In the old days, maintaining the books for a business meant recording figures in a paper ledger. Not anymore. Today, businesses of all sizes use accounting software to track their revenue, as well as to forecast sales and manage inventory.
Business accounting software greatly reduces the potential for human error that comes with accounting on paper, and it can allow you to access critical information in just a few keystrokes.
But with so many options available, finding the right accounting software for your business can be difficult. Below are five tips to help you find the software that will best serve the needs of your enterprise.
1. Consider both your needs and your accounting skills
Your best bet for finding the right accounting software is to look at how your business operates, and then take careful stock of the different types of software on the market. If your business makes several million dollars a year, it will have very different accounting needs than one that makes less than $50,000. You have a variety of options when it comes accounting software products, including those designed specifically for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Depending on your industry, you might want to consider specialized software that is designed to help businesses in your niche. For example, there are applications customized for businesses in the manufacturing sector, for retailers and restaurants, as well as for many other types of commercial enterprises.
Doing your research is important, because the application you choose will directly impact how your revenue is managed. It is also important to consider that even though accounting software can make the task of keeping books easier, it still requires a certain amount of financial literacy. As sophisticated as an application may be, it is still only a tool. Those using the software must know what to do with it.
2. Look at cloud applications
With cloud computing becoming a more prominent influence in modern business, it is important not to dismiss the many online accounting applications available.
Cloud applications come with a variety of benefits. They can be accessed from any location with a strong Internet connection, and you don’t need to purchase software licenses or servers to run them. The installation of upgrades and patches is done on the server end, so you and your IT staff don’t need to worry about keeping the software up to date. And, cloud applications can be accessed using a tablet, laptop or smartphone. Furthermore, your records are kept secure at a data center far from the physical location of your business; this ensures their safety in the event of a local disaster or other destructive event.
Another twist on cloud accounting: Some cloud-based business management softwares (like LivePlan) are integrated with traditional, harddrive-stored accounting software (like QuickBooks for Windows). So if the ability to access your financial information from anywhere with an internet connection (rather than only being able to see it in your office) is appealing to you, but the accounting software you like best isn’t available as a cloud service, look into cloud-based business applications that offer integration with the accounting software you prefer.
3. Keep your budget in mind
There is business accounting software available to suit all budgets. General applications for a broader user base may be downloaded free or bought off the shelf at a lower price. However, the more specialized the software is, the more expensive it gets, because the user base for specialized software is usually relatively small. If you want something specific to your industry or customized for your company, you should be prepared to pay a premium.
4. Pay attention to add-on features
Add-ons bring extra functionality to a business accounting application. For example, they may allow you to access the software remotely, accept payments online, and integrate the accounting software with your ecommerce software. There are also add-ons that make accounting software compatible with tax software.
5. Make the decision with the help of your accountant
Your accountant may prefer that you choose an application that is compatible with the ones she uses. Every business is different; your accountant is in the best position to offer an educated opinion about which one is best choice for your particular enterprise. Your accountant may even be able to help you set up the software you choose.
Whichever business accounting software you choose, remember that you aren’t committed to it for life, since most software allows for some form of conversion. Still, the decision shouldn’t be made lightly. You definitely don’t want to make a commitment to one application and begin investing time into it, only to discover that you have to switch to another one just a few months later.