Being able to do things faster, cheaper, and better than your competitors means that your small business can compete with much larger companies on an even playing field.  And one area in which you can reap the benefits of some truly revolutionary technology is in the field of accounting.

Cloud-based accounting software appears to be the prevailing wave of the future, replacing venerable but outdated programs like Quicken and QuickBooks.  These programs have had their user interfaces tweaked so that they’re easier than ever for non-tech savvy individuals (or even non-accounting savvy individuals) to use and to use well.  Really, these simple software solutions take most (if not all) of the hassle out of bookkeeping and can – in some instances – even make finances fun.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks is the biggest and brightest of this new generation of accounting software programs.  In fact, the company boasts that over five million people are already using its software every day.

Using FreshBooks, businesses can track both expenses and time, and can easily manage their invoicing needs so that they’re always on point when it comes to their money.  The program’s simple interface was designed to allow users to plug in and manipulate data from desktop PCs, tablet devices, and even smartphones.  You can even use FreshBooks to accept and record online payments, allowing small businesses to effectively coordinate their online and offline sales channels.

As an added bonus, FreshBooks offers a dedicated support staff on call from 9AM to 6PM Eastern Standard Time.  When you work with the company, you don’t have to worry about pawing through anonymous help forums or dealing with automated telephone systems—you get to talk to a real person.

The FreshBooks add-on store also offers easy integration with popular business software programs you may already be using, including Basecamp, ZenDesk, SalesForce, Expenser, MailChimp, PayPal and more.  FreshBooks offers a 30-day free trial and packages start at just $19.95 per month after that.

Xero

Xero bills itself as “beautiful accounting software,” and that’s what it is.  This relatively new start-up has quickly gained the trust of over 200,000 users worldwide, making it one of the fastest growing accounting software programs around.

Much like FreshBooks, Xero is a full-featured suite of accounting solutions.  The software can track time and expenses, invoice clients, reconcile your bank statements, and handle many of your other accounting needs.  There’s even a host of add-ons available so that you can integrate Xero with the software you’re already familiar with.  The list includes CRM software, time tracking solutions, POS software, inventory systems, payroll and HR systems, and more.

Xero is so popular that Forbes Magazine called it the number one challenger for Quickbooks in the United States, saying that Xero, “makes accounting fun.”  With pricing plans from $19 per month through $39 per month (based on the number of invoices and bank transactions needed per month), Xero can fit businesses of nearly any size.

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Kashoo

Kashoo promises to be the solution that lets your business say goodbye to QuickBooks.  Again, this newcomer is designed with simplicity in mind and shows you only what you need to see at any given time.  The user interface has been pared down so it doesn’t easily overwhelm users—which is essential, as overwhelmed accountants make mistakes!

Like the others above, Kashoo is cloud-based, meaning that you can access your data from anywhere as long as you have Internet connectivity.  One interesting feature is the dashboard.  It allows you to easily input pretty much everything you need from one simple screen.  From the dashboard, you can delve into the other features with the tap of a button, while still keeping things neat and tidy – allowing for simple, fast, and intuitive data entry.

Kashoo also allows multiple users to collaborate on the same financials.  This is excellent for small businesses that might want the owner, manager, and bookkeeper to have access to the same information.  Kashoo is less expensive than the previous options with pricing plans starting at just $15 per month (there’s also a yearly plan for just $144).  However, there really aren’t any plugins to speak of as yet.  No doubt that functionality is something the designers at Kashoo are looking into, but for now you’re pretty limited in terms of integrating external software programs.

Outright

Outright is a web-based solution with over 300,000 users already under its belt.  Its functionality is somewhat limited when compared to the others on this list, but it is what it says it is – excellent accounting software.

Outright allows you to link many of your financial accounts right into its software including bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal accounts, Etsy accounts, eBay accounts, and more.  You can track incoming and outgoing cash easily and have access to a variety of customizable reports at any time.

The Outright iPhone app makes accessing your data on the go easy, but there is currently no dedicated tablet app, and if you don’t operate on Apple products, you’re out of luck when it comes to mobile accounting.  Outright offers single users a limited free account, but also created Outright Plus which costs just $10 per month.

Zoho

Zoho’s dashboard simplifies all of your financials into a succinct view, but be aware that the program does feel a bit outdated.  However, its reporting system does allow for interesting segmentation of your data – by age of invoice, income vs. expenses, and by financial account.  It also allows you to link the software with your bank accounts and receive automatic updates regularly so that your data is never outdated.

In addition to traditional bank and credit accounts, Zoho Books also allows you to link online payment accounts like PayPal, Google Checkout, and Authorize.net, making it a good solution for business with online storefronts.  Zoho Books also comes with an integrated time tracker which allows you to track billable hours easily without relying on third-party software.

Given all these extra features, it’s not surprising that Zoho Books is one of the more pricey accounting solutions on the market today.  Plans start at $24 per month or $240 per year when billed annually.

FreeAgent

FreeAgent is specifically designed for freelance businesses (either sole proprietorships or small collaborators).  It has all the power of a traditional business accounting system, but is geared towards those who don’t make payroll at a 9-5 job.  As with many of the other options listed here, FreeAgent allows user to import bank statements, link payment accounts, and access everything through their truly cloud-based interface.

In addition, FreeAgent features some of the best invoicing services around.  The company also has a dedicated, award-winning support staff that’s available whenever you need them to answer questions or to help un-clutter your account.

Intacct

Intacct is a relative newcomer in a field of newcomers.  Currently, the program offers automation of financial tracking, which can save small businesses a considerable amount of time and effort.  Users have called the software “tremendously flexible,” “worry-free,” and “the perfect combination of high value and low cost of ownership.”  One interesting statistic to be aware of is that 95% of Intacct users renew their accounts every year—that’s some high customer satisfaction ratings there.

Whether you decide to ditch the old, but still functional software you’ve been using entirely or to try out one of these new cloud-based accounting solutions on the side, the trick is finding one that works best for your business and your employees.  If a program has all the functionality you need, but is difficult to understand, impossible to use, or just plain ugly, there are plenty of other options out there that will give you a better experience in the end.

Cloud-based accounting programs have truly made the financial market a buyer’s paradise.  Take your time, try out a few of the options listed above, and then zero in on the one that really works for your business.

About the author

Matt Faustman

Matt Faustman

Matt is the co-founder and CEO at UpCounsel. Matt believes in the power of online platforms to change antiquated ways of life and founded UpCounsel to make legal services efficiently accessible. He is responsible for our overall vision and growth of the UpCounsel platform. Before founding UpCounsel, Matt practiced as a startup and business attorney.

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