Are you looking for the best software to use to manage your small business’s accounts? Look no further than this review of the top accounting software solutions!
Find out exactly what we like and what we dislike about each of the five products that we have chosen, hopefully it may help you come to your decision!
Use the table and reviews below to compare the products and choose your favourite based on your small business’s needs.
Use the table and reviews below to compare the accounting software solutions that we have chosen to help you make the right purchasing decision.
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Free Trial. From $20 p/m
Free Trial. From $10 p/m
Free Trial. From $10 p/m
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Free Trial. From £7 p/m
Xero is the winner of our “Best Overall” award for our top 5 accounting software solutions review. It’s the most well-rounded software, has great support (albeit not live support), and offers all of the functionality any small business could possibly need.
Starting at $9/month for the ‘Starter’ plan, Xero offers one of the more affordable fully-featured options on the market. However, this basic plan is severely limited in terms of how many documents it can produce, so we would highly recommend rather going for the $30/month Xero Standard plan. It has all of the same functionality, but isn’t limited by the number of invoices and quotes it can be used to send, or bills it can be used to enter.
On top of that, the “Standard” plan also offers payroll management for up to 5 people, a feature that many accounting software solutions do not often include for just $30/month.
Each of the two plans mentioned cover all of the basics. Xero can be used to produce performance metrics and provide insights on these metrics in real-time, offer 24/7 support, and can be connected to your business bank account to ensure it never misses any transactions. Quotes, invoicing and the dashboard all help for an up-to-date financial snapshot, and can all be accessed on-the-go via the great Android or iOS mobile apps.
While it would have been nice to have live chat or phone support, the extensive knowledgebase of the existing help system is more than enough to cover any issues you might experience.
One downside is that if you want multi-currency support, you will have to upgrade to the extremely expensive “Premium” plan. At $70/month, it’s simply out of reach for most small businesses who have limited budgets.
Xero is a powerful, feature-filled, yet simple to use double-entry accounting software solution that will cover the needs (and much more) of any small business.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting is, essentially, an upgraded and modernised version of the already popular Sage One. While not quite as powerful as Sage 50cloud, it is far more affordable and has all of the necessary functionality for pretty much any small business.
There are two price options for Sage’s Business Cloud Accounting software, from $10/month for the ‘Accounting Start’ package to $25/month for the ‘Accounting’ package. While the cheaper offering may work perfectly for micro-businesses or sole traders, we recommend forking out the extra $15/month for the full version for the majority of small businesses.
The “Accounting Start” package (the basic package) has simple functionality such as income and expense recording and can complete bank reconciliations, but it lacks a lot of the features that can really make a difference to your business. In addition to that basic functionality, the full “Accounting” version allows unlimited users to collaborate on one system, provides comprehensive cash flow forecasts, and the choice of cash and accrual accounting methods.
The one issue we had with this product was that it lacks some functionality that may come to be useful for a few small businesses. For example, it doesn’t allow you to add expenses or receipts to invoices, or create automatic payment reminders and purchase orders. While it may be easy to get around not having these features, they’re just quality-of-life features that would have made nice additions.However, where Sage Business Cloud Accounting doesn’t offer quite as much functionality as some of its competitors, it excels in the fact that it does the basics well. The affordable price, 24/7 support, online training, simple interface and mobile apps are just a few examples of basic features that make it one of the best options out there for any small business.
Sage Business Cloud Accounting is an affordable solution for small businesses that want all the basics covered and a few more advanced features to go along with that too.
Intuit has been producing accounting software solutions since 1983, and QuickBooks is a result of many years of industry-leading work. While it may be one of the older solutions on our list, frequent updates mean that it is by no means outdated. It is packed with features and has a number of add-ons, so it should cover all of your small business’s needs with ease.
QuickBooks has three pricing options for small businesses with varying levels of functionality to seat each business’s needs. The three price levels are as follows: $10/month for the QuickBooks Simple Start package; $17/month for the QuickBooks Essentials package; and $30/month for the QuickBooks Plus package (our recommendation). Of course, the more you pay the more features you will get, so consider your business’s needs when choosing the package you want.
Each of the three packages allows you to perform the basic functions that any accounting software needs, such as tracking income and expenses, tracking sales and sales tax, receipt management, etc. On top of that, the ‘Plus’ package has advanced and highly customizable report generation functionality. It also allows for 5+ users to log in to the system, and even lets you customize each user’s access level to ensure maximum data security.
One gripe we, and it seems a few others, have found with using QuickBooks is the lacking support system. While 24/7 support is included in your monthly subscription, the support offered is lacklustre at best. Often times when an issue cropped up, it would take up to half an hour of talking to tech support just to figure out what the problem might be. Considering the software ran pretty smoothly most of the time, this may not be a huge issue.
Intuit is a tried and trusted company and QuickBooks is just another successful iteration of their excellence within the industry. Perfect for a small business with a hunger for excess functionality.
4/5 Overall Rating
Freshbooks is a user-friendly accounting software with enough functionality to cover all of the basic needs of any small business. Catered directly for small businesses, Freshbooks understands how your company works and will make your entire accounting and bookkeeping process far more simple.
Freshbooks offers a 30-day free trial, which is a great way to test whether a software is the right fit for your company. Should you choose to use Freshbooks as your accounting software of choice after the free trial, it offers three pricing options: Freshbooks Lite for $15/month, Freshbooks Plus for $25/month, and Freshbooks Premium for $50/month. The “Plus” package is tailored towards companies with up to 50 clients, so we would recommend this package for the majority of small businesses.
Freshbooks offers most of the functionality that you would expect from a top cloud-based accounting software, and some other features that add on to the overall experience. For starters, the user interface is a joy to navigate and makes the whole process of using Freshbooks that much easier.
If your company relies on receiving payments as soon as possible, then Freshbooks accepts online credit card payments (VISA, Mastercard, American Express and Apple Pay) that can streamline your payment process. On top of that, Freshbooks can integrate with your business’s bank account and a host of other business apps.The only issue we found with Freshbooks is the fact that it just lacks a few of the features that its competitors offer. For example, it doesn’t offer inventory tracking and its reporting functionality is slightly lacking. This shouldn’t be an issue for many small businesses, as the functions it does have far outweighs the ones that it doesn’t, but we found it necessary to mention anyway.
Freshbooks is a great, easy to use software that will cover most of your needs and look good doing it. It may not be as feature-filled as others, but will definitely give you a huge quality of life boost.
4/5 Overall Rating
Kashflow is the most affordable accounting software solution on our review list. However, while it isn’t quite as functional as most of its competitors, it should more than cover the needs of the majority of small businesses.
The three plans available are as follows: Kashflow Starter for £7/month, Kashflow Business for £14/month, and Kashflow Business + Payroll for £19/month (which, you guessed it, offers additional payroll functionality for up to 5 employees). Kashflow Starter is limited to producing only 10 invoices a month, allows only a single user and can only reconcile up to 25 bank transactions a month. As such, we would definitely recommend Kashflow Business for most companies, or Kashflow Business + Payroll if you have employee payroll needs.
Setting Kashflow up is extremely easy, with support for importing data from Sage, Quickbooks and even Excel. Changing accounting systems can be daunting, but this might just make the process that much easier for your company.
Being a UK-based company, using Kashflow has a number of benefits for companies who operate within the UK. To start, your VAT returns and EC Sales lists can all be filed directly to HMRC, all from within KashFlow so you never miss a deadline. Within the VAT Management and Reports section you can view previously submitted returns, submit new VAT returns and view various VAT reports.
While it does offer all the basics, it does miss some of the more advanced functionality. On top of that, the user interface isn’t the most intuitive and may take some time to get used to. Overall it’s a perfectly solid product, particularly for UK-based companies. For other companies, however, we’d venture to recommend one of the other software solutions mentioned on this review list.
Kashflow is the perfect accounting software solution for VAT registered small businesses operating within the UK.
Upgrading to a cloud-based accounting software in this day and age is a must for any small business with a desire to grow and remain a player within their industry. Without a proper method of keeping your accounts up to date, you’ll never be able to run a sustainable and profitable business.
As a small business, you’ll have to choose an accounting software solution that falls within your budget. Because of this, it’s important to consider your company’s specific needs and come to a conclusion on what you definitely don’t need. If you can do this, you will be able to choose the right software that won’t have anything you don’t need and will have everything you do.
With this in mind, take the following categories into consideration when choosing your product. We feel these to be the most important factors.
As previously alluded to, budget constraints are a major issue for pretty much all small businesses. As we said above, you have to consider your needs when choosing which price level to go for. The more you pay, the more you’ll get, and vice versa.
The best policy to follow is to try before you buy. If you can find free trials before fully integrating a system into your business, then do it. You don’t want to sign into any contracts without knowing whether that particular software will be right for you or not. That’s about as much advice as we can offer, budgets are a purely subjective issue for each individual business.
First of all, you should look at whether the accounting software you want to try covers all of the basics. As a bare minimum, it should include income and expense recording, invoice preparation, bank reconciliation, reporting functionality (even if it’s very basic), some form of support, and solid SSL encryption security. This isn’t a complete list of basic functions, but you get the idea.
On top of those, there are a number of other features that can improve your company’s accounting efficiency and overall quality of life. These include:
Live support for any cloud-based software is vital. You can’t have your system crashing on you every day; it’s just not a sustainable or efficient way to run a business. As such, it’s important to ensure that the product you choose has sufficient support for when it does have issues.
Whether it’s live chat and phone help, or just FAQs, just be sure that the knowledgebase of the support system is extensive and will cover any issue you might need. Live support is not necessarily better than a good FAQ system.
You don’t want to implement a new system into your business that ends up slowing your processes down because it is cumbersome to use. Make sure you and your employees are comfortable with the UI and will be able to get into using it as quickly as is humanly possible.
Most of the products we reviewed in the above list offered free online video training (except Kashflow, which offers paid online training) in the form of ‘webinars’. These webinars should be more than enough to train all of your employees in the use of the software, but if you feel like they won’t be then make sure the product you choose has physical training available in your region.
While it may seem fairly obvious to some that cloud-based business applications are the way forward, it may be tempting for others to stick to their tried and tested desktop software.
Firstly, desktop solutions are usually sold as once off products and can therefore end up being much cheaper than their cloud-based counterparts.
However, we would highly recommend small businesses stay away from desktop systems as far as possible. The implementation process for cloud-based products is far more streamlined and way cheaper.
In addition, the software provider handles all of the maintenance and updates, will ensure that your data is secure, and being on the cloud means that your data can be accessed from anywhere and easily implemented onto new systems should you upgrade at any time
Greg is a business graduate from the University of Cape Town. Passionate about the interface of technology with small business, Greg covers all things business software at the Sustainable Business Toolkit.