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Products that Help Small Businesses

Column: From the Trenches

From the June 2009 Issue

Innovation in hardware and software never ceases to amaze me. The most difficult
task is keeping track of all of the worthwhile products to recommend to clients.
When you are practicing accounting day to day, and particularly in busy times,
it is difficult to keep track of new product announcements and upgrades that
can directly benefit small businesses. It is even more difficult to separate
hype from fact. Interaction with peer firms or others within your firm may help,
but you need a proactive way to identify the opportunities for your clients.
Hopefully, this column is one source you can trust. There are dozens of products
I have written about in the past, but for this column, I’m going to focus
on products that I have not covered before or ones that have recently received
a major upgrade.

Big Time by Edison’s Attic — This project accounting
product has support for DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) as well as time
and billing with an elegant integration into QuickBooks. The product competes
against Deltek and other government and construction products, but is simple
enough and inexpensive enough to use that any small business that needs help
with managing projects should consider this as an alternative. The product can
be used stand-alone, over the web as a hosted product, and the cost per user
is very low.

SmartVault — The innovations in user interface, ease
of document capture and integration into QuickBooks makes this hosted product
a “must have” product for QuickBooks. The product captures files
of any type and provides a simple link from inside QuickBooks. Additionally,
there is a web interface that lets non-QuickBooks users retrieve documents.
From a tax and accounting professional’s perspective, there is controlled
access to multiple clients’ documents, and a firm can use the product
internally with no charges.

Results CRM — CRM software can help manage business contacts,
processes, sales and service through a single system. This desktop software
is run in-house, but has a web interface available to make the data accessible
from anywhere. The company and product have been around for years, but it is
only recently that they have focused on QuickBooks integration, and are quickly
becoming a valuable resource for QuickBooks shops. This product is strong enough
to be used standalone, or integrated with a wide variety of accounting software
systems. The system is flexible enough to be set up in just a few hours or days.

Intacct — If you or your clients have outgrown QuickBooks,
then Intacct is certainly a candidate for you. This hosted, or Software as a
Service (SaaS), product has very strong accounting similar to mid-market products,
but with the ease of use of an entry-level product. The product runs entirely
through a web browser, making installation very easy. Sophisticated features
like integration into SpringCM for document management, for CRM
and dozens of other products solve business issues in many industries. Management
information is easily accessible with dashboards of key measures, and the dashboards
can be configured easily and published outside the Intacct system. If you are
looking for a more sophisticated accounting system that has good accountant
access, this system may be for you.

SageSpark and Billing Boss — Not all systems have to
be expensive to be useful, and SageSpark and Billing Boss certainly fall in
that category. Both are free services developed by the well-known mid market
vendor Sage. Billing Boss provides free invoicing to small businesses and has
accessibility to this information by the firm’s accountant. For small
businesses that provide services such as lawn care, pool services or janitorial
services, Billing Boss eliminates the pain of getting an invoice out. With so
many people currently starting small businesses, the SageSpark website can provide
interaction and business advice that is not readily available through other
sources. Finally, to support the mobile lifestyle of small business owners,
the products will run from mobile device web browsers such as those on the iPhone
or the Google Android G1 phone.

ShareFile — If businesses need to transfer files, particularly
files that are larger like graphics files, sound files or QuickBooks files,
the ShareFile product is a great choice. This system is branded with company
logos and information, and is very intuitive to use. The files are securely
transferred through a data center allowing businesses to comply with data security
regulations in states like Nevada and Massachusetts. I have used this product
a number of times this Spring where it was the easiest and best solution for
moving files from clients to my firm or from my firm to the client.

Abacus Backups — As long as we have a copy of your data,
we can recover your operations. That has been my business continuity mantra
for decades. Of course, we still need the applications and computer hardware,
but the fact remains that the data is the key element for recovery. There are
many online backup systems, but Abacus is particularly high-speed, secure and
has the advantage of being outside the U.S. borders, which gives the data more
protection in litigation. Further, the data is encrypted before it leaves your
facility and is encrypted at the backup site, rendering all data inaccessible
except to the person and firm that created it.

NetRescue — This appliance-based backup can copy any
or all data in an organization every 15 minutes, retaining the copy for up to
72 hours. If needed, an entire server such as an Exchange server can be run
virtually on the appliance in the event of a catastrophic failure. If you choose
to have a copy of the data off-site, this can be done nightly for a small fee,
and you can run the virtual machines from data centers around the country.

Agility Recovery Solutions — What happens if everything
is gone in your small business? That’s where Agility comes into play.
Agility can deliver any or all of four key recovery elements within 48 hours
of any interruption: Power, Technology (Computers and phones), Space and Connectivity.
The monthly fee for this service is relatively low for the peace of mind with
knowing you have the basic operational needs covered. Even without a formal
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan, the Agility methodology in conjunction
with its MyAgility portal give you access for business-critical operation recovery.

As you can see, these products all have the potential of helping your small
business clients as well as your firm. Each is worth review, recommendation
and use by innovative businesses. ¦


See inside June 2009 issue

You Are Not a Winner

Column: Tricks and Tips


Work/Life Balance … I’m Working on It

Column: My Perspective