Choosing an accounts package is no longer about finding software to simply tick a few boxes to make HMRC happy. Gone are the days of buying a box off the shelf and installing it on your PC with an annual update. Now, you have a buffet of online options to choose from. The only problem being, everything looks good and there are contradicting recommendations all over the web.

You need a proper analysis.

So with that in mind, what’s at the heart of this choice?

You’re worried about Making Tax Digital

Over the coming years, HRMC are going to be monitoring small businesses a lot more closely by bringing in quarterly online accounting submissions. This big change may force your hand when it comes to updating your software, as it could mean the death of the beloved spreadsheet and a tricky journey for anyone using a software that doesn’t fit with HMRC’s criteria.

Your traditional software isn’t cutting it

With all the sparkly new online options out there, that software package you’ve been using since the beginning of time just can’t keep up. You know friends and peers are getting more than just number crunching. You need to be getting regular accurate information to help you make the big decisions about your future.

Thankfully, accounting in the cloud doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. In fact, it’s designed to make your life easier by allowing you to access your data at the touch of a button, wherever you are in the world.

Here’s a look at four accounting software packages we’re asked about the most:

Using Xero will eliminate:

The limitations of one desktop, one user

Xero can be accessed anywhere, at any time from your desktop, smart phone or tablet. You’re always connected to your data, so you deal with your finances on the go.

The fear of losing all your records

We had a devastated client lose years of transactions with Sage when her house was burgled, and her laptop was stolen. Security is key to financial data, and Xero have spent vast amounts on developing bank grade security to ensure your data is safe. Back-ups are always taken, so your data will never be lost.

Access issues between you and your accountant

Xero improves communication between you and your Advisers all year round, by giving them an instant overview of up-to-date financial data. Less time hunting down missing expenses, and lots more time to help you make proactive business decisions.

The painful upgrade process

Having implemented over 500 updates a year, Xero is constantly improving, adding new and improved features without you having to do anything.

All that time spent working in your business, rather than on it

One of the elements we’re always shouting about to our clients is the Xero marketplace. It is open-source, meaning that software developers worldwide can integrate all kinds of innovative apps that you can use to automate areas of your business.

Are there any disadvantages?

As with all new software, it can be difficult to get your head around at first, but with Xero’s intuitive design and step-by-step help guides, it can be painless and easy to get up and running.

Sage One is Sage’s cloud-based software designed to be in direct competition with Xero and Quickbooks Online.

Advantages of Sage One

Anywhere, anytime

Sage One can be accessed anywhere, at any time from your desktop, smart phone or tablet. You’re always connected to your data, so you deal with your finances on the go

Improved communication with your team and advisers 

You can share remote access immediately, without worrying about data loss and out-of-date financials

Regular updates

Rather than waiting for the disk to arrive

Are there any disadvantages?

  • If you are moving from Sage 50c to Sage One, you’ll have to learn a new system as it works very differently
  • Converting your data isn’t as straight forward and transfer of data extremely hard
  • The reporting and reports are not as comprehensive or as detailed as Sage 50c
  • You will not find the same level of support or the range of add-on apps that are available on Xero
  • It isn’t the same product as Xero and Quickbooks online. It’s a lot more basic

Sage 50c is the old workhorse of Sage that has been around since the early 1990’s and has changed very little except cosmetically.

Using Sage 50c will eliminate

The fear that comes with change

For a long time, Sage have been the leaders in desktop accountancy software, and continue to be, despite new popular options coming along.

Any concerns that your business is too big

Sage has a range of packages to accommodate for all sizes of business, from small and self-employed to large manufacturers.

Hassle when you need to adjust your payroll

Sage provides a payroll software that will require little training if you know the Sage structure already. Once you are running the payroll, you’re able to make changes during the process – a feature you don’t find with all packages.

The challenges that come with multi-currency trading

Sage helps companies both large and small to to manage transactions in multiple currencies and get the tax rates right.

Are there any disadvantages?

  • Sage 50c cloud version is very data intense and if you don’t have a really fast connection can be slow
  • Cloud data is prone to corruption and regular backups are required
  • If used in a network, it can be very time consuming to manage
  • Those unfamiliar with Sage would need to consider training to get up to speed on the quirky aspects of the software
  • It has a subscription-based model, which is not considered price competitive when reviewed against other software providers
  • Sage initiated “The Big Turn Off”, whereby they switched off automatic VAT filing on the 14th February 2018

Sage 300 is the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) product from Sage. It is designed as modular systems so that medium and large corporates can build bespoke business systems based around the finance function of the software.

Advantage of Sage 300

Designed for Medium & Large Corporates

Modular system can be tailored to provide bespoke systems for your business


Can be scaled up from a few users to hundreds on the right infrastructure

Are there any disadvantages?

  • It is a very expensive product to buy
  • You would need a lot of training on how to use the system
  • You need specialist consultants to set it up properly and get the most from the software
  • You need significant infrastructure to run the software and would require investment in either cloud or onsite systems.
  • If you are big enough to use Sage 300, then there are a lot of other packages on the market that you should look at

Using QuickBooks Online will eliminate:

Big Spending

If you’re a small business with very few users just needing the bare bones of an easy accounting software, then QuickBooks Online is a cheap option.

The limitations of desktop only

Like Xero, QuickBooks Online can be accessed anywhere, at any time from your desktop, smart phone or tablet. With a popular pre-existing desktop version, QuickBooks quickly earnt trust in their online evolution, and continue to develop.

Difficulty handling inventory

This software makes it easy to manage your stock, with automatic updates when you buy and sell products, and real-time inventory valuation.

Are there any disadvantages?

  • Whilst QuickBooks Online does allow for more than one user, it is limited. Costs increase the more users you need.
  • QuickBooks Online does provide third-party apps like Xero, however the current offering is underwhelming compared, with less apps across all accounting functions.
  • Lacks reporting functionality for all but very small businesses.

Advantages of FreeAgent

Free to use

As its name implies the software is free to use for small businesses who bank with NatWest or RBS, so it’s a good option for small businesses with few expenses

Easy-to-use system

The software is highly intuitive making it easy to use. This coupled with their numerous support resources makes it an easy option even for novice users

Facilitated payments

FreeAgent’s integration with PayPal, Stripe and GoCardless make it easy for payments. The system also allows direct payments and for bank transfers from more than 80 countries around the globe

Are there any disadvantages?

  • Freeagent does link to third-party apps but the range is rather limited
  • Not as easy to use as Xero
  • Lacks reporting functionality for all but very small businesses

We have our own Cloud Accounting Department of dedicated specialists, ready to get geeky about the complete ins and outs of what’s on offer. Yes, we can advise you on the best software on the market, but more importantly, we’re focused on finding the best solution for your individual circumstances and frustrations – and that might mean a different software solution to the ones mentioned above.

Eliminating those fears and frustrations may not mean a switch at all. We may just need to look at how we can make your existing software work better for you.

Let’s find out.

Want to find out more?

Call us on (01474) 853856 and we will put you in contact with one of our advisers, or send us an enquiry by clicking below.

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