Investigating accounting and inventory software for your product business? See how Sage compares to Xero and Unleashed here.
Deciding how to manage your business’ operations and resources can be daunting. You want systems you can rely on for the foreseeable future — that empower growth, instead of holding your business back.
For many companies, accounting software is the first port of call. Among the numerous options in the UK it often boils down to a choice between Sage, Xero and QuickBooks.
Picking between these accounting systems can be tricky — especially if your business makes, manages or moves products. Why? Because you’ll also have to consider how to track and control inventory with each.
Here’s a straight comparison between Sage verses Xero, with Unleashed handling the inventory. Including the difference between all-in-one and best-of-breed systems, plus how they stack up on features, flexibility, price, onboarding and ease of use.
The first thing to note when comparing Sage to Xero and Unleashed is that they operate in different ways.
Sage is an ‘all-in-one’ solution. You’re investing in a single system that aims to cover several aspects of your business: accounting, inventory and more. The aim is that you’ll use this solution first and foremost, with very few other applications.
Xero and Unleashed are ‘best-of-breed’ solutions. Xero’s features, for example, aim to help you achieve one thing: better accounting. You then integrate it with more best-of-breed apps for the other tasks you need.
Xero isn’t intended to handle complex inventory management on its own. It doesn’t support functionality such as multiple warehouses, pricing strategies or bills of materials. Instead, you can integrate it with a solution that matches your needs. Combine Xero with Unleashed, and you get a feature-complete solution that can handle any inventory complexity — and as we’ll see below, comes with more inventory features than Sage.
At first, choosing several apps instead of a single system may seem counter-intuitive. Will integrating, maintaining and learning multiple solutions prove more of a hassle than buying Sage outright?
Best-of-breed software is built to work as part of an ecosystem. Syncing up solutions is usually straightforward, and many apps will guide you through setting up integrations as part of the onboarding process.
Because of this, best-of-breed implementations are often less disruptive than installing an all-in-one.
Best-of-breed software usually comes with ‘managed’ integrations to other apps. The apps themselves are responsible for maintaining these connections, so you won’t have to handle anything inhouse.
The only added complexity is contacting the right support team if you need any help.
You will have to learn more than one system. But again, this won’t necessarily be any harder than learning an all-in-one.
All-in-one systems tend to be complicated because they have to cater to so many bases. With a best-of-breed approach, you can choose simpler systems when you don’t need added functionality.
We’re Unleashed, so naturally we’re going to support best of breed. But in truth, there are much more important things to base your decision on than hesitance over combining apps — such as features, price and flexibility.
If you’re still concerned about a best-of-breed approach, though, it’s worth doing some more research:
If you choose Xero and Unleashed, you won’t need any of Xero’s inventory management features. So here, we can compare Sage’s inventory functionality directly with Unleashed’s.
Sage offers several products, each with a different suite of features. Here’s how Sage 50 Standard, Sage 50 Professional, Sage 200cloud and Sage 200cloud Professional stack up against Unleashed’s Medium plan.
One significant benefit of Xero and Unleashed is their managed integrations with leading eCommerce and POS channels. These eliminate the task of manually entering details — instead, every new order syncs straight into your inventory system, ready to be fulfilled. Then, Unleashed sends the relevant information on to Xero.
You can connect Unleashed with Shopify, Vend, Magento, Amazon and more. These are managed integrations, meaning they come as standard: there are no extra costs, and no need to work with third parties.
Sage doesn’t have managed integrations with any external eCommerce channels. It is possible to connect it up with Shopify, Vend and more, but these connections are made and maintained by third parties — who will charge a fee.
Comparing Sage with any other solution on cost is complicated, chiefly because it doesn’t have fixed prices.
At the time of writing, the listed base price for 50cloud Professional is $165 per month. Prices for 200cloud Standard start at $330 per month, with no cost listed for Professional.* These costs are variable, however, and probably won’t match what you end up paying each month. Sage will tend to build a specific package — with a specific price — for every new customer.
Choosing a package requires evaluating your requirements today and in the future. Any product business will probably need to raise sales and purchase orders at a minimum, for example. As you grow, you’ll soon see the benefit in multiple warehouses, landed cost tracking and stock alerts too.
Xero costs $22.50 per month for a growing plan or $45 for established. Unleashed costs from $259 per month for a Medium plan or $499 for Large. That means you can get an accounting + inventory solution with complete features and more flexibility for less than $285 per month.* Both subscriptions come with all of Unleashed’s core functionality. Visit our pricing page.
Sage, Xero and Unleashed all regularly update their software. Unleashed, for example, releases updates and enhancements weekly. Sage gets a new version on a yearly cycle.
If you sign up for one of the Sage plans listed above, you’ll get unlimited access to updates and improvements. If you have a perpetual licence, though, you’ll have to pay again to use the latest version — currently v27.
All Xero and Unleashed users get access to standard releases for free. Plus, there’s never any need to install anything to update the software.
Inventory management software requires careful implementation — so most providers will provide an assisted onboarding service to help you get started. If you aren’t using expert help, then these services are indispensable, but the cost of onboarding is something any business should take into account when considering a new system.
Sage doesn’t publish any indication of how much implementation might cost. But cloud experts predict roughly £4000 to get 200cloud Standard up and running. Add inventory functionality into the mix, and that might go up to £8,000 – £10,000.
Unleashed’s onboarding service costs £417. You’re allocated a dedicated Unleashed consultant to guide you through setup and help you get going.
The fundamental question here is whether you want to tailor your software to your processes or change your processes to match your software.
You can choose from over 800 integrations on Xero’s App Marketplace. Sage, meanwhile, lists 18 for 50cloud and 15 for 200cloud. The desktop versions of Sage don’t have an API so comes with very few integrations.
That isn’t necessarily an issue — it reflects the company’s all-in-one philosophy. The software comes with in-built functionality for core tasks such as CRM, HR and inventory management, instead of integrating with external apps for them. So their API approach is less open than that of Xero and Unleashed.
It does, however, result in two significant downsides:
Upgrading to 200 Professional to access the manufacturing module, for example, might mean paying for a package that includes features you’ll never use.
If you do want a CRM that integrates with your other tools, you’ll have to choose Sage’s offering, which might not match your business’s specific requirements. With Xero and Unleashed, you can choose one that does.
It isn’t just lack of choice over essential business tools, either. There are hundreds of add-ons on Xero’s Marketplace that bring new functionality or remove manual tasks. These enable you to create a system that is personalised to your business goals. With an all-in-one, that opportunity disappears.
You’ll need to install a launcher on any device that you’re planning on using to access Sage. So while it hosts your data in the cloud, you won’t be able to access it from any computer. That makes it much harder to run your business from outside the office or enable staff to work from home.
Xero, Unleashed and other best-of-breed applications are 100% cloud based. All you’ll need is to access them is an internet connection, a browser and your login details.
Giving access to accountants is also more difficult with Sage, usually requiring a manual transfer via USB, Dropbox or Sage Drive. This creates a separate set of data, which can cause headaches for your accountant. With Unleashed, your accountant can get free access to your live data (with your approval). Xero HQ also makes sharing access straightforward.
Assessing the usability of a solution is always difficult, as different users have different tastes and are used to things being laid out or set up in a certain way. But here are how a few Unleashed customers compare the ease of use between Unleashed and Sage:
“The main difference between our old setup and using Unleashed is the speed of order processing. Before, we had a 3-4 part process to send order documents to our customers. Now, this can all be done from one screen with three clicks of a button!” Caremed Healthcare, moved from Sage 50 Professional
“Using Sage, we had a lot of stock-related issues. Now, we have so much more control and insight.” Seven Bro7hers Brewery, moved from Sage 50 Professional
“We tried using Sage but were limited by its inability to track stock and we found that it wasn’t accurately reflecting our costs. We had an idea of what kind of inventory management software we wanted: it had to be easy for everyone at work to use, integrate with Xero and Vend, and provide accuracy and transparency across the business. Unleashed was the solution that best fitted our requirements.” Enterprise Ethanol, moved from Sage 50 Pastel
Sage, Xero and Unleashed all offer free trials: 30 days for Sage and Xero, and 14 days for Unleashed. To see which solution will work best for your business, it’s a good idea to sign up and get as many people using the software as possible.
As well as trialling each solution, you can set up a discovery call with a consultant at each provider. They’ll be able to guide you through which features you need and point you in the direction of another option if it suits your requirements better.