Best Online Accounting Tools for the Digital Age 2018

Over the past two decades, we have seen technological advancement at an unprecedented rate. The industry that has been affected the most is computing, with computers now being a permanent fixture in every workplace. Digital accounting services have taken over much of the heavy lifting, concerning calculations, that was previously done manually, and the practice of accounting has been significantly affected.

The accounting profession has significantly changed over the past 30 years. During the time preceding the 1990s, the biggest digital tool for the accountant was the calculator. Everything else had to be calculated, recorded and stored manually. Nowadays, almost everything to do with accountancy has been computerized and accounting information systems is one of the most popular specializations.

Even without formal accounting techniques, there are software solutions that allow small and medium scale businesses to balance their books without seeking any professional help. For accountants to keep up, it's essential that you be prepared for the tools your clients will be using, or expecting you to use. Some of the digital tools that you should familiarize yourself with, for the betterment of your future accounting career, include:

1. All in One Accounting Tools

These are the products that have truly turned the practice of accounting over its head. As an accounting student, your accounting degree program will probably involve courses on some of the more popular accounting tools such as Sage Business AccountingFreshBooks, and the tried-and-true Quickbooks, because your clients will be using them.

Picture an averagely sized business. The accounting needs involve managing supply chain, handling the invoicing and order processing from clients, managing payroll, keeping track of inventory, paying rent and utility bills, handling sales and purchases made from credit, managing the bank account, and keeping track of tax obligations amongst others. This is why, in the past, most businesses needed a fully-fledged accounting department, or at least a full-time bookkeeper, to keep track of all these processes. But now, with the right digital accounting services, all these functions can be tracked and managed from one computer terminal.

2. Cloud-Based Storage

Traditional bookkeeping involved having physical paper ledgers which had to be stored at a premise. There were several downsides to this. If nothing else, there's the physical waste involved in multiple copies of every file – it's a lot of paper, and paper is expensive. There are also the storage issues of maintaining records spanning many decades; paper takes up space. At some point, any successful company creates the expense of paying for storage space, and commercial real estate isn't cheap either.

Electronic storage solves many of the problems associated with paper record-keeping, but it creates dangers and inconveniences of its own. It's hard to keep identical records on multiple machines, and the more machines involved in a network, the greater the danger of cybercrime.

With cloud-based storage, not only are your records secured, but they can be accessed from any location with the right security authorization. You don't lose your records if your workplace computer crashes. Popular services such Dropbox and Smartvault are used to power cloud computing for accountants. Another benefit of cloud-based storage is that your records can also be accessed on a wide range of mobile and desktop devices.

3. Time Tracking Apps

When you finish your study and join the job market, do not expect to be monitored through ‘conventional' ways. In the past, there had to be a supervisor who has to keep track of the work progress of every employee during a shift to ensure that everybody is productive in their role. Today, remote work and decentralized offices are becoming the norm. It's the gig economy, and you're on your own.

With most companies seeking to streamline their workforce and minimize their payroll expenditure, it no longer makes sense to have someone take on this supervisory role on a full- time basis. Most companies have time tracking software such as TSheets, which monitor employee's progress over the workday and establishes whether they are sufficiently productive. If you plan to run your own accounting firm, with your own employees, time tracking is something that you can benefit from as well.