From the June 2009 Issue
Editor's Note: The review of Tier I systems (those costing less than $1,000 for a five-user license) was in the April 2009 issue.
Last month, in a four-mile radius surrounding my house, five small businesses opened in spite of the financial problems our country continues to struggle through. Even in a struggling economy, businesses will continue to open, grow and expand, and it’s important that they utilize the tools that are available, both as a one-person owned business and as a growing and expanding entity.
In the last issue of this magazine, we reviewed Small Business Accounting products with a price tag of less than $1,000 for a complete core accounting product that included GL, AP, AR and Payroll functionality (see www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/2306). This month, we continue the Small Business Accounting review by looking at products that range in price up to $5,500.
This opens up the category considerably and lets us look at products that are really designed for small businesses in transition; such as businesses experiencing growth, or those with multiple users and/or locations.These products are generally a step above the products reviewed in the Tier 1 group last issue, offering a more powerful system with quicker response times, more features and extended functionality.
As always, we will look at the vital areas of these products, hopefully simplifying
the decision-making process of finding the right product for you or your client’s
business. The areas we looked at in this review are as follows:
Ease of Use/Basic Functionality. This area is so important, particularly for the small business owner who seldom has the time or patience to spend weeks learning complicated accounting software. We look at items such as basic system setup, tutorials and setup wizards, and user interface screens. Basic functionality includes a summary of useful features and functions that are found in each particular product and how they can benefit your client’s business.
Core Accounting/Security Functions. This area looks at what the product will do. All of these products will contain basic accounting functions such as GL, AP, AR and Payroll, but we also recognize the additional options and features that are available, either with the core product or as an add-on. For instance, if you have a service business an Inventory module may not be important, but if you have a gift shop it will be a necessity. Security options are also important, particularly for those with multiple system users where security is stressed.
Reporting & Management Functions. This is an important area, and it’s difficult if not impossible to determine the true financial status of a business without solid reports. We look at the various reporting options, the ability to email or save reports in different formats, and whether reports can be customized as needed. Management functions have also grown in importance. Just a few years ago, business snapshot reports and dashboards were only found in Enterprise-level products, but they are now common in many small business accounting products, as well. These management tools can help both business owners and accountants keep a good handle on business.
Import/Export/Integration. For those businesses with a need for more flexibility, this area can be a great determinant. Can data be imported from a prior accounting product? Can business contacts be imported? Can data be exported into a spreadsheet or word processing document? Does the software integrate with a good variety of third-party products?
Help & Support Options. Many people don’t really expect to have to use telephone or email support, but they want to know that it’s there if needed. Many times, a decent Help file can answer many of the questions new users have.