BBB Business Tip: Choosing the Best Accounting Software for Your Small Business
Thursday, August 20th, 2020
If you are running a small business, bookeeping can quickly become a time-consuming and frustrating task. Fortunately, the right accounting software can streamline your invoicing and other financial processes. Sifting through dozens of options to find the software that best fits your business can be a challenge. Keep the following considerations in mind as you research to find the best accounting software.
What to Consider
Accounting software offers an array of benefits to small businesses. Not only will this software help to reduce the number of human errors in your business accounts, it can also help you determine which products are overstocked, create sales forecasts for upcoming quarters, calculate taxes, and even help you see which of your services are most (and least) profitable.
When shopping for accounting software, be sure to keep the following in mind:
- Think about industry-specific options. Developers have created customized accounting software made for retail, professional services, and manufacturing industries, just to name a few. Industry-specific software will likely have features designed around your specific business needs. The downside is that feature-specific software often can be more difficult to learn. Also, with a smaller user base, there may be less support available. If you don’t need features specific to your business niche, you might consider a general accounting software, which is designed for use across many different industries.
- Plan for future growth. Your accounting needs will increase as your business grows, so take this into account. Choose a software that matches your current business size and allows for projected growth. Find out if it is easy to upgrade software as you grow, or if you’ll need to transfer all your data to a new software. As your accounting needs increase, be prepared to pay for expanded services.
- Choose between cloud-based or in-house software. In-house software relies on your own data storage system. Your accounting information will not be online, but you will need to have an IT department manage the installation of software updates whenever they are required. In-house software can be problematic if your company grows significantly over time, requiring updated systems, licenses, and maintenance fees. Cloud-based accounting software is much more affordable to upgrade if your business grows and can be accessed anytime on any device using a secure login ID and password. Most small businesses prefer cloud-based accounting software. However, if you choose to go this route, be sure to consider your data security.
- Ask how your data will be protected. Your accounting software will store sensitive business information so you need to make sure it will be safe. Find out how each software company stores and protects its data before you sign up. Most trustworthy companies host their applications and data on dedicated servers.
- Look for great customer service. As you learn to use your accounting software and even once you are skilled at using it, you are likely to experience minor problems from time to time. Look for companies that have excellent online resources for learning and problem solving and built-in help features. Be sure the company offers phone, chat, and email support as well, since you will likely need to speak to someone in person at some point. If you want to take this point a step further, choose a software that most business advisors and bookkeepers are familiar with in case you need additional support. Look at the business's profile on BBB.org to see reviews and see how they handle complaints.
- Stay within your budget. Accounting software can save you time and money by helping you avoid common accounting mistakes, but even so, make sure the cost of the service fits comfortably within your budget before you purchase. If one software is too expensive, don’t give up right away. Determine what features you must have and what features you can live without. Then, look for a basic software that covers your essential needs.
- Consider compatibility. Make a list of software your business currently uses and consider whether you need any of your current programs to work along with your accounting software. Ask yourself, “Do I need accounting software that integrates with online banking, inventory management, credit card processing, or other systems?” Your answer could be key in determining which software to buy.
- Talk to your accountant. If your business already employs an accountant, they will be a valuable source of information for you as you consider which software to use. Ask their opinion about any options you are considering. If you don’t employ an accountant, you can still contact one to inquire what accounting software they recommend for small businesses.