The “c” in Sage 50c stands for “cloud” and it’s easy to see why: users of the new Sage 50c will be able to store their accounting data in, and share their accounting data via, the cloud.
This is a big change for the solution which up to now has only stored its data locally.
Let’s take a closer look at how this announcement will affect users of the software.
What Came Before
Sage 50 was a desktop accounting solution for small businesses. It was offered in three versions:
- Pro (1 user): accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash management;
- Premium (1-5 users): automated tasks, audit trail, budgeting, change order processing; and
- Quantum (3-40 users): fast processing, industry-specific features, workflow management.
While Quantum was expandable to 40 users, Shari Willman, the product marketing manager for Sage 50 told Small Business Trends, “The real sweet spot for Sage 50 seemed to be 10 users or less.”
Given the intended small business market, this made sense as accounting tasks at many small businesses are performed by the owner and one or two others, something that the out-of-the-box accounting solution handled well.
Sage 50 was an in-office solution. Your accounting data could live isolated on one computer or, if you had a multi-user license, you could share the database from a desktop machine or a local server so that multiple users could work concurrently.
As time went on however, Sage began hearing a couple of common complaints:
- Due to the local-only access of Sage 50, you typically needed to be in the office when you wanted to access your accounting data, something that can be frustrating in our “anywhere, anytime” work culture.
- Sage 50’s local-only database also made it hard to share your accounting data with an external accountant, something many small businesses do. In order to make it work, you needed to export your data and then share it via the Web or a portable drive. Either way, you needed to stay out of your accounting system until your accountant returned your data for you to import (ugh!).
Enter the Cloud
Sage 50c was created to address these two common complaints and to build a platform on which additional features could be offered now and in the future.
Here’s how the new Sage 50c version works:
- Sage 50c still needs to be installed on at least one computer system.
- Once in place, your Sage 50c administrator (someone at your company) can choose to activate “Sage Drive” from within the software:
- Once activated, all of your Sage 50c accounting data, including multiple companies, will be synched between your desktop (or server if you’re set up that way) and the secure cloud servers over at Sage. This feature is free no matter how much space you use or how many companies you create, and your data is backed up — which is handy.
- Once sharing is in place, your Sage 50c administrator can give access to the data in the cloud to up to five named users. These five users do not have to be your employees. In fact, one can be your accountant (yay!) — they just need to have the Sage 50c desktop software installed and they’re all set.
- Each of these users can access your accounting data from anywhere at anytime (though there’s one snag — see below) as long as they have a desktop or laptop with the Sage 50c software installed on it.
- If you choose not to activate the Sage Drive, the software will operate much the same as Sage 50 did.
The One Snag
The one big drawback to the Sage 50c solution at launch is the fact that only one user can access the accounting data in the cloud at a time, essentially locking out all other users. This means that:
- If you have five users with cloud access, only one of them can work on accounting tasks at a time; and
- If you use Sage 50c at, let’s say, the Quantum level (e.g. 40 users), the other users can’t work when one of the cloud users is logged in. Otherwise, “every licensed user has full functionality on the desktop,” says Willman, “while Sage Drive continues to work behind the scenes to sync with the cloud version.”
To accommodate this snag, the Sage 50c users in your company will need to manually coordinate the times when they’re in the cloud. There’s no offline access remotely either — you have to be the user connected to the cloud or you wait.
Though a solution for working concurrently in the cloud is, “on the roadmap,” said Willman, “given that the current Sage 50 customer base is typically 10 or fewer users, we don’t expect this to be a big issue up front.”
Other Features of Sage 50c
In addition to cloud storage and sharing, Sage 50c will offer more integration with Sage Payments:
- First will be an in-product dashboard for Sage 50c customers who have a Sage Payment merchant account. Accessed from right inside the software, it’s a quick and convenient way for Sage 50c customers to view payment information and perform their most common payment activities such as individual lookups and batch processing.
- If you don’t have a Sage Payment merchant account, you can apply for one from inside the software. Part of the form will be prepopulated and, in some cases, they’re offering quick approvals.
Why Not 100 Percent Cloud?
One question we asked Willman was, “Why the hybrid solution instead of moving the software to the cloud entirely?”
The answer was interesting. “Many of our customers still don’t feel comfortable with a fully cloud-based solution. They want to own their data and Sage 50c enables that by syncing between a company’s own database and the cloud so they always have a local copy. We’ve seen this attitude both here at Sage and at our competitors where cloud-only solution adoption has been slow.”
While Sage 50c is not fully cloud-based, Sage does offer Sage One, a cloud-only solution for startups that don’t require more powerful accounting functionality and features. Here’s a comparison of Sage 50, Sage 50c and Sage One:
Despite the “only one cloud user in at a time” snag, Sage 50c is the answer to two of its customers’ most pressing pain points as well as a platform for new integration and features.
Usable today, once the kinks get ironed out in future releases, Sage 50c will likely find itself on the small business list of, “must check out” solutions.
Images: Sage North America