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REVIEW: Sage 50 and Sage One

Sage 50Sage may not have added much functionality to its small business desktop accounting software this year, but it's changed the product names and expanded its line of solutions. All of the company's small business applications now go under the name Sage 50-US (Simply Accounting is Sage 50-Canada). The old lineup stays the same, but it now ranges from Sage 50 First Accounting 2013 through Sage 50 Quantum Accounting 2013.

/sage review 06 mobile paymentSage is also putting emphasis on its desktop programs as business management solutions, not just PC-based bookkeepers, and had added Sage E-marketing to its existing family of Sage Connected Services. And not to be outdone by Intuit and PayPal and everyone else who's moved into mobile payments, Sage now offers Sage Mobile Payments for smartphones and tablets, accessible through the new all-inclusive financial portal, Sage Exchange. The company's 2013 initiatives also include a completely remodeled website and a brand new box look.

Modest Desktop Changes
The box and downloadable versions available for the PC remain relatively unchanged internally. There are a few minor tweaks. For example: Reconciliation of previous periods can be done without changing the current period; Multiple vendors can be marked as inactive simultaneously; Amount field lengths are more generous; you can now record numbers that exceed one billion and enter up to five digits beyond the decimal point.

Two Meatier Additions
Sage 50 Business Intelligence, a Sage Connected Service that's included as an element of Sage Business Care, contains the new Inventory Analysis Report. It's a customizable template that runs in Excel and helps you forecast goods consumption to improve your cash flow. You can modify the template using simple drag-and-drop, and use PivotTable elements if you need to dig deeper. It provides costing, quantity and sales data for user-defined date ranges, as well as. filtering tools.

Probably the most useful new offering in Sage 50-US is Sage E-marketing. Using your customer database in the software, you can use intuitive templates and tools to compose and format messages for existing or prospective customers. Reasonably priced, this addition provides feedback that reports on the effectiveness of your campaigns as well as the most promising leads.

But Sage hasn't done the one thing I've been hoping they'd do for a few versions now: upgrade that aging interface. The proliferation of exceedingly well-designed, attractive websites - like the company's own Sage One -- should be shaming desktop developers into building a better look.

Into the Cloud
Sage One U.S. isn't Sage's first foray into web-based accounting. Billing Boss, a simple invoicing site, has been around for a few years. Sage One U.S. does online invoicing, too, but it's capable of more: project, task and time tracking; money management; and team collaboration.

If you have clients who have a handful of employees who need to communicate as a team, who want very basic project management and who have not movesage review 03 emarketingd their accounting tasks online, this is a great place for them to begin. Or if they're using an invoicing site that doesn't support collaboration, you might consider switching them, as the application is likely to continue to grow.

But I think the price ($29 per month; first 30 days free) is a shade too high if your clients simply want online invoicing. They can get this elsewhere - and with more features - for less. The monthly fee does include two administrative and unlimited collaborative users, 5GB storage and online/phone support.

A Solid Start
But for the right client, Sage One U.S. can be an effective tool. It wears a good-looking, state-of-the-art user interface, and it's exceedingly simple to use. I especially like the dashboard, which displays income and expense graphs, tasks and/or projects assigned to you, a list of unpaid invoices (and a link to create one), and a running tally of recent activities. The latter would be very helpful in a team setting; you can easily see who just did what.

The workflow follows a logical path. You can do the following:

Create (or import) contacts
Send email invitations to team members
Start building project and task descriptions
Assign tasks to team members, who receive email notification of expectations
Share other messages and/or files
Create invoices; billable time can be automatically dropped in (unfortunately, you can't set billing rates for tasks or team members)
Preview and print or email invoices, or mark as sent
Record income when it comes in (you can track expenses by project, too)
Run Aged Invoice, Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss Reports

Obviously, there are numerous sites that have quite a headstart on Sage One U.S. The most-lauded competitor is probably FreshBooks (which doesn't allow a second staff member to access the system until you hit the $39.95 per month price, but which does have an impressive number of add-ins, which Sage One U.S. lacks), but even it has rivals nipping at its heels, like Zoho Invoice and Xero.

Good Forward Movement
Sage's 2013 initiatives may not set the accounting world on fire, but the company has displayed more innovation this year than in recent releases. It was critical for Sage to have a remote payment solution and a cloud-based accounting tool that went beyond Billing Boss and hosted services from third parties like Right Networks.

New emphasis is being placed on four existing Sage programs for 2013: Sage Business Care (now included free for all new customers), Sage Advisor Technology, Sage 50 Business Intelligence and Sage Connected Services. If you haven't introduced these to your clients, now is a good time.

The slow transition from long-time moniker Peachtree to the much larger and inclusive Sage brand is finally complete. The old Peachtree operation had already done much to ease businesses into online financial solutions, but the new tools that Sage just introduced may provide the impetus for some of your hesitant clients to move more decisively into web-based accounting operations.

Kathy Yakal
Kathy Yakal has been writing about personal and business technology since 1983, as an editor and writer at COMPUTE! Publications. She writes frequently for The Progressive Accountant on technology topics.She began freelancing and specializing in financial applications in 1988. Her columns, features, and reviews have appeared in publications including Barron’s, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, and PC Magazine.
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