Small Business Accounting in the Clouds: You’ve Got Options

Cloud computing

Cloud computing, it’s a term you’ve likely heard before. It’s the widely-used term for services of all kinds that operate entirely on the internet – as opposed to desktop software you install on your computer’s harddrive.

It’s also referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service) although that’s more of an industry-insider term and not one you would hear at a family BBQ.

With cloud-based services, everything is done online. You can access your information and do your work anywhere there is a computer with internet access. It’s where a lot of the innovative time-saving applications are happening today.

For business owners, this is glad news because there are better ways to do important but odious administrative tasks.

Bookkeeping is a shining example. With Shoeboxed, the days of collecting crumpled receipts in a dusty box and unloading them on an accountant are thankfully coming to an end. Shoeboxed automates receipt management and enables paperless record collection and expense reporting.

The online alternatives for accounting and invoicing services has also ballooned. Standouts include Beancruncher, Wave Accounting and Freshbooks.

These solutions in the sky are more ‘hands off’ and easier to use than traditional bookkeeping software. Many of these online accounting services are also reasonably priced, and some like Wave Accounting are free.

However, this abundance of options makes it difficult for small business owners to zero in on the service that fits the bill and has all the necessary features.


Determining What Your Needs are in a SaaS

When looking for cloud-based small business accounting software, figure out what you need first. Even if you scribble it down on a scrap piece of paper. From there you have specific keywords that could save you hours in online searches.

Another way to do it is by making a checklist that answers the following questions:

What is your monthly bookkeeping budget? Online accounting software subscriptions vary wildly from site to site, so if you don’t see a price that jibes with your budget there’s probably something else out there that will.

How many billable customers your business have? This affects the number of invoices you’ll need to send out each month. Most cloud-based accounting price plans base their price on the number of invoices per month.

Also, when you’ve decided on your monthly budget and invoicing needs, jott down a list of must-have features in a cloud-computing service. Do you need time tracking options for billing your clients? Multi-currency invoicing options? Which payment methods do you need your accounting solution to accept – bank cards, PayPal, cheques or direct deposit?

If you don’t need all these options, you’ll probably find most online invoicing and accounting solutions will cut it.

One last thing to consider are customizations and add-ons. Google Docs integration, invoicing templates customization, customer relationship management, multi-user support and so on can really affect your workflow when using the app.

Luckily, most services offer a free trial period to ‘kick the tires’ and see if it’s a good fit.


Go Forth and Prosper

As you can see, finding the perfect online accounting software takes some forethought, but the savings are significant in both time and money. It’ll be something to brag about at the next family BBQ.

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