Top 5 Online Cloud Accounting Software for Small Businesses

Small business owners don't need to purchase expensive business accounting software programs or spend hours lost in complicated reports. Any accounting software will provide the basic applications for accounting tasks, but packages designed for small office owners and manager tend to simplify the process and provide essentials that include a general ledger, the capability to create detailed invoices or view business inventory and purchase history.

Cloud accounting services—software stored and accessed online—is an attractive option for small business owners. When using cloud accounting software, IT tasks such as version upgrades and data backup are managed by the application vendor.

In looking at small business accounting options, CIO.com specifically looked for applications designed to meet both the budget and the needs of a typical small office or small business. We chose five cloud accounting service options available cost $20 or less per month and are easy to use—even for small business owners with little or no experience with accounting tasks.

Here are some of the best known free cloud accounting software for small businesses you can choose from.

FreshBooks

freshbooks

FreshBooks is a simple cloud accounting application designed to help small business owners to get organized and get paid. Since it's a hosted accounting service, you can access your business data everywhere—on a mobile device or desktop computer—and your data is secure and backed up for you.

FreshBooks features options for online payments, expense tracking, time-tracking and accounting reports and taxes. Highlights include customizing invoices, sending late payment reminders, automatic and recurring-expense tracking, managing different rates for multiple projects and profit/loss reports.

Small business owners will appreciate FreshBooks' guided step-by-step wizard and help boxes that appear each time you perform a new task, such as create a new invoice or add a new client to your records. As you familiarize yourself with FreshBooks, you can turn these helpful tips off.

QuickBooks

quickbooks

Today, QuickBooks is synonymous with small business accounting. While a number of standalone and hosted versions are available, QuickBooks Online Simple Start is a good value for small office accounting needs.

The online version is $12.95 per month and includes a 30-day free trial. This software makes it easy to create invoices, track sales and expenses, download banking transactions and access business data on any mobile device. Other handy features in Online Simple Start include check printing and exporting data to Microsoft Excel.

If you need a little more functionality than QuickBooks Online provides, there are a few add-ons. These include the "Payroll Bundle" to pay your employees and a merchant service app to accept debit, credit cards and checks in QuickBooks Online.

Xero

xero

With Xero online accounting, you can share access to the latest numbers and check cash flow in real-time. Once loaded, Xero offers a dashboard to quickly view your bank balances, invoices, bills and expense claims. There's also an interactive graph to show money going in and out; you can also monitor specific data accounts from the dashboard.

One standout feature in Xero is the capability to collaborate online so small business employees can work as a team on financials. You can share your data and collaborate with your accountant and bookkeeper to get the advice you need. Xero lets you invite an unlimited number of people for free; you control what each person can see.

The invoicing system lets you customize invoices and connect with your customers through online invoicing. There are also options to create repeating invoices and schedule bill payments, and all payments, returns and credits are tracked automatically.

Pricing for Xero starts at $19 per month. Mobile apps for Apple, Android and Blackberry are available. Third-party add-ons can expand Xero functionality by incorporating CRM, inventory management, invoicing, job systems and other specialized business tasks.

Wave Accounting

wave accounts

Managing your small business is hard enough. Staying on top of your finances without an in-house accountant is even harder. From sending invoices to paying bills, tracking expenses, managing daily transactions and paying your staff, manually performing accounting tasks and inputting data can take up all your time and energy. And unless you're an accountant, creating financial reports and making sense of your business's numbers and financial health may as well be rocket science. Accounting software can help by automating these tasks, so you can spend less time dealing with your finances and more time running your business.

As a small business owner, every cent counts. But most accounting software require monthly subscriptions, and many are often too complex or have too many capabilities for microbusinesses. Instead of wasting money on a service packed with features you likely won't even use, consider trying out Wave's free accounting software tools.

Zoho Books

zoho

Zoho Books is an online accounting software that allows you to easily manage the money flowing in and out of your business. Manage your customers and invoices, while keeping expenses in check. Record, monitor and reconcile your bank accounts and transactions, and collaborate with your accountant in real-time. Most importantly, Zoho Books helps you make better, more informed decisions and stay on top of your business.

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