Accounting in the cloud

13 August, 2011 by Anthony Caruana
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Death, shonky builders on current affairs shows, Hollywood scandals and accounting software – all are facts of life. We can’t really help you with the first three, but accounting software has undergone a revolution in recent years.

In the old days, you’d head to your local software vendor and hand over some cash to get the software your accountant recommended for ‘the books’. And each year, you’d hand over more money for updates for changes made in accounting laws and by the tax office.

Like almost every other type of software, financial management software has moved to the cloud. This brings some huge advantages to businesses large and small.

There’s no need to install software to a machine. All you need is an internet connection and a browser. If your computer is damaged or stolen, you won’t lose your accounts as well as your hardware, and multi-platform offices won’t need to buy multiple versions of the same software.

You can even access your accounts through an iPad or iPhone while you’re on the go. You can look up a customer’s sales history, check your inventory and take an order without having to phone the office or transcribe an order from paper.

Changes to tax tables, laws and other regulations no longer require that you load new software as your cloud provider looks after all that
for you.

The one thing that you really do need to look after is backups. Although cloud providers will look after your data, it’s worth extracting transaction records, customer lists and other essential data yourself on
a regular basis.

Xero

Free unlimited trial, or from $29/month

Xero is great for getting a one-screen snapshot of your business’s cash-flow and other activities.

Entering transactions is easy as all of the forms are neatly laid out. Creating recurrent transactions is also straightforward. If clients need regular statements, Xero makes it easy to create and send them with a few clicks.

Regular tax reporting is also easy as Xero produces an activity statement report. It provides a list of the BAS form boxes and the amounts you need to fill in for the tax office. Other reports such as profit and loss and balance sheets are straightforward to produce.

Running a payroll is simple. If you have several staff, you can create a pay run that completes payroll for all your staff in one go. Pay-slips, like all the other forms, can be customised with your own logos.

Xero offers an iPhone app as well as broad browser compatibility.

Saasu

Free for 20 transactions per month, or from
$25/month

With a simple user interface that makes it easy for business people to focus on their business, rather than admin, Saasu makes a tedious task less painful.

Creating invoices, receiving payments, entering expenses and reconciling bank statements are all relatively simple. All of Saasu’s screens are clearly laid out. When you need to add a new piece of basic information, such as the contact details for client or a new expense category, you can do that while creating your transaction.

Saasu recently added Bank Feeds at no extra cost. Simply enter your online banking credentials and Saasu will automatically download transactions straight to your accounts. Saasu then matches the data from your bank statement, making reconciliation a breeze.

Where there’s an unreconciled transaction, it’s then easy to either delete the extra transaction from Saasu or create a new transaction from the data from the bank.

There are full payroll facilities that comply with Australian tax rules and Saasu is regularly updated. It also supports inventory management. Completing a regular BAS is easy as Saasu creates a worksheet with all the data neatly presented.

We used Saasu from PCs and Macs using a variety of browsers without any problems. It works nicely on the iPad although the cash-flow graph doesn’t appear in Safari. There’s also an iPhone app that makes it easy to enter invoices, payments and expenses.

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