Have you outgrown your current accounting system? (If you use a Microsoft Word invoice template, a spreadsheet or other ad hoc situation, the answer is YES!)
You deserve an accounting solution that makes running your business simple and secure. More and more, entrepreneurs are turning to cloud-based solutions that are more flexible, mobile and tailored to small businesses.
What to Look for in a Cloud-Based Accounting Solution
Cloud-based accounting software solutions offer many advantages for business owners. However, not all cloud accounting platforms are created equal. Look for a solution that has the features and support you need.
Here are the most important things you should watch for when making your choice.
When you’re dealing with sensitive and private business information, security is a top concern. Good accounting software providers include information about security safeguards directly on their websites, including:
- SSL encryption.
You should see a lock icon in your browser whenever you’re logged into your account so you know your data is secure. And all private information, including credit card numbers and bank account information should be encrypted using an advanced encryption standard (AES).
The accounting application—and your data—should be securely behind a firewall provided by a reputable company.
- Vulnerability scanning.
The accounting software company’s servers should be regularly scanned for vulnerabilities by a third-party security provider to test for intrusions from the Internet as well as inside the network.
- Data center security.
The company’s data servers should be housed in state-of-the-art facilities that provide constant surveillance, redundant power feeds and generators, powerful fire suppression and monitored climate control. Back-up servers and data centers should be in different locations in case the primary data center is compromised by natural disaster.
- Regular backups.
The ideal cloud solution should back up your data every day in a secure offsite location. This ensures that you can quickly restore your data and in case of an emergency.
2. Features You’ll Use
Traditional business accounting software is designed for mid to large-sized businesses and has complex features small businesses don’t need. Consider what you need now – and in the future. Here are some of the features that most small businesses require:
You should be able to easily create a professional-grade invoice that you can print or send directly to your clients by email straight from the software. Invoices should feature your logo and contact information and be stored in one place so you can see exactly who owes what and when.
Look for an accounting solution that allows your clients to pay you online. It should also automatically record when payments are made, send late payment reminders and offer an autobilling function for recurring invoices.
- Expense tracking.
High on your list should be a function that allows you to digitally store your expenses and then automatically categorizes them so you can see your profit vs. loss any time you log in.
- Estimates and Proposals.
You should be able to put together an estimate in just a few clicks. It should be stored so that it can be easily transformed into an invoice once the project is complete.
- Time Tracking.
Accounting solutions with time-tracking solutions built right in allow you to know at-a-glance exactly how long tasks really take. If you have a small team or sub-contract to other professionals, you’ll want software that allows others to track their time, so you have a handle on everyone’s productivity.
3. Excellent User Experience
Most cloud-based accounting solutions are built intuitively enough for everyone to use, but each will have its own unique user experience. The key is to find one that feels best to you.
Here are some ways to find out:
- Review descriptions of the software’s features and watch introductory videos and product.
- Take advantage of free trials to play around with the features you’re most interested in.
- Check with other professionals in your industry to see what they use and how they like it. Search the Internet for reviews and product comparisons from publications you can trust.
4. Customer Support
You must have access to good customer support when you need it. Be sure that you can reach a live person during business hours. And avoid companies that don’t list phone numbers on their website. Good luck tracking down a real person to help you if you can’t even call them!
Check out the FAQ section on the company’s website to see how much information you can find if you need to self-serve after hours. And pay close attention to what reviewers (both customers and tech editors) say about a product’s customer service.
5. Integration With Other Apps
Check to make sure the accounting software works well with your favorite apps—and think ahead to technology you may want to use in the future. For example, Fundbox partner FreshBooks also integrates with G Suite (so users can invoice Google Contacts and preview client emails right in the application), Stripe (so clients can pay small business owners in FreshBooks using their credit cards without being redirected to another site) and other popular tools.
When evaluating an accounting software option, ask: does it look like the software company is committed to continually adding integrations to make business owners’ lives easier? That’s a good sign it’ll be around for awhile.
6. The Right Price
Many cloud-accounting platforms are offered on a subscription basis, making it more affordable than traditional software. Look for a solution that offers plans that you can upgrade as your business grows so you’re only paying for what you use.
When it comes to accounting, you want to feel like you’re in control. Cloud accounting solutions allow you to manage all your bookkeeping anywhere and anytime, while giving you a bird’s eye view of your small business’s overall performance.
This guest post was written by Heather Hudson of FreshBooks for Fundbox readers. FreshBooks is committed to making invoicing and accounting painless for millions of small business owners.
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