Switching to Xero from AccountEdge

Originally published at: Switching to Xero from AccountEdge - TidBITS

Technology transitions with accounting packages are scary—you don’t want to mess around with your organization’s financial tracking if you can avoid it. With MYOB AccountEdge failing to break through the 32-bit barrier, we at TidBITS chose to move to the cloud-based Xero. After a few initial setup confusions, Xero has given us a fast, modern workflow that makes managing our finances fun.

I used MYOB as well during my brief period running a standalone business in the 1990s. I did learn double-entry accounting in all its meticulous glory, which has served me well ever since. Having put away those toys so many years ago, I was a little jolted by your story…especially the part about it never really evolving from those early roots.

There may be something there about what happens once a developer specs a new application and constructs it. With something as mission-critical as accurate financial accounting, early decisions and technologies may end up remaining with the system unchanged, because they can’t be altered without bringing the whole house down.

I was in a Church meeting and one of the members asked me “what software do you use to do the Church books?” I smiled and got to deliver THEE line … “Mind Your Own Business!” She looked back startled to which I then added “The name of the software is Mind Your Own Business” … fortunately she was a good egg and cracked up!

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I just checked and I have data sets going back to 1992 for MYOB. Now we run AccountEdge NE 2019 which is multi-user and runs just fine but has kept us at Mojave. The nice thing about AE has been a reasonable price, a network edition and for the most part it’s stable both as an app and in terms of data corruption. Obnoxious is persistent bugs in the software and the idea that such a simple program couldn’t be recompiled to 64-bit or isn’t already operating on a shared code base (lots of tools out there like LiveCode that could accomplish this and add web support.) Thanks for reviewing alternatives as we will definitely be exploring those!

One detail I didn’t put in the article but that I quite appreciate is that Xero can do two-factor authentication with a custom Xero Verify app that uses a push notification to confirm you’re logging in. And it even works with the Apple Watch, so I can just tap a button on my wrist to authenticate.

I used Accountedge for over 28 years to manage 5 businesses sucessfully and really enjoyed its versatility, it has been a challenge to change old habits and reproduce what I could to do in MYOB. I have been able to achieve the transition with great result using Moneyworks Gold which offers many option from stand alone to multi user and cloud solutions for Mac & Window. Because I like to keep control of my datafile and don’t like the the adds on cost of XERO plus the fact that Xero is only cloud based. I encourage you to test Moneyworks they offer 45 days full functional file, great software. They offer an Myob template to import your existing data. https://www.cognito.co.nz

In the 1980s I developed a comprehensive accounting package for my father-in-law, who was spending a couple of evenings a month doing his company’s payroll. I used the brilliant DOS suite Open Access
( Shattered Wiindoze )
When I started my consulting engineering business in 1990 I used the same package. As Australian tax requirements have changed over the decades I have added or modified modules to try and keep the process as simple as possible.
I have transitioned through DOS, Windows 95, windows XP, Mac OSX to Mojave and still managed to run my software in a DOSBOX window. Now that DOSBOX is available as 64-bit I suppose I will keep using it. The only tricky thing is that all output has to be saved as text files and converted to PDF for printing & archiving.
I have looked at products like MYOB over the years and have (easily) resisted the temptation to switch. I don’t suppose I will ever need a list of invoices and payslips from 1990 but they are still there in my system (in archive files - I was restricted to working files well under a megabyte).
So thank you for documenting the woes of using commercial software.

Have to say I am a retired CPA, have been using AccountEdge since it was Accountant Inc, before it was MYOB. Went through the same process for figuring out how to transfer my brothers construction firm.

Unlike you, I will not use a cloud based accounting system, and the last thing I want is all his accounts and credit cards attached to another company. He posits his day to day transactions, I do his bank and credit card reconciliations, and prepare financials for his tax accountant.All easy enough to download from his bank and and import into AccountEdge.

We are very happy we waited and quite content with the Windows version in its wrapper. We have data back to 2002 that can still be upgraded and read should we need it. I don’t have to rewrite or adjust the chart of accounts.

Quick books is god awful and always has been. Perhaps having started my career on 13 column ledger sheets and 10 key adding machines, my need for new and clean isn’t as great. Using the current version at $15 a month is less than we paid for yearly tax table updates before.

I looked at every, and I mean, every, other package out there, including Xero, and wasn’t willing to fix what wasn’t broken for us. Everyone’s mileage may vary, but I am glad we waited and saved a good 40 hours of messing around to make something else work, and then taking another 40 or so to teach my brother how to use it.

Switching accounting packages is one of the most painful things you can do, so congratulations to you both.

My guess is that many folks reading this thread won’t need a business accounting package, and a lot of them won’t be happy with subscriptions and/or cloud-based services. I’m one of those. For personal accounting I carried on using MacMoney until long after it was sensible, then moved to Moneydance and the world got a lot brighter. Anyone looking for a personal accounting package should definitely look at Moneydance, and if they do choose it, be sure to add on the Money Foresight extension from Mahana Road Software, which takes an infinitely more sensible approach to budgeting than any other personal accounting package I’ve seen.

The concern with Xero for our purposes was handing over access to accounts to a third party. This is seeming more common, but still makes my security spidey sense raise.

Can you comment on the security concerns and how you were able to justify the risk?

Hello; I too am a long time (~20 yrs) AccountEdge user. Since needing to upgrade to Big Sur, I’ve had to shift it to my laptop to keep using it but that is not a permanent solution. I am a freelance digital artist/instructor whose business dropped dead in 2020 of course. I do not have employees, payroll, payroll tax, inventory, recurring transactions etc. I just need to keep track of Revenue, Expense, Profit/Loss, Balance Sheet, A/R, A/P, chart of accounts, etc. for my accountant. I do not want to pay (especially on a subscription basis) for all other features I will never use. I’ve looked at Moneyworks (Express package $249) and tried the MYOB template but wasn’t able to get it to work. Of course in my present state, maybe I could start my accounts from scratch I guess. My ideal product would be a one time purchase, non-cloud based. Would you say Moneyworks Express is my best fit? Thank you.

Ah, those puffy white elephants in the room, which I tried to dispense with in the article. At the risk of repeating myself, here are my thoughts about security and subscriptions.

Security

  • As I noted, Xero makes all the right noises about security. It maintains a list of phishing attempts aimed at Xero customers, it offers two-factor authentication, and the only “breach” I’ve been able to find related to it seems to have been the company encouraging users who had been phished to change their passwords back in 2015. Considering that Xero has 2 million users with no high-profile problems, I have every reason to believe its security team is doing a good job.

  • We want access to our finances from multiple locations, such as if we’re traveling. Obviously, that could be accomplished by putting files on a laptop, but then you’ve exchanged risk related to online access for risk related to physical access. The two risks aren’t the same, but it’s a fallacy to assume that physical security isn’t always a concern.

  • We live in 2021. Online access to sensitive information is a given for nearly everyone who participates in modern society. Your bank accounts provide online access, and if they don’t, there’s no reason to use Xero at all, since you’d lose its prime feature. In other words, Xero is, if not the least of your worries, well down on the list from things like your bank accounts, email, Apple ID, Google, Amazon, Social Security, and medical records accounts, all of which could be used to steal your money or take over your digital identity. Everyone should enable two-factor authentication for all such accounts.

  • Unless you maintain a backup strategy that includes a physical off-site backup, your financial records are at very real risk from fire, theft, flood, or other natural disaster. Of course, an Internet backup service like Backblaze also solves that problem, but if you’re too concerned about online security to use Xero, I would have to assume you don’t trust Backblaze either.

Subscriptions

  • Money is fungible. It’s the same money if you pay it out on a monthly basis or an annual basis. It’s entirely rational to compare prices. If the app you’re looking at costs $250 and charges $100 per year for upgrades, your 5-year bill would be $650 if you upgraded every year. If you pay Xero $11 per month for 5 years, that’s $660, and you get the equivalent of all those upgrades. If you choose not to upgrade, you pay less and you get less.

  • Subscriptions offer a predictable cost that can be built into a budget. A one-time purchase plus occasional upgrades might be predictable, or it might not be, and if it’s unpredictable, it might come at a bad time. It’s just the cost of doing business.

  • Subscriptions have a lower cognitive load than having to evaluate every upgrade to determine if it offers something you want or not. Upgrades usually have bug fixes, security fixes, and minor tweaks along with big new features, but it’s a lot harder to evaluate if the smaller improvements are worthwhile—they may not even be described.

  • I’m very interested in having companies I choose to work with be successful so they can continue to provide me with the products and services I want. If the people in charge of the company have determined that a reasonably priced subscription offers the best chance for the company’s success, I’m OK with that.

All that said, if you don’t feel comfortable with either the security of an online service or ongoing subscription fees, so be it—that’s up to you.

But I personally am completely comfortable with both, based on 31 years of covering the industry, running online businesses, and using all these apps and services.

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FWIW, when I travel, I create an encrypted disk image on my laptop and copy my financial files (Excel spreadsheets) to it. I make a point of not storing the image’s password in the computer’s keychain and always eject/unmount the image when I’m not using it.

If you’ve encrypted your laptop’s drive (e.g. FileVault), what do you gain by putting your files in an encrypted disk image?

In my case, there’s a problem with the laptop’s SSD. When I tried to encrypt it, the encryption never completed. It was chewing up 100% CPU cycles for over a week before I gave up, wiped the storage and restored a backup. So this specific computer does not and will not have FileVault running. And since it’s a 2011 MacBook Air, there’s little point in my trying to fix the problem (probably by replacing the SSD).

But even if FileVault was in use, I would still continue to use the image file.

The reason is because I don’t think it is wise to assume that any single solution is perfect. For instance, there have been prior FileVault exploits. Apple fixed that one, but I have no way to know if there are others that have not yet been fixed.

Using an encrypted disk image when you’re traveling to an untrusted location is a cheap and easy way to add an extra layer of security to the system’s existing security model.

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If someone has a small consultancy then this is probably all that is needed, but once there is any complexity then it is probably easier to buy an off the shelf system. If I was doing this now I would probably write the programs in R, the free statistical program, and use an SQL database. That way I could set the system to summarise billable hours on different projects.

I agree that, these days, it would be better to buy an off-the-shelf package. However in the 1980s we needed modules to track service calls, overtime, holidays and, in Australia, state payroll taxes. Multi-user access over a DOS network was also needed. Very advanced for its time, Open Access had (has) networking (e.g. record locking), SQL database and a brilliant high level programming language for managing data and the user interface. Equivalent commercial accounting software at the time needed a " mini-computer" (e.g. Burrows or HP) and was not easily customised.
As I indicated above, I still use my OA package and from time to time modify the code to deal with yet another tax office change (e.g. Business Activity Statements and Goods and Services Tax, superannuation…).

I am continuing to use AccountEdge in Mojave in a VMWare Fusion VM. my AccountEdge company files are in an encrypted disk image. i just applied the 2021 upgrade.

my needs are simple so this works for me. it’s just me that i have to account for and i keep everything on my laptop. actually that’s not true. my wife has a small company but i do her accounting for her in a separate company file.

reportedly, the windows version of accountedge works great in CrossOver, even on Apple Silicon Macs. I don’t wish to go there unless forced to by going to an Apple Silicon device.

i deliberately bought a top of the line Intel MacBook Pro immediately after the Apple Silicon announcement (replacing my previous laptop earlier than i wanted to), because i was worried about the transition and its possible effect on VMs.

One thing that we were just reminded of that has long been a major annoyance with AccountEdge is that every year, it wants you to close out your books and start a new file. As a result, there’s no way to look up information from previous years without knowing which previous file to open, and there’s no way to compare data across years. We’ve long had to maintain external spreadsheets to track data across time, which is just a waste of time, and just last night, we had a question about the last time we received a payment from some vendor. Tonya couldn’t find it in the 2020 file, and by that time, I’d determined the last payment was in 2018. So she would have had to open and search through 2019, then 2018 before finding anything.

Although we don’t have a full year in Xero yet, none of that would have been a problem as far as I can tell.

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I’m glad to see the recommendation for Xero! I ran my own consulting business for several years about a decade ago. I went through a similar evaluation process to @ace and Tonya. I had an aversion to anything from Intuit, and software like MYOB seemed to me to be far too clunky for modern times, and headed for a dead end technologically.

I trialed Xero and another cloud-based product (I forget which) side by side for a bit, and ended up choosing Xero. I was surprised to find myself enjoying using it, given how dry and tedious bookkeeping can be. But put simply, it’s well made, well designed, and I knew that if I decided to grow beyond a 1-person business, Xero had the capabilities and integrations I’d need to keep things running smoothly.

For bookkeeping, I agree with Adam when it comes to both the cloud-based & subscription aspects. I also want to mention what I consider to be a significant security advantage: if you have an accountant, it’s far more secure to add them to your Xero account than to be emailing records to them. (I’m also a proponent of owning your data, and as Adam mentioned, it’s easy to export any data you want from Xero, which I did on a regular basis.)

In short, I was very happy with Xero during the years I ran my own business, and strongly recommend it.

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