Small Business Services

Simple Business, Simple Accounting Needs: Tools That Work

Your small business probably does a lot of its work in the cloud. You send and receive email. Interact on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and maybe even host a blog. You’ve created a website for marketing and e-commerce.

Why not move your accounting operations online? Maybe because you’ve heard or read that cloud-based financial applications are:

Costly. Yes, when you’re talking about midrange and high-end accounting solutions, there is a lot of money involved. But small business accounting applications that support everything from accounts receivable and payable to inventory management to payroll start at about $20/month (with extra fees for processing paychecks and receiving payments electronically).

Difficult to learn and use. State-of-the-art small business accounting websites are designed for small businesspeople who don’t have a “CPA” after their names. Their user interfaces and navigation systems and help resources work together to make what is not necessarily a very intuitive process (double-entry accounting) more palatable.

But if you’ve been working with paper forms and folders and sticky notes, you will need to learn a new way of doing things. An accounting professional can help you find the best solution for your needs and get you started with it.

Unsafe. You might be comfortable storing your company’s brochure designs and white papers and email conversations online, but you balk at the idea of your financial records and data being stored in the cloud. Besides your company’s own private information, you have confidential details related to customers, vendors, and employees.

The makers of cloud-based accounting applications are at least as concerned as you are about the safety of your data, and probably more so. That’s why they build so many security features into their systems.

  • They use protocols similar to those employed by major financial institutions.
  • They store backups in multiple locations where they’re locked away in secure areas monitored by human beings.
  • They include tools that let the administrator restrict user access to specific areas through the use of passwords.

Getting What You Need

If your company is big or complex enough to require a comprehensive cloud-based accounting solution, you’ll be able to choose from a handful of options. But what if you don’t want to deal with the structure and rules required for double-entry bookkeeping? What if you don’t need a Chart of Accounts and purchase orders and item-tracking and numerous reports? What if you just want an online solution that supports a smaller, more manageable set of features?

There are a lot of them out there, at low monthly or annual subscription fees (or free) and no cancellation restrictions. But they’re not all the best they could be.

Rather than enter a lot of data, only to discover that an application won’t work for you, consult with a financial advisor. He or she can help steer you in the right direction by assessing your immediate needs, then learning about your plans for growth so you can invest in a solution that will adapt to your changing needs.

With that information, the two of you can match your requirements to a trusted state-of-the-art application. These accounting websites can help you with tasks like:

  • Design, create, send, and track your invoices.
  • Account management. Import transactions from your financial institutions and reconcile your accounts.
  • Simple income- and expense-tracking. What’s coming in? What are you spending? How are these two flows meshing?
  • Payments from customers. Accept credit and debit card payments from customers, even when you’re out of the office.
  • Income tax payments. Estimate what you’ll need to send in to the IRS every quarter.

This is a good time to get started with cloud-based accounting. You have many, many options at affordable prices. But because of this, you should proceed carefully – with professional advice. Your financial files contain the most sensitive data on your computer, so choose well.

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