Choosing the best small business accounting software for your business can be difficult as there are so many programs and options to compare. The trick is to not only find the best accounting software available, but the best one for your business.
The first step is to make a detailed list of what you need the accounting software to do. Start with the most important function, and move down the list for the one that is least important for your accounting needs. Make sure you understand your hardware, for instance that you know how much memory you have available and what operating system you run.
Know What You Need
If you have some specific requirements, say for a type of report, it is better to find a business account software package that does the needed report as a standard item, as customizing will typically cost more. If there are accounting software programs specifically tailored for your industry, they may provide the best fit. While industry-specific software may be more expensive than generic options in the beginning, this type of small business software may save you time and money in the long run.
Once you have created your list of needed functions, you can use it to compare the accounting software that you are interested in buying. Make sure you also compare the cost of training, maintenance and upgrades, as well as if there is a charge for customer support. Once you’ve compared pricing you will know how much to budget for the first year based on what you can afford.
At the low end of the scale will be the generic small business accounting packages like QuickBooks or Peachtree. At the mid range you will find small business accounting packages such as Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) which also offers some business management options.
Often the small business accounting package that you need will be dictated by how many employees that you have. Some of the programs will handle tax reporting, payroll, supply chain management, project management, and more.
The more functionality the small business accounting program has, the more it will cost. But if it handles 90% of the items on your list versus 50%, it may be worth buying one that you don’t have to customize or that will force you to do many of the reports or activities by hand.
Some software has to be downloaded to your computer, and some accounting programs are available in online versions, that you need use of the internet to access. Think how this might affect the business in either way. The online version can be accessed at home, while one loaded on a computer requires access to that one machine or the network. But the online variety means you need an internet connection to get to it.
Compare small business accounting software online. Check out reviews on accounting society websites or industry specific professional associations. If you have questions about the software you can also post those in these locations.
There are also websites like PC Magazine or CNet that will also have comparisons. Check several websites to make sure you have an unbiased overview.
Typically accounting software will offer a free trial of their online program for a month or more. This will give you a chance to compare and play with several programs that you are interested in. You can check out how easy the accounting program is to use, and count and compare the steps to perform each function on different programs. Pay the bills and get samples of reports during your trial period to see if this software works for you.
Invariably you will have questions, so buy something well known and from a reputable, known firm. Otherwise you may not be able to find help when the time comes. It will also make it easier to find a bookkeeper or accountant who already knows the program.
You may want to hire an accountant for the first month or so to set up your business accounting system. Or set it up yourself and have an accountant review what you’ve done.
Learn to Use the Accounting Software
Once you’ve made the choice, make sure you learn how the program works and all its capabilities. Make sure you take the time to get trained, taking an online class, going to a training held by the store you bought it from, or see if the community college has a class you can take. The more you know, the more the best small business accounting software will do for your business.
It’s also a good idea to join an online or local users group that will give you an opportunity to ask questions and learn new applications and different ways of doing things.