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August 20, 2015

8 cloud accountancy suites for freelancers & SMBs

Need to manage your invoices, payroll and cashflow?

By Jimmy Nicholls

Despite the general languor of accountancy as an industry, software vendors are becoming more interested in bringing their bookkeeping clients to the cloud.

In part this is because the agility and scalability of the technology outflanks previous on-premise software licenses, but it has also become de rigueur for vendors to offer at least one product that sits in the cloud.

Many smaller businesses are taking the vendors up on the offer, unencumbered by the hefty legacy systems of larger accountancies. But which products are worth investigating?

1. Freshbooks

Freshbooks was born in 2003 when its chief executive Mike McDerment saved over an old invoice whilst managing accounts at his design agency.

Years later and the online bookkeeping service is among the most comprehensive out there, integrating with customer relationship management (CRM) products, offering its own customer portals, and backed up by a live support service.

2. Sage One

A legacy player in the software game, Sage is currently undergoing a revamp under the tenure of Stephen Kelly, a former technologist for the British civil service.

The firm’s products enjoy hefty usage by many British and European accountants, with Sage One now running across tablets and smartphones as well as desktops and laptops. Though aimed at smaller firms, the product allows users to manage multiple companies using multiple currencies.

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3. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is the cloud version of Intuit’s accountancy software, and one of the most popular tools of its kind.

Among its standout features are integration with payroll, synchronisation with bank data, and a wizard to ease filing with HMRC. And as Intuit points out, having it on the cloud also relieves you of the responsibility to keep it backed up.

4. FreeAgent

Another relatively young player in the accountancy software game, FreeAgent formed eight years ago in Edinburgh and describes its products as "like bookkeeping, but without the sharp pain and lingering numbness."

Central to the product is an expansive dashboard showing bank accounts, cashflow and other essential features. As implied by the name, the product specialises in catering to freelancers, with a low pricetag to match.

5. Kashoo

Kashoo is a Canadian accountancy software vendor that covers everything from invoicing to taxes, and much else besides.

Customers use the service through a dashboard, which seamlessly imports bank details and also integrates expense forms. Support is provided through email, phone or instant messenger, and like many other services on this list a free trial can be accessed without a credit card.

6. Xero

Xero is another accountancy packaged aimed towards freelancers and sole traders, but can also be used by small business owners.

Pricing varies from a few pounds a month to more than £40, but included in the package is invoicing, inventory, payroll, mobile access, all available for unlimited users. And because it is on the cloud all the software maintenance is done for you.

7. Wave Accounting

Wave has a tempting pricetag for any small business with fewer than 10 employees – it’s entirely free of charge.

But even if the price could not be lower the features list is generous, combining invoicing and payroll, as well as integration with PayPal and traditional banks. The reports generated can also be sent to Excel, which many will find handy.

8. Brightbook

Also costing its users nothing, Brightbook is an extensive accountancy application covering invoices and billing, all framed in a lurid pink design.

Users can manage the books in multiple currencies and loop in multiple users, import bank statements and access many of the features you would expect from a premium product. Especially recommended for freelancers and contractors.

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