Choosing the right small business accounting software program can make the difference between understanding the financial position of your company and merely guessing. A software package that adds value to your business will contain the features that you need, will have capacity to grow with your business, and will be simple enough that you can use it. Furthermore, it will not only be a recording tool, but it will also help with performance analysis. A properly fitted accounting software package can be an invaluable company asset.
Off-the-shelf software packages are available at most office supply stores. Quickbooks allows users to manage invoicing and billing, inventory management, pay vendors and prepare financial reports. Quickbooks 2011 Pro provides consolidated customer snapshots, enhanced search, and more robust receivables management. Other off-the-shelf products include Peachtree accounting and AccountEdge, which was formerly known as My Your Own Business (MYOB).
Small business owners have the option of using web-based accounting systems. These software packages allow you to enter transactions online and keep your accounting records on a server at the software provider. Common web-based applications include Quickbooks Online and Freshbooks. These programs contain the basic functionality of off-the-shelf systems, but also offer additional features. Internet hosting allows owners to enter transaction data from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. These applications also commonly allow owners to enter transactions via a smartphone. However, your business records are in someone else's hands. If that company goes out of business, you may have a hard time getting your books in order.
Free accounting software programs can be quite limited in their functionality. One free program, GnuCash, offers basic double-entry accounting recording and financial statements, but does not include the automated invoicing, bank account integration, inventory management or the updated aesthetics of commercial software offerings. Furthermore, many CPAs do not have the familiarity with the output of free programs and there are fewer outlets to learn these programs and less support if something goes wrong.
If there doesn't seem to be an accounting software program that fits the needs of your business, talk with a CPA and have a system built to the needs of your business. CPAs working with information technology professionals are able to design custom software applications to manage complex inventory arrangements, technical revenue agreements, employee stock based compensation plans and many other technical accounting subjects. However, as powerful as customized software is, it can be expensive and require ongoing support. Training is available only from the person who built it.
John Freedman's articles specialize in management and financial responsibility. He is a certified public accountant, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and has been writing since 1998. His career includes public company auditing and work with the campus recruiting team for his alma mater.