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									Stand up and be counted
Find the right accounting package for your business
by Bianca Wright
Choosing the right accounting package for a small- or medium-sized business can be confusing. There are a variety of options on the market that offer similar features and it can be difficult to stack them against each other. We took five of the most well-known accounting packages on the SA market and compared them.

> Pastel Accounting
The granddaddy of accounting software, Pastel (www.pastel.co.za) is well-known among small- to medium-sized businesses, for which it caters. Its recently launched Pastel Accounting 2009 has adapted to customer needs and offers range of new features that seek to provide enhanced security, flexibility, efficiency and control. New modules include the much anticipated Pastel Bank Manager, which downloads bank statements from any of the major South African banks and then automatically updates the books. Having mapped the bank transactions to the correct customer, supplier or ledger accounts the first time a download is done, the system automatically assigns the transactions after each subsequent import. Increased control means SMEs can tailor access to specific needs. For example, an employee can be allowed access to a particular report he or she needs, but not all the financial reports or the trial balance, or one can be given the ability to do only quotes and another the ability to do only invoices. The System Audit Trail allows you to track by date, time and user any changes made to the system set-up, promoting accountability, minimising mistakes and deterring fraudulent behaviour. Other products include Pastel Xpress, a pared-down version of Pastel Accounting, good for small businesses with basic accounting needs, Pastel Partner, a higher-end version of Xpress, which offers greater functionality, and Pastel Payroll, an add-on module for both Xpress and Partner. Pastel Payroll’s flexible design caters for a range of needs, from pre-defined, standard sets of transactions for less complicated payrolls to more powerful and customisable features for more sophisticated payrolls. Pastel Xpress retails for R2 999 for one user, while Pastel Partner Base costs R6 750, with additional costs for extra users. Software can be purchased through Accounting Direct (www.accountingdirect.co.za).

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> Accfin PAD accounting
Accfin is aimed at both the professional accounting market and at the business user. Its PAD accounting software offers the power and functionality of professional packages. Automatic bank reconciliation can be performed for thousands of transactions within minutes. Inventory control, debtors’ and creditors’ management and job costing are all available through the package. Reports can be exported to Excel. The focus is on functionality and the interface is complex. A manual is supplied to you and Accfin does the installation training and set-up for you and conversions where necessary. Pad Accounting comes in three different Levels, Financial Manager which is R 3 600.00, and an annual License Fee of R3 600.00. Level 2 is Branch Manager, which is R5 500.00 and License Fee R5 500.00. Then we have Level 3 which is Job Costing at R7 300.00 and License Fee R7 300.00 ex VAT, and this is for a 2 user system. Then to install and Train is R3 000.00 per day .The software then goes up in multiples of 5 users.

> Orangeworks Accounting Software
Relatively new on the market, having been launched in 2006, OrangeWorks includes the basic accounting processes as well as new features such as an SMS system, which allows financial messages to be sent to users, suppliers and consumers as bulk messages or individual messages. Orangeworks’ Exposed Framework means that any third-party developers wanting to incorporate Orangeworks into their own business-focused software can do so through a single, easy-to-use, library in the Orangeworks accounting package. Security is a core focus and you can specify what level of access a user or group of users has to each component of the software, even once it has been integrated into a third-party application. Unlike other packages, all modules are included in the base package and new modules released will be available for download from the site. Conversion of existing data to Orangeworks, including transaction histories, has been simplified, making migration to Orangeworks quick and easy. Drop-down menus and lists as well as the ability for users to build their own short-cut bar make the software easy to use. There are a variety of support options including a call centre, a Live Chat support structure along the lines of MSN Chat, and an option to dial into the call centre via Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). OrangeWorks Accounting Software (www.orangeworks.co.za) is available through a network of business partners for R125 per month per user or R1 250 per user per year. A free 14-day trial is available for download at the website.

> Prizm Accounting Software
Not a complete suite of accounting software, Prizm Payroll simplifies payroll and is based on Microsoft Excel, making it easy to learn and use. The software can handle monthly, weekly and fortnightly payments and offers electronic submission of UIF and IRP5 returns as well as payslips. All reports print to Microsoft Excel workbooks. Prizm Payroll retails for between R1 850 and R1 160 with an annual renewal fee of R925. You can download a fully-functional 45-day trial version from www.prizm.co.za.

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> Quickbooks
Quickbooks’ (www.quickbooks.co.za) most basic product is SimpleStart, aimed specifically at SMEs and designed to be quick and easy to use. In particular, it is designed to assist first-time small business owners through the first year of operation. Taking just 15 minutes to set up, the emphasis is on usability and Quickbooks’ audio tutorials help even the least tech-savvy business owner navigate through the software. In addition to the basic accounting features, such as tracking money coming in and out of the business and creating invoices, sales receipts and estimates, SimpleStart includes VAT management on a cash basis and allows you to add multiple delivery addresses per customer. One step up from SimpleStart is Quickbooks Pro, which offers the same functionality as SimpleStart but with more advanced tools and features. Quickbooks Pro lets you set custom pricing for different customers and situations and each time you create an invoice, sales receipt, sales order or credit note, it automatically pulls up the correct custom price. As with Pastel, the Audit Trail lets you track changes to the system and detect errors. It also has a stock management system, where you can set re-order levels and create purchase orders. Quick Payroll interfaces seamlessly with both Quickbooks SimpleStart and Pro, meaning that your general ledger updates automatically after payroll is run. It handles all aspects of payroll, including payroll calculations, leave registers, report writing and tax year-end. A pared-down version for basic payroll needs is available as QuickPayroll Lite. Quickbooks SimpleStart retails for R949 through Total Accounting Solutions (www.totalaccounting. co.za) and Quickbooks Pro for R1 899. Quick Payroll costs R1 899, while QuickPayroll Lite retails for R949.

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