This trend is driven by several key factors:
The growing desire we have to access our data from anywhere
You're probably "computing" with more than one device these days – a PC and/or Mac, along with a smartphone and perhaps even a tablet computer. With web apps, this is no problem—you just log in from any device and pick up where you previously stopped working.
It's WAY easier to develop software for the web than for the desktop
Take it from me, a guy who builds products for both platforms. Software developers can move an order of magnitude faster on the web than they can on the desktop. As a result, software startups, where most of the innovation in software comes from – if I do say so myself! – are focused exclusively on building their apps for the web.
There are already some useful web apps for boosting your firm's productivity. We asked three tech-savvy accountants for their favorite picks. Here's what they recommend:
Remember everything with Evernote
"Evernote is cool app that lets me do everything from taking notes when meeting with clients, creating to-do lists, snapping photos of business cards, researching websites and clipping pages directly from your browser, and creating voice memos," she said. "All of your info is automatically indexed and made searchable, which makes it very easy to organize my notes and search them by keyword. I can also share my account with my staff.
"My practice is entirely virtual – we all work from home and this is one way we can share information," continued Williams. "I am constantly on the go and Evernote is like my mini-office. I like the fact that I can use it on my phone and sync my information with all my computers, other devices and my staff."
Evernote is a cross-platform app that works on mobile devices, desktops and the web. It has a fully functional and generous free product; the premium version will set you back $5 a month.
Xero for accounting
"Xero is one of the most innovative cloud-based systems I've ever used. Their commitment to a strong core accounting product means they spend a lot of time and development on building out the product," he said. "I love their invoicing tool and the latest ability to modify the beautiful clean invoice templates. When you tie that to PayPal's strong API, you have a seamless global currency payment system built right into the easiest accounting system in the world."
Blumer says Xero is easy and fun to use. "They even make bank reconciliations enjoyable. What a trip! Watch your back, QuickBooks!"
Outright for bookkeeping
Wray Rives, CPA, loves Outright as a plug-and-play bookkeeping solution.
"Outright.com is a great cloud-based tool for the sole proprietor who does not want to learn bookkeeping," she said. "All you need is an e-mail address to set up a free account. Outright has built-in interfaces with most online banking accounts, credit cards, and PayPal, and the program will automatically bring your transactions into the program, and categorize expenses and revenue using standard Schedule C categories. If you want to customize the reporting on Outright, it is simple to create your own unique categories.
Rives adds: "Outright handles basic bookkeeping, but a business owner can expand the capabilities by interfacing his or her Outright account with other cloud-based sites including FreshBooks and Shoeboxed. Online sellers can also link their eBay account directly to Outright. Outright is simple to navigate and uses simple terms like ‘money in’ and ‘money out’ to indicate business expenses and business revenue."
Rives explained that a CPA can set up a bookkeeper account on Outright that allows the bookkeepers to use one login to see all of their Outright clients. The CPA has full access to help the client categorize expenses and reconcile transactions, without having to exchange files or use remote logins. The clients and CPA can access Outright from anywhere with an internet connection. Outright will create quarterly tax estimates based on the information entered and even populate a standard Schedule C with the line item totals for each calendar year.
Brett Owens is chief executive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett can be reached at 916-254-0260 and email@example.com.