When I was in my twenties, I used to write lots of accounting software reviews for magazines and newspapers. I found reviews to be a bit of a mug’s game, because really getting the dirt on a bit of a software isn’t something you can do in a couple of hours.
Like a new relationship, getting to know a bit of software takes some time and it can take many weeks before the cracks truly show. Going out on a first date doesn’t tell you much.
However, sometimes a first impression is enough to know whether you want more, or whether you wish you’d never signed up for that Internet dating service in the first place.
And so it was today, when I had my first date with CashBook Online, the latest Aussie cloud accounting offering.
CashBook Online is a Reckon Online product, distributed by the mob that supplies QuickBooks in Australia and New Zealand. (This range also includes QuickBooks Hosted, which I’ve talked about in earlier posts.)
Using my holiday house business as a test bunny, I logged onto CashBook Online and started to record the last couple of months’ transactions. It’s after lunch now, and although a morning isn’t long enough to deliver an in-depth verdict, my first impression is very mixed indeed.
On a positive note, CashBook Online delivers the basics: a simple cashbook where you can record expenses and receipts, generate a Profit & Loss report and produce a Business Activity Statement. And because CashBook Online uses cloud technology, you can do your accounts from anywhere in the world, using your favourite Macintosh or PC browser. If you’re already familiar with QuickBooks, some of the functionality is similar, such as the structure of tax codes and the way you reconcile your bank account.
But yin needs yang, man needs woman (sometimes at any rate) and with positives also come negatives:
- There’s no invoicing features: I can’t use CashBook Online for invoicing. Sure, this is a step up from storing my receipts in a shoebox, but even for my simple business, I want to be able to send the occasional invoice.
- Limited choice of banks for bank feeds: Although I can sign up for bank feeds — something I believe to be a crucial component of cloud accounting for any micro or small business — the only banks currently available are the ANZ and St George (although NAB is apparently in the pipeline, and discussions are being held with the CommBank and Westpac).
- Bank feeds cost extra: When I read the fine print, I discover that bank feeds are only free up until 31 October. After that, I have to pay extra and guess what? According to the website: ‘Full pricing, terms and conditions will be published in the near future’. If I’m going to start a new relationship, I want the initial conversation to be a little more open than this.
- The import process is a shocker: I couldn’t sign up for bank feeds, so I chose to import the last eight weeks of transactions for my business instead. However, I discovered that if I close the import screen before I finished allocating every transaction to an account, all the transactions I hadn’t coded yet disappeared. I then had to do the import again to pick up the remaining transactions and at this point, CashBook Online displayed the whole import batch again. I lost track of where I was up to and ended up with duplicate transactions for the second week of July.
- The logic of attaching tax codes to accounts, rather than to transactions, will probably trip up beginners: With CashBook Online, you attach tax codes to accounts, rather than transactions. For example, when I set up Repairs & Maintenance as an expense account, I linked it to NCG as the tax code. However, when I was coding a payment to the guy who mows our lawns, I wanted to change the tax code, because this supplier isn’t registered for GST. However, CashBook Online doesn’t provide an option to override the tax code for a single transaction. The workaround of course is to create two accounts (one for Repairs with GST, and another for Repairs without GST) but I can’t help feeling that this may be overly complex for some non-bookkeeper business owners.
- It’s glitchy: I’d only been working for 10 minutes before I got one of those horrible windows saying Arguments NotFound. Debugging resource strings are unavailable. Don’t know about you, but this kind of pillow talk doesn’t do much for me.
- The security has holes: When I went to log back into CashBook Online, it remembered my Username and Password. I certainly wouldn’t want this happening if I was using a computer that others shared, or logging on to view my accounts from an Internet café somewhere. I don’t want my new partner spreading my innermost secrets all around town. (After speaking to Reckon, I tested this problem further. Google Chrome automatically remembered by login but Internet Explorer didn’t. And I couldn’t log on at all using my iPad.)
So the conclusion for my candid camera moment with CashBook Online?
When it comes to a partner (whether in life or in cloud accounting) I want someone that’s good looking, fun to have around, and excellent at what he does.
In contrast, I feel like I’ve just been on a first date with CashBook Online and found my new love to be rather spotty, unreliable and a poor conversationalist to boot. And I don’t care how cheap he is to maintain.
Now can you see now why reviewing accounting software is such a wretched pursuit?