The two most popular accounting software packages for small businesses are Sage and QuickBooks. Although there are many other packages on the market that are competing for market share (including Xero, KashFlow and MYOB), this blog focuses upon the differences and pros and cons of choosing between Sage and QuickBooks.
Sage is designed more for the professional bookkeeper or accountant in mind; however, many of our clients do successfully use Sage themselves.
QuickBooks is designed using a process flow so can be more attractive for the business person with no accounts experience. However, this can still look a little complicated for some clients.
Sage Verses QuickBooks Comparison
Round 1: Software Range
There are a range of products from both software suppliers:
Sage starts from Sage Instants and has various products going up to the Enterprise range for very large companies, Sage Start-Up and Sage50 being the most popular for small businesses. Sage Start-Up (formerly known as Sage Instants) is suitable for the majority of small businesses, however, if you require multiple company and multi-user functionality Sage 50 is required.
QuickBooks starts from QuickBooks SimpleStart to Enterprise level solutions. The most popular for small businesses are SimpleStart and QuickBooks Pro. SimpleStart is suitable for cash businesses as it doesn’t have purchase ledge functionality, as Pro is still relatively cheap we normally recommend just going to straight to QuickBooks Pro for most small clients.
Sage has two types of online solutions, a cloud based range – SageOne – which looks completely different to its’ desktop counterparts, these are fairly easy to use but do have limited functionality and a Sage 50 equivalent hosted product which looks just like the desktop version. SageOne is suitable for small businesses that don’t have complicated accounts.
QuickBooks online range looks completely different to the desktop versions. Fairly straightforward to use.
The most annoying thing about the online solutions for us, is that it is not easy to transition from the desktop versions to the online versions as they look so different and it is not straightforward to bring all your data across. However, for the new business they could be ideal.
Round 2: Reporting Capabilities
Sage has many built in reports and a report tool where you can build your own reports. The main annoyances of these are that it is not easy to pull out data to compare by month or quarter all on one report, and the report builder does take a lot of training to use effectively.
QuickBooks has very good functionality in its reporting tool and is easy to use, it is easy to pull out data over different periods and sort it in various ways.
Round 3: Technical Support Desk
The Sage technical support desk is excellent. The knowledge of the technical team is very good and most issues are resolved quickly. The downsides are the long telephone system to get through and at peak times you can be waiting for a while to get through.
QuickBooks technical support can be disappointing. The technical knowledge of the level one support team is limited, and it can sometimes feel like it would be quicker to just read through the QuickBooks online help manual yourself. However, with the QuickBooks ProAdvisor programme we do have direct access to the level two team whose knowledge is a bit better, though still not on a par with the Sage team. On the upside the there aren’t too many options to press before speaking to a person and usually get to speak to someone fairly quickly.
Round 4: Pricing
The starting price for both software packages are similar with Sage Start-Up around the £120+VAT mark and QuickBooks SimpleStart coming in at £99+VAT. QuickBooks Pro is much cheaper than Sage 50, £269+VAT vs £580+VAT. The online products start at similar levels from £8-£9 per month +VAT.
Result: How To Choose
I recommend looking at the most relevant products within the ranges for your business and looking at the trials on Sage and QuickBooks to see if you like the look and feel of them. Listing your basic requirements from a software package first should hopefully help you to identify which products are suitable for you.
We sit down with our clients and go through the pros and cons specific to their business to help them decide on the most suitable package, we keep an open mind and also look at other packages and even whether a basic spread sheet could be just as appropriate for some clients. If clients don’t select the most appropriate solution, then it can become abandoned and then the exercise becomes expensive and a waste of time, therefore it is best to make sure time is taken to make the right choice first time.
Once you have chosen your product, I recommend either going on the product’s training course, an online course, or playing with the practice data first before going through the software setup with your accountant. Our approach is usually to have 2 to 4 two hour sessions with clients when they start some new software so that we can ensure that it is setup correctly from the beginning and the user feels comfortable using it.
Goringe Accountants are members of the Sage Accountants Club and QuickBooks ProAdvisors. We can offer excellent discounts to our clients on all Sage products.