Online Accounting Software: Expert Insight from Fastlane Group

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Published: 08 Jan 2020

Has your in-house accounting software been performing poorly in recent times? Perhaps your business is looking for a scalable solution that can be based around specific requirements. Might you be worried about possible data breaches and the security of sensitive information?

These are four reasons why a growing number of small business owners have migrated into the world of online accounting, also known as cloud accounting.

Statrys invited Nick Au from FastLane Group, a Hong Kong-based accounting firm servicing SMEs, to share his expert insights on the key considerations when choosing online accounting software.

The video below will give you some answers to a handful of important questions to help you make an informed choice at the appropriate time.

Question #1. What is a cloud-based accounting solution?

Cloud accounting is simply a method of accessing your accounting software online through a cloud. In other words, it does not require the use of traditional in-house resources.
This information is maintained digitally and authorised personnel can gain access when necessary; offering a greater sense of flexibility than traditional accounting software which requires the use of dedicated hard drives.

Question #2. What types of pricing plans are offered?

Although the exact fees will vary, most cloud-based accounting solutions will offer both standard and premium subscriptions. As you may have already imagined, premium bundles are associated with more advanced features such as the ability to deal with multiple currencies and dedicated 24/7 customer support.

Question #3. Are there any hidden costs?

While most cloud platforms provide a basic rate, there may be times when hidden fees or surcharges are incurred.
Examples can include software updates and occasional maintenance fees. This is why it is a good idea to read the "fine print" before committing to a specific service.

Question #4. What about data security within the cloud?

This is a very important question, as a 2017 study performed by IT firm ESET found that a staggering 60% of start-ups and SMEs had suffered some type of data breach over the past three years. If you want to know more, check out the“Causes of Data Breaches and How to Prevent Them”.
Let's also keep in mind that the United States Better Business Bureau highlighted that a mere 35% of all businesses surveyed stated that they would remain profitable if such a breach occurred.

To be clear, some cloud-based accounting platforms are associated with more robust levels of encryption than others.
This is why it is important to ask a few questions. What type of uptime is ensured? Does the firm proactively monitor online activity and login details and are these recorded? What types of firewalls are in place in order to thwart a potential breach?

Question #5. Are online accounting solutions flexible?

Unlike traditional in-house methods, the bulk of cloud-based software systems have been engineered for scalability.
Most offer the possibility of adding applications (such as project pipeline and expense management tools) when required.
Of course, the ability to enact such changes as well as the tools offered will vary between providers.
This is why determining how simple it will be to perform an upgrade is important. For example, cloud accounting provider Xero is now equipped with more than 700 apps which can be integrated into a platform as needed.

Question #6. What types of features are offered and how can I make the best choice?

The fact of the matter is that different SMEs will naturally have different accounting requirements. This is why addressing a handful of pertinent variables is a good idea.
For instance, a business associated with a high transaction volume (such as those within the online retail sector) should opt for a bundle which is capable of handling frenetic sales and payroll concerns.
Other systems are more suited for freelancers and start-ups due to their ability to expand as the needs of the enterprise continue to evolve over time. To put it simply, anyone who is considering to implement this type of solution will need to determine if its features are suitable for the business in question.

Question #7. What are some popular cloud-based accounting platforms and what specialty does each offer?

Let us now take a quick look at some of the top providers as well as the amenities associated with each:
Scalability: Xero, Oracle NetSuite
Tracking bills and expenses: Xero, Receipt Bank, Expensify, Harvest, QuickBooks
Payroll issues: Xero, Talenox
Project management solutions: Workflow Max, Deputy, TSheets
Inventory management: Xero, TradeGecko
Point of sale: Shopify, Cin7

Please feel free to perform your own research in order to appreciate the distinct benefits of these packages as well as other providers.

Question #8. If a company decides to use a different cloud accounting platform, how easy/difficult is it to export data and import to another one?

Changing cloud accounting platforms is not difficult at all. Most cloud accounting platforms allow their users to import and export their accounting data. Items such as bank statements, contracts, inventory items and invoices are a few of the typical items that can be moved around freely.

Users looking to change cloud accounting platforms should consult the import/export processes stated on their current cloud accounting platform.

Putting it All Together

The bottom line is that many unique cloud-based accounting software solutions currently exist on the market. Each of these is intended to address discrete requirements, so a substantial level of preparation is wise before committing to a subscription-based plan. The good news is that the majority offer free trials so that potential customers can appreciate all that is in store. It is therefore wise to take advantage of such offers.

Do you have additional questions regarding what types of online accounting software are on the market? Would you like additional assistance in order to make the best decision? If so, please feel free to speak with a customer service representative from FastLane Group.

IN SUMMARY

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