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I have lost data and I’m not too proud to say so. One day it was there. The next it simply wasn’t. I felt like an idiot because I hadn’t backed up my files for months and, because I was running a very small business, I was trying to do everything on the cheap. It was my fault entirely. I hadn’t upgraded my old desktop computer for years. The screen had a dead spot and lines shooting through it; only one of the USB ports still worked and the processor ground along so slowly you’d have thought someone had poured treacle into it. But it still worked. Somehow it still managed to show me my emails; and let me trawl the internet; and it let me manage my accounts on some old (well-known-brand) PC software…

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And then it died…

Oh, the panic. The gnashing of teeth. The blue language. 

Nothing I tried would get that damn PC going again. All my business data was on it and I felt physically sick thinking about what I was going to use to satisfy the IRD’s never-ending demands for timely information. How could I possibly recreate all my missing accounts?

So off I went, lugging the big old PC to my local PC repair guy. With my heart in my mouth I waited while he tinkered and fiddled with bits of dusty wires and electrical things I didn’t recognise until finally he confirmed that he could actually retrieve my data, but that the old PC was not worth saving. I almost cried in relief. You’d think that would be the end of it. Problem solved. But no, my problems were only just beginning.

I went straight out and bought the latest all-in-one PC. Big screen, lightweight, fast and sexy. It looked great. I loaded up a new Office program and then tried to load my good old (well-known-brand) PC Accounting software. No go. The nice new system didn’t like my old CD and wouldn’t load it. I would need to buy a new software package.

Now let’s remember that I am running a very small business and ‘cheap’ is my middle name. So I thought about it a bit. Yes, I could buy the new (well-known-brand) PC software but was that the best idea? What if something happened to my flash new computer? Earthquakes do happen. So do fires. So do hardware failures – as I soon found out. 

Two days later, as I continued to contemplate how to best go forward, my bright, shiny new computer died. It just stopped. Something made it unhappy and it shut itself down… Grrrrr. So, back to the shop I went and they got it going again, but I had to reload all the software I had previously loaded on it again. The Office stuff, the firewall and virus protection stuff, and so on. Not much fun.

That really got me thinking so I hit Google and started searching. Who knew there were so many online software providers for accounting systems? I spent a full day researching, trialling and comparing products and finally decided that buying more PC software to manage my accounts was not the best way forward. 

Eventually I chose (no surprises here) a low-cost basic online cashbook. It would do everything I needed and I would never, ever need to download or reload software on my computer again. It would automatically back up my accounts data so I wouldn’t need to remember to copy data onto a CD or flash drive every so often. And it turned out to be even easier to use than the (well-known-brand) old PC software I used to have.

I’ve been converted. Having been a long time user of internet banking, and always keen on webmail, the transition has been easy. I can now log in and do my accounts anywhere I want to, anytime I want to, even from my smartphone if I feel like pecking away with my fingertip on a teeny-tiny screen (I won’t, but it’s nice to know I could) – just like I can with my online bank account and my webmail. And I need never worry about upgrading the software as this happens automatically behind the scenes. 

Never again will I even consider buying software in a box. Never again will I subject myself to the possibility of potentially losing everything when my new PC claps out (and it eventually will – be it through old age or a natural disaster, it will happen). Never again will I be that guy . . . the panicked idiot scurrying into my local PC repair shop desperate to recover data that I can’t live without.

And the same is true of Payroll systems. If you’re using a PC based software system for your payroll then heed my words. Eventually, maybe not today or even tomorrow, your old PC will die on you. It’s quite natural and it does happen. Is your payroll data safe? All that employee history, those PAYE records, all that Kiwisaver data. Is it safely and securely backed-up? How much trouble would it cause you if you lost some of it, say even the last 3 weeks because you only back-up at the end of each month? 

Could you recreate it all? Would you want to? Or would it be easier to simply find another computer, get onto the internet and login to all that data wherever and whenever you want. Without risk. Without reloading software. Without panic. 

And most of the online payroll systems available in New Zealand integrate seamlessly with both online and offline accounting systems, which is simply brilliant, making transferring your payroll info into your accounts systems even easier.

A little biased I may be, but I’ll never go back to offline, PC based, software again. 

Do yourself a favour. Join me.