If you are an entrepreneur, starting up a small business or expanding a current business, one of the first and most important priorities is keeping adequate records. These records are often the basis for your company’s success, allowing you to assess your profit margins and the overall efficiency and profitability of your company along with helping you to guarantee your business is complying with all Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax rules. The IRS does not require a business to have electronically kept and created records; however, manual records, even with premade bookkeeping sheets such as ledgers, can become difficult to manage, especially if your business is a larger operation.

It is essential that you keep client files, whether they are paper, electronic or both. Keeping a record of the work you have done or the products you have provided a client, along with business agreements, is important in case any aspect of this information comes into question at a later time. Your business must also keep a record of contracts. A contract should be signed each time a service is provided or a product is sold. When doing business with a larger company, it is likely to have a pre-established contract for your company to sign. Keep a copy of this contract in your client file for this company.

There is a variety of record-keeping software options available for your business. The three options listed below are among the highest-rated and most popular, and all are geared toward startups of small businesses.

Intuit QuickBooks Online

Intuit QuickBooks Online is widely rated as one of the best overall accounting and record-keeping software programs available. This software allows you to input your data, and it automatically performs accounting tasks. The program also allows you to integrate business solutions you may currently be using, including Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Among other things, with QuickBooks, you can keep track of daily expenses and transactions, pay bills and employees, send invoices and sync data across all financial accounts. This software can offer the most basic features or be customized with advanced functions to fit the needs of your business. It is entirely cloud-based so you have access to the software and all data from any Internet-connected device.

QuickBooks offers some of the best-priced plans out of all available record-keeping software options. The least expensive plan is limited to one user but costs just under $10 per month. This plan includes all of the features mentioned above along with the capability to download credit card and bank transactions, and automatic data backup, and it prepares and files quarterly and year-end taxes.

Wave Accounting

One of the most attractive qualities of Wave Accounting is it is completely free. Wave Accounting also uses cloud computing, so it is suitable for your business if you are constantly on the move and need access to your data from any location. This software does not have all of the same features as paid programs, but it offers the option for payroll and customer service with an additional fee, which depends on what and how many additional features you add. Wave Accounting does have the core capabilities of tracking expenses, creating financial reports and sending invoices. Ultimately, this software is best suited to startups or businesses that remain small, mainly those with 10 or fewer employees. It is excellent for freelance workers and entrepreneurs.

Bookkeeper 2015

Bookkeeper 2015 is a good choice for your small business if you need an easy program that sets up quickly and allows you to easily manage records. This software allows you to create checks and pay bills, send invoices to customers, and track sales and all expenses. Among a variety of other features, Bookkeeper also allows you to process credit card payments and automatically prepare taxes utilizing all necessary inputted data. New features added to the 2015 version of the software give you support for asset disposal and multiple depreciation methods. The price for this comprehensive software is just under $40 as of December 2015.