Businesses use accounting software to streamline accounting and bookkeeping tasks.
With the right accounting software, your business can increase productivity and cut costs. Finding the best software for you will depend on your budget and your accounting needs. Most accounting software covers basic functions such as storing and processing data. If your business needs additional features, such as forecasting or project accounting, you may need to pay for a premium plan.
Plans are typically month to month or annual and the price of basic plans generally ranges from $15 to $40 per month. Some free accounting software programs are available, but they only perform the most basic functions.
We’ve put together a guide to help you figure out what accounting software could best support your business. Read on to find out more.
Compare some of the best online accounting software
Data obtained November 2018. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
35 Day Free Trial: Sign Up For Free from Sage
Sage's Business Accounting Cloud Solution can help you keep on top of invoicing, bank reconciliations, payroll and more. Try it for free now by clicking 'View details' and signing up for a 35-day trial.
Accounting software can save your business time and money by helping to automate accounting tasks and processing financial data. However, not all accounting software has the same capacity.
Most accounting software performs basic functions such as storing and analysing data, bank reconciliation and bookkeeping.
Some include additional features such as payroll management, reporting and invoicing.
Accounting software can perform the following functions:
Fixed asset management
What is cloud accounting?
Like other forms of cloud computing, cloud accounting allows multiple users to access documents and data on a single online server from computers, mobiles and tablets.
Also known as "online accounting", cloud accounting works the same as any other accounting software. However, rather than installing and saving on your desktop computer, your data is saved on the company's servers. This allows you to access your accounts from most Internet-connected devices.
Why would I want to store my accounting data on the cloud?
The main benefits of managing your business or personal accounts online are convenience and accessibility. When everything is stored on the cloud, you can access and retrieve it from absolutely anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection.
Does your employee need to make a payroll adjustment? They can simply jump online and make the correction, rather than coming into the office. Does your accountant have some questions for you at tax time? With cloud accounting, you can save yourself a trip to the office and collaborate online.
Benefits of accounting software
The right accounting software can help your business by carrying out the following functions:
Increasing productivity. By eliminating manual day-to-day accounting tasks, accounting software can allow you and your employees to spend your time on other important company functions.
Simplifying tasks. Accounting software is easy to use. Most systems can help business owners without financial backgrounds complete accounting tasks quickly with little-to-no training.
Saving costs. For many small businesses, accounting software can eliminate the need for an accountant. You can save by conducting all company accounting in-house with accounting software.
Forecasting and analysing. One of the biggest advantages of accounting software for many business owners is the ability to accurately forecast financial performance. This can help you adjust your budget to maximise company growth.
Reducing errors. Accounting software can eliminate human error and help your business avoid costly compliance infractions.
Automating payments. By automating billing and invoicing, you can ensure you always pay accounts on time.
Enhancing security. Secure accounting software can protect your organisation’s financial data. The best accounting software protects you against hacks, theft and security breaches.
Do I still need an accountant if I have accounting software?
Many accountants use accounting software to streamline operations and manage accounts. Accounting software can help eliminate errors and time-consuming paperwork. Depending on the size of your business, you may not need an accountant to work in tandem with your accounting software.
Downsides of accounting software
Accounting software isn’t without problems, especially if you don’t choose the best software for your needs.
Cost. Finding the right accounting software to meet all your needs can sometimes mean spending more for premium features.
Scalability. You will likely have to pay more for a larger software plan if your business outgrows your current one.
Administration. Accounting software doesn’t always eliminate the need for an accountant. Depending on the size of your company and the accounting functions you require, you may need an accountant to work in tandem with your software or at least help set it up.
Flexibility. While packaged, or off-the-shelf, accounting software suits many businesses, you may require something more unique. Unfortunately, you can only customise this software within certain limits. If you require a lot of specialised functions, you may have to pay for custom-made software.
What to look for when choosing accounting software
Considering your personal or business needs will help determine which accounting software is right for you. When looking for the best accounting software for you, ask yourself the following two questions:
What is my budget?
What accounting functions do I need?
Keep in mind, the more tasks you need your accounting software to perform, the more it will cost. Instead of looking for the cheapest program, look for the one that will give you the best return on your investment.
Once you have a better idea of what you are looking for, consider the following potential characteristics of accounting software:
Easy to use. Your ideal accounting software should be relatively intuitive to set up and use. If you cannot operate the system, you will need to hire someone to do it for you.
Security. Your accounting software will store some of your business’s more sensitive data. Make sure to select a trustworthy vendor by checking out its security features and reading user reviews.
Trial period. Most accounting software comes with a one-month trial period. You can use this time to make sure the software is meeting all of your needs before committing.
Mobile options. Do you want to be able to access your accounting system from your phone or tablet? If so, only consider software plans that include options for mobile use.
Room for growth. Look for accounting software that can grow with your business or at least allows you to upgrade your plan as your business expands.
Compatibility. To save yourself a headache, choose accounting software that is compatible with whatever systems your business is currently using.
Customer support. Look for providers with 24/7 customer support and good customer reviews.
Easy steps to determine the needs of your business
Before you start researching accounting software, make a list of all of the basic practices that are required in your accounting department. These will usually include payroll, cost accounting and inventory management, but there may be others too.
Different software packages will cater to different needs, so when researching keep in mind that some will focus on small businesses and others enterprise-level businesses. By understanding these specialties you can focus on the software that will work better for you.
Before comparing your options, you should also list your most important business requirements. Consider how many users you'll need, whether the software needs to have tax capabilities, and if you require access from mobile devices or to integrate with a third-party device. Your most important requirements of the accounting software are the ones that will bring your business operations to a halt when they aren't fully met.
Cost vs affordability
Many businesses try to justify the cost of their software by looking at the rich-feature set (the capabilities of the program). However, it's important to balance what you can afford and the likely return on investment (ROI) with a product that meets your business's most important needs – will you really use all those added extras?
The size of your business and the type of transactions it engages in will determine whether a free accounting solution will be enough or if you will need to invest in a more developed package. Keep in mind that free software packages tend to be very limited, and even the cheaper package options from most software companies won't cater for the needs of a growing business.
Access and portability
A number of software packages exist in the cloud. Some businesses can function with a basic set-up on one device that is manually run, while others will need a more integrated system that runs in the cloud with real-time updates.
If, for example, your business is mobile and you don't always have Internet access, you will need to consider an option that has powerful storage and efficient syncing capabilities. For systems that run entirely in the cloud, you will need a more comprehensive package that has advanced real-time syncing over multiple devices.
In terms of updates, some software will need to be manually updated to receive the latest features, while others will update automatically in the background. Most cloud services offer the latter.
The business accounting software learning curve
There's no point investing in a high-end software package if your employees can't use it. Compare the capabilities of your team and the user experience expected by the software. In some cases, an accounting background is required to use a program. If you outsource any of your accounting, keep in mind that the software solution you choose must be compatible with those systems.
Other things to consider
Additional fees. Some accounting software vendors charge additional fees for certain software updates. You may also need to pay more if you need to add on any features or upgrade your plan as your business evolves.
Banking. Accounting software is only one part of your financial process. Your bank or financial institution can affect the speed at which your financial transactions take place. It is important to make sure your accounting software supports your bank.
The right accounting software can help your company save time and money. For some businesses, this means switching all accounting duties over to accounting software. At other businesses, an accountant will work with the software to provide both manual and automated accounting services.
While finding the best accounting software can take time, effort and money, the benefits of using accounting software can outweigh the costs.
If you're interested in streamlining your businesses practices, start browsing accounting software today. If you're looking for other ways to increase business productivity and cut costs, check out our business software comparison.
Yes, some vendors offer free accounting software. However, this software generally only performs the most basic functions. If you require more from your accounting software, you will likely have to pay for a plan.
There is no one best accounting software for everyone. The best software for you depends on your budget and your accounting needs. We’ve compiled some of our favourite accounting software on this page to help you get started.
Not all small businesses are the same, so what works for another small business owner might not work for you. The best way to find the right software for your small business is to carefully consider all the accounting and bookkeeping tasks your business performs. Next, look for accounting software within your budget that can manage each of your required functions. Keep in mind, you may have to adjust your budget if you need specialised or custom accounting operations.
Sarah Brandon is a senior writer at Finder. She has a degree in Psychology from New York University and loves learning about why people do what they do. Sarah has researched and written about a wide range of topics, from pool fences to private jets to personal loans. But no matter the subject, her number one priority is figuring out what information our readers need to make the best decisions.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
Important information about this website
finder.com.au is one of Australia's leading comparison websites. We compare from a wide set of major banks, insurers and product issuers.
finder.com.au has access to track details from the product issuers listed on our sites. Although we provide information on the products offered by a wide range of issuers, we don't cover every available product. You should consider whether the products featured on our site are appropriate for your needs and seek independent advice if you have any questions.
Products marked as 'Promoted' or "Advertisement" are prominently displayed either as a result of a commercial advertising arrangement or to highlight a particular product, provider or feature. Finder may receive remuneration from the Provider if you click on the related link, purchase or enquire about the product. Finder's decision to show a 'promoted' product is neither a recommendation that the product is appropriate for you nor an indication that the product is the best in its category. We encourage you to use the tools and information we provide to compare your options and find the best option for you.
The identification of a group of products, as 'Top' or 'Best' is a reflection of user preferences based on current website data. On a regular basis, analytics drive the creation of a list of popular products. Where these products are grouped, they appear in no particular order.
Where our site links to particular products or displays 'Go to site' buttons, we may receive a commission, referral fee or payment.
We try to take an open and transparent approach and provide a broad based comparison service. However, you should be aware that while we are an independently owned service, our comparison service does not include all providers or all products available in the market.
Some product issuers may provide products or offer services through multiple brands, associated companies or different labelling arrangements. This can make it difficult for consumers to compare alternatives or identify the companies behind the products. However, we aim to provide information to enable consumers to understand these issues.
Providing or obtaining an estimated insurance quote through us does not guarantee you can get the insurance. Acceptance by insurance companies is based on things like occupation, health and lifestyle. By providing you with the ability to apply for a credit card or loan we are not guaranteeing that your application will be approved. Your application for credit products is subject to the Provider's terms and conditions as well as their application and lending criteria.