Online Accounting Software

There are plenty of reasons to give cloud accounting software a shot, whether you’re an up-and-coming small business owner who’s always on the go or the financial coordinator for a more established business. Cloud software is on the rise due to major advantages over desktop software such as mobility, third-party app integration, and heightened ease of collaboration. Outlined below are four options for those interested in learning more about cloud software options.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online SignupWith a worldwide user base over 1 million strong, QuickBooks Online merits a mention in any online accounting software list. The service provides the usual mix of features, including invoices, provisions for tracking expenses and bank transactions, and iOS and Android apps. QuickBooks allows for your clients to pay online or via mobile, which can potentially heighten payment convenience on their end. If you’re one of those mobile office types, the QuickBooks app allows you to take pictures of receipts with your phone and save them to your account. If you want detailed accounting reports, QuickBooks has that covered in spades--for everything from inventory and purchases to sales tax and employees. There’s also more than 500 third-party app integrations to choose from, including PayPal, Square, and the highly user-reviewed TSheets Time Tracking.

Interested users have the option of starting out with a 30-day free trial. Those who purchase now can take advantage of QuickBooks’ current discount, with the Simple Start plan being marked down to $10 /month and the most expensive option, Plus, being $28 /month. The three QuickBooks Online plans - Simple StartEssentials and Plus - provide access to one, three or five users respectively.

Xero

Xero is often likened to QuickBooks, and even boasts a transitional process for those looking to switch over. The main difference between the two services is Xero’s unlimited number of users, regardless of plan (though payroll and timesheet features can only serve 10 employees max). Users can also expect mobile processing for receipts (similar to QuickBooks), invoicing, bill payment, apps for iPhone and Android, automatic inclusion of bank transactions, provisions for 1099 form preparation, and SSL security encryption, to name a few features. Those interested in apps and add-ons can find over 400 options to choose from, including Square, Evernote, and PayPal.

For those who enjoy their 30-day free trial, Xero offers a six-month introductory discount. The Starter plan is $6.30/month for the first six months (increases to $9), Standard is $21/month for the same period (later $30) and Premium is $49/month (later $70).

FreshBooks

If you’re new to handling the financial end of business and want to make a smooth transition into using software, FreshBooks might be the thing for you. A service that openly markets itself to “non-accountants” (with a 97.3% customer satisfaction rating to boot), FreshBooks is a billing-focused option best suited for freelancers and the smaller end of the small business spectrum. Features include invoicing, basic expense tracking, automatic imports of banking transactions, and an app for both Android and iOS. Another perk for freelancers is the time-tracking feature, which is useful for those who bill on an hourly rate. App integration is broken up into categories like Client Support, Online Payment, and Marketing, and includes options such as PayPal, Mail Chimp, Basecamp, Gusto, and more.

FreshBooks offers a 30-day free trial for those who are interested but not quite sure if they’re ready to commit. The service offers three paid plans: Lite (bill up to 5 clients, $15/ month), Plus (up to 50 clients, $25 /month) and Premium (up to 500 clients, $50 /month). If you do end up taking FreshBooks for a spin, keep in mind that its simple interface and invoice-focused services may limit particular users, depending on what you want from your software. If it turns out you need to expand down the line, FreshBooks allows users to supplement its service with a variety of app integrations including QuickBooks Online (all of which will require subscriptions to those third party services).

Sage One

Sage One offers just one plan that clocks in at $25/ month, so what you see is pretty much what you get—no necessary features hiding behind pricy upgrades. If you’re looking for something basic that’ll provide you with the essentials for small business accounting, that’s pretty much Sage One in a nutshell. Features include the expected PayPal and bank integrations, customizable invoices, provisions for an unlimited number of users, Android and iOS apps, and business insight reports that cover cash flow, accounting, taxes, and more. And yes, there’s a 30-day trial. As far as customer service goes, the company offers something called Sage Match, which pairs users with accountants based on specialty and location. The website also provides how-to videos for setup and support.

There are, of course, trade-offs to consider when making the switch to cloud software. Desktop software tends to be more powerful and does not rely on Internet access, for example. However, if the pros of the cloud outweigh the cons for your small business, the four previous options can give you a taste of the variety of software available to you.