SFR-small-biz-icons-accounting-softwareAccounting software programs can minimize the amount of time spent on administrative functions so you can focus on other aspects of your business. These systems are designed to ensure that your business financials are accurate, reliable, and easy to understand. At Summit Financial Resources, we have also seen how they can help speed up your cash flow, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and ultimately help your business grow.

As your resource for working capital financing, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of putting the right accounting software in place. There are a number of options available, and we are often asked which ones are user-friendly for small businesses. We decided to post overviews of some of the most popular programs, starting with Xero.

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A Cloud-Based Solution Designed for Small Businesses

A technology entrepreneur and a small business accountant created Xero in 2006 in New Zealand. It has been growing steadily since, partnering with a number of major financial service providers including ADP and PayPal.

According to PC Magazine, this web-based accounting system “gets a lot of things right.” While Xero does not match desktop QuickBooks Premier Edition 2013 in terms of features, customizability, and extensibility, it is a solid small accounting solution tailored to small businesses. You can grant access to an unlimited number of users, both within and outside of your company, and adjust settings to customize each user’s level of access.

Xero was an early entrant in the field of cloud-based accounting, and the company’s developers work hard to stay ahead of the curve with frequent product updates. Xero also integrates with hundreds of other applications that facilitate nearly every aspect of business operation, including inventory management, CRM, and POS (not all of these apps are available in the United States.)

A Wealth of Features

By all accounts, Xero’s feature set is comprehensive, and every major accounting function is supported. The recent addition of inventory support and estimates fills what was once a large gap in this software. Xero has a number of features which customers praise as time savers, including automatic bank feeds, bill tracking, invoicing, and options for group invoices.

A feature request and voting system in its community forums allows the company to develop the software in response to user requests. Recent updates include improvements to the reporting and contacts features, as well as integration with Office 365. One shortcoming is that Xero offers its payroll feature in only 24 U.S. States. They plan to add the balance of the states later this year, but no end-date has been set.

Xero’s feature selection is not as robust as that of QuickBooks Pro, which means it may not be the ideal choice for business owners with complex accounting needs. You’ll find a complete list of features on the Xero website.

Simply Intuitive

Simplicity is a Xero hallmark. It is highly intuitive in layout and design and strikes a balance between ease of use for business owners and functionality for accountants.

Xero advertises its service as “beautiful accounting software” with a user interface that is clean and well organized. It follows standard Windows/Web conventions, which makes navigation a breeze. The dashboard offers a quick overview of accounts, and it’s easy to see items that need immediate attention. There are also tabs for Accounts, Payroll, Reports, Adviser, Contacts, and Settings, each of which provides access to a variety of drop-down options.

Xero excels at orienting new users, offering a comprehensive walk-through of major setup procedures. The software’s simplicity compared to most desktop accounting software, combined with its wealth of features, makes it a superior solution for many small business accounting needs.

One drawback is that Xero’s mobile apps for iPhone/iPad and Android lack most of the features of the software. If you frequently work from a phone or tablet, the limited functionality and tendency to crash can quickly become an issue. Although the company has made progress in addressing this, its apps still lag behind the software’s desktop version.

Responsive Customer Support

Customer service support is available 24/7/365, and the consensus is Xero’s reps are responsive and knowledgeable. Support is provided via email, and the lack of inbound phone access is a concern for many users. Issues cited include overly long resolution times and quality that varies depending on the nature of the problem (the simpler the problem, the faster the response.) It’s possible that Xero’s once-outstanding customer service may not be keeping pace with the company’s rapid growth, but it still gets better marks overall than its competitors.

Top-Notch Security

The company takes pride in noting that its software has never been breached. All user data is SSL encrypted, and servers are protected from both electronic and physical access by any unauthorized personnel. Xero also provides support for two-factor authentication and undergoes routine third-party security audits. Customer data is backed up daily to an off-site location.

Priced Right for Small Businesses

You can try the full version of the program free for 30 days, an option we recommend to determine if it’s a good fit for your business. Xero offers several pricing tiers that include updates as they are released. There are no contracts; you pay monthly and can cancel the service at any time.

For many small businesses, Xero is a viable cloud-based accounting solution, offering a good midpoint between comprehensive installation-based software (which is more than most small businesses need) and basic cloud-based accounting software.

A good accounting system will empower you to do far more than track your financials or simplify tax prep. It will provide you with a fresh perspective on how efficiently your business is running, and help you run it even better.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.