Computer Accounting Systems for Start Ups
Business Start Up Guide – Part 10
This guide covers the following areas:
- Computer Hardware and software
- Accounting Software
- Social Media
- Training & Support
This guide is intended to alert the business user to areas of information technology (IT) that require attention and action when installing or updating a system.
It is not intended as a complete DIY handbook covering every eventuality.
The choice of computer hardware involves primarily: – Hard disk size, Processor speed and Memory (RAM). However, with more and more software becoming “cloud-based” and accessible via the internet (online) this is becoming less of an issue and simple devices e.g. Chromebooks can be used.
In general terms though. Go for as much memory and the highest processor speed within your budget. Around £600 plus VAT will be the current price of a business PC.
The processor, or central processing unit (CPU) is the part of a computer responsible for responding to and carrying out the sets of instructions necessary to perform operations. The clock speed of a processor is measured in Hertz (Hz), this is a measure of how quickly the computer can execute these instruction sets. Bandwidth, measured in ‘bits’, relates to the amount of information that can be handled simultaneously by a processor within a given time. Higher clock speed and bandwidth will therefore yield better performance in a machine.
Another important aspect to consider when selecting a system is the amount of Random Access Memory (RAM) that a machine has. RAM is comparable to the short-term memory in the brain, as it is a temporary storage solution. Various pieces of information are stored flexibly whilst a program is running so that it can be accessed quickly; a linear storage space would take longer for data to be retrieved. Having more RAM, therefore, allows programs to run faster, so again ‘more is better’.
The hard drive of a computer is used as a permanent storage solution and is used to store files and application data. The more storage capacity a hard drive has, the more information it can contain. The size of a hard drive is measured in bytes; many new desktop computers now come with at least 1 Terabyte of space which is more than adequate for most businesses! Portable hard drives are also available if required, adding even more storage capability to your system.
Software Program Requirements
All software programs give their ‘minimum system requirements’ which are the requirements a computer system must meet to run a piece of software. Some programs give details of ‘recommended system requirements’ which will run the software more effectively if your system can meet them. It is therefore recommended that you check that your systems can meet both the minimum and recommended system requirements of any software applications your business will require.
Accounting software, like hardware, is now very powerful and comparatively inexpensive. Integrated software includes Sales, Purchase and Nominal Ledgers with Sales/Purchase Order Processing and Stock Control in a single suite of programs.
Networked versions for multi-user use are generally more expensive than single-user versions.
Choosing an Accounting Package
It is necessary to consider your requirements and what you want to be able to do before buying a package. There are often different levels of functionality in different versions of a program. Consider both the ability to get data into the product and also the reporting requirements that you have.
Online “cloud” based accounting packages are fast becoming the norm, and you will not incur any upfront costs – simply pay a monthly fee for its use. These may have integrated payroll too if you have employees in your business.
If you are already using desktop-based accounting software, it is often possible to migrate to a cloud based system at no cost.
The Government requires businesses to submit VAT information to HMRC quarterly as part of their “Making Tax Digital” project. This started in April 2019 and you should consider a computerised accounting package from the outset that enables you to comply with this new obligation. We can advise on the most suitable accounting software for your business.
Modular systems are made up of individual programs for each of the above functions, each of which is more powerful and flexible than the integrated systems. These are put together to form a total system for the larger business, usually on a network of a number of PC’s. However, cloud software often allows any number of users without having to install networks.
Developing and maintaining a website can be as complex and expensive as you care to make it. Careful thought needs to be given before significant time and expense is incurred as to how this technology be best implemented to suit your business.
There are many options to consider and we can give some useful independent advice and thoughts in relation to your strategy in this area.
The rise of social media in recent years has meant that today there are a plethora of different social media platforms that can be used to the advantage of business owners. This guide will introduce several social media platforms that are currently popular for business use.
Twitter is a blogging service whereby users send and receive messages of up to 280 characters in length to each other, known as “tweets”. Users can track the tweets of other users by “following” them, and in turn can have their tweets “followed”; the more followers a user has, therefore, the more visible their tweets are. Twitter is useful as a business tool because it allows you to personally engage with potential and existing customers, monitor what is being said about your company and keep interested parties up to date with your company’s newest developments, products and offers.
Many people are already familiar with Facebook for personal networking, but opportunities exist to use Facebook for business purposes. The most prominent of these is Facebook Pages, a flexible space within which users can promote their local business, band or organisation, amongst others. Facebook also offer several paid advertising solutions, whereby campaigns can be targeted at Facebook users according to defined demographics such as age, location and interests, which can direct people to the company Facebook Page or an external website.
Billing itself as the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn is designed for users to showcase their professional qualities. User profiles include elements such as professional experience, education and honours and awards, as well as endorsements from other LinkedIn users. LinkedIn is thus a great place to establish yourself as a competent individual within your industry. Moreover, due to the number and diversity of groups on LinkedIn, it can be a great tool for finding and networking with like-minded individuals, as well as discovering potential business partners or additional company personnel.
The computer industry is well known for “here today, gone tomorrow” suppliers. Make sure that you choose one with a good local reputation and never part with money until you have received the goods. Paying extra for on-site maintenance is a sound insurance for equipment being used for business.
Training and Support
Training staff on your computer software is essential. We can provide training, on request, tailored to your specific requirements.
The popular press would have you believe that it is only a matter of time before a virus attacking your hard disk eats up your data! The most frequent reason for loss of data is not taking backups.
You should ensure that proper procedures are in place to make your data as secure as is practical.
Hardware and software is dependent on prevailing market prices. Installation and training is proportional to your requirements and usually charged at an hourly rate.
The move to cloud-based software has led to significant growth in other ancillary products and services which link into the accounting software. No longer is it necessary to print out supplier invoices, pass them for manual entry into the accounts and file them away on the shelves.
These can now be sent to a software product for automatic data extraction and coding, and the details end up in the accounting software, together with a copy of the invoice which is viewable from within the accounts system.
Similarly, there can be automation in other areas; chores such as debt chasing, bank reconciliations etc. Reporting can also be automated too, with automated “alerts” when something is good – sales exceed £100,000 for the month, or bad – the overdraft limit has been reached.
The benefits will be mainly a business that you manage – instead of a business that manages you!