by Lauren Maffeo
Published on 24 July 2017
Sage 50 holds prestige in the accounting software world. It was the first business software introduced for microcomputers. Today, Sage offers five accounting software products for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). These include country-specific Sage 50 versions for American and Canadian users. But Sage 50's status as a legacy tool doesn't mean it's necessarily the best fit for you.
Sage 50 is a desktop accounting and invoicing suite designed to serve small businesses with up to 40 users. Their selling point is to combine the trust of desktop software with the ease of a cloud-based mobile app.
But several reviews from GetApp readers share the belief that stronger tools exist. "I think customer service has gone down & price has gone up since it has been bought out by Peachtree," wrote Summer Endraske, who has used Sage 50 for more than 2 years.
Despite praising the tool as a one-stop shop for accounting and inventory management, Endraske also wrote that Sage 50 "Can't move inventory easily. A lot of unfriendly reports. It is difficult to track sales rep reports and what customers buy by product."
And while GetApp Reviewer Rachel Adams gave Sage 50 a five-star review, she also cautions that it's not for beginners. "You will want at least a very basic accounting knowledge before trying to use this software if you are starting from scratch," she warns.
Small business owners have specific needs when they shop for software. Cost, scalability, and customer support are just a few top-of-mind factors. So, this article aims to help readers find the best alternatives to Sage 50 based on 10 criteria.
We chose the apps in this article from GetApp's Category Leaders ranking of the best accounting apps for small business owners. All Category Leaders scores mentioned in the article below reference our Q3 2017 ranking, which was the most recent ranking at press time.
Below, we'll show you which accounting apps earn top marks for factors like cost, training, integrations, and more. Then, you can use GetApp's accounting scorecard to find the best alternatives to Sage 50 for your own small business.
Sage 50 provides three pricing tiers: Pro, Premium, and Quantum. Sage 50 Pro (the cheapest of the three) costs $439 per year if billed annually. That said, the Pro plan only supports one user, and adding Microsoft 365 will cost an additional $150 per year.
On the high end of the Sage 50 Spectrum, a Quantum plan supports up to 40 users. It also costs a whopping $1,729 per year for three users. So, Sage 50 is far from the best choice for small business owners on a budget.
Despite being a freemium tool, Wave packs a powerful punch. It offers a full suite of double-entry accounting features for teams with nine people or less.
Bank integrations erase the need for manual entry. Other standout features include expense tracking, personal budgeting tools, built-in payroll, and sales tax reports.
"As a freelancer who does big and tiny jobs, it's easy to lose track of my invoice activity who I've invoiced for what, who has paid, etc.," GetApp Reviewer Lisa Wells explains. "With Wave, I've got customized invoice templates that are easy to fill out with saved client information, etc. I know who I've billed, how long ago, and how long it took to get paid. Recently, I began using the credit card feature. The fee is the same as PayPal, but it's integrated more smoothly with my electronic invoice."
Sage 50 serves the small business market. But the annual fee for 10 users of Sage 50's Quantum plan is an eye-watering $2,879. That's a steep price to pay for "anytime, anywhere cloud access" when other accounting apps offer the same service.
Timesheet management, late payment reminders, time clock integration, and automatic tax calculations are just as few of FreshBooks' features. It also includes personalized "thank you" emails, time tracking by client and project, online invoicing, and late payment reminders.
"The first thing that draws attention when it comes to FreshBooks is that it is used by over five million businesses to streamline time tracking and client invoicing," GetApp Reviewer Alexandria Houston shares. "It is likewise ideal for freelancers that aspire to fast track their sales and collection and look more professional by custom-branding their financial documents with company logo and colors.
"We found out that the app's great success comes primarily from its amazing features and the flexible pricing plan that allows small and medium businesses from all industries [to] benefit from its functionalities."
Some small businesses will pay more for software if it integrates with a large number of apps. But this is an area where Sage 50 drops the ball. Several GetApp readers share that Sage 50 lacks the third party add-ons of other accounting apps. One even had to stop using Sage 50 since it didn't integrate with enough software tools.
QuickBooks Online integrates with apps including Wrike (for project management); Salesforce (customer relationship management, or CRM); Gusto (payroll); and MailChimp (email marketing). QuickBooks Online also earns a frequent perfect score for integrations in GetApp's quarterly Category Leaders ranking.
"We use QuickBooks Online as the main accounting platform in our Accountancy Practice," GetApp Reviewer Rajeeb Sharma says. "We find QBO to be feature rich with a good set of reporting options as well as controls over user security. Full multi-currency is available as well as budgeting together with integrated payroll and VAT.
"QBO has a good range of apps integrating into it and the list is growing daily. There is also a mobile app on which a number of functions such as invoicing can be carried out. The app includes basic purchase orders, stock tracking and time recording which are unusual at this price point."
Sage 50 has mobile apps for iOS and Android. But reviews are lackluster at best. One reviewer on Google Play even shared that he had to buy a brand new tablet after learning the hard way that Sage 50's Android app wouldn't integrate with his Galaxy Note 4.
Alongside its renowned integrations list, QuickBooks Online earns top marks for its mobile apps. GetApp readers rave about its native apps for iOS and Android devices. "Mobility is great. Loading time is good. Accessing my accounts from mobile, desktop or tablet has been seamless," GetApp Reviewer Gregg Brown says.
However, some reviewers note that QuickBooks Online's mobile apps lack some of the desktop version's features. Cited limitations include not being able to enter transactions into the register or do cost estimation. So, carefully look at QuickBooks Online's feature set before you invest.
Reviews of Sage 50 are largely positive. As of press time, it had an average rating of 3.8 (out of five) stars on GetApp. But not everyone's a fan.
One Canadian GetApp reviewer shared that he now recommends Xero for his clients. His rationale for why Sage 50's in decline?
"It's not the most user-friendly program and has a reputation of being difficult for non-bookkeepers and bookkeepers alike to use properly. Sage has been slow to make it more user-friendly and were behind in moving to cloud options. Personal experience is Sage support is very slow to respond to queries."
FreshBooks earned a perfect Reviews score of 20 in GetApp's Q3 2017 Category Leaders ranking. 94 percent of nearly 900 reviews are positive. Readers give FreshBooks high marks for features that let them track time, expenses, clients, and invoicing. Others cite benefits like easy collaboration with accountants and a reasonable price tag.
"I love how easy it is to use on the go or at the computer," GetApp Reviewer Chelsea Welsby says. "It's almost as if it knows what I need before I do. My husband and I run a small business, and I take care of invoicing on top of having a separate full time job, so FreshBooks helps us keep our ducks in a row without investing too much time!"
Since your small businesses will hopefully grow, it's best to choose software that can scale with it. Sage 50 delivers by providing three plans for small business owners. But if you're a solopreneur, you'll have to start with Sage 50's Pro plan at $44.08 per month.
As we've said before, that's a steep price for a tool that provides basic accounting tasks like cash flow. And since the cheapest plan's price point is so high, it means that many potential users will get priced out of all three Sage 50 plans.
Zoho Books is software that's designed to help small businesses scale. Instead of forcing users to switch accounting software as their businesses grow, Zoho Books can grow alongside them. Its Basic plan starts at $9 per organization per month. Users on this plan enjoy features like bank reconciliation, custom invoices, expense tracking, and more.
Zoho Books' most expensive plan is the Professional, which costs $29 per organization per month. It allows for unlimited users and includes purchase and sales orders as well as inventory. And since Zoho has a large product suite, you can integrate Zoho Books with Zoho's other tools for CRM, HR, project management, and more.
"Zoho Books was one of the online bookkeeping systems that was most affordable and had all of the features I need," GetApp Reviewer Darren Jett raves. "I love that our bank account(s) are linked with Zoho and sync automatically to ensure our books are almost always up to date."
Most accounting software users are not trained accountants. That's why it's important for accounting apps to be as intuitive as possible. It's also why many software companies provide user training.
Sage 50 sells an online course via its UK website. But each of its four stages costs £115; buying all four together costs £414.00 including VAT. And since U.S. accounting differs drastically from UK accounting, this course isn't a good investment for American small business owners.
NetSuite offers tons of resources to help onboard small business owners. Its virtual classroom provides interactive training with NetSuite instructors.
One-on-one classes are also offered and tailored for different time zones. Several GetApp reviewers add that although NetSuite is easy to use, answers from their customer support are available if needed.
"NetSuite meets all expectations," GetApp Reviewer Glen Davius shares. "Whether it's a simple 'financials only' implementation or a full blow 'entire enterprise with many modules' play, NetSuite fills the needs of most any small-to-medium business looking to either transition from an accounting-only platform or to grow to a centralized data platform.
"In addition to being a world class SaaS solution, NetSuite is also a quality PaaS solution as qualified configs and customizers can create custom functionality via fairly simple code. "
Once you start reading GetApp reviews, you'll notice a common theme. Whether you're reading reviews of accounting or marketing software, users want products that are easy to use. Small business owners don't have tons of time to invest in learning how new software works. So, saying that a piece of software is "easy to use" is often the highest praise.
This is also perhaps the biggest area where Sage 50 falls short. Whether you're a small business owner or a bookkeeper, several GetApp reviewers share that it's not an intuitive tool. If you're a small business owner who wants a simple accounting app that you can use on your own, Sage 50 is not the ideal option.
Xero's on the high end of the "easy" spectrum. Its dashboard gives each user a full financial picture of their business. This dashboard highlights bank balances, upcoming bills, expense claims, and more. It gives users an easy way to understand their cash flows at a glance.
As if this isn't easy enough, Xero also does data migration. If you're coming to Xero from QuickBooks or Sage, Xero will convert your data for free when you sign up. This alleviates a huge headache, which GetApp readers acknowledge. Several share that Xero is an ideal alternative to Sage for small business owners.
"Xero does a good job of keeping invoices, bills and expense claims separate," GetApp Reviewer Daniel Gartner says. "I use Xero mainly for expense claims, and it's very easy to add multiple line items, and calculate tax rates, etc."
Even the easiest products can malfunction. That's why strong customer support can mean the difference between choosing one software over another. Buying business software is an investment, and many small business owners are willing to pay more for products with teams that provide strong support.
That said, the opposite is true as well. Users don't have much patience for software with lackluster human help behind it.
"The software [is] fine until it doesn't function and when that happens…forget about getting a hold of the support that you pay big bucks for because [they] are non-existent," GetApp Reviewer Sandy Sorensen says about Sage 50. "I have been trying for 3 days to get a call back from Support on a large issue with the software. The recording states they are too busy to take my call at this time and for me to try again at some other time. I am ready to research another software company. 18 yrs and they have only gotten worse instead of better."
Along with exceptional user reviews, GetApp readers give FreshBooks high marks for outstanding customer service. More than one third of all reviews tout the tool's customer support in glowing terms.
FreshBooks' human touch goes a long way with our readers. Many cite how they love the ease of speaking with a rep rather than getting lost in an automated system.
"I am a big fan of FreshBooks," GetApp Reviewer Matthew Lee says. "I used to use a different software and I was constantly getting bogged down in it and forgetting how to do what should have been simple tasks. Then I tried FreshBooks and found it extremely easy and intuitive to use while doing most tasks.
"When I have occasionally been unsure how to do something, I have called their technical support and have always been impressed. No automated system to go through and the person that answers the phone can actually answer my questions. The software does have a few limitations like I wish the estimate form was more flexible and I wish I could set rates for myself and my subcontractors on a per client basis, but overall it works great for me."
Software isn't meant to stay stagnant. If there's a strong engineering team behind it, a software tool should receive frequent updates. And that team won't just add any features - they'll have a system to prioritize customer requests.
The amount of updates that a piece of software gets will vary by tool and respective team. But ideally, those updates will happen often enough to improve the user experience without disrupting it. According to some user reviews, this can't always be said of Sage 50.
"They have absolutely no customer service at the end of the year, when they also force you to upgrade your current year software or you will be unable to run end of year forms like W2's and 1099's," GetApp Reviewer Cathy Guy says. "(It doesn't matter if you have bought the '2015' tax service for the year '2015' - you still have to upgrade in order to use the software for the close out.)
"For some strange reason, they have decided that doing the upgrades in the month of December is a smart idea. It's not. Every year we have problems in the month of December - this year was the worst. Their upgrades affected our payroll, which then had to be done manually without their software. So the forced upgrade effectively shut our entire payroll system down, and their customer service representatives were rude and completely unwilling to do anything to fix the problem their company created."
Xero prides itself on addressing user feedback. Expect automatic software updates every three to six weeks with new functionality. GetApp readers love how frequent - and unassuming - these updates are.
On top of that, Xero's at the forefront of emerging tech. They're testing a new machine learning system to automate account codes when users create new invoices. That feature should roll out for all users this year.
"Having used a multitude of finance packages over the last two decades, Xero stands out as THE most user-friendly of all," GetApp Reviewer Kate Long raves. "The constant updates all seem in keeping with the user's needs & are minimally disruptive. Great work guys. Keep going :)"
This post was originally published on March 29th, 2016. It has been updated with new apps, visuals, and user reviews.