“You’re not in the cloud?!” If you’re not using something like Xero, MYOB or Quickbooks already, you’ve probably heard this a lot. And for good reason. When it comes to your accounting functions, ‘the cloud’ is nothing short of revolutionary.
Whether you’re running the show, you’re the bookkeeper or accountant, or you’re just the IT guy ensuring a business has everything it needs to survive and thrive, cloud accounting is the present and most definitely the future. It doesn’t just save time and make things easier – wielding the full power of cloud accounting applications is undoubtedly among the easiest and quickest ways to optimise and grow a business.
Why the cloud?
The cloud is everywhere: If you’re online, you’re only a log in away from your accounts – even if it’s just on your phone.
It’s all there: You keep everything in a single file – and it’s automatically backed up.
It’s insightful: Cloud accounting applications are designed to give you an easy, full and up to date picture of your financial situation, empowering you to make timely and wise decisions.
It’s easy to share: You may have an accountant, a bookkeeper, a mentor, a bank manager, a spouse – and they can all get access to your accounts, and securely.
It’s always up to date: Because it’s online, the software is constantly being improved and updated in real time- just like your data.
But best of all, cloud accounting is easy, it minimises errors, it’s automated – and it’s affordable. But how easy? Will it do everything you want and need it to? And how affordable, exactly?
That’s right: if you just Google ‘cloud accounting options’, you’ll find a lot of options out there – and the list is growing all the time. What you choose needs to match your business, your methods, your goals and your budget.
In this post, we’ve whittled it down to 3 wise picks – and you almost can’t go wrong.
Let’s put market leaders Xero, MYOB and Quickbooks head-to-head-to-head:
The dominant player in Australia, Xero is a reliable choice for just about any small business, with a highly-visual interface that’s designed to be easy to use.
It’ll do your payroll, manage your cash flow, payments, expenses, quotes and inventory, and even handle bank reconciliation. The process of doing a quote all the way through to issuing an invoice and receiving payment is particularly slick, even for the customer. Security is tight and multi-layered, there’s mobile app support, and customer service is 24 hours.
But although exclusively focused on cloud technology, Xero is not perfect. Cash transactions can be tricky and confusing, setting up the payroll function is not particularly easy, and third party add-ons are necessary for things like time tracking.
As far as the cost goes, there are three layers of plans, ranging from the Starter ($25/mo) that caps your invoices and quotes to just 5, to the Premium 5 plan ($60/mo) that does it all including automated super and the handling of multiple currencies. All plans do cool things like create financial performance reports and allow you to integrate with over 600 apps, but to track the profitability of particular jobs, you’ll have to pay an extra $10/mo.
Not sure whether to commit? Try the free 30-day trial.
Xero may be popular, but well over a million businesses also rely on MYOB each and every day.
A long-time accounting software player, even big businesses use MYOB – but it’s a few dollars per month more expensive than Xero across the two plans, Essentials coming in at $27/mo and AccountRight at $67/mo. This might be because MYOB is living slightly off its lofty reputation from the desktop era, having been a little slow to switch to the cloud. On the plus side, though, there’s no lock-in contract.
Every plan will manage your bank feeds, payroll and GST, and like Xero, you can try it for free for a full month. The entry-level Essentials package is slick and customer support is as a business would expect – 7 days a week. A single click will turn a quote into an invoice, but the fact that a customer can’t then see it online may be frustrating. You’ll then run into the limits of the entry level plan, as only AccountRight will handle your inventory.
Yet another favourite we want to talk about is Quickbooks.
First, the really good news – it’s cheaper than both Xero and MYOB, and considerably so. A self-employed sole trader can sign up just for the mobile app, and it will cost them as little as $5/mo. But that will limit them to handling GST, writing invoices, and tracking income – for significantly more than that, an upgrade is necessary.
But even the three proper plans – (Simple Start $7.50/mo, Essentials $15/mo and Plus $17.50/mo) are eminently affordable, even though you’ll only get those low prices if you commit for 12 months and forego the free trial. With the benefit of the trial and a month-by-month plan, the prices double.
A big plus, however, is that Quickbooks has been around for ages – the company was founded in 1983 and like MYOB was a massive player in the desktop accounting era. And the shift to the cloud era has been done well by Quickbooks. Customers, for instance, can be sent nothing more than a web link so they can access an invoice in a browser and settle their account with a click. But like Xero, cash transactions are tricky, and you’ll need the most expensive plan for tracking expenses, inventory, projects and budgeting.
What should I choose?
When it comes to doing your accounting and making business life easier and more powerful, that original refrain is right – you really must be in the cloud.
The options, though, are extensive, and there are even really inexpensive choices to consider like the tidy Reckon ($5/mo) as well as Wave, which is completely free and will still do your payroll for up to 9 staff.
But if you pick from one of the three top choices we’ve reviewed here, you almost can’t go wrong. Xero, MYOB and Quickbooks will all most certainly save you time, empower your business, and give you access to easy-to-use interfaces with powerful features. “You’re not in the cloud?!” It’s time to end that era right now.