There are many paths to choosing an accounting system to use. Here we assume you want to evaluate the most popular and find out what one offers against another. This CANNOT offer comprehensive information about what is available - even just from the more popular suppliers.
We are Reckon Professional Partners and Xero Certified Advisors. We are also in MYOB's connected accounting program and have access to Cognito (we run Windows versions even though client's run Mac versions).
Where do you start? The first choice to make is desktop or cloud. Despite the hype, desktop has not yet been replaced by cloud systems, although they are preferred by vendors. We list some features generally claimed for or against each type. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect system.
Nightly bank feeds
Accountant / client access
Access to backups
Continued access to data
The main criteria has to be how it works for you. Two programs may say they cover the same features - but how that fits with your business can be vastly different. Make sure the package you are considering does what you need.
Not only are features different, but other factors not related to keeping this year's books come into play. For example, family trusts generally have a life of 80 years. What's more, they may not have any transactions for most of those.
Costs are also important. If you have one user and one system that's relatively straight-forward - although it can be difficult to compare because you might choose to defer upgrades beyond the three years we recommend (unless you use payroll which needs to be updated annually).
There are three popular desktop accounting systems. We're not including cashbooks or less popular systems. Basically, you have three main options - MoneyWorks, MYOB and Reckon.
Moneyworks has a cash-book, two main levels of product (Express and Gold) - and a more major multi-user version. Designed for the Mac, the PC version is the same from an accounting perspective.
MYOB AccountRight series also comes in various levels - Basic, Standard, Plus, Premier and Enterprise. The AccountEdge (Mac) series has three main levels - Basic, Pro and Network.
Reckon (formerly QuickBooks) has several versions - Easystart, Accounting, Plus, Premier and Enterprise. Note the Accounting product is now only available on subscription.
First, eliminate those which don't run on your platform. Then choose between the competing products without worrying about the levels.
Having chosen a product, narrow down the level that you want. Basically the more you pay the more features you get. Some include payroll, and some don't.
A word on levels - you can always go up another level (unless you're already at the top) but you can't go back down. While it sounds like a marketing ploy, there's also the problem of extra features having extra fields. There's no easy way to accommodate the loss of these fields.