. Trapp). The setup is really the hardest part, you have to build it from the ground up, importing customers, building accounts, items, reports, employees. It’s pretty involved. Once finished, navigation is also something to get used to, again, flexible, but not really as intuitive as anything else we’re exploring here. If you’re planning on shopping around various online solutions, this is not for you. In terms of using for the next 20 years and adapting to changing markets, OpenBravo is good at that.
MyERP started out as a pretty clunky system. I migrated to this straight from Quickbooks, mostly because it was a web-based system and had a semi-similar layout to QB. Used it for about a year before moving on to Wave. All in all, it’s a good system. Now it has a unique interface, marketing itself as the Google of ERP (enterprise resource planning). Chiefly because of their search bar that drives everything. If you want to do invoicing, just type “invoice” and there you go. It has good reporting, possibly a step up from Wave with better accounting period separation and close out. You can pull bank statements right into it for simple bank reconciliations. It does have a free option, but it’s fairly limited. At a minimum, to use the features most people would want, it’d be $30/month and that would get you 2 users. The unlimited plan runs $170/mo, but on balance, if you need the functionality and that many users, worth it.
Cloud accounting has been around in one form or another for a good many years, but far from what we see now. A lot of us want to see snapshots of our companies on our iPhones, pull up client info or project data on the go or do time tracking on-site. It wasn’t very many years ago, this was really inelegant. Now, it’s more varied, more capable and more affordable than you might think. The biggest handicap with a lot of these solutions is breaking free from the old paradigm that having software and data on-site and secured in your building is a) more secure and b) somehow better. I can’t think of a single way that either one of those misconceptions is actually true. But, if you’ve been following, I can point out quite a number of ways the opposite is the case.
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