By Daniel Lewis,
/ Advertising Disclosure

4.6 / 5
TOTAL SCORE
SUMMARY

Small businesses that want an affordable but easy solution to accounting, without requiring payroll functionality.

DETAILED RATING
Features
Pricing
User Experience
Security
Service & Support
POSITIVES
  • Very Affordable
  • Amazing Interface
  • Easy To Use
  • Excellent Mobile Applications
  • Lots of Integrations
  • Great Invoicing Functionality
  • Superb Customer Service
NEGATIVES
  • Limited Payroll
  • Unsuited For Large Businesses

Zoho is the developer of a suite of online productivity applications. One such application is Zoho Books, which is designed specifically to meet small business accounting needs.

It is excellent for small businesses on a budget and only falls down in terms of its lack of payroll functionality, which might be off-putting to many small businesses.

I found it to be very easy to use and it has one of the best interfaces around. This guide will outline the pros, cons, customer service, key features, pricing, and security procedures of the Zoho Books platform.

Editor’s note: Zoho Books is one of the most user-friendly platforms I have ever tested. The design interface is incredibly streamlined and logical with all the subcategories neatly arranged in places you would expect them to be. Frankly, no other platform offers such a rich and easy user-experience that is simple, colorful, and comprehensive. The client portal is fantastic. Moreover, small business owners will also be attracted to its superb invoicing functionality, not to mention its time tracking and project management capabilities. Aside from a few interoperability issues between certain applications in the larger Zoho suite and the obvious lack of payroll, this is a premium online accounting platform.

Zoho Books Online Features

In terms of functionality, Zoho Books provides a rich feature set, paired nicely with a neat dashboard. The following is an overview of the features offered by Zoho Books Online:

  • Bank Reconciliation (Basic Package)
  • Custom Invoices (Basic Package)
  • Expense Tracking (Basic Package)
  • Projects and Timesheets (Basic Package)
  • Recurring Transactions (Basic Package)
  • Sales Approval (Basic Package)
  • Budgeting (Basic Package)
  • Zoho Sign Integration (Basic Package)
  • Bills (Standard)
  • Vendor Credits (Standard)
  • Reporting Tags (Standard)
  • Purchase Approval (Standard)
  • Twilio Integration (Standard)
  • Purchase Orders (Professional)
  • Sales Orders (Professional)
  • Stock Tracking (Professional)
  • Custom Domain (Professional)
  • Vendor Portal (Professional)

Zoho Books offers more transaction types and more flexible forms than any other product I reviewed. Beyond the standard sales forms that competitors support, it includes retainer invoices, delivery notes, and packing slips. Invoices contain fields for shipping charges and adjustments in addition to discounts and sales tax. Purchase transactions – expenses, bills, purchase orders, and so on – are similarly detailed and flexible.

In terms of timekeeping and project management, few other platforms compare to Zoho Books. Time tracking is linked to a project and a customer, which would be problematic if you wanted to use separate billing for customers.

Where Zoho Books really stands out is in terms of its report functionality. There are a mind-boggling number of criteria where you can filter your reports in the most minute detail. The reports are well compartmentalized and easy to navigate for simple drill-downs. Import/Export functionality is what you would expect in a good accounting platform (i.e all major features are available).

In multiple domains – contact and item records, transactions, inventory management, project management, customizability, automation, dashboard, and user interface – it’s the most powerful and flexible accounting service I’ve reviewed. The only real issue is with the lack of Zoho Books payroll integration. 

Zoho Books Pricing Plan

What is the Zoho Books pricing? This is a great question to ask. The price is very important, but it is often not a deal-breaker. Just ask anybody who has run into problems with accounting solutions. $5 a month extra is nothing compared to the hassle that can be caused by a subpar accounting platform. 

Thankfully, Zoho Books offers great pricing and great service. There are 3 basic pricing plans:

  1. Basic ($9 per month) – 50 contacts, 2 users, 5 workflows.
  2. Standard ($19 per month) – 500 contacts, 3 users, 10 workflows.
  3. Professional ($29 per month) – More than 500 contacts, 10 users, 10 workflows.

The following table gives a comparison of base prices for well-known software vendors:

Brand Base Price What is on the plan Advantages
 

Zoho Books

$9 per month All basic accounting functionality. Excellent invoicing functionality. Very intuitive and easy to use. Excellent customer support.
 

Quickbooks Online

$25 per month All basic accounting functionality. Excels at payroll. Superb level of functionality. Lots of integrations. 50% off the first 3 months.
 

Onpay

$36 per month Basic accounting functionality. Integrates easily with Patriot Payroll. Simple pricing structure. + $4 a month for each person
 

Patriot Accounting Software

$15 per month Basic accounting functionality. Integrates easily with Patriot Payroll. Simple pricing structure. Very easy to use. Ideal for small businesses. Excellent customer reviews.

Zoho Books Comparison With Other Platforms

When you are trying to understand any given software, it’s always best to contrast it with others. When you do this, you’ll have a better idea of where it stands out and where it falls down. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it is not a strict apples-to-apples comparison.

Sometimes, you need software that provides very specific functionality. At other times, you will simply like the dashboard and navigation in one given platform, even if that is not a general consensus. The main thing to keep in mind with Zoho Books is the lack of payroll functionality, which is a shame. 

It is the one thing that holds it back as a premium all-in-one accounting solution. With this in mind, the following table will give a broad comparison between the top names in online accounting.

Vendor Price Ease of Use Dashboard Integrations Functionality Customer Service
Zoho Books 5 5 5 4.5 4.5 5
4 4.5 5 5 5 4
5 4 4.5 4 5 4.5
Patriot Software 5 4 4.5 4 5 5

Accounting Software Integrations & Add-Ons

Zoho’s add-on feature is a unique and novel addition. You can add an additional user for $2 a month. This is really helpful and was a common complaint before it was introduced. Zoho Books also offers auto-scans for $15 per 25 auto-scans. You can send invoices and estimates by mail directly through Zoho Books if you purchase snail mail credits. The cost is $2/credit. One credit is needed for US mail. Two credits are required for international mail.

In terms of integrations, Zoho Books is simply unparalleled (with the exception of payroll integrations, of course). You can easily connect Zoho books with the many other Zoho products for pretty much anything you can think of. I am a huge supporter of the Zoho suite of products that all work in unison. Here is the list:

  1. Zoho People
  2. Zoho Books
  3. Zoho Inventory
  4. Zoho CRM
  5. Zoho Sites
  6. Zoho Projects
  7. Zoho Desk
  8. Zoho Social
  9. Zoho SalesIQ
  10. Zoho Expense
  11. Zoho Recruit
  12. Zoho One
  13. Zoho Motivator
  14. Zoho Contact Manager
  15. Zoho Sales Inbox
  16. Zoho Sites
  17. Zoho Campaigns
  18. Zoho Survey
  19. Zoho Forms
  20. Zoho Page Sense
  21. Zoho Desk
  22. Zoho Assist
  23. Zoho Mail
  24. Zoho Cliq
  25. Zoho Sprints
  26. Zoho Connect
  27. Zoho Show Time
  28. Zoho Writer
  29. Zoho Show
  30. Zoho Sheets
  31. Zoho Docs
  32. Zoho Sign
  33. Zoho Vault

You can also get bundles, like Zoho One, which is the entire Zoho suite of products. But the point is, whatever you need to do, you are nearly guaranteed that Zoho has an application that can do it. And these are merely the internal integration, not third-party integrations. Zoho Books integrations are not as comprehensive as certain competitors (Quickbooks Online comes to mind) in terms of external applications, but it has more than enough within the Zoho suite.

Zoho Books User Experience

Zoho Books offers an amazingly smooth user experience. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it offers the best user experience you are going to find. Zoho has created a product that is a sheer delight to use, but one that also offers an excellent level of functionality. I have broken down user experience into 5 key areas:

  • Overall User Experience – Unlike Quickbooks, which has a steep and confusing learning curve, Zoho Books is simple. The advanced features are there, but they do not get in the way while navigating the platform initially. Novice users will not be confused with the easy tutorials and step-by-step instructions, as well as the neat design. Everything with Zoho Books is intuitive, and the directories are easy to find and located where they should be.
  • Client Portal – To this day, this is still one of my favorite client portals out there; it is easy to use and has a very appealing UI. Clients have the option to view their home dashboard, estimates, invoices, and project details and can make partial or full invoice payments directly through the portal. They can comment on estimates as well. The best part is, you get real-time notifications about when your invoices and estimates have been viewed and paid.
  • Contact Management – You can manage both customers and vendors in Zoho. You can add basic contact information, multiple contact persons, custom fields, reporting tags, internal notes, and more. When you click on a contact, you’re taken to a beautiful dashboard where you can see an overview of that contact’s information, sales, comments, and statements. Even better, you can request reviews and testimonials directly from your clients within Zoho Books.
  • Dashboard – The Zoho Books dashboard is appealing and makes it easy to view your financial state. The dashboard features graphs for Total Receivables, Total Payables, Cash Flow, Income and Expense, Your Top Expenses, Projects, and Bank and Credit Cards. You can also change the color theme of your whole dashboard and main menu, which is a neat addition.
  • Mobile Applications – The user-experience is also reflected in its Android and IOS mobile applications. A multi-screen dashboard displays charts for elements like Total Receivables, Cash Flow, and Income & Expense. Contact records, which are quite robust in the browser-based version, are well executed in the mobile app, though not nearly as detailed. Open one, and you instantly see contact information and the receivables/payables balance. Icons on this screen let you call, email, or message the contact, while another icon takes you to links for creating new transactions, accepting payments, and more.

Zoho Books Customer Service & Support

Zoho Books’ customer service is exceptional. The two tickets that I sent in were responded to promptly, the first within 90 minutes and the second within 2 hours. What’s great about customer support with Zoho Books is that you can easily contact a live representative who is polite, knowledgeable, and friendly. This is exceedingly rare in the online accounting industry and many more sectors. Customer service is available 24 hours a day Monday through Friday.

They offer a lot of Zoho Books support options, including a YouTube series, live webinars, Twitter and Facebook accounts, a knowledge base, live chat, contact, form, phone, and email. 

While there might be some complaints about Zoho Books on social review sites, you have to take this with a pinch of salt. Because Zoho has so many products, it is inevitable that some users are going to complain. You would be hard-pressed to find any serious negative reviews or complaints about Zoho Books specifically. And the main complaint is going to be in relation to lack of payroll support. Overall, Zoho Books’ support and customer service exceeded my expectations.

Zoho Books Software Security

Zoho Books takes its security precautions seriously, as can be seen on their whitepaper. They have divided their security features into 10 major areas:

  1. Organizational security
  2. Physical security
  3. Infrastructure security
  4. Data security
  5. Identity and access control
  6. Operational security
  7. Incident management
  8. Responsible disclosures
  9. Vendor management
  10. Customer Controls For Security

Each category is broken down into subcategories. For instance, organizational security is broken down into employee background checks, security awareness, dedicated security and privacy teams, internal audit and compliance, and endpoint security. This is typical of Zoho’s granular approach of breaking everything down and interlinking them. 

In terms of the security features within the platform itself, you have complete control. You can restrict the access of each user and disable the capability to identify personally identifiable information (‘PII’), in line with the latest GDPR regulations. When you create new custom fields, you can also choose to encrypt personally identifiable information. Users without access will be unable to export it. An example of PII would be a bank account number or social security number.

Moreover, all the payment pages created using Zoho Checkout are SSL encrypted. When it comes to PCI compliance, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) enforces a set of practices to be followed by companies (companies that process, store, or transmit card details) to protect their customers’ card information. All backup data is AES-256 encrypted.

Zoho Books FAQ

How safe is Zoho Books?

Zoho Books is 100% safe. This is because sensitive information is protected against both Zoho employees and third-party hackers. You have control over personally identifiable information. Zoho has been around for over 20 years. Starting as WebNMS, their products were used by the US Department of Defense as well as the US Navy. Your information is as safe as it can be and the data is not stored for third-parties. While there is no such thing as 100% security, Zoho is pretty much as safe as you are going to get. According to Zoho Security:

“Very few Zoho staff have access to either the physical or logical levels of our infrastructure. Your data is therefore secure from inside access. Zoho performs regular vulnerability testing and is constantly enhancing its security at all levels. All data is backed up on multiple servers in multiple locations on a daily basis. This means that in the worst case if one data center was compromised, your data could be restored from other locations with minimal disruption.”

What is the difference between Zoho Books and Zoho Invoice?

Zoho Books contains Zoho Invoice. So you have both of these products if you get Zoho Books. Zoho Invoice is only useful in terms of invoicing. It contains all of the essential invoicing functionality like estimates, quotes, payments, multi-currency support, etc. Zoho Books is a fully-fledged accounting solution where you can track all accounting metrics. There are 3 modules you do not get with Zoho Books that you do get in Zoho Invoicing. These are the IOS application, certain Zoho Books APIs, and contextual gadgets.

Does Zoho do payroll?

The company recently introduced a Zoho Books payroll module, but there is a lot of work that remains to be done. The biggest concern is that Zoho Payroll is limited to California, New York, and Texas, which rules out the majority of small businesses in the USA. And this is only the first step. The functionality is limited on Zoho Payroll, and it is not the most affordable, at $19 for 3 users. There are better payroll modules out there, but this is problematic in the sense that it could be hard to sync up two separate systems. When Zoho payroll is fully operational, however, it will really be a top contender in the online accounting market.

How to create a purchase order from the estimate in Zoho books?

It is not possible to create a purchase order from customer estimates in Zoho books, so you need to use a workaround. As a workaround, you can convert the estimates to sales orders. Once done, navigate to the left panel in Zoho Books -> Click on Sales -> Choose Sales Orders -> Select one of the sales order records. Generally, to create a purchase order in Zoho Book, you first have to enable purchase orders. Go to Settings, then Preferences, then tick the box to enable purchase orders. You can then just click the ‘New’ button at the top right-hand side of the purchase order page and fill in the details of the purchase order. You can also import purchase orders in CSV or XLS format.

What form of payment does Zoho books accept?

Zoho payments now accept a wide variety of payment gateways. This can really streamline your bookkeeping functionality. Zoho only has access to the last 4 digits of your customer’s credit card for reference purposes, in line with data protection laws. You can choose from any of the below payment processors to accept payments from clients.

  • Stripe
  • PayPal
  • Authorize.net
  • Payflow Pro
  • Payments Pro
  • 2 CheckOut
  • Braintree
  • Forte
  • ACH Payments
  • WePay
  • GoCardless
  • Mercado Pago

For most of these payment processors, the fees are 2.9% + $0.30c per transaction, which is something of an industry standard. Payflow Pro is an exception at a $25 flat fee per month. 

Can I create invoices for the projects in my Zoho Projects account?

You can do this provided you integrate Zoho Projects with either Zoho Payments or Zoho Books. It’s actually quite easy to do. Navigate to the Invoice Tab under the Sales dropdown menu within Zoho Projects. Click on the menu, and then choose ‘invoice for Zoho Projects’. That’s it, your all set!

Zoho Books Conclusion

Zoho Books is a wonderful account software that is perfect for small business owners who want an easy but competent means to perform their bookkeeping. It is one of my favorite companies and my favorite platforms. Everything is so easy and the customer service is superb.

The downside is that there is no US payroll, which is a big disadvantage. But it makes this review simple. If you want to keep your existing payroll but need a separate accounting solution, then Zoho Books is an excellent choice. If you need payroll, it’s not for you.

Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis is an MBA accredited investment professional who wants to assist small business owners to gain access to finance. After going through many channels for funding, Lewis has found that getting the first loan right is vitally important for future success.

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