Cloud accounting for the rural business

Colin JonesAgainst a backdrop of low farm gate prices across most UK agricultural sectors, farmers are increasingly scrutinising and benchmarking their monthly costs and cash outflows. As a result, there has been unprecedented interest from farming clients 
looking to use accounting packages to provide information in real time. There are many packages available and these vary in their format from desktop based software to ‘web’ or ‘cloud’ based packages. 

Cloud Accounting

The agricultural sector has been well supported over the years, with a variety of bespoke accounting software packages available. Historically this software has been installed and run from the farm office PC or laptop, but more recently there has been a trend toward ‘Web’ or ‘Cloud’ based software. This is referred to as Cloud Accounting and is essentially the use of online accounting software that stores your data and software in the ‘cloud’. It can be accessed at any time, in any place and from any device that has internet access, much like internet banking.

This means the software and data are no longer installed and stored on a single farm PC or laptop, but securely stored in the Cloud and accessed by logging in via a web browser from devices, such as the farm PC or laptop, tablets or smartphones. (We have heard of a case where a tablet computer was built into a tractor console with a 3G connection allowing the farmer to do his bookkeeping from the tractor cab!!) 

This software evolution now opens up the choice of the traditional products that many will be familiar with, to new products with an ever increasing variety of add-ons that can add value to your business. 

Technological advances in accounting software such as automated bank transactions feeds and invoice recognition are changing the way traditional bookkeeping takes place. Many of the cloud packages also integrate with other farming business 
applications, which all help to manage your farming business in real time. 

For farmers, Cloud Accounting is opening the gates to cost effective up-to-date management information, historically associated with much larger businesses. Installing annual software updates, regularly taking backups and emailing data backward and forward to the accountant are also becoming things of the past. Throughout the year, the secure live web-based data helps to facilitate phone calls and meetings between farmers and their accountants, enabling real-time discussions about actual business performance against projections; the forecasted tax position; and adjustments to expenditure plans. 

Broadly speaking, we have witnessed farmers getting the maximum benefit from accounting software where the process of data entry is straightforward and the printed reports are clear and meaningful. Choosing the right package that suits you is 
important and not one software will suit all, so careful consideration is required. 

As the technology evolves we continue to work closely with clients and their farm secretaries to sift through the array of features offered by the different packages to help them choose, set up and use the software that best supports their businesses. 

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