Online Accounting

Online Accounting Services: Intacct, Quickbooks Online, NetSuite

Online accounting has been around for about five years now. It is a growing market and there are currently three major players: Intacct, QuickBooks Online Edition and NetSuite.

There are differences among the three services, just as there are differences among the companies who provide them. For example, Intacct and NetSuite are both pure application service providers, which means that they focus on online accounting exclusively (well, one of them does anyway- more on that in a minute). QuickBooks Online, on the other hand, is the new online product from the well-known giant of desktop accounting software, Intuit.

One of the key features of Intacct is that it offers businesses three different products to choose from: Eledger for small businesses (starting at $50/month), Enterprise for mid-sized businesses (at $70/month), and Mega for multi-entity companies (i.e. companies with multiple locations and/or businesses, at $160/month). Intacct has also teamed up with other companies to offer services like payroll, retirement/401K and point-of-sale. The idea here is to make everybody's life easier by having these services work seamlessly with the Intacct system (for example, there's no need to re-enter payroll data, it automatically gets done- a truly joyous thing, if you ask any accountant). Finally, Intacct has a strategic partnership with IBM to provide its hosting and e-business services, thus assuring customers that their data is protected by the power of Big Blue.

QuickBooks Online Edition is the online version of the world's most popular accounting program. As you might imagine, it can be expected to offer the same strengths that have made QuickBooks so successful with small businesses: the easiest-to-use interface in the business (i.e. you don't have to be an accountant to use it), the functions that businesses need the most (without a bunch of other stuff loaded in), and outstanding customer support. However, at this point the online version does not offer all the same features as the desktop QuickBooks products. Pricing starts at $19.95/month.

While Intacct and QuickBooks Online focus on accounting solutions pure-and-simple, NetSuite provides an "integrated business application." In other words, NetSuite ties several applications together (e-commerce, CRM and ERP) into one powerful solution. If you don't understand what that last sentence means, well the truth is, neither do I completely, but that's what they say on their web site. Basically, it seems to me that the goal is to offer businesses an "all-under-one-roof" solution that allows them to manage many of their critical functions together. NetSuite's other claim to fame is that they are backed by Larry Ellison and Oracle, which means that they have lots of money and will be around for a while.

So what's the bottom line? Who's the best? And don't you hate it when people write reviews and then say something gutless at the end like, "They all work great, you should choose the one that's right for you"? Well, don't worry, that's not going to happen here. This is a blog, after all, and there are no advertisers to piss off.

Here's the scoop: Intacct is the clear leader of the pack in online accounting. They offer the best choice of services and the functionality of true enterprise-level accounting. QuickBooks Online Edition is good but, as the company readily admits, it doesn't have the same features as the packaged software. Also, Intuit is heavily invested in the desktop, first and foremost. So, they will probably wait for the size of the online accounting market to grow and then bring it to the masses by offering a commodity product at a great price.

As for NetSuite, perhaps it's not fair to judge them as an accounting product because they have a bunch of other stuff loaded in, but my biggest question is: who needs all that? They seem to be shooting for large companies with big budgets who need a lot more than online accounting, and that's a bit more than many people are prepared to chew off right now