The best accounting programs include a full suite of features for both accounts receivable and accounts payable as well as inventory and asset management. They sync with your business bank accounts to give you an up-to-date overview of the money flowing in and out of your business. They include features that help you move to a paperless system, such as the ability to attach images of receipts to expense reports and send invoices via email.
Most also include mobile apps that you can use to accomplish a variety of tasks, including capturing expenses and creating invoices. Below we've listed some of the features you'll want to look for in a program based on specific business needs.
You Want to Save Time
Many accounting tasks are repetitive, and online accounting software can automate some of these tasks to streamline your workflow and save you time. Look for software with the following automations:
- Convert Sales Orders & Quotes to Invoices: Once a customer accepts an estimate, sales order, or quote, you can convert the document to an invoice with just a few clicks. QuickBooks Online, FreeAgent and OneUp can do this with a single click. You can then edit the new invoice with any changes you need to make. Nine of the products we reviewed include this feature.
- Recurring Invoices: You can set up the system to send invoices for recurring charges, such as subscriptions. More than half of the products in our lineup offer this feature.
- Automatic Payment Reminders: This feature helps you remind customers about upcoming and past due payments. Half of the programs we reviewed include this feature, and some, such as Zoho Books, have sample email text that you can use as is or that you can customize. You can then choose when you want the reminders to be sent. Some programs also give you the option of sending thank-you emails to customers after you receive their payments.
- Bank Feed: Each program in our review gives you the option of connecting with your business bank accounts to receive a daily update of your transactions. This saves you the time it would take to manually upload statements into the system. It also gives you a daily, rather than monthly, overview of your accounts. This also assists with reconciliation, allowing you to make it a small daily task rather than a monthly ordeal.
- Reconciliation: This tool identifies potential matches between your bank transactions and the bills and invoices that you've entered into the accounting software, saving you the hours it would take to sift through records for this information. You can then approve or deny the suggested matches. The majority of the products we reviewed suggest potential matches as you reconcile your accounts, and a few also include a reconciliation feature on their mobile apps.
Is Online Accounting Software Secure?
The best online accounting software uses bank-grade data encryption to protect your account. Further, it should either require or allow you to opt into two-factor authentication, giving you another layer of security. Because the software is in the cloud, your data is safe even if your computer is stolen or destroyed.
If you have employees or an accountant accessing your accounting program, you can control what information they see by setting user permissions. The best accounting software also includes a detailed history, or audit log, that shows what changes were made to your records, on what date, and at what time by which user, giving you additional insight and control over any changes or entries made in your accounting program.