Cloud accounting features

I'm being forced away from Sage Perpetual, so which cloud accounting has the features I need?

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I am one of the many Sage 50 perpetual licence users impacted by their decision to disable the software at the end of September.  I am up to date with the detailed conversation here and I can't see that Sage will be backing down from killing our software.  So I need to investigate cloud software to replace it.  I don't fancy the £160-odd per month Sage option, so it's one of the mainstream cloud versions for me.

Features I use regularly on Sage 50 are:

  • ODBC to get data into Excel for reporting
  • Multicurrency sales and purchase ledgers and banking
  • Importing journals on a monthly basis
  • Downloading a full transaction list into Excel (via ODBC) for easier searching

I don't want the software to treat me like I'm a bookkeeper just starting out - I've been using Sage since V9 and I know exactly what I am doing.

It seems as if an ODBC driver is an annual subscription add-on to most of the ones I have looked at (Zoho books, Quickbooks, Xero, Freshbooks, FreeAgent, Sage), which is fine.  I have configured ODBC using Microsoft Query to setup my reports from Sage, so I presume it will be similar to do so for any of these.

Is there a cloud accounting solution at approx £30 per month (which seems to be the going rate) that will let me do all of the above?  Most of them are silent on a lot of these features (but I have found that Quickbooks and Zoho books don't let you import journals).  For example I haven't been able to find out from any of them if they store transactions in a continuous numbered list as Sage does.

What I'd really like from the community is real-life user reviews or recommendations, confirming (or not) that the features I'm after exist.

Thanks in advance to all who respond.


Replies (22)

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
28th Jun 2022 17:20

You will need to adjust your processes to an extent based on the features of the new software.

SAGE is really quite odd, and you wont find anything that does it 'like SAGE desktop' so trying to "do it like we did" will end in tears. We often have posters complaining that "xero doesnt do X" and well quite frankly often it doesn't, and usually thats a good thing.

You need to rethink how you do things, and this is generally where all the time saving is. For example Xero will auto-populate purchase invoices fairly well if you email them to the system. Often requiring only a few key strokes to finish the job and attach to the transaction. This may change who does what your end.

Journal import is not a big deal as unlike SAGE its a doddle to copy and amend journals in pretty much anything else. So you can copy the prior month/year and then keep one in a draft for example finesse it over several days, and the post (or indeed amend a posted one) rather than doing all your working on excel and importing to post once or have horrible corrections all over the ledger.

Reporting is streets ahead in most mainly software, export to excel no issue. You don't need any intermediary steps. You certainly wont need to download transactions lists into excel to find stuff. You will be able to do that directly within the software and drill down (and proper drill downs where you can edit the transactions, back it out, do what you need to). If you really want to, you can dump out general ledgers pretty swiftly however but you will quickly find its easier in the software as you can then click on the transaction. Vs finding it in excel and then faffing about finding it in the software.

Hope that helps.

I mainly use Xero so I am most familiar with that. I dont like QB, but others think the opposite. I think its very much 'what you are used to'.

Thanks (6)
By HiddenAccountant
29th Jun 2022 08:27

Of the 3 that I've used (Sage, QB and Xero) I've preferred Sage but that may be due to my familiarity with Sage desktop.
I tried all 3 and still use all 3 with various clients but I am more comfortable with Sage and where I am doing the bookkeeping I put clients on Sage. QB and Xero only if client chooses those and they are doing the data entry.

Sage does have a sequential numbered audit trail just as desktop and can be searched.

I haven't needed to import journals so can't comment but copying prior journals couldn't be easier.

There are a few restrictions which require workarounds that I don't like which includes editing transactions that have been allocated or reconciled. It's a right pain. Also moving a payment from. One supplier to another where the payment has been bank reconciled.

There are several reports all of which can be exported to Excel.

I have colleagues that prefer Xero so Sage is just my preference and certainly in the way I work on desktop I feel some familiarity to it with the cloud version.

Thanks (1)
By tonyarm
30th Jun 2022 09:46

Quickbooks does let you import journals. I do it all the time. It's a great package.

Thanks (1)
Replying to tonyarm:
By Ricardol
02nd Jul 2022 18:11

Second this. You can import journals!

Thanks (0)
By nlb
30th Jun 2022 11:22

Xero. Change the way you do everything to maximise efficiency and after 2 months thank yourself. (QBO and Zoho might work also but never got into those)

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Noel Fraser
By noelfraser
30th Jun 2022 11:53

Hi there - sorry to hear you are being forced to change, however Aqilla have the ideal solution for you. I will send you a personal message with more details.


Thanks (0)
By North East Accountant
30th Jun 2022 12:46

So you've got software that works well for you and does everything that you want and on here you'll get use this, that or the other.

If it was me I'd think about checking with Sage that your price is right cos £160 per month doesn't seem quite right right to me.

Thanks (1)
Replying to North East Accountant:
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
02nd Jul 2022 00:47

I pay around £50 pa for Sage 50c Client Manager and I have many years of versions on my computer. I get 5 companies, nut it's ony around £2 pcm extra for 10 companies.

You can always edit the COMPANY (the index) file or have multiple COMPANY files so you can very quickly add / change more companies. Use notepad to edit.

See C:\ProgramData\Sage\Accounts\Company (no file extension). Much faster than removing and adding/browsing to other companies.

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By Hyprosteps
30th Jun 2022 12:47

I'm also being forced away from Sage - not happy. I'm going to Quickbooks because I use it in my other job. Someone has already said that you can import journals, but once you have the journal, the next time you have one you can copy, update as needed and save, which is a really useful feature.
Back to Sage itself, having looked into this, you 'may' be able to load an older version of Sage onto a computer/laptop that you never attach to the internet and carry on from there.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Hyprosteps:
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
02nd Jul 2022 00:40

It is not a question of internet, but whether the software tries to ping the licence server. Older versions of Sage don't use the internet to check licences. Sage emailed me saying that if you have EVER linked to the internet then Software before say 5 years ago will not work. That is complete lies. I have a heated conversation with my Sage manager over these lies. Older versions will continue to work. See my post below.

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By adam.arca
30th Jun 2022 12:56

I'm a big fan of "proper" desktop software but unfortunately it is going the way of the ark. My all-time favourite was TAS Books but Sage had become half decent in more recent years.

I've a passing familiarity with QBO and Sage Online but only for output. Xero is the only cloud software I use for input. They're all gobsmackingly slow compared to real software, however.

I would disagree with IRSK in categorising Sage as odd. For me, Sage works the way an accountant would whereas Xero has been dumbed down to be user-friendly for the non-accountant and this makes it the home of wacky, illogical (to an accountant) workarounds: ever make / receive payments on account? Then forget doing that with Xero: don't get me wrong, it can be done but it does involve another bl**dy workaround.

Thanks (4)
Replying to adam.arca:
By JacquiMBurns
30th Jun 2022 14:07

My thoughts on Sage & Xero EXACTLY!

Thanks (1)
Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
30th Jun 2022 22:31

Don't touch Sage Business Cloud - it crashes all the time and support is hit and miss.

Xero does have numbered transactions, but not as transparently as Sage - I asked Xero support about this on Monday. Here's what they said:

"Xero provides every transaction a unique ID number.

The ID numbers can be found within the reports section of Xero under the Journal Report.

The report can be located by:

Accounting > Reports > Journal report.

Xero provides every transaction with a unique Journal ID including any manual journals created within the organisation."

So they are there, but I've haven't yet tried to use them for real.

Journals can be imported, but again I've haven't tried to do this for real.

I have only posted a couple of non-GBP purchases, but again it seems to work well

Most (all?) Xero reports can be exported to Excel and works well, with less formatting than Quickbooks.

I prefer Xero to Quickbooks (I hate the way that Quickbooks assumes that you want to add a new transaction / customer / supplier all the time, even if you've just made a spelling mistake), but I appreciate there are others who think the other way (my wife for one!).

If you need something more advanced, Oracle Netsuite is good, but probably too expensive.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Beach Accountancy:
By North East Accountant
01st Jul 2022 08:55

Sage Business Cloud crashing all the time? Are you sure it's not your internet as we've rarely have a problem.

Hit and miss support - you can't beat actually speaking to someone.

I always think of Crocodile Dundee when Xero say the journal report is an audit trail compared to the proper one in Sage.

"That's not a audit trail (knife)......that's an audit trail (knife)"

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Routemaster image
By tom123
01st Jul 2022 09:23

Like to OP, I was wedded to Sage (in my case Sage 200), and had a full suite of ODBC reports exactly as I wanted, to do my month end.

There was no part of the data I couldn't get to.

Now (new job) I am using a cloud product. It's a bit ropey - no audit trail, funny quirks, but I am using it.

I have, however, told my users that they get the reports the system produces, and that is it.

As it happens, I am using transaction downloads, power query etc, but they are so I can monitor stuff for month end control - and not circulation.

You can't fight this move to cloud..

In other news, I am binning Sage payroll, and moving to a sector specific cloud product - which I am looking forward to.

However, I would have thought that serious businesses really ought to be paying in the £100s per month not just the £10s?

Thanks (0)
Routemaster image
By tom123
01st Jul 2022 09:23


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By agillies
01st Jul 2022 10:41

Sage business cloud is still way behind sage50 cloud so I would avoid for now. The price difference reflects that but I would not use business cloud until it catches up. Standard 50 price is £72 pcm with some foreign currency, £145 with full foreign so that might be why you suggest the price you have.

If your able to get the accountant version (and prices ) it should be less than the £72 and you should get several companies for that and the foreign currency seems to be included with that, although we don't use that feature. If you can get that its probably worth it as you will get the bank feeds and that should justify the extra cost from desktop. The catch in this is that you cannot give client access to the data but that might not be an issue for you.

Annoyingly the recent sage update does not allow nil value row to be skipped on import audit trail and a workaround its to delete the nil value rows, SAGE said its likely to be fixed in next update as there are a few bugs and it was big update.

For clients who need access I picked QB over Xero as they are usually smaller clients who would prefer the lower prices Xero. There are a few annoying things in QB and it can be fast and loose and clients can easily mess things up (Such as mark batches of invoices as paid accidentally instead of match with bank feeds) , but it works really well if you know how to use it and what to avoid. One QB advantage over sage is you can recode and deal with backlog bank data very quickly, although imports are limited to batches of 1000. Bigger clients should be able to justify Xero/sage higher prices.

Freeagent might we worth considering as its free to RBS/NatWest business customers - you could make that work if cost was the main issue.

Thanks (0)
01st Jul 2022 14:08

As I am sure you all know sage no longer allows you to have a simple one company version of desktop to access client data and have been very aggressive insisting that one has to have a multi company version at an extraordinary price for what is a simple task ... the result is lot of our clients have moved away from using any sage product (tends to be the larger clients with book keepers that had used desktop for sometime) and those that don't we simply remotely connect - It is plainly poor business as their aggression always costs them far more in lost income, than they would have gained, if they had shown a bit of maturity and supported accountants properly.

Thanks (1)
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
02nd Jul 2022 00:32

Sage v16-v20, (i.e. 2010 to 2014) and before doesn’t ping the licence server and WILL therefore work after TLS 1.0 is turned off. It was designed before the internet was so important. It replies on Serial Number and Activation key.

I want the ODBC and therefore I stick with the older version.

I have versions 2012 to 2022 on my computer. I use Sage 2013 (version 19) on my computer. I use it for my own firm. It's a perpetual licence. I can use ODBC report, for my own firm's management reporting.

Version 2013 (19) is simpler and faster. I'm VAT registered. I have Client Manager. Once a quarter, I prepare my VAT return, backup my data, restore to a later version and submit my MTD VAT return. It takes a few minutes each quarter end.

I WILL be able to continue using my Sage 2013 (v19) for ever, until Windows stops it. I'm sticking with my perpetual version. I have SNs and AKs, together with software on disk/downloads for versions 6 to version 20 onwards. I'm free to do what I want.

Thanks (0)
Replying to paulinleeds:
By Hugo Fair
02nd Jul 2022 09:20

"I'm free to do what I want(any old time)" ... strange, your ident doesn't look much like Sir Mick.

But good luck to you - and kudos for the foresight in retaining all the installation files (hope you've got the hardware for all those 3.5 and 5.25 inch disks)!

Thanks (1)
Replying to paulinleeds:
By North East Accountant
02nd Jul 2022 10:58

I take my hat off to your commitment to pay the least amount possible for your software and of course, you are free to do what you want.

This next comment is not aimed at you PaulinLeeds, it's a general observation.

People moan on about cloud software not doing this that or the other compared to desktop software but then in the next breath want it for nothing or complain about the price.

We (the end user) are to blame, not the software companies. Of course, they want to sell software, that's what they do so they have to tailor the product to what people will pay.

We (the end user) want an Aston Martin software for the price of a Lada.

For example, take car insurance. Two quotes one for £300 and one for £500.
Everyone goes for the £300 one but then moans because the call centre is in India.
For the £500 one the call centre is in Sunderland.

We (the end user) get what we are prepared to pay for....personally I'd pay more for more.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
By Hugo Fair
02nd Jul 2022 11:36

"People moan on about cloud software not doing this that or the other compared to desktop software but then in the next breath want it for nothing or complain about the price."

Think you've elided two dis-connected things there:
1. A perfectly valid (if unpopular) point about the costs charged for software;
2. An apparent assumption that people want cloud software 'for nothing'.

The context of much of the comment (here and on other similar recent threads) has actually been made by many who do NOT want cloud software - and would be (reasonably) happy to pay some sort of maintenance/support fee to be allowed to keep using their desktop software.

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