In Opinion

A BIG step up.

My recent experience with Sage lead me to reflect on the importance of making sure business models and pricing reflect customer needs and expectations, as well as those of the business…

When I created Salient Point, I needed software to run my accounts.  Most businesses I am involved with use Sage, so I thought that was probably the way to go.  This is also the system used by my accountants, so it makes sense for me to use it too.

I happily spent £120 on Sage Instant Accounts, thinking it would be a good opportunity for me to learn the system as well as ensuring I had a good quality tool and something I could use to exchange data with my

Using Sage is not exactly a joy – it is clearly very powerful but the user interface feels very clunky- long overdue for a major revamp.  Even though I am running the newest version, in usability terms it compares unfavourably with the 2001 version of Microsoft Money I use for my personal finances…

Now I am in the process of putting together another business, and I’m going to keep the books for that too.  Naturally I looked to Sage for a solution.

Having checked out the website and spoken to them on the phone, it seems the solution I need is Sage 50 Accounts with an extra business license, which will cost me £840 (and I can throw away my Instant Accounts
license).  Now when I bought my antivirus, it was £30 for one computer or £40 to cover three in the same household – so the more I buy the less I pay for each unit.  With Sage the opposite seems to be true – the price to support two businesses is more than seven times the price to support one!

Apparently I could manage two businesses using Sage Instant Accounts by buying another license, if I do so on separate computers.  I don’t feel very inclined to buy another computer just to do accounts however.

I asked the agent I spoke to on the phone to check if there was no other route I could use Sage Instant to run two businesses, and he told me there was not.

He commented at this point that it was a limitation of Microsoft Windows that Sage Instant could only be used for one business, not one imposed by Sage.  This is one of the most ridiculous claims I have heard – Sage 50 runs more than one business quite happily and Instant is a cut down version of it, so it is quite clear to me that Sage have removed that functionality to support the pricing and business model they have chosen.

I think the Sage pricing model is preposterous from the perspective of small business entrepreneurs, and instead of giving them another £120 or so, I’m now very dissatisfied and seriously looking at switching both businesses to another system.

In fact, I think I can solve the problem using virtualisation software (I’m enough of a geek to try that –they never suggested it) but giving Sage more money will really hurt… If I have time to investigate alternatives, I might still do so.

Showing 4 comments
  • Ben Panter

    Ian, we’ve used both Xero and FreeAgent. For our situation Xero was the clear winner but for a consulting business I would seriously consider FA. Sage also have a cloud based solution, but it seemed pretty basic when I investigated it.

    • Graeme Stirling


      If you are looking for some Sage advice we’re Sage Business Partners and might be able to get a clearer answer for you and maybe a better price. Drop me a line if you want to speak to someone.

    • Ian Stevenson

      Thanks for that Ben. Can I ask what made Xero more attractive than FreeAgent? Is FreeAgent just too focussed toward consulting? (I notice they have recently added stock control so wondering if they are getting away from that).

  • Brian Horisk

    I’m not sure I would wholeheartedly recommend it (it has its own idiosyncrasies) but Quickbooks Pro does allow you to manage multiple businesses. Cost ~£200. I’ve used it for nearly 10 years now and only had to pay for an upgrade once. It’s not the most intuitive either, but definitely better than Sage. Probably less support out there than Sage though – especially from accountants.

    Almost every small-to-medium business client we work with uses Sage – and I’ve yet to find one who is happy with it.

    I have also heard good things about FreeAgent, but not looked at it myself.

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