We live in a digital era, and out of the box software bookkeeping solutions have been part of our lives for a long time. Today, there are a plethora of choices facing purchasers of such software, more than ever before, and the array of options can be frankly a little bewildering. What qualities should a savvy businessperson look for when selecting bookkeeper software?
The business need to balance accounts stretches back to the Italian Renaissance, but the software is, of course, more historically recent. A basic bookkeeping software package should still satisfy all those common needs, however.
First and foremost, bookkeeping software will cover all common, mundane accounting tasks. It will keep track of payments, expenses, invoices, and reconciling. It will also generate reports so that users can easily and comprehensively track the financial health of their business.
At the same time, each software package is priced a bit differently and offers a slightly different set of options. What considerations should you take into account when choosing the one that’s right for your business?
The big factor one for many users is price. A key determinant of acceptable price will be whether a business is looking for a simple, no-frills program or something with more options.
One option for those seeking to minimize costs is open-source software. This is often available to download for free, or for a small nominal fee. Open-source software often imitates the display and range of capabilities of major commercial programs such as, say, QuickBooks.
Open-source is very cost-effective, especially for small businesses. It gives the business a range of capabilities only slightly smaller than that of commercial software. But there’s typically less support. There’s no hotline to call if there’s a bug or a serious question, although sometimes it’s possible to troubleshoot problems through message board advice.
There are also SaaS programs that offer the software through the cloud. They are typically very affordable, and the price typically ranges from $10-$60 per month. Moreover, they tend to give excellent support, making them in many ways preferable to open source options. More expensive SaaS options will give users such features as team functions, inventory tracking, and the like.
Finally, for businesses able and willing to bite the bullet, there is traditional software, which can be downloaded directly onto a computer. The advantage here is that, after the up-front cost, consumers typically only have to pay for updates or upgrades. There is also less possibility of interrupted service, and theoretically less need for support, though support should still be available.
Of course, the way the market is going, it is possible that proprietary software will eventually migrate to the cloud. But regardless, many companies also offer free versions of their software with fewer options. These options are worth exploring for those on a budget.
There are a number of functions that every bookkeeping software should be able to fulfill. For one thing, it should be able to provide multi-user access, granting full access to business owners and accountants while providing restricted access to employees. Some software will do this for free, other providers charge a fee. The same is true of multi-business software.
Cloud-based access with mobile app capabilities is ideal for a business on the go. If business has you constantly on the go, and access to a program and your accounts from multiple terminals at multiple locations is ideal for you, the cloud is something to consider.
You’ll also have to decide whether your business can get by with core accounting functions, or with some of the additional features already discussed, such as inventory management or vendor management. You might need a program that allows for recurring invoices and past-due notices, helps with tax preparation, or assists with tax preparation.
Accounting is the language of business. Double-entry bookkeeping has been the lifeblood of commerce for centuries, and is now indistinguishably melded to digital technology. Business must embrace the future, but there is no reason not to choose wisely.