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Sage One Review

Sage has been one of the leading lights in SMB accountancy, how does its Sage One cloud offering shape up?

Sage logo
Price
£5 Per Month (Cashbook) | Accounts: £10 per month; Accounts Extra £20 a month; Payroll: from £5 a month
  • Great for multiple people to enter data from different site; Simple to use for non-accounts trained staff.
  • Your accounts data is no longer locally stored; Limited report formats; Unable to enter an un-allocated credit note

When it comes to choosing an accounts package to run your business, most people are fairly conservative: choosing a product that either they are familiar with or one that their book-keeper or accountant recommends. In the UK, without doubt, the market leader in accounting software for the SMB sector is Sage, but until recently it did not have a cloud offering. Its range of software consisted of traditional Windows programs which are installed locally on the machines that need it; network versions were available to share data and can have multiple people enter information. But unless you went for the complication of VPNs then sharing over remote sites was not an option, and even then a network disconnect could leave your accounts in a mess. The development of cloud accounting solutions is a growing one and one that Sage has been late coming to. With cloud accounts not only can several people input data at different locations and the data can be held securely backed-up but it is possible to share access easily with your accountant or bookkeeper to sort out the mess you have made!

Familiarity or time for a change?

When choosing a cloud accounts package, familiarity is a strong mover, but just because Sage One carries the Sage name does not mean that it is anything like its previous products. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the company has designed it to be easy for non-accounts trained people to enter data, together with the ability for more skilled users to access the ‘backend’ and do such things as journals which are much beloved by such types. Let's compare this with the competition. Intuit Quick Books also offer a very similar system with its cloud offering, while Xero’s cloud accounting product looks very modern and slick but the pricing is a little confusing as it is based on file storage as well as facilities. We are also not sure that anyone can make a guess at how much disc space their accounts records will take, so it would be a case of budget for the worst and hope for the best. FreeAgent is perhaps one of the most complete UK-friendly cloud account products out there, but because of this enormous capability it is necessarily quite complicated for the non-accounts person to understand, this criticism can also be said of ClearBooks  Sage has taken a different approach and tried to make its system very simple to use, while still retaining the flexibility required for a modern day accounts system. Having said that, there is a huge difference between the user interface’s simple approach used in their Cashbook at £5 per month and Accounts at £10 per month against the extremely full featured Accounts Extra at £20. To be honest the main screen in Accounts Extra is probably enough to scare most people off! But this package does offer Quote generation and tracking, journals and a number of reports that are not available in the lesser products.

In this review we are mainly considering the top offering from Sage although for a lot of businesses, the standard Accounts at £10/month is more than enough. Your bookkeeper or accountant can also subscribe to a version designed for them at a very low cost per month which enables them to have full access to any of their client’s accounts thus giving them the ability to set up nominal codes, alter reports and add journals. It is fair to say that most accountants in the UK are happy with Sage products and this is a big plus point for choosing it over the other offerings.

Limitations

One drawback with Sage One is that, although you can choose from four Invoice layouts and customise these with your own logo, none of them are designed for windowed envelopes although Sage says that it may incorporate this at a later date and of course being a cloud product every subscriber will get access to this and any other updates. All these systems offer the ability to email Sales invoices to customers as well as statements, however Sage One, unlike some of the USA-centric offerings, only attaches a pdf of the invoice, whereas some of the American ones offer a secure web page where the customer can pay the invoice as well. Nice, as anything that makes payments easier must be a good move, although the extra commission costs on such transactions would limit its use for many businesses.

The other issue is obviously the security of your accounts data. Sage uses Amazon Web Services for its hosting and of course this can be at the control of the US authorities, although, in its terms and conditions, Sage does state that all “customer data”, that’s your accounts, is protected and not available to their third-party partners, which is the least we can expect, but using a cloud solution means by its very nature that your data will not be no longer be held exclusively within your office. For most business this should not present a problem but it is a consideration for many. Sage One Accounts is very suitable for a small business that wants a simple interface to day to day tasks such as entering invoices or payments whilst leaving the more complicated accounting tasks to their bookkeeper using the Accountants version. But if you are looking for a full featured cloud based accounts package then Sage One Accounts Extra is the one to go for.

Verdict

The UK market leader of accounting software, Sage, has produced a very competent set of cloud based solutions. But there is a big difference in the various options.

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