Many companies are opting to go with online accounting applications for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because it is much easier for several people to use the same file. Employees can enter their time for payroll, different departments can enter information into estimates or invoices, and when tax return time rolls around, the company's external accountant can access the same file.
If you’ve decided that online accounting is what you need as well, you might have come across offers for free online accounting software. In a new business, it is often necessary to save money whenever possible. However, one place where it is not best to cut corners is in the area of accounting. Being budget conscious, you may think about choosing one of the free programs to handle your books. However, this may not be the best idea. Some things to consider:
- Program Construction. Some of the free programs out there may have cut corners in their programming, making them either too cumbersome to use, or too simplistic to provide adequate information to suit a business' needs. Some may not provide a usable invoicing interface, and some do not offer inventory tracking.
- Security. The site where you are entering your sensitive financial data may not be 100 percent secure. Hackers could gain access to your data and possibly steal your identity, which can often lead to lost cash from your back account, new credit accounts in your name, and a host of other issues. This is very important in an era when data security and identity theft have become more common.
- Support. Some of the free online accounting programs may not have adequate support. Unless you have a background in accounting, there will likely be times when you need help with an accounting issue. There may also be technical issues with the program that could require assistance.
In contrast, when looking at online accounting software from some of the larger, more reputable companies, you will find that they are a bit different. For instance:
- Program Construction. These companies have designed their programs to be easier to use, even for the most inexperienced user. Most have invoicing capability, which allows invoices to be sent directly to the customer from inside the interface, eliminating the need to use two or three programs to simply send an invoice.
- Security. The larger companies usually have higher levels of security, ensuring that your data is kept safe from both unintentional and intentional disclosures.
- Support. Most of the more established companies have well-staffed help desks, often providing both phone and email support. Some even offer free webinars, or online training classes, so that their customers can become comfortable with the features and use of the program.
In addition, you don’t generally have to make a purchase right away. Most of the well-known, reputable online accounting services will offer a free trial period—usually 30 days. That is typically more than enough time to determine if the software is easy to use and suits your needs. Plus, there is no need to make a large outlay of cash to purchase the program. Most reputable companies will allow you to pay a very reasonable fee on a monthly basis, so that if you find that the software is no longer necessary, you can discontinue the service.