Sage 50cloud Accounting is small business accounting software designed for desktop use instead of being solely online. It’s the most comprehensive, customizable accounting program we’ve reviewed, though it does more than what many small businesses need and costs a bit more as well. What sets it apart, aside from its robust feature set, is its integration with Microsoft 365. This powerful and innovative connection helps make up for the fact that you must have Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting installed locally, though you can access some of its data remotely. Since Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting is only available for Windows, it’s at a disadvantage compared with the best online accounting services that let users access them from any device with an internet connection.
Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting is more sophisticated in some ways than every other low-end accounting website. That said, its sophistication—and the high cost of subscribing—may make it less appealing to small, simple businesses. It’s best suited to companies that need more advanced capabilities and customizability, aren’t averse to desktop software, and have remote employees. Our Editors’ Choice winners for SMB accounting are Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus and Zoho Books Premium. They’re both cloud-based, which means you can access them from nearly anywhere. They tend to be the best options for SMBs based on the balance of features, ease of use, and customization options.
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How Much Does Sage 50cloud Accounting Cost?
The Sage 50cloud Accounting line consists of three plans. Pro Accounting starts at $57.17 per month for one person. Premium Accounting, which is the tier used for our testing, starts at $92 per month for a single user. Quantum Accounting starts at $152.42 per month for one user. You get a slight discount for all plans if you pay annually instead of monthly. Integration with Microsoft 365 Business adds $180 per year to each plan. New users get 40% off for one year. All plans have a one-year contract, and all are set to automatically renew.
Each plan offers full accounts payable and receivable functionality, as well as inventory management, integrated payroll, and reports. Premium Accounting adds numerous features, such as industry-specific functionality and advanced budgeting and job costing. Quantum Accounting is the most sophisticated, with additional functions such as workflow management and role-based user permissions.
The Editors’ Choice winner Intuit QuickBooks Online has roughly comparable costs. For instance, Intuit QuickBooks Online Essentials is $55 per month (annual customer support is included). Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus is $85 per month. And Advanced is $200 per month. New users get 50% off for the first three months.
Zoho Books, another Editors’ Choice winner, costs less. Its Free Plan is designed for businesses with less than $50,000 in annual revenue and one user (plus an accountant). Zoho offers five paid tiers of service that cost anywhere from $20 (Standard Plan) to $275 per organization per month (Ultimate), letting businesses choose the level of service and price that meets their needs.
While the Sage 50cloud Accounting family does just about everything a small business would need, if it doesn’t offer enough for you, then look into solutions that fall into the midrange accounting space. In fact, Sage offers many of these more sophisticated apps with products such as Sage 100cloud, Sage 300cloud, and Sage Intacct.
Is Sage 50cloud Accounting Safe to Use?
Sage has experience and expertise in working in the cloud that has built up over decades. The company implements the tools, technologies, and best cyber security practices to protect its systems, devices, and data, wherever they sit. Data is encrypted using the latest recommended versions of the internationally recognized Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. Further, Sage says it proactively monitors for vulnerabilities in its software that could be exploited by a cyber attacker.
All Sage code is subject to review, where code is independently checked and scanned for flaws or vulnerabilities. All products are subject to a penetration testing cycle, where any vulnerabilities are corrected in line with industry best practices. Every production environment is continuously monitored for potentially malicious activity by the Sage Cyber Defense Operations Team. And products use multi-factor authentication.
Setting Up Sage 50cloud Accounting
A program as robust as Sage 50cloud Accounting requires robust setup help. The software starts off with a wizard for creating a new company. This multipage tool walks you through the process of selecting a method to create or choose a Chart of Accounts (most companies opt for a sample Chart of Accounts that closely matches their business type), choosing between cash and accrual, and deciding between real-time and batch posting of transactions. You also select an accounting period structure and indicate when your fiscal year begins.
After you create your company, Sage 50cloud displays its Setup Guide. The steps in this tool relate mostly to creating records, such as customer records, vendor records, inventory, and service items.
If multiple employees need to use the software, you have to create usernames and passwords for them. User roles are exceptionally deep and customizable. You can work with existing roles, modify roles, and create new roles, indicating which areas the user can access and what they can do there. User permissions go into exceptional detail. No other accounting application comes close to the flexibility offered by Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting.
(Credit: Sage Group)
Once that’s completed, you can move on to other early setup tasks, such as connecting the software to your online financial accounts and customizing your invoices, since you will probably be creating invoices early on.
Easy If You Have Basic Accounting Knowledge
Sage 50cloud Accounting is not difficult to learn if you have some understanding of accounting. It’s not an unattractive program, but the user interface feels uneven. The introductory pages for each accounting module look far more state-of-the-art than the pages that open once you start working. Those haven’t changed significantly for many years. They’re easy enough to use, but they look outdated.
The software offers two navigation menus. A standard Windows menu runs across the top for people who are more comfortable using that kind of tool. The menu items take you to sections that you can also reach from the left-pane navigation menu, though the items are arranged differently, and the left pane doesn’t include everything. There’s more than one way to get to most tasks and data pages, which is fine if you understand that and choose your own preferred path. It can be confusing, though, if you think every navigation link is unique.
The Sage 50cloud Dashboard
The first entry in the navigation menu takes you to My Dashboard, which appears empty at first because the dashboard is completely customizable. Most other small business accounting apps give you a prebuilt dashboard that may or may not be customizable. The dashboard page often contains a handful of charts and graphs that provide an overview of your company’s finances, like income versus expenses. Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting goes much further than that. Once you create a dashboard, it displays the financial elements you’ve chosen, each in its own window. Some of these components can be modified further.
(Credit: Sage Group)
Getting Around Sage 50cloud Accounting
Other top entries in the left navigation menu take you to the software’s main modules. These include Customer & Sales, Vendors & Purchases, Inventory & Services, Employees & Payroll, and Jobs. Below those options are Banking, Payment Center, Apps & Services, and System. To simplify navigation, you can customize the shortcuts below this module list to include the areas you access most frequently.
These modules all work similarly. For example, if you click Customers & Sales, you see buttons on the left that are labeled with tasks, arranged like a flow chart. Click one of the buttons, and a list of subtasks appears. When you click the Customer & Sales Tasks arrow, the activity options include New Customer and View and Edit Customers. The remainder of the buttons in this navigation chart point mostly to related types of transactions, such as Sales Invoices, Receive Money, Time and Expense Tickets, and Customer Statements. If your company is large enough that you have a dedicated Accounts Receivable specialist, that person might never have to leave the Customers & Sales module.
(Credit: Sage Group)
Open the Jobs module, which is broken out into its own menu item, and you see an even more complex set of chores. Among other things, you can create Jobs and Cost Codes and build Change Orders. This is an area where Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting is far superior to its cloud-based competition. Most others have very sketchy Jobs support, if any. Some of them do have Project features that work similarly, however.
When you click a link in a module, the software often opens a new window. It happens throughout the program. The constant need to open and close windows shows Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting’s age. If you click to view a detailed customer list, for example, a window opens containing both the list and links to related tasks, such as View Quotes and Create Sales Order. You can easily end up opening multiple windows to get to the page you want, and then you have to close them all. At least there is a Close All command in the Windows menu. It’s time-consuming and clunky.
Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting offers tremendous depth in its customer, vendor, and inventory item record forms. Take customer records, for example. The first tab of a customer record contains standard contact information, plus five custom fields that you can define and use. Click on the second tab, Contacts, and you can add information about additional contacts at that company. The History tab displays total sales and receipts by month for the customer, as well as Average Days to Pay Invoices and other information.
The Sales Info tab lets you designate customer preferences, such as sales rep, preferred shipping method, and price levels—Sage 50cloud Accounting lets you define up to 10 price levels per item. Finally, the Payment & Credit tab contains fields for personalized information about credit cards, terms, discounts, and more.
Inventory item records, too, have far greater detail in Sage 50cloud than in other cloud-based accounting apps. On the first screen alone, you can enter details like UPC/SKU, item type, location, and weight, in addition to the number of units that are currently on hand and committed on sales orders and purchase orders. You can track serial numbers, view item histories, build assemblies, define item attributes, and more.
(Credit: Sage Group)
Dealing With Transactions in Sage 50cloud Accounting
Cloud-based accounting solutions do a good job of providing detailed templates for transactions, such as quotes, invoices, bills, and purchase orders. Sage 50cloud’s templates are slightly more complex because of its expansive capabilities and record capacity. An invoice, for example, could contain a field that assigns that transaction to a job and another indicating that the order should be drop-shipped. You can enter freight charges and view each customer’s balance and credit limit on the invoice page itself.
(Credit: Sage Group)
Sage 50cloud Accounting’s invoices, in fact, are more customizable than any of the competition’s. The software comes with two default invoice forms, one for products and one for services. You can modify them by checking and unchecking boxes to indicate which fields should appear on both the data entry screen and the printed form. You can also indicate which columns should appear. To customize your invoices even more, you can add a logo, drag-and-drop individual elements to change the forms’ layout, and pick new fonts and colors.
(Credit: Sage Group)
Just as Sage 50cloud Accounting’s record forms let you perform related tasks directly from the data-entry screen, transaction forms help you save time by branching off into other tasks without leaving the current page. On an invoice, for example, you can receive payments, bring in existing time and expense tickets, and customize the layout. You can also use the software’s tracking tools to follow the progress of a form. An invoice, for example, could be marked as Current, Ready for Approval, or Paid, among other statuses. It’s very helpful, but complicated to set up.
What Can You Do By Integrating Sage 50cloud With Microsoft 365?
Small businesses would be most likely to use the integration between Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting and Microsoft 365 to sync with three applications: Outlook, Excel, and OneDrive. You can see your Sage contacts in Outlook, view some Sage reports in Excel, and back up files using OneDrive. The integration costs $180 per year, as mentioned, and you have to have a Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscription for the integration to work.
Once you’ve made this connection and your Sage data is stored in the cloud, you can invite remote users to access that data through their Microsoft 365 accounts without having Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting installed on their PCs. There are numerous applications for this integration, including storage for uploaded documents, cloud backup, collaboration, and organization.
Setup is initiated through Sage 50cloud via entries in the File menu. Your success at getting the connection set up and working smoothly is dependent in part on your individual computer’s applications and settings. I had to spend some time on the phone with Sage support to troubleshoot my early attempts.
The integration process can be challenging. Once the connection is made, though, you can, for example, view a Sage customer from an email in Outlook and access their contact information, sales information and history, not to mention their payment and credit information. You can complete tasks using other Microsoft 365 applications, too.
Reports for Better Business Decisions
If you’re conscientious about keeping your records and transactions current and accurate, the payoff comes when you run reports. These reports tell you where you are and where you’ve been, which can help you make better business decisions and adjust where needed so you can plan for a more profitable future.
Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting offers templates for far more reports than any competing small business accounting app I’ve reviewed. Some are specialized for the construction, manufacturing, and distribution industries, but every one of the software’s modules is supported by reports, from receivables to payables, payroll, inventory, and jobs.
You can apply multiple filters to zero in on exactly the data you want and modify the report’s columns, fonts, and page setup. I recommend customizing the look of these reports, especially if you’re going to share them, because the default templates are rather uninspired.
Clicking on some line items opens the underlying transactions. You can share reports by email or export them to Excel. Reports take only a second or two to generate but may take longer if you have voluminous data to include.
(Credit: Sage Group)
No Mobile Apps, Except for Receipts and Invoices
It would be hard to imagine a mobile app that encapsulated absolutely every one of Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting’s features. And in fact, there isn’t one.
The company used to offer Sage Capture, which allowed you to take photos of receipts and enter data on expense forms to accompany them, but it’s been retired. Now, you can use Sage AutoEntry, which is smarter than Sage Capture. It extracts data from forms like invoices and receipts and deposits them into the correct fields in Sage 50cloud Accounting itself. You have to pay extra to use this app (prices start at $12 per month for 50 credits). Competitors offer this capability for free. I was unable to test AutoEntry, so I don’t know whether it does a better job.
Excellent Desktop Accounting
Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting is the most comprehensive, customizable accounting program I’ve tested. In addition to sales, purchases, jobs, and inventory management, Sage 50cloud has its own payroll module and payment services. It has two deficits, though, and they’re major. One is that there are no mobile accounting apps, and the second is that the desktop version has an outdated user interface. Plus, because it can do more than what many small businesses need, it might be overwhelming for many SMBs that would prefer simplicity.
If you’re looking for a complete, desktop-based small business accounting solution with a strong feature set and exceptional customizability, especially for inventory management, then Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting is a wonderful option. It has some of the most thorough documentation I’ve ever seen. You can get support online and by phone, as well as talk to live professional advisors. When it’s time to move up to an accounting program with even more capabilities, you can stay within the Sage family and invest in one of its midrange offerings. Other small business accounting services don’t have as substantial an upgrade path.
Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus and Zoho Books Premium are our Editors’ Choice winners for SMB accounting. You don’t have to deal with the complexities and extra time required to access some of their data on a remote computer—it’s just always there. They’re both state-of-the-art accounting apps whose features are generic and usable enough to appeal to millions of small business owners, yet customizable enough to fit each one well.
The Bottom Line
Sage 50cloud Premium Accounting is a robust SMB accounting application with comprehensive financial tools and generous customization options.
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