Accounting 2.0 at CloudAve
In an ongoing series of reviews and analysis pieces, CloudAve is taking
a deep look into accounting software for the new world.
See the other posts below:
2.0 – Thought Leaders and Product Reviews
– Helping SMBs Ride Out the Storm
Less Accounting –
FreshBooks – Review
Free Agent –
Xero – Review
QuickBooks Online Edition – Review
Clarity Accounting – Review
The Future of Accounting – Guest Post by Rod Drury
Introduction & Background
Disclaimer – Zoho sponsors CloudAve. The following review however is a pull no punches and give no favors appraisal of Zoho’s current offering.
Zoho invoice is the invoicing offering from Zoho, that complements the myriad other on-demand offerings. As the name implies it is currently and invoicing-only service and as such it competes with other similar services such as FreshBooks.
Most online invoicing/accounting products provide for a free trial period and then charge – no matter the usage level. Zoho however believes in a freemium model – for the contractor doing five or less invoices a month the Zoho product is completely free. Thereafter the price rises, but even for a very busy business with 50 invoices daily the monthly cost is still only $35
The user experience
For those without an existing Zoho account, signing up for invoice is a quick, painless process. The dashboard itself is pretty intuitive with a tabbed interface that separates the different functional areas, namely estimates, invoices, customers, items and reports. Invoice has the sort of customisation one would expect of an invoicing-only product – users can upload a company logo, design invoice templates and specify tax settings.
While invoice integrates with other Zoho products – it looks and feels like a separate product – one could see that as a positive or a negative however in my mind a company like Zoho that offers a complete suite of products should do more in terms of cross application aggregation – it’s a potential value-add that other players don’t have and it seems logical to leverage it.
The basic functionality
Invoice invoices well! Setting up an invoice template is quick and easy as is the creation of specific items. As would be expected from a company that also has a CRM and project management system, Invoice allows data to be shared from/to these two offerings (for customers that use them obviously). Invoice also has some good CRM type functions, allowing customers to automatically send a thank you note for payment received.
Invoice has some nice options to follow up on unpaid bills. Users can select up to three e-mail reminders and determine how many days after the payment due date they are sent. The reminder text can also be customised.
Unlike some of its competitors, Zoho invoice is already set up for multiple currencies and allows for multiple tax lines (for example a regional and a federal sales tax can be automatically applied).
Zoho integrates with PayPal and Google Checkout for payments received, providing a nice seamless integrated invoicing and payment receipting service.
The value adds
With a suite vendor such as Zoho, the biggest value add comes from using multiple products and sharing data within them. Users of Zoho CRM and Zoho Project will enjoy the efficiency created by an out-of-the-box enabled integration. As mentioned above there are more angles for integration that I would expect Invoice to leverage.
The security issue
Zoho invoice leverages the security delivered by the entire Zoho suite (and the clout of its parent company Zoho Corp.). Data is stored in US located Tier 1 data centres with regular security screening. They have a reasonable comprehensive security policy on their product wiki.
Invoice allows user to export their data to a multitude of formats – as with other SaaS products, I’d like to see a one click complete data dump that took all user information – from settings, to invoice layouts, to invoices, to payments – but Zoho are not alone in failing to provide this ready-access to data portability.
APIs – connecting the dots
Zoho integrates with it’s own products as well as providing for importation of data from Blinksale, Google checkout and PayPal.
Zoho invoice does what it sets out to do, that is provide a robust and intuitive invoicing solution. While not being a flashy operator, it beats other vendors with it’s multiple tax and multi-currency support.