Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com
Just a couple of years ago, Web-based accounting products paled against their desktop counterparts. But in a short time, Oracle Small Business Suite has evolved into a full-strength, well-integrated program that exceeds the features of popular desktop programs. In Version 7.5, Oracle adds helpful enhancements to the Web store and sales force automation features.
Oracle Small Business Suite (OSBS) is a Web-based application that manages a company's books like any traditional desktop accounting program. However, you use a browser and Web connection to work with OSBS, and your company's data is stored on Oracle's Web server-not on your office computer. The advantage is that all changes, such as tax tables and new features, are updated immediately so the application is always current. Also, users can access and enter data from almost anywhere that they can obtain a Web connection
OSBS's strong features cover the accounting basics, and also handle payroll, customer support management, and time and billing, and creates a comprehensive number of reports. Notably, the program's powerful sales force automation module does a great job managing and tracking sales leads and developing territories. Its solid inventory features process and track shipments.
The impressive Web store feature makes it fairly easy for businesses to set up e-commerce sites to make Web-based sales. While users give up some flexibility to customize the look of their sites, OSBS offers a straight-forward process to set up the site, and handles all of the hosting and transactions. OSBS is particularly well integrated and automatically exchanges data between its various components. For example, sales from the Web store automatically generate invoices and deduct inventory items.
Version 7.5 offers some good enhancements. We liked the customizable tabs in the Web store that let businesses modify their Web pages. The ability to perform bulk updates based on percentage is an excellent new feature, as is the ability to save search results. Customer management is stronger with the addition of a File Cabinet that lets users store and limit access to documents.
The intuitive interface, which is rather plain, offers a series of tabs that make it easy to access the program's features. Accounting functions may be customized so users only see the functions that they need to. You can also customize pages with shortcuts, as well as modify the color and tabs. The online documentation is detailed and helpful.
To assist with the initial company setup, OSBS offers wizards that walk you through the process. Setting up a company in any accounting application is a complex process, and OSBS does it about as well as any application. For setup, OSBS accepts Quicken and QuickBooks data.
At $99 per month, approximately $1200 per year, OSBS initially sounds expensive. However, when you consider that this fee includes Web page hosting, domain forwarding, online bill paying, and Web store transactions, it's a pretty good deal.
OSBS is designed to support the needs of companies with up to 250 employees, and, the company says that firms as small as two owners are using OSBS, particularly to post e-commerce sites. Unfortunately, for now, Oracle doesn't have a lower-priced offering that will appeal to smaller and home-based businesses that don't need Web store features. For these users, Intuit's QuickBooks is more cost- effective.
Bottom line: OSBS is worth a look. It may initially seem strange to use a Web-based accounting application, but Oracle Small Business Suite has the right stuff to pleasantly surprise you.
Manufacturer: Oracle, www.oraclesmallbusiness.com
Requirements: Web browser, broadband Web connection.
Pros: Strong feature set that is well integrated; easy Web store.
Cons: Application is too expensive for small businesses that don't need Web store features.