Never has it been so exciting to be an accountant or a small business (or Australian, if Mr Turnbull is to be believed!). Technology is rapidly changing and there are a diverse range of software options available to us today. The new features and functionality available are fantastic, and getting better all the time.
The problem now seems to be choosing which one is right for you, especially given the vast number of options.
When deciding on software, the first thing to consider is what platform you will use. The following is a summary of the options and some of the pro’s and con’s:
Desktop - This is software that you install and use on your home or office computer. This was something you would have purchased out of a box. Think Cashflow Manager or an old version of MYOB.
The benefits of desktop software is that it can have complex functionality and is not affected by access to the internet. Some of the limitations of this type of software are that you need to manually install updates each year (especially to tax tables), you need to do regular back-ups and it is more difficult to share your file with your advisers or use it in multiple locations.
Hosted - This is software that you download and install on your home or office PC, but the data is stored in the cloud. Think MYOB AccountRight 2016 or Reckon Hosted.
This is essentially the same as the desktop option, with the benefit of access by users in other locations, such as your advisors. Additionally, you can set up direct bank feeds, store documents such as invoices and have the ability to work offline or online depending on your needs. If you use the online option, you are at the mercy of your internet connection, however you can still continue to work offline and your changes will be synced the next time you log on to the internet. You will also still need to manually download any updates but you now receive these via the internet and are prompted to update when required.
Cloud based – This is software that is developed for use in an internet browser. Think Xero, MYOB Essentials or Reckon One.
You log into your file using a web browser, similar to your internet banking. The benefits of cloud based solutions are that the software is always up to date (there is only ever one version), there is no need to download software to your computer, you can use it on any device that has internet connection and it is generally feels less like an accounting program and more like just another internet browser. However the limitations, especially for those of us in regional areas, are internet speed and access to the internet. While most of the providers have reliable systems with limited downtime, if there is no internet you have no accounting system! And since these systems are still relatively new they don’t have all of the functionality hosted and desktop programs can currently offer.
We are seeing definite benefits with those clients who have moved to either a hosted or cloud based software. As an accountant, having the ability to be able to access your file as required saves a lot of time – we can simply pop in and fix anything as needed, or assist you with any queries you have in the real time file. Also, bank feeds are awesome! It gives an up to date snapshot of your business, and helps us help you. It also can save you time each month as you won’t have to enter every bank transaction.
We’re software agnostic – we don’t just recommend a one size fits all product. We believe that what is the right software for one client isn’t necessarily going to work for another.
There are many options when choosing software now so if you are thinking about changing (and if you have reasonable internet access and are currently using a desktop option we recommend you consider it) give us a call first so we can make sure you get the software that fits you best.