Accounting software has been affordable and quite popular these days. Often, more than one person needs access to the system at the same time; thus, multi-user licenses for programs has become common place. A business may buy licenses for one person or 20, depending on its needs.
Number of Users
Many accounting departments have more than one person working the program at the same time. For instance, it doesn't make sense for someone to wait until after another person pays the bills, in order to book deposits. In very small firms, this may work out, but in larger firms with more than one person in the accounting department, this setup doesn't work and multi-user software is required.
A computer network is necessary if a program will be used by more than one person. The network makes sharing of software and resources possible with a central server where most programs are located and accessed by individual users. It's a good idea to have a network in place before getting the software. If you only have a single user, then there is really no need for a network.
Not every software can be multi-user and there are limitations on how many users a program can accommodate. For example, with Quickbooks you can have up to 20 people accessing the program at the same time. The software cannot handle more than that. Other software have their own limits, so research the product before you buy it. Generally all accounting software is good for one user, but as users increase, there may be problems.
There are benefits to both single user and multiple user situations when dealing with accounting software. The decision to get a single user license versus a multi-user license rests with the needs of a business. One is not better than the other, they just fit different needs. In many instances a firm may start with one single license and then expand, on an 'as needed' basis. Some accounting software may be utilized by mainly one person, and buying more than a single user doesn't make sense. It all depends on the business needs.
While installing a single user software may be simple, installing a multi-user software is not. Usually IT people need to be involved in the installation as well as in the maintenance of a multi-user environment.
Make sure to back up accounting files if you're on a single user or multi-user software situation. Have a plan if the network or a computer goes down.
Sheila Shanker is a certified public accountant based in California. She writes online courses for professionals seeking CPE hours and has also published the book "Guide to Non-profits: From the Trenches." Her articles have been published in national magazines such as the "Journal of Accountancy," "Architecture Business and Economics" and "Veterinary Economics." Shanker holds a Master of Business Administration.