Think hard before moving to XERO online cloud accounting services.

Here are a couple of thoughts about moving from Sage desktop accounts software to Xero online (cloud based) accounting services.

One of my clients was moved, by their accountant, from Sage to Xero online.
The benefit is no software and the accounts can be done on anything (e.g. a Mac or a tablet) rather than, in the case of Sage, requiring a windows computer _with_ the software installed.

Generally it works fine but there are snags and potential reasons not to move..

No telephone based support.. not even live chat based support.
This is one of the most frustrating limitations with Xero. They intentionally do not provide telephone support to customers or developers.
This is a far leap from Sage who (at a yearly cost) provide pretty good telephone support. This makes asking very quick questions incredibly easy. Short things like:
-How do we do X in an invoice template.
-Why can’t we remove X from a journal.
Not having answers to simple operational questions can often delay or “block” further work on a companies accounts until the question is answered. Having this answer quickly and over the phone helps reduce this disruption.

I’ve contact Xero several times over e-mail and it takes ages to get a response. Certainly more than 30 minutes. The most recent case took one and a half days for a response (but not a solution), I replied, their next reply then took 6 days and only after I complained on Twitter!
This most recent case is the kind of problem that _needs_ a telephone conversation and co-operation with an API developer or similar. Trying to troubleshoot this issue over e-mail is going to lead to an incredibly prolonged resolution time-scale.

Limited API.
Sage seems fairly complicated to interface with; most people start down the Sage API route which is, imo, the wrong route. Turns out there is a little published feature called SDATA. (Although these days it might be more publicised and known). Documentation on SDATA was difficult to find and poorly documented. Once you’ve fathomed it out it is actually pretty trivial to interface with sage using SDATA http requests.

In comparison Xero has a well documented, supported and published API along with example code and a fairly active developer forum. It was pretty quick for me to convert the existing Sage invoice creation code into Xero code. BUT the Xero API is pretty gimped:
-There is a daily limit of 1000 API calls
-[Request rate limit of] 60 times in any 60 second period
-Xero is designed for volumes of up to 1,000 Sales invoices (Accounts Receivables) and 1,000 Purchases bills (Accounts Payables) per month

Quite limiting or quite a change when you are used to having a locally hosted SDATA service with no rate limits or request limits. The number of calls per second limit on Xero has slowed down the rate at which invoices get imported. Code could be made slightly more efficient to compensate but you should take this time into consideration when thinking about moving to Xero.

Features just randomly change with no way to back out.
Things just change. Without notice. Without the ability to go back to the old way of working.

One of the major complaints by the book keepers was the way in which the “journal” was displayed for contacts. They moved from a simple invoice list and account balance to an “events feed” twitter style list of mixed interactions with the customer. The Xero forums went mad. Things didn’t get improved for weeks. Even then, it hasn’t gone back to the way it used to be.

At least with locally hosted Sage you can avoid, delay or never do the yearly upgrades if one of the features is incompatible with your business processes.

Most recently (and related to the recent tech support case I mention in the first point) is a change or bug to the API. Suddenly invoices are being created as normal but the API is responding saying that they have not been. This has resulted in many duplicate invoices. The problem has continued for two weeks. With Sage it would be unlikely to just randomly break like this unless a local update was performed, even if it breaks you can just roll back to the old version of Sage.

With Xero it is impossible and not under your control to roll back whatever change has broken the API or broken your business processes.

Summary

Think for a long time about converting. If I had the experience I now have I think I would dissuade a client from moving to Xero. If you are a small single person company then it is likely to be a fantastic resource and likely to be cheaper than Sage. If you are any larger or have multiple users of Sage then Xero, I feel, is unlikely to be a suitable replacement for Sage.

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