Now that we have established what basic features a Cloud Accounting product needs, let’s take a look at data import and export capabilities. Because, the less data you have to manually enter your software the better, and any data you put in you most surely want to be able to take out.
Automatic Bank Feeds and Imported Bank Statements
All of the accounting software products we reviewed here have the ability to connect to your online bank and automatically import feeds that contain your bank account transactions. The majority of the software use a third-party provider for these bank feeds (Yodlee). This means that the bank feed connectivity among software providers should roughly be the same.
The exception to this is QuickBooks Online, which manages it’s own connections with banks. In theory, this should mean that QuickBooks will have more consistent connections with banks, but I have no way to empirically test this, especially since there are literally thousands of banks around the world.
One weakness in QuickBooks Online is that perhaps because it does rely on their automated bank feed so heavily, the manual upload of bank statements is not as robust and easy as other accounting software. You are able to upload QFX, QBO, and OFX files (which realistically covers the majority of upload formats), but it does fail to allow the import of CSV files, which is a nice fall-back format (since it’s so universal). Most other accounting software can import bank statement files in a CSV format.
In my experience, I’ve encountered problems with all accounting software in terms of connecting to banks. That is why I think being able to manually upload bank statements is so important. This is even more true seeing that most accounting software can only get up to 90 days worth of data through a bank feed, meaning that if you’re dealing with data older than 90 days, you’re going to have to get it into your accounting software via a manual upload of a bank statement.
In regards to manually uploading bank statements, the more formats the accounting software offers, the better. There is QBO, QFX, OFX, CSV, Excel, and QIF. The only format that can easily be read by spreadsheet software is CSV and Excel, yet CSV and Excel are the hardest formats to import into accounting software (as there is no standard data format within a CSV or Excel file) whereas QBO, QFX, OFX, and QIF all are standardized formats (which is why they’re not so easy to read for those who don’t know computer coding).
My advice, when trying to figure out whether a particular accounting software will be able to receive data from your bank, is to set up a test account with the accounting software you’re considering (most accounting software offer a free trial). Try importing your own banking data through a bank feed and via a manual import. That’s the simplest and fastest way to see if the accounting software you’re looking at will play nice with your bank.
For the purposes of this comparison, data import is only going to consider data that you can bring in via the import of a file. This means we won’t be taking into account software APIs, which will be talked about in the integration part of this comparison. Importing a file is a manual but relatively easy process in comparison to using an API. Using an API can be an automatic process, but can be (but is not always) difficult, expensive, and time consuming to set up.
The clear leader for importing data is Xero. On top of being able to import initial set up data (like a trial balance and contacts), it also allows you to import daily transactions (like journal entries, customer invoices, and vendor bills).
QuickBooks can import roughly the same type of data as Xero, but a third-party plugin, Transaction Pro Importer (listed in the Intuit App Center) is needed.
Kashoo and Xero are the only software that will allow you to import a trial balance (which means it sets up your chart of accounts and their opening balances).
Most accounting software will give you the ability to export the type of data you’d need (like your trial balance and general ledger) to file taxes in coordination with an account.
What you won’t be able to do with most accounting software (with the exception of QuickBooks), is export a data file that you can use as a local backup. What does this mean? If you’re looking to switch accounting software, you’re going to have to rebuild your data from a smattering of exported data and reports from your previous accounting software. It won’t be something as easy or simple as importing one data file. You’ll most likely need to spend at least a few hours setting up your new accounting software.
In general, you should be aware that if the accounting software has a report, it’s probably exportable. We’ll get into what reports the different accounting software have in the reporting part of this comparison. If you’re looking to export data on a regular basis for use in different software, you may need to look at an API, which is probably something you need a custom software developer to help you with.
Kashoo, Wave, and FreeAgent have a nice feature that allows you to export all your data in a single click, which I think all software should have. These reports come in a spreadsheet file format (CSV or Excel). Kashoo, is the most comprehensive from an accounting stand point, as it contains: aged receivables, aged payables, balance sheet, profit and loss, trial balance, chart of accounts, customers, vendors, customer invoices, vendor bills, transfers, adjustments (journal entries), and checks. The only standard accounting report it doesn’t contain, is the general ledger / general journal (which you can actually export from the transactions section in Kashoo).
See Part 3 of our Cloud Accounting series – Automation.
For a complete list of the articles in this series – Cloud Accounting Introduction