South Africa’s Top Three Cloud Accounting Providers

Product Review

Whether you’re a brand-new start-up or a large corporate company looking for a new accounting package, it’s worth considering cloud-based packages for many reasons. You don’t need to worry about software updates or changes, your security is handled by the provider, and there’s a significantly reduced risk of losing your data. But which package should you choose? 

In this article, we review the three top-selling cloud-based accounting packages used in South Africa today. Our review will cover the costs, user-friendliness, and the ability to integrate with your existing operational software and cloud computing.

Sage
Find it here: https://www.sage.com/en-za/accounting-software/

Sage is one of the best-known cloud accounting providers globally, having cut their teeth on decades of providing up-to-date, user-friendly accounting programs. Sage’s cloud-based accounting offers various packages for businesses of all sizes and maturity levels.

Packages and cost
Sage offers a variety of packages, depending on your business’ needs. Accounting and Payroll are treated as separate in most of the packages intended for small business, while the full management suites for large companies integrate accounting, tax and payroll into one package. 

The basic accounting package, Accounting Start, price starts from R1 620 per year, and it allows small businesses to quote, invoice and track payments. Business Cloud Accounting allows small to medium businesses to perform more accounting functions, excluding  payroll, and is priced from R2 915 for two users, up to R4 370 for the maximum of five users. Both of these versions offer a free trial. 

Sage Business Cloud X3 incorporates all accounting, tax and payroll elements of the system, and is ideal for large businesses with numerous employees. This package starts at R2 999 per year. This version does not offer a free trial.

User-friendliness
In general, the Sage programs tend to be reasonably user-friendly. Upon setup, you can customise various elements, and set up tasks that you want to be automated. It is not heavy on extra features, as the tiered package structures offer these upgrades and extras.

Interoperability
Sage is a great standalone, as well as integrated product, although interoperability can vary based on which package you have.

Our conclusion
For the small business owner, the tiered levels can be a blessing, allowing you to start at an affordable price point that covers your accounting needs and build on it as your requirements grow. However, if you want a cheap all-in-one solution, this may not work for you. For big businesses, Sage has proven highly effective over time with a solid support structure.

QuickBooks
Find it here: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/za

QuickBooks Online is the latest evolution of the product that has been around for nearly forty years, and it has been fairly well received, although some users have said they prefer the desktop version. QuickBooks Online offers users more features than any previous iteration of the program.

Packages and cost
QuickBooks offers a fairly simple three-level pricing and package structure, designed to suit most business sizes. All packages revolve primarily around accounting, and don’t include an HR component.

The Simple Start package, which covers one user plus an accountant, starts at R229 per month and offers simple tracking, invoicing and sales tax features. Essentials (R351 per month) adds bill payments, quotes and multiple currencies for three users plus an accountant, and Plus (R473 per month) gives five users plus an accountant inventory tracking, purchase orders and profitability tracking. 

All packages come with mobile apps, tech support, customisable reports and secure cloud storage. Payroll, online payment management and many other features are offered as additional features. All packages come with a free trial option.

User-friendliness
QuickBooks is known for being pretty user-friendly, with a few small improvements that could be made to its layout and ease of finding certain features. When in doubt, use the search function to find what you’re looking for. 

Extra features that come standard include multi-language invoicing, with various attractive invoicing templates you can select from. Its contact management allows for very detailed customer information to be captured. It also offers a host of finance management options, like budgeting.

Interoperability
QuickBooks is highly flexible when it comes to interoperability. The program is compatible with over 600 apps and programs.

Our conclusion
QuickBooks Online is imminently suitable for small to medium businesses, with plenty of features to help you manage your finances and cash flow.

Xero
Find it here: https://www.xero.com/za

Xero is a comparative newcomer to the market, having launched in 2006. That, however, hasn’t stopped it from racing to the top to join the ranks of leading accounting programs. Xero is still somewhat unknown to South African businesses, who tend to gravitate towards the stalwarts like Sage and QuickBooks, but it bears considering as a long-term solution.

Packages and cost
Xero offers three levels of cloud-based accounting: Starter, Standard and Premium. Starter, at $20 per month, is very limited, allowing you to send just five quotes and invoices, and reconcile 20 bank transactions. Standard, at $30 per month, drops those limits and allows for unlimited basic accounting, while Premium at $40 per month includes the ability to handle multiple currencies.

Payroll is no longer offered with any of Xero’s plans. All packages offer projects and expenses as optional paid extras, and offer a free trial.

User-friendliness
Getting to grips with Xero can take some time, but once you’re familiar with it, it is simple to use. There is also easily accessible help functionality, making navigation and use easier.

Interoperability
The system is easily integrated with over 800 existing programs and apps.

Our conclusion
Xero’s interoperability makes it one of the most flexible and forgiving cloud accounting packages. This holds especially true in big business and corporate environments, where employees could be working on multiple integrated systems. Their partnership model for accountants and integration partners is also strong and supportive.