Updated: Accounts and invoicing software: Top 5 on the market

Updated: Accounts and invoicing software: Top 5 on the market

Introduction

SMB accounts

Note: Our best accounts software round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in July 2014.

Where business is concerned, it goes without saying that keeping your finances in order is imperative. Not only is it necessary in order to ensure that invoices are sent out and paid on time and to help with forecasting cash flow, but detailed financial records are critical when the taxman comes knocking.

Fortunately, this is much easier than it used to be. Today's accounts and invoicing packages are built for business owners, not accountants, which means there's no complicated jargon and you can be up and running in minutes.

Pick a cloud-based service and you'll be able to monitor your business from anywhere, on just about any device. And there's no need to worry about backups, because the provider will handle that for you.

Choosing the right accounting software for your business can be more of a challenge, as there are so many features to consider. Okay, you know you need invoicing, but what about quotes? Time tracking? Purchases, payroll, credit control and more? Every package has its own mix of features, and they're not always directly comparable.

It's unlikely that you'll have the time to trawl through trial after trial of potential software to find the one that is right for your organisation, so here we're going to highlight some of the best packages available to help you get started.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks

Price: $11.66 (around £8, AU$16) per month, paid annually

FreshBooks is a popular cloud-based accounting service designed specifically for small business owners.

The package has plenty of features – invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking, a host of business reports, even an option to take credit card payments (for a 2.3% transaction fee) – but a straightforward interface aimed at non-accountants ensures you'll be up-and-running right away.

Despite the simplicity, there's real depth here. You can bill in any currency, save time by setting up recurring invoices, allow customers to pay via credit card by checking a box, even automatically bill their credit card to keep life simple for everyone.

If you need more power, the system integrates with many other services, including PayPal, MailChimp and Basecamp, Gusto, Zendesk and more.

Management hassles are kept to a minimum. You're able to access and use the system from your desktop or its free iOS and Android apps, and because it's a cloud-based system there's no need to worry about backups.

If this sounds appealing, you can try FreshBooks for 30 days without using a credit card. Pricing after that is straightforward, as the only major difference between the accounts is your number of clients. The baseline $11.66 (around £8, AU$16) per month (paid annually) covers you for five clients, $17.96 (around £13, AU$24) allows billing 20 clients, $26.96 (around £19, AU$36) covers you for up to 200 and $35.96 (around £25, AU$49) gets you unlimited billing, plus extra staff and team tracking tools.

Intuit QuickBooks

Intuit QuickBooks

Price: From £7 (around $10, AU$13) per month

Intuit QuickBooks may have been around since the days of DOS, but the latest version is right up-to-date – it's an easy-to-use cloud-based suite for just about all your business needs.

Even the baseline £7 (around $10, AU$13) per month account has plenty of features: invoicing, expense tracking, payment handling (with a 2.25% transaction free), plus it allows you to track and calculate VAT, and manage payroll and pensions for an extra £1 per employee per month.

Just like FreshBooks, there are a pile of apps to add more features: inventory management, Shopify integration, job scheduling, CRM and more. These can be expensive – many services cost more than QuickBooks itself – but there are exceptions. Add GoCardless, for instance, and you're able to set up and take regular Direct Debit payments from customers for a mere 1% transaction fee capped at £2 – and there are no sneaky setup charges or other hidden extras.

The starting £7 (around $10, AU$13) per month account doesn't have everything you get with the FreshBooks equivalent. Recurring invoice support and multiple currencies only arrive with the £15 (around $21, AU$29) per month plan, and time tracking is only available in the £25 (around $35, AU$40) per month QuickBooks Plus. Although that does give you many other valuable tools, including budgeting and stock level management.

Overall we'd usually prefer FreshBooks, but there's plenty to like about QuickBooks, too, and with free trials available it's easy to try them both.

Xero

Xero

Price: From $9 (around £6, AU$12) per month

Xero might grab your attention with its low $9 (around £6, AU$12) per month Starter account – and even that is discounted to $6.30 (around £4.50, AU$8.50) for the first six months – but look closely and issues soon appear. Like being limited to sending a maximum of five invoices, enter five bills, or reconcile only 20 bank transactions.

Still, if you can live with those restrictions there are some pluses here. The service offers smart expense tracking and management, optionally on your mobile with Xero's excellent app for Android and iOS. There are 40+ configurable reports, simple budgeting, and no limits at all on users or the accountants you might want to access the data.

If the invoice, bank or billing issues are a problem then the Xero Standard plan looks like a better deal. It's a lot more money at $30 (around £21, AU$41) per month, but you can issue as many invoices as you like, and there's a capable payroll system for some locations, with time and attendance tracking for up to five employees.

One disappointment is the shortage of support for multiple currencies, which only arrives if you sign up for Xero Premium ($70 per month – that's around £49, AU$95).

Xero offers plenty of functionality, including a handy "convert your QuickBooks files" service to help you get started, and it's certainly easy to use. But if you don't quite need all that power, there's better value to be had elsewhere.

Sage One

Sage One

Price: From £10 (around $14, AU$19) per month

Sage One makes a good first impression with its clear and straightforward pricing. There's no lengthy list of complicated plans, no paying for major features you'll never use, just a single accounting product with add-ons such as payroll available if you need them.

If you actually need a lot of functionality, this can be a problem. Subscribing to FreshBooks gets you payment handling thrown in, for example, and it's easily enabled in a few seconds. Sage One can also take credit card and direct debit payments, but this is hidden away in a Sage Pay add-on which you must find yourself and open separately.

Still, there's no doubt that the core Sage Accounting offers good value. Just £10 (around $14, AU$19) per month gets you modules to manage quotes, invoices, handle and submit VAT online, smart bank feeds and reconciliation, cash flow forecasting, some detailed reports, multiple currency support, project tracking and more, all available from your desktop or via a mobile app.

All this is well presented and generally easy to use. If you run into trouble, detailed web help and video tutorials are only a click or two away (take a look yourself to get a feel for what's involved).

Sage also offers a basic Start account. This has no quotes or invoicing, just core essentials like cost and income management, customer and supplier records and bank feeds, but it's only £5 (around $7, AU$10) per month and could be enough for sole traders.

KashFlow

KashFlow

Price: From £5 (around $7, AU$10) per month

Getting started with an accounting package (or switching from one to another) can seem like an intimidating and complicated task, but KashFlow goes to unusual lengths to make it easy.

Support for importing data from QuickBooks, Sage or Excel gets you up to speed quickly. The interface is straightforward, there's no accounting jargon to catch you out, and there are various invoice and other templates which you can start using right away.

The program has plenty of functionality to explore, covering all the key areas you'd expect. You can manage customer and supplier details, record and automate purchases, create quotes and estimates, convert them to invoices as required, automatically import your bank transactions, and have the system automatically alert you of late payers, and even print out reminder letters for the worst offenders.

KashFlow is a UK business, which means plenty of benefits for UK-based users. The package doesn't just calculate VAT figures, for instance – it produces VAT Returns and EC Sales lists, and can file them directly to HMRC from within the program.

KashFlow's £5 (around $7, AU$10) per month Starter account has some big restrictions – namely a maximum of 10 invoices and 25 banking transactions per month, single currency only – but otherwise seems very capable to us.

We think most people will prefer the £10 (around $14, AU$19) per month Business account, which removes the limits and can integrate with 85+ other systems and services (WorldPay, PayPal, stripe, GearShift, Dropbox and more). Alternatively, spending £15 (around $21, AU$29) per month gets you a capable payroll system for as many employees as you need – there are no extra charges per person.

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Microsoft shows Edge is the best web browser for long battery life

Microsoft shows Edge is the best web browser for long battery life

Microsoft's own testing, and claimed the real-world figures, show that Edge is a battery powerhouse.

Microsoft reckons that you'll get more battery life out of your notebook when browsing the web with Edge in comparison to rivals such as Google's Chrome or Firefox.

Obviously this is when running Windows 10 (the only OS in which the Edge browser is available), and Redmond's tests show that the average power consumption under an identical workload was 2,068mW for its own browser, compared to 2,819mW for chrome and 3,161mW for Firefox. Opera, with Battery Saver mode enabled, came in at 3,077mW.

Edge is the clear winner when it comes to power sipping, then, and Microsoft says that its testing shows that you'll get between 36% and 53% more battery life with Edge, which is a very serious boost for those surfing on the go.

These were lab tests conducted using a Surface Book hooked up to power monitoring equipment which measured the amount of juice being used across a range of typical tasks – opening sites, new tabs, scrolling down web pages and watching videos. As mentioned, Redmond says that the browsers were tested under an identical workload.

Chrome didn't shine with video

Microsoft also set up a straight video streaming test running these browsers with the same clip on identical laptops (the Surface Book again), and found that Chrome actually flaked out first at the 4 hours 20 minutes mark.

Firefox lasted for 5 hours 9 minutes, with Opera managing 6 hours 18 minutes, and Edge coming top of the tree with 7 hours 22 minutes. So Microsoft's browser actually outdid Chrome by 70% and Firefox by 43%.

As well as these various laboratory-based battles between the browsers, Redmond also pointed to data collected from Windows 10 devices which backs its own conclusions up, and rates Edge with the lowest power consumption.

These aggregated telemetry figures (which have been a source of controversy for some, and a reason to avoid upgrading) show that Microsoft's browser is again in pole position, although it's actually not too far ahead of Firefox in this case, hitting 465mW for power consumption per browser compared to 493mW for Mozilla's effort.

However, Chrome was again considerably off the pace at 720mW. If there's one browser that gets a fair battering in these tests, it's Google's – and we're sure the search giant will have something to say about that.

Beating the drum

Microsoft doesn't stop its Windows 10/Edge drum-beating there, though, with the company noting that next month's Anniversary Update will see more power efficiency tweaks, and its browser will use less memory and CPU cycles still.

This big update will also see further new features being introduced to Edge, including Flash content automatically getting paused unless it's central to the web page (the user can opt to play said content if they wish, but by default, it won't be running – minimizing potential security and performance issues).

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GoToMyPC hit by ‘sophisticated attack’ – change your password now

GoToMyPC hit by 'sophisticated attack' – change your password now

At the weekend, it emerged that Citrix's GoToMyPC service has been hit by some form of attack, necessitating all users to reset their passwords to ensure accounts aren't compromised.

News of the incident first emerged on Saturday, and there was a further update from Citrix yesterday, with the company announcing that its remote PC access tool had been hit by a "very sophisticated password attack".

Whether this was an outright hack of the firm's own systems, or spillage from a third-party breach wasn't made clear, although you can only assume it was the former – because if there was any suspicion of the latter, it would probably have been mentioned.

No indication of how many users were potentially affected was given.

Citrix's security team called for a password reset across the user base, so if you've not logged in since the weekend, you'll need to perform the reset before you can use the service again.

Strengthen that password

Citrix advised: "To reset your password please use your regular GoToMyPC login link." Furthermore, the firm noted that you should use a strong password for the new one, including a mix of characters preferably with some capital letters and symbols.

It's also worth noting that GoToMyPC offers two-step verification, so it might be worth setting that up with a view to protecting your account against similar attacks in the future. In all honesty, wherever some form of two-factor authentication is offered, you should really set it up, what with the increasing amount of hack attacks and breaches happening these days.

Back at the start of this month, TeamViewer users also suffered compromised accounts, although in this case the company claimed a hack was definitely not the cause, and rather the breaches were down to the same passwords being reused across online accounts (with the password being discovered via a breach of another company).

Via: PC World

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8 business apps every IT leader needs on their smartphone

8 business apps every IT leader needs on their smartphone

Introduction

Slack

Technical management is a different beast compared to business leadership. For technical folks, you have to know which tools are available in an organisation and have a way to manage the operation beyond the ledger and the employee org chart. In many ways, it's all about having the right tools to manage effectively rather than relying only on your personality and mentoring skills (although it's still important as ever to have people skills in any business).

To find out which mobile apps are the most critical in IT today – the ones that provide what technical managers need to get the job done in a complex IT environment – we asked several leaders to share what they keep on their home screen at all times.

Some of the apps are highly technical, a few are used in all areas of business, and some are completely indispensable. These apps are available on Android, iPhone and iPad as well.

1. Jenkins

Jenkins

This continuous integration platform has an associated app you can run on a smartphone. Theo Schlossnagle, founder of the analytics and monitoring software company Circonus, says his team uses the Jenkins app and it's like having a huge staff of testers because of how it tracks all engineering changes before they go into live production.

"Every change made by anyone in engineering is put through the ringer and all of the processes required are automated," he says.

2. Google Authenticator

Google Authenticator

IT execs are champions of good security. Because mobile devices are so easy to leave on a plane or at a coffee shop, there should be a way to protect IT systems from your phone.

Gene Richardson, the COO of Experts Exchange, an online community of IT professionals, told techradar pro that their team uses the Google Authenticator app (see here for Android, here for iOS) as the second factor in two-factor authentication because it generates new keys every 60 seconds. It's the basis of a good security infrastructure in many ways because of how it controls access to the other apps used in IT.

3. Trello

Trello

Task management is a critical part of IT leadership. Dimitris Athanasiadis, the General Manager at Megaventory, an online inventory management system, uses this app to keep track of projects and, in his words, make sure nothing is ever forgotten.

One of the key features is the ability of the Trello app to split discussions into boards for easier management. Task assignments help team members know who is doing what, and they can comment on other tasks. As part of the project cycle, employees can also attach files from services like Google Drive and Dropbox.

4. MobileDay

MobileDay

This handy app can read your Google Cal conference call data so that you can press one button to join. Bask Iyer, the CIO of VMware, told techradar pro he uses the MobileDay app for conference calls throughout the day as a way to avoid having to look up the information and type it in manually.

The app has its own conference bridge capabilities to create a call, but it also reads data from popular services like WebEx, GoToMeeting, Google+ Hangouts, and Lync. The app further unifies communication between call participants by sending notifications and reminders.

5. Slack

Slack

Easily one of the most mentioned apps for IT execs, Slack now has millions of users. As an email replacement, the app is intended to give employees a way to open up their communication in a forum where anyone on the team can participate and avoid threaded messages.

Schlossnagle uses it as the de facto comms tool. He observes: "Using Slack ties the engineering team together and binds them to the rest of the organisation. Slack's superb mobile experience makes it useful for road warriors and executives that find themselves away from the keyboard. All of the tools we use tie into slack to provide a cohesive real-time conversation about business."

6. Freshdesk

Freshdesk

Customer support is vital in any company. Depending on your company size, you may not have a full staff working at a helpdesk. Freshdesk is one option because it essentially takes all of the disparate communication about tech support from emails and combines that information into one portal.

"Freshdesk is very helpful in that it includes a full-blown ticketing system complete with Knowledge Base so it's a full support suite for our subscribers. Localisation capability is a significant asset too, as well as integration of phone support," says Athanasiadis.

7. PagerDuty

PagerDuty

Incident response requires that an 'agile organisation' actually becomes agile. The idea is to remove the lag between an IT services issue and the resolution – and PagerDuty is a powerful app because it fills this void. You can respond to incidents in IT with a quick swipe. You can also review incident history and see details.

"With PagerDuty, IT operations teams can minimise business-disrupting events," says Ryan van Biljon, the Director of Technical Services at Samanage, an IT service management company. "It allows us to centralise alerts from any monitoring stack or service, ensuring that we have visibility into our entire infrastructure. The smart scheduling tool allows us to send alerts to the right teams, and wake the right people."

8. Robin Rooms

Robin Rooms

It's not an IT leader's job to manage conference rooms, right? That's why Van Biljon from Samanage uses Robin Rooms, a way to book and monitor conference rooms. Teams can quickly find out if a room is big enough for the meeting, if it has the right amenities, and if it is available. Samanage mounted tablets next to each room so the team can book right at the door.

The alternative is to use a much more expensive conference room booking system that uses its own LCD touch panels, a proprietary app, and a backend that also adds extra complexity.

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