Free accounting software represents an attractive option for budget-conscious corporate users - all the more as these products keep offering more and more features. Does it mean that investing in a paid solution has become irrelevant? Discriminating factors still exist, and can be grouped on two categories: features and integration, and services and security.
Free accounting software VS paid software - features and flexibility
The most obvious comparison criterion between free and paid software is related to the advertised features - but have you thought about the software environment and the ease of integration with the other business software you’re using?
The most important question is to know whether the free software will actually do what you need in four major areas:
- account management,
- expense tracking.
While most free software programs fit the bill for these basic areas of features, be wary if you need any more advanced capabilities related to:
- time billing,
- department data,
- inventory tracking,
- and especially payroll management.
The main, and probably the most overlooked issue with choosing an accounting software product is that this product can’t be chosen only based on its own merits. It’s inconceivable that a company would use only an accounting software program to run its operations.
Flexibility means that the accounting software program should be able to pull data from the e-commerce software and integrate with the customer relationship management solution - at least.
Flexibility also means that the software product can be customised to add this level of integration if it is not native, as well as other developments for more specific needs.
Unfortunately, free accounting software programs are often not flexible at all - meaning their limitations can’t be superseded, unless the user buys the paid version, of course.
Free VS paid accounting software - services and security
Another main area of concern is that a software product should not be considered as a mere software program, but as a full package of software and services. And security is probably the most crucial of these services.
The necessary service that should come with any piece of accounting software
A few services should be included with any piece of software so it can simply be operated consistently over time:
- regular updates and patches,
- data backup and extraction,
- and above all, a dependable customer service helpline, which can be reached anytime or nearly anytime, on a variety of channels.
All these usually come at a premium with free accounting software.
Free accounting software security
For a large part, the updates mentioned are prepared for security reasons. Data security and software security, especially with connected software or cloud software are an ongoing project: keeping it all secure requires constant supervision and updates.
When all the accounting books of a business are concerned, and uploaded to the “cloud”, including sometimes a connection the company’s bank accounts, is security really an option?