When you’re running a startup, there’s so much work to be done and changes to keep up with that it can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to choose an accounting software that’s personalized to your very specific needs.
After all, a great accounting software program can save loads of time and is incredibly more efficient than manually handling the books. But with so many accounting software options, it can be tough to know where to start, especially if finance isn’t your strong suit.
If you’re worried about what to look for, here are the top questions you need to know before choosing the accounting software for your business.
1. You Need the Right Features
This is the easiest place to start. Which are the most important features that your business can’t live without in its accounting software?
A basic package should include, of course, basic financials for billing and invoicing, sales tracking expenses, etc. But depending on your structure, size, and needs, you can look for customized features that will make your business more efficient.
For example, if you provide products, look for features that manage inventory.
Want to streamline your financials by keeping everything in one place? Choose a tax prep and management feature or even employee payroll.
Need help streamlining your employees’ output? Choose a program with project management and time tracking.
If you’re a bigger business, or if you do international sales, you might want to look for multi-currency transactions.
2. You’ve Got to Have Data Security
If you’re choosing an online accounting software program, this is probably the most crucial consideration you’ll make.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few programs, ask each provider about the security measures they take to keep your data safe. Specifically, you can find out how each company stores their data.
Amazon and Rackspace are two of the top-tier cloud hosting service providers, but some companies will host the data on their own servers. In this case, you’ll want to check and make sure they’re using HTTPS connection.
3. Your Accounting Software Should Be Easy to Use
A good accounting software program should be complex in what it offers, but not in its design and usability. After all, if you’re in a creative or non-financial field, numbers are most likely not your forte.
Your accounting software should be easy enough to use that all employees are able to do at least the most basic of tasks—you can check accounting software reviews for an insider’s look from real users of each program.
You can also utilize software review sites to find similar software programs and investigate the competitors of popular tools. You can even compare 2 or 3 tools head to head to get a general feel for strengths and weaknesses of each program and discover first-hand what real users have to say and wish they knew before investing into a specific tool.
Look for a clean interface and navigation, plenty of tutorials and/or training videos for easy learning, and most importantly support—most programs will offer a live chat, or email and phone support, so the more your program offers, the better off you’ll be should any issues arise.
4. Your Account Software Shouldn’t Break You Bank
Is your business able to spring for a top-of-the-line program? It’s better to choose a higher tiered package of course, especially if you think your business will grow.
On the other hand, if your startup is in its early stages and not able to afford this, test out the free trials (or schedule a demo) first to make sure the program will be a good fit for your business.
If you fall somewhere in the middle, consider a platform that offers the basic accounting features but without all the technical post-sale support, which so often drives up costs.
5. As You Grow You Need an Accounting System that Scales
If you’re a small startup, it makes sense to choose a program that fits your needs at the moment. But if your business is poised to grow, it’s a big mistake to limit yourself to an accounting program that can’t keep up with your demand.
Does your software program provide modules or features—payroll, for example—you can add on at an extra date? If not, will your provider allow you to upgrade to a higher tier once you grow to the point that requires more capabilities? And if so, what are the costs associated?
It may seem like a lot of work to contact the support or browse tutorial videos of multiple programs when you’re only going to use one, but the research will pay off. And review sites like TrustRadius make doing software research a lot easier.
After all, once you’ve committed all your data and taken the time to learn a new software application, it’ll be much more difficult to switch later on. So do your research, test a few free trials, and consider all of these options. You’ll have a solid fit for your company and avoid a lot of headache down the road.
Editor’s Note: The article is part of the blog series Run Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.