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Thinking of changing from Sage 50

Thinking of changing from Sage 50

I started my practice in September last year and decided that Sage 50 was going to me my software of choice.  The reasons for this were:

1) I've used Sage extensively in the past and know what it can and can't do

2) It seemed to have more functionality than other online systems for management information (far more analysis codes, cost centres, bespoke reporting, etc)

I do A LOT of detailed management information for my clients so MI functionality is crucial.

I work from home and have reached a stage where I need to think about employing some help - i.e.: a bookkeeper.  I'm not making fortunes by any stretch so don't want the added expense of an office.  Therefore I need software that can be used by remote workers.

This is where Sage lets itself down quite badly.  It seems that to enable remote access to my Sage files I would need to buy an expensive server and host the data files on that so that remote workers could dial in.  This all sounds very complicated and very expensive to me.  I guess alternatively we could email backups around (or save them to dropbox or something similar) but this seems inefficient and there is a of risk of using the wrong file, etc.

I'm keen to understand what the alternatives are and what other small practices do.

Requirements are:

1) Must have an integrated inventory/stock module

2) Must have bespoke reporting capability

3) Must have cost centre or similar functionality

4) Must be able to import transactions from spreadsheets a la Sage

5) Integration with eBay and/or Amazon would be nice but not essential

6) Auto calculated depreciation, prepayment/accrual release

7) Compatible with VT accounts and (ideally) BTC tax software

8) Enables multiple users accessing the system at the same time from different locations

9) Annual licence fee <£1k (for say 20-25 clients)

10) Foreign currency functionality

Options I've seen so far are:

Sage One - not enough functionality

Kashflow - I looked at this as an alternative to Sage last year, but the lack of bespoke reports and cost centres/analysis codes meant I couldn't use it

Xero - as far as I can tell I would need to pay a licence fee for each client of up to £20 per month.  This would get prohibitively expensive

Iris - I spoke to someone from Iris a while ago and he advised me to carry on using Sage as my main bookkeeping/accounting package due to Iris' limited functionality

What other options are out there, and is there anything in my analysis above that isn't right?

I know some people may argue that clients should be paying monthly licence fees for their own cloud software, but frankly I have enough trouble persuading them to pay a sensible fee as it is, never mind adding on an extra £240 for online accounting software!

Thanks in advance


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04th May 2012 09:26

How about using hosted services?

They could put your data and your Sage L50 on their server, and you can then use it from any location.

There is a cost involved, but it would be much cheaper than having your own server, or buying online accounting for each client.

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04th May 2012 09:29

Check you thinking on SaaS pricing

Hi Chris, I refer to your comment "as far as I can tell I would need to pay a licence fee for each client of up to £20 per month".

This is a cost that to your client, not you. If they replace their Sage file then they might be paying Xero £240 pa (say) but are relieved from the cost of upgrading their copy of Sage every year - and also possibly from annual SageCover costs?

This logic applies to any cloud software compared with desktop products.


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04th May 2012 09:36

Online Sage

If you are happy with Sage 50 and are only considering moving because it would be too expensive to host it yourself - would you consider renting the software already hosted?

With a bureau license from Online50 you get unlimited company datasets and the client's data can be in any version from Line 50 v8.  Also if you bring in bookkeepers to work on specific clients, you could limit them to only seeing those clients and no others - while you retain the ability to see them all.  You could share files and folders within the team (a simple virtual file server).  You can backup your local version of Sage and load it straight into the online version and visa versa.

Online50 also offers integration with Office (for email, excel etc), with Tradebox for integration with Amazon/ Ebay etc and many others besides.



Disclosure: I work for Online50


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04th May 2012 10:19

I should have made this a bit clearer in my original post - none of my existing clients have their own accounting software.  Not intentional on my part - they are all pretty small businesses who don't do any in house bookkeeping or accounting.


Hence if I were to go down something like the Xero route (unless I've read their pricing incorrectly) I'm looking at £20 per month per client.  A  cost that I'll struggle to pass on to the clients.


I'd be interested to hear what people think of alternatives to Sage as while it seems OK at the moment and there may be options to continue using it, my mind is open to other programmes as well

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04th May 2012 13:58

My take on this

OK, Chris, given your new information, all I can do is tell you how I would deal with things in your situation. This is, therefore, a subjective view and reflects my own preferences and philosophy.

I would sign up as a Xero Partner. Xero Partners get access to a special "cut-down" version of Xero called "Cashbook". This is a version of Xero that caters only for money in and money out - not sales or purchase control accounts. It is priced at £9 per month.

Cashbook allows clients to upload their bank statements from online banking. I would tell my bookkeeping-averse clients to make sure that all of their business transactions are passed through the business bank account. That way the bank does their bookkeeping for them. Cash can be passed in and out of the bank with little effort, if there are cash transactions - and a debit card for the business bank account makes sure that incidental expenses still go through the account.

Uploaded client bank statements therefore contain all of the required money in and money out transactions. It is then a simple matter for me, the accountant, to code the transactions to the relevant nominal accounts, and account for VAT on each transaction as needed.

Because Xero remembers transactions, it will automatically post subsequent examples of the same transaction once it has seen one before. After a few months, a large percentage of uploaded transactions will be automatically posted by Xero for me.

I now have a quick and easy way to process my clients bookkeeping and have the data in an online system that allows me to do detailed management reports. I can also upgrade the client as they grow and need more functionality.

This new time-saving regime costs me £9 per month per client. This is easily covered by the time saved by me each month and therefore I still make a great profit when I send each monthly bookkeeping invoice.

Because the client will quickly see that they also have much less work to do, getting information prepared and delivered to me, I am actually now quite confident that I can get them to see the benefit in paying the monthly £9 subscription.

Happy days.


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04th May 2012 14:20

Xero Partners get extra discount for clients

Xero Partners actually get a 25% discount off the published price plans for all their clients, so the most common Xero Medium pricing plan at £19 per month drops to £14.25 per month for practice clients, and the Xero Small plan goes from £12 per month to £9 per month, equivalent to the £9 cashbook or Partner Edition price plan Adrian refers to above.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero

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