Free accounting software for small businesses? There’s an obvious value to anything free—it’s free. The “best” free software of any kind is easy to learn, easy to use, and doesn’t create an unending series of hurdles to overcome. Clearly, there are tradeoffs to be made. For example, open source software has value in being flexible, extendible, and malleable. It requires time and effort to take advantage of those things, but the time you spend balances with the value you get when you’re done.
By Andrew Marder
xTuple PostBooks is open source enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. That means that, in addition to accounting, PostBooks can track sales, has a customer management system, and can integrate inventory, among other features. xTuple offers a free license and a commercial licensing system. The free license is the same program, but it comes without any specialized support.
xTuple maintains a strong online community, where users can support each other, but if you want help from a professional, it’ll cost you.
Who is it for?
PostBooks requires more technical know-how than any of the other solutions listed here. Not only does it provide more features, it’s also designed to extend into more parts of the business and be overseen by professionals. This isn’t something you’re going to set up in a weekend and never touch again.
If you have the technical team and the need for ERP software, PostBooks has a lot to offer for a big fat $0. If you lack those things, you can always pay for support and hosting, but then the software’s no longer free.
What’s the catch?
ERPs are beasts. If you’re running a sole proprietorship, focused on marketing—or whatever—you do not need this much technology. ERPs were designed to manage things such as car manufacturing and the production of steel. While they’ve expanded their remit, it’s still more than many small businesses need.
Unlike owning a car with too much engine just for tooling around on the weekend, owning an ERP isn’t “fun”—it’s just overly complex and expensive to maintain.