This is the first part of a series of articles delving into cloud accounting software. It’ll contain in-depth comparisons between Xero, QuickBooks Online, Kashoo, Wave, FreeAgent, and Freshbooks.
But before I get into the comparison of cloud accounting software, I first wanted to introduce myself. I’m Greg Lam (a.k.a. The Small Biz Doer). I started off in small business right out of high school in ’98 and have been pretty much involved in Small Business since then. I ended up getting a business degree from Simon Fraser University in Canada and started officially doing the books for others in 2009, which is around the time I also became a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor.
From the start, I used QuickBooks for my bookkeeping and it worked well enough for the small businesses I was running. The Internet was just gaining awareness back then, but it was still early days with dial up modems and the term “cloud accounting” was non-existent. Nowadays, the Internet is ubiquitous and whether we like it or not, accounting is moving to the cloud.
I started reviewing cloud accounting software in 2012 as an effort to figure out how to work with my clients more efficiently. I had tried networking computers with VPNs, logging in to clients’ computers remotely, and even tried using QuickBooks in Dropbox, but all those solutions didn’t work for one reason or another. Enter cloud accounting software.
The software instantly solved a few of my problems, which were:
- Working remotely on client’s files
- Working on a client’s file at the same time they were
- Backing up the accounting file
- Updating the software and having the same software as the client
- Version issues (who has the master file?)
It also meant that some of the capabilities I was used to with QuickBooks were not available in the cloud accounting software I was reviewing. Overall though, the pros outweighed the cons and I’m now a cloud accounting software convert. In some ways, the software still can’t match the power and flexibility of desktop software, but in others ways, it far surpasses it.
This accounting software comparison will exhaustively (and that’s the right word, because this did take a long time) evaluate and compare online accounting software for small business.
The Cloud / Online Accounting Software Being Reviewed
This review will be a comparison of six different online accounting software providers:
There are actually many other online accounting software that has not be included in this comparison, such as:
- Clear Books
- Sage One
That’s not all of the online accounting software out there, but they are some of the more developed companies offering online accounting services. Out of the software not included, I really wish I could have included Clear Books and CheqBook, as my initial impressions of the software were positive.
If you’re a bigger small business, you should probably consider enterprise software like Intacct
As you read through the comparison, you may wonder how points are graded, compared, and tested. For the most part, I’ve personally tested every point in every piece of software in this comparison. For things I could not personally test (such as payroll or payment systems) I relied on documented literature (preferably by the software company, but sometimes through external sources). Some sections I use a simple Y or N when evaluating features (as in it does or doesn’t have a feature), while in other I do a score from 0 to 5 (0 meaning there is no capability, 5 meaning the capability works fantastically). I do want to point out, I’ve tried to make this comparison as scientific and fact-based as possible, but the scoring system from 0 to 5 is quite subjective and not necessarily representative of the software’s usefulness for your business’ unique needs. It could be that a software that has a rating of 1 in a certain area has enough basic functionality that it’ll suit your needs.
So on that note, I wouldn’t recommend choosing the software solely based on the most features or highest score. Find out what’s important for your business, look at how the software ranks for those capabilities, and use this as a guide to help you make a decision to try out the software. There’s also probably not going to be any one piece of software that’ll suit your needs 100%, so you’ll most likely have to make a compromise when choosing one piece of software over another.
Something that you may not be aware of, is that most online accounting software have add-ons (i.e. plugins, integrations, third-party developers) that can be used on top of / in conjunction with the accounting software to provide extra capabilities and move data both into and out of the software. This review, for the most part, only considers the native (built-in) capabilities of the software, and doesn’t take into account the extra capabilities that can be provided by add-ons. There are too many add-ons to review to make that a feasible and fair comparison. So it’s worth mentioning, that if the software you really like doesn’t have a certain capability, check out their add-ons to see if it can’t be found in there.
While I did my best to verify every single comparison point, there are over a hundred points x 6 software companies, which means hundreds of opportunities to make a mistake. If you’re a user of the software or the company itself, and notice an error, please do leave a comment and the review will be updated.
It’s also important to point out that the review of QuickBooks is for the QuickBooks Online US (Online Plus with Payroll) version. If you’re not from the US and don’t have the Online Plus version, the capabilities reviewed here may not be found in your version.
- Basics to be fully functional
- Data import and export
- User interface / experience
- Sales taxes
- Document attachment
- Payment processing
- Mobile apps
- Other features
- Help documentation
So, over the next few months, we’ll go through each of these points for the products I listed. Here we go!
- Basics to be Fully Functional
- Data Import and Export
- User Interface
- Sales Tax
- Document Attachment
- Payment Processing
- Mobile Apps, Inventory, User Roles, Audit Trails, Help Documentation
- Pricing and Recommendations
Written by video blogger and online accounting expert Greg Lam (aka “The Small Biz Doer”), this new book from The Sleeter Group explains, compares, and contrasts 185 features found in today’s leading online accounting software products.
- QuickBooks Online (small business)
- Xero (small business)
- Cheqbook (microbusiness)
- Kashoo (microbusiness)
- Wave (microbusiness)
- Zoho Books (microbusiness)
- FreshBooks (invoicing)
Greg gives you everything you need to assess the software and “find the right match” for your own accounting firm or for your clients’ small businesses.
Order your copy today and you’ll receive Greg’s first update FREE!