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Computer for Bookkeeping - advice on what to look for

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  • 4 posts
  • # 113208

Hello,

I would welcome advice from established bookkeepers on what I should look for when purchasing a computer for my up and coming ( hopefully!) bookkeeping business please. 

I have completed manual bookkeeping studying and have passed B1&B2 exams. I have been sent Sage 50 accounts software by my training provider in order to work towards B3 exam and beyond. I have also been sent some money from a very kind relative to purchase a new computer for my forthcoming self employed bookkeeping business.

Once one begins working for clients, do you tend to take your computer and software to them, or is it actually more usual to use their computers / software?

My guess is that I need something portable with reasonable processing speed and a long battery life. What else should I look for? Is a CD drive useful for information that clients give you? Is Windows 10 compatible with bookkeeping software?

You can tell by my wording that I am not particuarly technical / up to speed with the newest models, but I can always google the technical bits of your reply!

Having neither been self employed nor a bookkeeper before I would welcome your insights so I can get something with reasonable longevity

Many thanks for your time

Claire

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  • 19 posts
  • # 113211

Hi Claire

It depends on if your clients want you to use their equipment & software or if they are happy for you to use your own. Most of my clients are happy to use mine. The larger the company, the more likely they are to have their own. They also prefer you to work at their premises so the information stays on site.

I have a desktop computer in my home office for when I'm working from home & a laptop for when I'm out & about visiting. Both have Sage 50 Accounts Plus & Moneysoft (a payroll program that is great!) on them. Note - you must make sure you get user licences to cover all machines with the programs on or you'll breach the rules! TGet the best processing speed you can afford. The battery life decreases as the laptop gets older. I think I'm on my 3rd battery now.

Your clients are more than likely going to give you loads (& loads!) of receipts, not CDs or memory sticks of info! CD drives are so last year Darling!! We use the cloud now (& Dropbox is good). Just save files in the folders which you can share with your clients. 

I don't know if the above has been any use! 

Good luck with your venture & go to the ICB branch meetings. They are a fab source of info! We all help each other with queries.

Kind regards

Hazel

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  • 4 posts
  • # 113213

Hello Hazel

Many thanks indeed for taking the time to be so helpful. It's the sort of useful advice that I'd want to print out and refer back to; but that's probably a bit old school too Wink

I have gathered from a little bit of research that if I want a snazzy new laptop I would also likely be in the market for an external CD drive. For whilst what you say backs up the impression that information is less and less likely to come in CD form, the Sage software, for instance, is on a CD... !

With thanks again for your help

Best wishes

Claire

PS if anyone else wishes to pitch in with their own experiences / advice I would very much welcome lots of insights !

  • Fellow
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  • 19 posts
  • # 113214

Hi Claire

Sage actually comes by way of download nowadays! The last Sage CD I had was in 2012! I upgraded to V22 for which I am charged £44.40 (incl VAT) a month for a 2 user licence & a bureau licence for up to 25 accounts. Have a look at Sage One through the ICB (£1 a month - a special ICB rate) or the next level at £10 per account added. I think there are trial periods of a month for both these programs & they are cloud based programs. 

An external drive might be useful to you if you ask Sage for CDs. My desktop & laptop both have CD drives which I very rarely use. 

Jolly good luck!

Kind regards

Hazel

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  • 28 posts
  • # 113218

Hi Claire,

I would say you would need a Windows computer, especially if you plan to use Sage. Obviously, cloud software is compatible with any computer. I'm actually looking for a laptop as I hope to get my practice licence etc in a couple of months. The things I am looking for are 1. It must have a 10 key number pad! These usually only come in 15"+ laptops which isn't great for portability. However, once the DVD/CD drive is removed, the weight also goes down, and it would make a 15" lighter weight, but maybe more comfortable to use than a smaller laptop. 2. At least 3 usb ports. One for my wireless mouse and two more for printers/external drives etc. 3. long battery life (6++ hours). 4. Lots of RAM but hard drive space isn't that important as external drives and memory stocks can be used. 5. A backlit keyboard would be nice  

As Hazel said, everything is in the cloud, so portability and comfort should be up high on your list. I suppose the ideal combination would be a desktop at home and a laptop for out and about, but I don't feel any discomfort from long term use of my laptop. And finally just to say, in my experience, brand doesn't matter. And a lot of the expensive brands make the newer cheaper brands anyway, so go for spec rather than label. 

Thats my two cents worth! HTH.

 

Janine

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  • 4 posts
  • # 113220

Hello Janine

Many thanks indeed for your 'two cents worth', worth at least a bunch of dollars I'd say Smile. There are an overwhelming number of laptops, so pointers on what features will actually prove worthwhile in the future are greatly appreciated; thank you.

It probably is, as you say, an ideal set up to have two computers, but since the future that I am equipping myself for is a bit hazy, I will keep options open by opting for a laptop at this stage.

Let me know what you go for Janine!

And thanks Hazel for the info on Sage fees, good to know

All the best

Claire

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  • # 113231

Hi Claire

Glad to help! I've been trading for over 23 years & know it would have been useful to have been given the heads up on program costs & options! 

Kind regards

Hazel

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  • 35 posts
  • # 113403

Hello

 

Very interesting post as I am also about to become self employed!!! Where can you get the Sage programme for £1 a month? Had bit of a trawl around the website and cant see it.

Would this be the best programme to set up many small businesses on?

Thanks

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  • # 113404

Hi again

I've just had two weeks of hell with Sage One! I have a new client who wanted "cloud" accounting. I contacted Sage & was demonstrated the Accounting program. The sales pitch was get the Accounting program for £10 a month & we will give you 10 user licenses for another £10. Great, I thought ....wrong! They gave me 10 Start program user licences (NO DEMO!!) This is the £1 deal & is really just a cash account program, which is fine if you have clients that only trade in cash! If your clients have sales & purchases invoices, then you need the Accounting program which costs the client £10 a month (or you if you opt to pay it). When I download the Sage One I found that the demos on my program were for CASHBOOK (looks okay) & ACCOUNTING - no START demo. I told Sage to remove the remaining Start programs ( I had converted one to Accounting) as they were no use to me or any of my clients. They eventually cancelled 4 & also the active client I had put on!!! I have now cancelled Sage One totally & will stay with the desktop version. What a fiasco!

I also found the time delay between saving a transaction & being able to move on to the next transaction tedious. The program kept kicking me out showing an error 504 message (whatever that means!) In my opinion, I would to steer clear of Sage One.

Also, apparently the version of Sage I have is strange to them. The lady I spoke to yesterday said that I should have the Accountants version so I can work on any of my clients versions of Sage......for a cost of £78 + VAT per month! I've declined that kind offer! I've been a Sage customer since 1992, so expect a better service than I've received recently.

Rant over!

Hazel

 

  • Member PM.Dip
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  • 779 posts
  • # 113405

Hi everyone,

I'm surprised anyone is using Sage these days.

Ok probably because once you are with them they make it very difficult to move to something else.

Personally I wouldn't use Sage Accounts or Payroll - overpriced and support useless even when you have paid for it!

Ref computer for business:

I purchased a laptop when I first started many years ago thinking I may have to use it to visit clients - how wrong was I? Never used it once.

For my clients I do the whole job (Bookkeeping, Vat, Payroll & SATR) from my home office on desktop PC.

I very seldom go to clients offices and the ones I have on occasion have their own PC & software (which usually runs a lot slower than mine and really annoys me so prefer not to do this type of work).

Marilyn

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  • 7 posts
  • # 113412

I like Sage 50 very, very much. I think it's a great product however Sage themselves aren't the easiest company to deal with.
 
I'm a member of the Sage bookkeeper network and for my £30 (inc VAT) a month I get a full copy if Sage 50 and payroll for my own use.
 
I have one client on Sage 50 who likes me to work on their site however there are occasions I'd like to work on their data from my office but Sage want to charge me an additional £58 (inc VAT) per month. They say this will give me the ability to manage 5 clients but I only have one on Sage 50 :(
 
So the up shot is that Sage want to charge me a total if £88 per month to be able to occasionally work on my clients data.
 
All the best,
 
Mike

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  • 779 posts
  • # 113414

Hi Mike,

If you want to work on clients copy of Sage from your office this can be done without any charges or involvement from Sage.

I did this for 6 years for a client who I just gave up last year. Their IT people did the setup and as long as the PC in clients office was left on I could logon to that PC from my office. It was done through the clients server so if your client does not have a server there will be another way of getting access.

Not sure but something like 'go to my PC' maybe?

Although I rant about Sage and their charges etc I do like using Sage but just wouldn't personally buy it.

Marilyn

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  • 6 posts
  • # 113427

Hi Claire, I've been in the bookkeeping business for about 11 years. I trained in computerised accounts on SAGE and for years this is what I used in the offices I worked in, as I didn't know anything else. But in the last few years all my clients have migrated to Xero Cloud software for which they pay a monthly fee. I now won't work with any other software as I prefer to be an expert in one rather than quite good at several. Xero isn't without its glitches but they are always making improvements and innovations.

I now work almost entirely from home on an imac desktop 21.5 inch screen with a numeric keypad. The ipad screen is a dream to work on. When you are working with spreadsheets & accounting software it helps to be able to open several windows at once and move them around. So while it's an expensive option, it's ideal for this sort of work. The only downside is that not all software is mac-compatible. I have had to purchase and install Parallels desktop to enable me to use for example the payroll software of my choice as it only works in Windows. But to be honest, there aren't many things now for which I need the parallels and the technology is getting better all the time.

So my advice to you would be to choose a cloud accounting package and then stick with it for all of your clients. You will be able to use it whether you're working in their offices or from home, unless the internet breaks down which is another story...

I haven't heard of anyone recently who has used a CD drive. The best way of getting info from clients is to get them to upload it to a shared Dropbox account, which is free for the first 2GB. I haven't used up all my space yet.

11 years ago I was pretty much where you are now. You'll soon be an expert. Good luck!

Jane

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  • 4 posts
  • # 113703

Hello Jane,

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply, and for being so very helpful.

Apologies that it has taken the entire summer to reply; young kids on school holidays has not allowed as much study time as I had hoped!

I am currently doing my training on Sage 50 v22 which was supplied by my school. Whilst the licence appears indefinite, I am pretty sure it is only going to allow one company at a time ... i.e. I'd need to upgrade if I have visions of having more than one client!!

I gather from these and other discussions that Sage is good, but expensive, so I will definitely look into the Xero Cloud software you mention.

With thanks and best wishes

Claire

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  • Practice Licence
  • 49 posts
  • # 113704

Hi Janine,

As you say portability is so important and with this in mind I decided to look for an alternative to the cumbersome 15" laptop that you generally need to ensure you get a number keypad. Instead I have gone with  Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet and detachable keyboard and a separate bluetooth number keypad that doubles as a calculator. It's brilliant and I am so happy because it's really neat to carry around and all my little acoutrements fit in a little zip bag that I pop into my bag too. So, NO you don't need to buy a laptop with a built in number keypad. They are available to buy from as little as £7.99 online.

I hope this helps some people who are thinking along these lines.

Marie



JVMCE said:

Hi Claire,

I would say you would need a Windows computer, especially if you plan to use Sage. Obviously, cloud software is compatible with any computer. I'm actually looking for a laptop as I hope to get my practice licence etc in a couple of months. The things I am looking for are 1. It must have a 10 key number pad! These usually only come in 15"+ laptops which isn't great for portability. However, once the DVD/CD drive is removed, the weight also goes down, and it would make a 15" lighter weight, but maybe more comfortable to use than a smaller laptop. 2. At least 3 usb ports. One for my wireless mouse and two more for printers/external drives etc. 3. long battery life (6++ hours). 4. Lots of RAM but hard drive space isn't that important as external drives and memory stocks can be used. 5. A backlit keyboard would be nice  

As Hazel said, everything is in the cloud, so portability and comfort should be up high on your list. I suppose the ideal combination would be a desktop at home and a laptop for out and about, but I don't feel any discomfort from long term use of my laptop. And finally just to say, in my experience, brand doesn't matter. And a lot of the expensive brands make the newer cheaper brands anyway, so go for spec rather than label. 

Thats my two cents worth! HTH.

 

Janine


 

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