If you are an MYOB user, or anyone who needs accounting software for your business, is there any benefit in switching to the new "cloud" version?
The "cloud" is all the rage in accounting software right now. But why switch?
The switch to cloud accounting software may benefit the way you do your books for a number of reasons.
How much does it cost?
The first is cost. Cloud accounting services cost a monthly or yearly fee. MYOB's new cloud service, called AccountRight Live, is available from November 8 and there's an ongoing fee to pay to use it.
The way the fee works with MYOB is that you take out "MYOB Cover", which gives you automatic software updates and 24 hour telephone support. [CORRECTION: this sentence originally stated that users first needed to buy MYOB AccountRight, costing $289 or more, before buying MYOB Cover. This is incorrect. The sentence has been corrected.]
This payment isn't new, but now it also lets you turn on the cloud feature.
It will cost from $23 a month for this, up to $59.50 a month for more expensive versions of AccountRight Live. See a table of prices here.
So what's the point?
The general premise of cloud accounting services, where you connect to an Internet server that stores your accounts, is that they are easy to setup and use.
Some accounting products, like Xero and QuickBooks Online, you run in a browser, so you're not fiddling with software installations and updates. We've also found that some cloud accounting products, like Xero, have menus that can be easier to use if you don't have training.
There might be some other potential benefits for some users.
Make sales from anywhere. Say you're a business with staff who work out on job sites, where they take money from customers - like a lawn mowing business (that's the example MYOB used at a demo of AccountRight Live we attended this week).
Because accounting software like AccountRight Live works online, someone can type in a sale on their laptop or tablet computer, and if they have Internet access, people back at the office will see the accounts updated.
MYOB's spin is that this saves having to type it all up when you get back to the office.
Make better use of your accountant. Here's another example MYOB is using to promote their new service: one of your staff buys some equipment needed for the business.
Because the accounts are online, you can give your accountant access, meaning they will always have an up to date view of your books.
MYOB's argument is that instead of talking to their accountant/financial advisor once a year, it might encourage business owners to get their help more often.
Save time entering receipts. Live bank "feeds" are something more accounting programs are offering as a feature. The idea is that your accounting software is connected to your bank, so bank statements can be fed straight into the system from the bank, instead of you manually typing up the contents of a manilla folder once a month.
The feature also lets you apply rules - so that for example, any purchase from Bunnings is itemised as an "Equipment purchase".
This isn't completely automatic, as it requires some manual oversight to make sure the system is filing things correctly.
What if the Internet goes down?
It will be interesting to see what people who aren't used to this way of working will make of all this. For example, the first question we got from our accounts receivable manager asked when we told them about this was "what happens if the Internet goes down?"
In theory, this shouldn't matter. MYOB's sales pitch is that you can use AccountRight Live whether you are online or offline. The idea is that if you're offline, you can keep working as normal. Once you reconnect at a later time, the software syncs the data with the version stored online.
This is how it's explained in MYOB's press release:
"If you choose or need to go offline and want to work on your accounts locally, you do so by ‘checking out’ your file, in which case the application works similar to other desktop software. To ensure there are no conflicting versions of your data, when you check out the application intelligently puts your shared version in the cloud in read-only mode. When you reconnect, all changes are seamlessly synced back up to the cloud and the exclusive lock removed."
It's also possible to save your software to your computer's hard drive if you want.
When the company first started looking into this approach, users were "not interested", according to CEO Tim Reed. Speaking at function in Sydney this week to unveil the new product, he said that the focus was on making the cloud serviced an addition to the existing product - not taking anything away from the software that users were already familiar with.
In the current version of AccountRight Live, users with access to the cloud service will see a green button in the bottom right corner of the screen. This button turns the cloud capability on or off.
Now, MYOB's job will be to convince its thousands of users that this is a better way of doing things.