Internet Based Accounting Programs

Web Accounting Tools

Online accounting software is easily accessible, cheap (usually a low monthly service subscription fee rather than a large upfront fee to purchase the software), and there is no technical installation. Because the accounting software is provided online upgrades are automatic or easy to access with a click of your mouse and back-ups are routinely performed by the application service provider (ASP) saving you time and money.

Online accounting provides you with access to your financial information anytime and anywhere. This is particularly advantageous if you are a business with multiple locations or if you travel a lot and need to access your information.

Another advantage of online accounting over desktop packages is the online platform facilitates cooperation between accountants and their clients. Both the client and the accountant can log into the system and see and work from the same up-to-date financial information. There is never a need to send information back and forth by mail, fax or in person. Questions can be dealt with over the telephone with both you and the accountant looking at the same information. Communication is vastly improved and the chance of errors reduced.

One of the big concerns about any internet application is security of the data. This is especially true of accounting applications. People do not want their financial data lost, stolen or destroyed.

Most ASP’s deliver a higher level of security protection than most traditional desktop or client server accounting software. The ASP’s are constantly updating their encryption, firewall and anti-virus systems and ASP’s provide multiple layers of protection to keep hackers out of their systems. Because their business is dependent on ensuring all their customers are confident of their security measures great care is taken to make sure security is state-of-the-art. This service comes as part of your monthly subscription fee and eliminates the need for you or your staff to update your own encryption, firewall and anti-virus systems.

The automatic nightly backups of your data provided by most online accounting application providers is an added security feature. Your data is no longer backed up (if you or your staff remembers to run the backup) on a storage media that requires you find secure, off site locations for storage. One of the greatest risks associated with data stored in any form is that the data will be destroyed by a fire or flood or other natural or manmade disaster or that the computer, hard drive or disk the data is stored on will be damaged, stolen or lost. When the ASP backs up your data the backup is stored in a secure, fireproof location.

The most difficult challenge for most of us is to let go of the belief that our data is more secure if we keep physical possession of the data. Nothing could be further from the truth. Who would you rather have ensuring the security of your financial information, a low level technical support person or an entire staff of security professionals?

In these tough economic times when everyone is looking to reduce expenses and maximize profits many businesses and individuals are looking at or have already begun to use online accounting applications.

Initially many are wary of the havoc and expense that a switch to a new accounting system may involve. After all you have invested considerable time, effort and money in your existing accounting system. You are comfortable using your existing system. And it is not easy to find the time to research and test a new system.

However the switch to an online accounting system does not have to be complicated and will most likely save you money in the end. There are several established online accounting service providers and many start-ups. Just go to your favorite search engine and type in “online accounting applications” and a wide variety of providers will appear. Check out the systems’ functionality, monthly cost and any fees for upgrades and customer service. Be sure you are comfortable with the ASP’s reputation for reliability. There are expert and customer reviews of the various ASP’s that will assist you in your research. All the providers will also provide demonstration versions to allow you to personally experience how the system works before you sign up..

By design most online software can be accessed through any standard web browser and is intuitive to use with user friendly menus, icons and data entry screens. Because there is no need to download and install the software getting started on an online accounting application is easier than with traditional software.

You may want to begin your research with three major ASP’s offering accounting services: Quicken (now also offering Mint personal accounting products), QuickBooks Online and NetSuite.

Quicken online is a popular online personal accounting option often recommended to their clients by accountants. The biggest consumer complaint about Quicken Online is that the tool is complicated and cumbersome. Quicken recently acquired Mint an award winning, upstart, online accounting application. Mint is widely recognized for its simple to use design which successfully competed with Quicken’s more complicated data-entry process as consumers looked for easier ways to manage their money. Quicken intends to begin to drive its personal accounting customers to the Mint application.

QuickBooks Online is a very basic free online accounting application. QuickBooks also offers the Basic and Plus online accounting applications for small monthly subscription fees.

Netsuite’s Simply Accounting web-based business software package includes financial management, budgeting, payroll, electronic bill paying, check writing and invoicing capability. The data entry screens resemble traditional accounting spreadsheet formats and a drag and drop functionality makes the program easy to use and learn.

An online accounting service may be just the ticket if you do not want to make a large investment in accounting hardware and software and have relatively straightforward accounting needs. If you have multiple locations, outsource your accounting work to a firm at a location different from your business location, or need to access your financial information while you are traveling an online accounting application is ideal.

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