By Chris Futcher, CEO, The Pulse Umbrella Group

Cloud-based accounting is one of the most effective innovations for small and medium businesses. It helps them work smarter and faster, provides a better view of finances and improves team collaboration.

Before accounting software, keeping finances in order was a tedious chore that would suck up a great deal of time and energy, taking the fun out of being in business. The data in the system wasn’t always up to date, you could only access it from one computer and key people couldn’t access critical customer details. Furthermore, the available traditional solutions were usually costly and complicated to backup or upgrade, while the customer support was slow.

Cloud-based accounting has solved most of these issues and small and medium sized businesses now have the opportunity to work with integrated systems that are perfectly secure and cost effective. Businesses can take advantage of the automation offered by the software so they can spend more time on the value add work, rather than running backwards-looking reports.

Now business owners can access financial data from any device, anywhere in the world while staying connected 24/7 if necessary. Also, there is no need to install and run updates and they can invest in upgrades as the business grows.

Many people still worry about cloud services providers storing their data, but the cloud is one of the most secure ways to store your information. The business owner has the ability to control the level of access for various users. In case any of the devices is stolen or destroyed, having your information stored in the cloud means that no one can access your data unless they have the login details for the online account. Business productivity needn’t be affected as there is no down time. The data is securely stored and accessible anytime from other available devices.

Furthermore, the costs for cloud accounting services are significantly lower compared to traditional solutions and version upgrades. And maintenance, system administration costs and server failures are no longer an issue – the cloud service provider manages them all.

Nevertheless, considering that there are a growing number of online accounting solutions, it can be very difficult to decide which one is best for your business. Therefore, when choosing the most suitable accounting package for their business, there are a few aspects to take into consideration in order to make sure that the selected software simplifies the processes and supplies essential features, such as providing a general ledger, the capability to create detailed invoices and supplying business inventory and purchase history. It should also allow businesses to create invoices easily, track sales and expenses, download banking transactions and access business data on any mobile device.

An important feature of cloud-based accounting software entrepreneurs might want to consider is the ability to share their business data with their accountant online efficiently. In this way, they are ensuring that they can get the advice they need in real time, saving precious resources and time.

Another good feature they should look for when shopping for efficient cloud accounting software is the ability to work as a team on financials. If everyone can automatically introduce their data, receipts and expenses, the manager can quickly see what is happening with the company and intervene if anything goes amiss. Accounting software that allows businesses to manage projects, track time and generate timesheet reports is highly valuable.

Furthermore, for the purpose of saving time and resources, the chosen cloud accounting service should also run monthly payroll and file RTI (real time information) directly with HMRC. Ideally, the software should also be able to submit VAT returns directly to HMRC.

No matter what brand you choose for your cloud-based accounting software, at the end of the day what you should keep in mind is that it has to help make life better and assist you in staying on top of the day to day business dealings.