Sage 50 Quantum Accounting 2014 review

Sage 50 Quantum Accounting is the most capable desktop-based, low-end accounting software available. True midrange accounting solutions like NetSuite, however, are built for anytime/anywhere access and more customizable, complex financial processing.
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Sage 50 Quantum Accounting 2014 is a member of the largest global software family represented in my latest batch of ERP reviews. Over the years, its parent company, Sage, has acquired numerous small and mid-sized business solutions, primarily in the accounting field (though it also publishes an old, familiar contact manager, ACT!). It now supports several previously-independent lines, including Simply Accounting, BusinessWorks, DacEasy, and Peachtree.

Sage has left the entry-level Peachtree lineup (Pro, Complete, etc.) intact, changing only the applications’ names to Sage 50 (Sage 50 Pro Accounting, Sage 50 Complete Accounting, etc.). Sage 50 Quantum Accounting sits at the top of the list, maintaining the look and feel and core feature sets of the junior Sage 50 products, but incorporating functionality that brushes up against the low end of the midrange accounting solutions. This includes more generous data capacity, support for more users (up to 40), more sophisticated job-tracking, and role-based security levels.

All Sage 50 products—with the exception of the relatively new Sage One—are desktop-based. This allows growing businesses to move up through the ranks without having to learn a new application and appeases the large number of small companies who are uncomfortable doing their financial work in the cloud. But while some elements of Sage 50 Quantum Accounting look fresh, most of its working parts use the same interface and navigational tools that have existed with little change for years.

A Solid Base
The products formerly known as Peachtree have matured to the point where there’s little more they can add in terms of small business financial processing features. In fact, they hit that wall a few years ago. So the emphasis in upgrades has been on how work is done, rather than what the products can actually do.

This means that Sage 50 Quantum Accounting is quite capable of handling the basic work required of a GAAP-compliant, double-entry accounting PC application. Its front end—the part that you as a user see—is designed to be understood by non-accountants. Behind the scenes, the software is busy doing the technical work—the debits and credits, journal entries, etc., that are necessary to keep the books balanced.

All of that work you used to do on paper or in Excel—or in another accounting product—can be done quickly and accurately using Sage 50 Quantum Accounting. You can track receivables and payables, manage your inventory and jobs, and process your payroll. Your paper forms and manual processes will be replaced by the software’s records (customer, vendor, item, and employee) and transaction forms (invoices, purchase orders, quotes, and sales orders, etc.).

More than Capable 
Data is integrated both within the program—eliminating duplicate data entry errors—and externally, with Microsoft Office. Standard and custom reports and other analysis tools help you interpret the numbers and make better business decisions. Sage 50 Premium Accounting and Sage 50 Quantum Accounting also offer company consolidation, departmentalized financial statements, and serialized inventory.

Sage doesn’t ignore the cloud entirely; there’s connectivity outside the confines of the desktop. Sage 50 Quantum Accounting offers remote access and web synchronization tools, and you can import your bank statements. Merchant accounts and online backup are available, and there are virtual connections within the payroll services. At the present time, however, you can’t pay bills online unless you’ve already established a connection, which is a serious deficit.

But Sage 50 Quantum Accounting pulls ahead of QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions in several areas, particularly its sophisticated job management and interactive reporting tools, and its inventory management (four types of costing methods are supported, comparable to midrange solutions and two more than QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions offers). It also uses built-in intelligence to post transactions automatically (“SmartPosting”) as well as to automate the order process workflow. Some of its more advanced features are geared toward specific industries, like construction, manufacturing and distribution.

An Aging Interface
There’s nothing overly difficult about getting around in Sage 50 Quantum Accounting. A vertical pane on the left divides the program’s functions into related areas (Customers & Sales, Employees & Payroll, Jobs, etc.) and provides a place for often-used, customizable shortcuts. When you click on one of the module tabs, a graphical flow chart/process map opens in the center of the screen.

This multi-button graphic further breaks down each area into its many tasks. Inventory & Services, for example, displays its capabilities and workflow through navigational buttons (and their sub-menus) that represent the work you or your staff might do in that area, like adding or editing item records and building assemblies, creating purchase orders and receiving inventory, and doing an inventory count.

The right side of the screen is reserved for related lists (customers, banking, etc.), and mini-reports and graphs. These groupings of data are all interactive. When you click on one, a record or transaction or report opens in a new window that uses toolbars, data entry fields, and drop-down windows, and tabbed informational screens to help you both enter and view your accounting data. If you’d rather, you can use the standard Windows menus in the top toolbar.

Once you learn the program’s layout, it should be fairly easy to get where you’re going quickly. But we’ve become used to seeing state-of-the-art graphical screens on the web, even on sites that offer business and productivity tools, like Web-based Intacct and NetSuite. Working with Sage 50 Quantum Accounting isn’t the most aesthetically–pleasing, efficient experience because of its dated look and navigation.

Effective Help and Reporting
Peachtree has always had exceptionally thorough program help, and Sage has upheld that standard, building on what was already there. You can browse or search the help files, study user manuals and watch training videos. You can get online support individually or through the Sage community. Sage University provides additional training resources, and the Sage Advisor, which can be toggled on and off, provides content-sensitive help with the program itself.

One button that appears in multiple functional areas—Intelligence Reporting—takes you to a sophisticated Excel-based reporting tool, which is included in Sage Business Care. Sage requires that you purchase a Sage Business care support plan—there are three levels—and includes the cost in your purchase fee. The $2,999 purchase price goes up if you buy a higher level of support.

Sage 50 Quantum Accounting clearly distinguishes itself from the other products in the Sage 50 small business line—and from QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions—through its advanced functionality in security and workflow automation, inventory and jobs. But it doesn’t offer the same level of customization; support for complex financial processes like revenue recognition; or financial planning and analytic tools that the cloud-based solutions reviewed here provide. It lacks their CRM and e-commerce functionality, as well as their anytime/anywhere access. And it’s not optimized for as many specific industries.

I can certainly recommend Sage 50 Quantum Accounting for users of entry-level Sage products who need to move up but aren’t ready for the cloud, and for new businesses who want the best that small business accounting software can offer. The application, though, lacks the flexibility, extensibility and complex financial processing that NetSuite ERP (our Editors’ Choice) and Intacct, as well as higher-level Sage products like Sage ERP X3, offer.

Tech Support Sage Business Care Silver included in price.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Business, Professional

Sage 50 Quantum Accounting is the most capable desktop-based, low-end accounting software available. True midrange accounting solutions like NetSuite, however, are built for anytime/anywhere access and more customizable, complex financial processing.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc