By Mitchell Hall

4 Fashion Must Haves  -- - and How to Care for Them

In today’s world, moving your operations to the cloud will usually offer more pluses than minuses versus using a desktop software program for a small business.

While you give up some control, using a large online service can provide more security and efficiency than you could yourself, depending on how much you trust the company in question.

Using cloud accounting tools means you can access records from anywhere with a Web connection to increase your productivity. They also offer generally low upfront costs (although be wary of contract commitments), are always up to date, are cross-platform compatible, automatically back up your data and usually have protocols to deal with subpoenas or audits.

The major drawback, however, is that cloud services require a reasonably fast, stable broadband connection, or their advantages are moot. A few good product options include:

As QuickBooks Online is by Intuit -- which pretty much invented small business accounting tools and boasts 90 percent of the market -- it's unsurprising the company makes a compelling online product. But to make its considerable capabilities work properly, some prior accounting knowledge is required; best to set up QuickBooks with your bookkeeper to avoid a fiscal mess. Starts at $6.95 a month.

FreshBooks offers a full-feature mobile app -- one of the only online accounting tools to offer this. Transactions have to be manually imported, but apart from that it offers tons of great features (although it is missing a payroll option). There is an add-on, but it costs more than FreshBooks itself. $19.95 a month with up to 25 clients.

For small business owners looking for the simplest option, LessAccounting, which ostensibly offers the least features, is probably the easiest to use, and the features it does offer are clever and well thought out. $36 a month with unlimited transactions, members, and support.

For small and medium businesses with a broadband connection, these three online accounting tools are cost effective, efficient ways to manage your books without having to pay an accountant.

Mitchell Hall, originally from New Zealand, is a senior editor at Studio One. Covering business and technology since 2006, he has worked at Minyanville, Emerging Money and since moving to New York, writing for many more publications both online and in print

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The Best Online Accounting Tools for Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses