By Richard Morochove Small-business accounting programs are thinking big. Both Intuit's QuickBooks 2002 and NetLedger's Oracle Small Business Suite 7 target larger, more complex businesses.
High-end versions of QuickBooks 2002 now support two-way data exchange with applications developed by others--for example, with legal time-tracking applications. These add-ons could extend QuickBooks' appeal to relatively specialized businesses.
The enhanced QuickFind makes tracking down transactions easier, letting you use additional filters, such as vendor type, to search the database. In addition, you can fax or e-mail logo-enhanced invoices, customer statements, and estimates, which should help businesses speed up cash-flow and purchase decisions.
QuickBooks 2002 comes in a record number of flavors. The new Premier version, designed for businesses with 20 or so employees, delivers the most features, including estimating and job costing. Premier also has a new electronic guidebook, improved account-reconciliation options, and special analytic tools.
The Pro version lacks some of Premier's remote-access and analytic tools. Basic, for businesses with up to 10 employees, handles only basic accounting and one user at a time (the other editions support up to five simultaneous users--with the purchase of additional software licenses). Financial professionals who support businesses that use QuickBooks should consider the Premier Accountant Edition and the new Remote Access Service, which lets you view and update records on a distant PC over the Internet.
Judging from my tests with a preproduction copy, I think QuickBooks' new add-on capability and its improved electronic communications make the upgrade well worthwhile for current users.
For its part, NetLedger has popularized Web-based small-business accounting. You access the company's online financial service via your Web browser, while the service's secure server maintains the programs and your data.
Last summer the company changed the name of its NetLedger service to Oracle Small Business Suite, to emphasize its links with the popular high-end database. Along with the new name come more capabilities and a heftier starting price. Rates for signing up with OSBS start at $99 per month for two users, a dramatic increase from the starting price of $5 per month NetLedger charged for its much simpler initial service.
In addition to offering improved accounting capabilities, such as time billing, OSBS includes customer relationship management capabilities. You can link the inventory of your products to a Web store, too, which simplifies e-commerce.
OSBS is particularly suitable for businesses that have a sales-and-marketing orientation and a number of widely scattered employees who can use the service to file purchase requests and expense reports while they're on the road.
OSBS still allows you to import QuickBooks data, but no longer plays in the same ballpark as Intuit's program. It targets larger businesses that have outgrown QuickBooks and are looking for a robust online alternative. From the February 2002 issue of PC World magazine