Nowadays, most people are comfortable using the internet for all manner of things, whether it’s online banking or booking a holiday. But accounting is a latecomer to the online world. Not all companies or individuals are comfortable with the idea that their financial records can be accessed remotely, but with the many benefits that come with using online accounting services, it’s clear that they can be an all-round advantageous addition to any business.
Primarily, online accounting services save time. As all the financial records are stored online, they can be accessed remotely, whether in the office or on the move. Not only this, but they can be accessed by multiple people, all at the same time. Most of the online services also offer a kind of remote office tool, whereby users can discuss and share information. There are also the more obviously technologically-driven time-saving devices: records can be found straight away with a quick search, and calculations and updates can be made instantly. Ultimately, compared with the arduous bookkeeping methods of old, there is simply far less time and effort required to maintain financial records using an online service.
There are many services to choose from. Some of the most widely-used by UK businesses are Xero, Clear Books, KashFlow, FreeAgent and Brightbook.
XERO is arguably the best-known, and in many ways it sets the standard. It’s perfect for small- or medium-sized businesses: fairly easy to use, decently-priced (three packages: £12/£19/£24 per month) and with a range of features that no other service comes close to (due to a strong relationship with third-party developers). Really, there aren’t any downsides; though for a very small business, it perhaps offers too much functionality.
Clear Books is a cheaper, less feature-rich version of Xero. For some, the difference in cost can be enough of a benefit on its own (prices start from £9 per month), though for many it’s not worth the drop in functionality.
KashFlow, on the other hand, is a rival to Xero, though only for small businesses. It’s extremely easy to use and reasonably priced, with a single, all-inclusive package of £18 per month.
FreeAgent is different to many of its competitors: it targets freelancers and contractors. Though it can be used by small businesses, it’s really geared towards its target market, for which it’s nothing short of perfect. Though not the cheapest (£15/£20/£25), it’s certainly worth the money.
Finally, there’s the increasingly popular Brightbook. Its main selling-point is that it’s completely free. But for the serious business, that may not be enough. Overall, it offers a good and easy-to-use service, but it simply doesn’t have the functionality to compete with other products out there.