One on One: Xero


*One on One is a series of reviews. Instead of a long-winded breakdown, I give you a quick summary along with one positive and one negative. *

So far my One on One reviews have covered 2 of the 5 main bookkeeping apps I use. Today we're going to do a quick review of Xero.

If you follow this industry at all you've heard about Xero. I don't think it's any secret Xero has their sights set on being the company who overtakes Intuit. I mentioned in a previous post that Intuit just announced that QuickBooks Online just surpassed 1,000,000 users. Xero has the silver medal with over 500,000 users. It's no surprise. They have created a very powerful service that offers a lot of power with a large directory of compatible 3rd party add-ons.

Name: Xero

Description: Xero is a full featured bookkeeping service based out of New Zealand. Founded in 2006, it has grown to become the second largest cloud-based accounting software. From the software I've used in my business it comes the closest to replicating the features and power that Intuit has in its offerings. Payroll is still quite basic and not available everywhere. It also doesn't do time tracking so I usually use it with FreshBooks. However, Xero does connect with a wide range of 3rd party offerings to fill in the gaps where it lacks features. You can connect your bank accounts, send out and receive payments on invoices, and track everything your accountant would need from you. The only major feature it's still lacking is inventory, so this is still not suited for any businesses that need inventory management.

Cost: There are 3 price tiers, from $20-40/month. The first tier is quite limited (send 5 invoices per month) and the top tier only adds multi-currency support. Most people will be using the $30/month plan.

One Positive: Bank rules, hands down. Some software will do a fairly good job of learning how to categorize your downloaded bank transactions. This lets you get through bank reconciliations a bit quicker than a fully manual process. Xero takes this 3 steps further with bank rules. You can create simple or complex rules to automatically handle the transactions as they come into Xero. For example:

If the vendor = Staples, then mark this as Office Supplies. That's a really simple example. Take a look at the screenshot below to give you an idea of what you can do. Combine this with Cash Coding, which lets you accept multiple transactions at once, and you can really fly through those bank recs each month.

Xero Bank Rules

One Negative: Reporting. I just can't find a lot of good to say about most of these bookkeeping services when it comes to reporting. Why is this so tricky? The list of reports is a bit bigger than others, but you can't do much in the way of customizing them. I don't have a problem spending the time to create a custom report of my own, but I'm not given the tools I need to make this happen. Xero is tracking the data, so there's a database that contains all the data points I need. Why not give us the ability to dig into our data and report it the way we want?

Final Thoughts: Xero is pretty darn good as an all-around bookkeeping solution. Other services do certain things better. FreshBooks does invoicing better. ADP is much better for payroll. But if you need something to handle your entire business and your business is a bit more complex than what Wave can handle, Xero is a great solution.

One on One: ScanSnap S1300i

One on One is a series of reviews. Instead of a long-winded breakdown, I give you a quick summary along with one positive and one negative.

For this One on One, I'm featuring my first bit of hardware.

A good quality scanner is a bookkeeper's best friend. Without a good scanner and shredder it wouldn't take long for my office to look like a scene from Hoarders. The brand of scanner I coveted for years was Fujitsu and it's line of ScanSnap scanners. All my favourite podcasts talked about them, and all the reviews made them seem like a dream. A little over a year ago I finally got the chance to use one. One of my clients bought the ix500 and I borrowed it a few times to scan a few boxes of their paperwork.

Wow. That scanner is the ultimate example of hardware living up to the hype. It's a $500 scanner, yet easily worth every penny. When it was time for me to buy a scanner of my own, $500 just wasn't in the budget. Thankfully, Fujitsu has 2 other scanners in their ScanSnap line below that price point.

Name: Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i

Description: A desktop document scanner with most of the features of the flagship ix500 but with a smaller footprint for less than half the price. The S1300i sports a 10 page automatic document feeder. It can scan double sided pages and quickly convert them to searchable PDF's, send them straight into Evernote, or dozens of other possibilities with Fujitsu's included software.

Price: MSRP is about $270 but I got mine on sale for $230.

One Positive: It's hard to pick just one, but I think I'll choose the way the software and hardware work together. That's a bit vague until you've used one. The scanner has 1 button, but matched with the included software it becomes a very powerful button. You can setup profiles that are like templates for how the scanned pages are handled. Select a profile and suddenly a touch of the button converts the 5 pages you scanned into 1 searchable PDF, 5 searchable PDF's, or 1 Evernote note. If you have a big stack of paperwork that needs to be saved the same way, you can really make that pile disappear quickly.

One Negative: If I hadn't tried out the ix500 first...ignorance is bliss. My scanner has a 10 page ADF but it doesn't have the same sturdy feel that the ix500 has. If the pages are flimsy or folded I have to babysit them as they go through the feeder. If I don't set them properly they'll go off course and run through the feeder diagonally. Now, having said that, the software still somehow creates a really nice PDF no matter how awkwardly the page goes through, but sometimes the page will get stuck if it goes really badly off course. If you're scanning 1-2 pages at a time this won't be an issue. I just think I got used to loading a huge stack of paper into the ix500 and wanted to do the same with this one.

Final Thoughts: If you need a scanner that will do a lot of work, and you have the budget, get the ScanSnap ix500. If you have lighter needs or a smaller budget, the S1300i is still an amazing scanner, and you still get the incredible software that comes with the other ScanSnap models.

One on One: Wave

One on One is a series of reviews. Instead of a long-winded breakdown, I give you a quick summary along with one positive and one negative.

Name: Wave

Description: Wave is a bookkeeping service. It handles all aspects of small business bookkeeping. It handles invoicing, syncs and downloads transactions from your bank accounts, and even keeps track of your personal finances in a separate tab.

Cost: Wave is completely free for the core bookkeeping services. It also offers an optional payroll service for a (very) small fee based on number of employees, and they have paid premium training provided by accounting professionals.

One Positive: The transaction reconciliation screen has been improved dramatically over the years and just might be my favourite implementation across all the bookkeeping services I use. If you have a large list of transactions to categorize Wave does a great job of selecting, categorizing, and approving multiple transactions at once. If it was to implement a rules system like Xero uses it would be pretty close to perfect.

One Negative: The way Wave displays reports drive me bonkers. To be honest, no bookkeeping software does reports the way I'd prefer, but this one is particularly bad. The big thing I dislike is the way they're actually displayed. Income Statements will tend to default to either sorting the accounts by account number or name. I find it important to give the option to toggle between these two, but I can live with one or the other. For some reason Wave doesn't do either. The accounts seem to be displayed randomly, and the only way to display them properly is to download them to Excel and sort them there.

Final Thoughts: If you are running a small business on a budget and would like to keep all your bookkeeping in one app, I think you should take Wave for a test drive.

Dropbox–Now Even Better For Your Business

dropbox logo

No doubt you already know about my love for Dropbox.

There are already lots of reasons to use Dropbox. For free, you get 2GB of storage that travels and syncs with you wherever you go. For only $10/month, that 2GB turns into 50GB.

Dropbox just recently announced that Version 1.0 was available to the masses. While there are performance enhancements that come along with the new version, the big deal here is selective sync.

Why would a small business owner care about selective sync? Excellent question!

Selective sync will allow you to choose which folders get synced to each computer you have Dropbox installed on. If you’re using the 2GB account, chances are this isn’t as big of a deal. However, if you’re like me, and have the 50GB plan, or even the $20/month 100GB account, this becomes an important feature.

Although having your 50GB of music and videos synced to the cloud makes sense, you don’t want to have to download that huge collection on every machine you use. On your office PC, you might just want the important documents. On the netbook, you just might not have 50GB to spare. Having the choice of what gets synced, without affecting the machines that can handle the 50GB is going to be very helpful.

So for any of you who haven’t upgraded yet, or who have been waiting for this feature before becoming a user, go out and get the new version today!

Dropbox Hits 1.0! (The Dropbox Blog)