Desktop vs cloud accounting: What to consider 

What are the key differences between desktop and cloud accounting software, and what should you consider when it comes to choosing a solution for your business

There’s a lot to take on when it comes to running your own business, and one of those things is processing your accounts and taxes. And, while most business owners are well aware of what HMRC requires of them regarding their finances, with changing legislation and a busy work schedule, sometimes a bit of help doesn’t go a miss.

That’s why so many busy business owners look to hire an accountant or purchase helpful accounting software.

But, with so many different types of software, including desktop and cloud-based solutions, it’s hard to know which is right for you and your business.

In this article, we’ll explain the key differences between desktop and cloud accounting software, the pros and cons of each and what to consider when it comes to choosing the solution that is right for your business.

You can jump straight to a specific section or read on for the full piece.

What is desktop accounting software? 

Desktop accounting software is installed directly onto your computer or laptop (normally via an application).  

Because of this, it can only be used for a single business entity and only on the system that it is installed. Desktop-based software needs to be installed and backed up manually – but this does mean you have personal and secure access to the data. 

While lots of business owners still favour desktop software (usually due to familiarity and reliability), in the present business climate, this type of software is becoming less common as newer businesses opt for cloud-based solutions, where the application is accessed in a browser from anywhere.  

However, using desktop accounting software doesn’t mean you’re tied to your desk. With providers offering cloud capabilities like Sage 50 Accounts, it gives you greater flexibility and freedom in how you work and allows you to collaborate with your accountant, sharing data securely. 

With the help of tools such as AutoEntry, you can automate manual tasks like expenses and invoicing, so that you can use your time more wisely. Desktop software, used with the additional benefits it comes with, can be powerful and provide more advanced capabilities than some cloud-based offerings.  

What is cloud accounting software? 

For many, cloud accounting software is considered the future of online accounting as it can be accessed anywhere and can be more user-friendly than other solutions.    

Cloud software is hosted – as it says – in the cloud, allowing companies to access their financial data via an internet browser. This means there’s no need to manually install the software onto your company system so it can make it easier to work from any device or location.   

Some cloud solutions, such as Sage Intacct, can handle multi-entity businesses and fulfil more complex accounting needs, such as advanced reporting capabilities.  

Typically, the advantages of cloud accounting are:  

  • Online accessibility from anywhere  
  • Automatic data backups  
  • Improved integration when compared to desktop accounting programs  
  • More sophisticated accounting services, such as extensive and customisable real-time reports 

What to consider when purchasing accounting software? 

When it comes to choosing which accounting software is right for your business, there are a few things you should consider.   

Firstly, consider your business. What processes do you need help with? Making sure that the program you choose offers what you need is essential as not all accounting software providers offer the same services. 

Other aspects to consider include:  


Even if your firm isn’t huge now, can the software and provider you choose scale up with you should you grow in the future?  

Opting for a program that either offers a wide range of services as standard or gives you the option to upgrade when the time is right means you’ll benefit from longevity. Therefore, if you choose well, you won’t need to go through the process of choosing new software any time soon.  


Is the software compatible with the types of software you’re currently using?  

When selecting new accounting software, you already have a lot to consider when integrating the program with your current systems. The last thing any busy business owner wants is to find out the systems currently in use need to be changed because they’re not compatible with the newly-acquired accounting software.  


How much money you want to spend will depend on the size and turnover of your company. However, regardless of whether you run a growing start-up or well-established organisation, only pay for a program you can comfortably afford.  

Customer service 

Something often overlooked when it comes to purchasing new software is the efficiency of the provider’s customer service.  

For the most part, a customer’s main concern is the effectiveness of the system and how well it suits their needs. And, while these aspects are important, a great program without good customer service could be more hassle than it’s worth. 

If something goes wrong with your software, you’ll want peace of mind that the issue can be solved quickly, and you can easily contact your software provider.  

For those looking for a program that offers first-rate customer service, Sage (with its award-winning customer service and experts on hand to help you get the most out of your software) is one to consider.  

Which providers offer desktop and cloud accounting software 

There are a few big players in the accounting software space. Some are cloud only, and others have phased out their desktop solutions, like QuickBooks.  

While shopping around can help you to pick the most suitable software (be it desktop or cloud), it can be time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming. If you haven’t got the spare time or energy to spend scouring the internet, opting for an industry-leading provider is usually a safe option.   

Sage offers a range of accounting software to fit your business needs, and can help you find the right solution 

Sage 50 is the leading desktop accounting software with cloud connectivity, giving you a complete view of your business finances and inventory. Perfect for small to growing businesses. 

Sage Intacct, the leader in cloud accounting and financial management software is perfect for scale-ups to global enterprises. It offers bespoke pricing, tailored to your business. 

Sage accounting allows you to manage income and expenses with ease and master your cashflow. Perfect for sole traders and small business owners. 

Final thoughts 

Accounting software is a useful tool for business owners to keep track of their finances, save effort by automating manual tasks and ultimately save time to spend on the important things, like business growth and performance. 

There’s no single accounting software (whether it be desktop or cloud-based) that will work for every business, but by understanding your company’s needs and what to look out for when it comes to purchasing new software, you can make informed decisions to help your business grow.

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This article was written as part of a paid-for content campaign with Sage 

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