What is NetSuite?

Everything You've Wanted or Needed to Know About the #1 Cloud Based ERP

What is NetSuite?

As a business owner or finance executive looking for systems to scale your organization there's a very good chance you might have come across NetSuite in an effort to transition beyond QuickBooks or a legacy ERP/accounting system.

I say this because NetSuite happens to be the fastest growing cloud-based ERP system and the most commonly deployed ERP for companies that have outgrown Quickbooks.

But, what is NetSuite exactly?

Table of Contents

NetSuite Features & Functionality

NetSuite is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which includes accounting software, along with many other functions central to running your business, such as: customer relationship management (CRM), inventory and warehouse management, human resource management and payroll, service resource planning, order management and procurement and more.

There are many advantages offered by an ERP system like NetSuite for high-growth companies looking to centralize data through a fully integrated solution, and minimize inefficiencies and inaccuracies due to disparate applications and manual data entry.

In other words, it’s your all-in-one command center to manage your entire business operations.

NetSuite is a multi-tenant cloud based ERP solution hosted by NetSuite and offered via a subscription model. Many small businesses find the “pay-as-you go” nature of NetSuite compelling as it reduces initial cash outlay for business systems and allows them to focus on their core business, not managing and maintaining software.

Since your business data is located in a single database within NetSuite, this means that you have instant access to your business reporting through point and click reports and can avoid inaccuracies that result from manual processes.


Now that you have a basic understanding of what NetSuite is, let’s dive into its features and functionality.

NetSuite is generally licensed as a “Suite,” meaning that your license includes core functionality for both CRM and ERP that is generally used by all types of companies.  For companies that have additional needs beyond the standard suite, NetSuite offers advanced modules you can license based upon your business needs.

The advanced modules can be licensed à la carte or are commonly bundled together in the form of an "Industry Suite", which is a pre-packaged set of modules commonly used for specific industries.  

The Suite Includes the Following:

  1. Marketing Automation
  2. Sales Force Automation
  3. Partner Relationship Management
  4. Customer Service Management
  5. General Ledger
  6. Accounts Payable
  7. Accounts Receivable
  8. Bank Management
  9. Currency & Tax Management
  10. Item & Inventory Management
  11. Procurement
  12. Order Management
  13. Employee Center (Time & Expense Management) 

Happy with your CRM?

If you have already invested heavily in a CRM system (such as Salesforce.com) and are only seeking a ERP solution, you do have the option of simply licensing "NetSuite Financials" without licensing NetSuite CRM and make sure you find a reputable connector option like Celigo's Salesforce Connector.  

One of the great things about NetSuite is that its open architecture and modular approach allows companies to add and remove modules to meet business demands as well as taking advantage of best of breed applications as they see fit.

Take a Deeper Dive

Want to know more? Check out additional content on:

NetSuite Advanced Modules

NetSuite Pricing & Licensing

What Is NetSuite: Alternatives

Compare Your Options

If you are in the market for a new Financial Management / ERP solution, you have many options ranging from a best of breed approach to a comprehensive "suite" of tightly integrated applications.  Below are the most common Financial Management / ERP solutions that NetSuite tends to compete with and/or replace.


 QuickBooks Image.jpg


Often the go-to financial management software for startups and small businesses, Intuit’s QuickBooks offers a range of features designed to manage early needs of a small business, such as payroll, sales, inventory, and other needs.

Best Fit for…

Small businesses or startups with no subsidiaries or global needs in the following areas: manufacturing, wholesale, professional service firms, contractors, non-profit entities, and retailers. 

NetSuite vs. QuickBooks

●     NetSuite supports multi-language, multi-currency, multi-subsidiary consolidation and other complex accounting functions, such as fixed assets, multibook accounting, recurring billing, revenue recognition, and more. QuickBooks does not.

●     While QuickBooks focuses exclusively on accounting, NetSuite is a complete business suite.

●     Unlike the QuickBooks-required software installation, NetSuite is deployed as a web-based software.

●     NetSuite gives executives access to real-time financial performance. QuickBooks, on the other hand, only has one set of data and is therefore unable to provide a quick real-time view of performance.

●     QuickBooks users tend to rely heavily on manual data entry and spreadsheets in order to complete accounting tasks, while NetSuite removes the burden with automation.

●     NetSuite’s features are built to support global expansion, with offerings such as consolidation, inventory transfers, multi-currency, and more. These same functions are difficult, if not impossible with QuickBooks.

●     QuickBooks takes a “one-size-fits-all” approach, however NetSuite can be customized to meet the needs of various industries, such as services firms, manufacturers, retailers, and more.

Sage X3

 Sage X3 Image.jpg


Sage was founded in 1981 as an estimating and financial management software for the small business space, which it still targets today. Based in Newcastle, UK, the company has a global presence in 24 countries and can attribute most of its growth through acquisition.

Best Fit for…

Although Sage does target small businesses as a general rule, Sage X3 is best positioned to serve the manufacturing industry. Process manufacturing can benefit from its batch processing and formula/receipt management capabilities. Sage also offers discrete manufacturing functionality for make-to-stock, make-to-order, and demand planning, along with flexible pricing and inventory management. 

NetSuite vs. Sage X3

●     Sage will require more manual processes and is less accurate than NetSuite, due to multiple ledgers and multiple charts of accounts.

●     Sage does not support extensive customizations and may require customers needing heavy customizations to utilize Amazon Web Services for hosting.

●     In Sage, budgets are often not in alignment with financials.

●     Sage does not offer the following capabilities: saved searches, on-demand reporting, global search, personalized dashboards by user, or portals (customer, vendor, employee, etc). NetSuite offers all of these features.

●     Sage is not a true SaaS solution, while NetSuite is.

●     X3 offers extensive capabilities for manufacturing, particularly in the area of discrete manufacturing. Sage offers extensive inventory management capability.

●     X3 offers a basic HR offering, while NetSuite requires a third party.



SalesForce FinancialForce

 FinancialForce Image.jpg


SalesForce and Unit 4 developed FinancialForce (FF) in 2009 as an ERP product for it’s SFDC customers. Based in San Francisco, CA, SalesForce is a global enterprise heavily funded by venture capital.

Best Fit for…

SFDC customers that are accustomed to the platform or who have developed extensive customizations on Force.com. FinancialForce also caters heavily to professional service organizations and customers in North America.

NetSuite vs. FinancialForce

●     FF is not a complete ERP solution, while NetSuite is. Furthermore, FF is not a global solution and is only available in English.

●     When using FF PSA, any complex processes require customization, such as resource management and Rev Rec.

●     Reporting is limited on FF, while NetSuite offers extensive and real-time reporting.

●     While FF uses the same platform as SFDC, data is not stored in the same database. NetSuite stores data in a single database, minimizing sync delays and the need for integrations.

●     FF is difficult to scale to large organizations and requires extensive resources.



 Intacct Image.jpg


Intacct was founded in 1999 to provide customers with an online alternative to on-premise financial management software. Intacct was recently acquired by Sage in July 2017 for $850 Million. 

Best Fit for…

Intacct serves small to medium companies in software, services, and nonprofit industries looking only to manage their financial functions.

Intacct vs. NetSuite

●     While the cost of licensing Intacct is lower than NetSuite, customers are limited to financial capabilities, therefore limiting value over time. Intacct is not considered a true ERP system for this reason. NetSuite is a full-service ERP system.

●     Intacct is not scalable to the enterprise level, which could stifle its high-growth customers. NetSuite’s customer base includes both small businesses and large enterprises and provides the flexibility to shift when business needs evolve.

●     Reporting functionality can be difficult to use in Intacct, whereas NetSuite provides over 200 financial reports that can be configured out of the box, with point and click customizations.

●     NetSuite has extensive capabilities for global business activities, while Intacct has limited functionality in this area.


Microsoft Dynamics (NAV)

 NAV Image.jpg


What is now known as “NAV” began as a Denmark-based startup in 1984. In 2002, Microsoft acquired the company, which provides a global ERP system to small to medium-sized businesses.

Best Fit for…

NAV is popular among wholesale distribution and manufacturing companies, which comprise the bulk of its customer base. Due to its similar aesthetic to Microsoft Office, customers with Office dependencies often find NAV as an appealing option.


NetSuite vs. NAV

●     With NAV, upgrades can be complex and challenging, whereas NetSuite completes all upgrades automatically.

●     NAV is not a true multi tenant SaaS product, whereas NetSuite is.

●     There is a great deal of uncertainty around NAV’s implementation costs, whereas NetSuite can provide a fixed bid.

●     Compared to NetSuite, NAV suffers from a significant capabilities gap in the areas of eCommerce, manufacturing, WD, and financial capabilities.


NetSuite vs. Microsoft Dynamics (Great Plains)

 GP Image.jpg


Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains (GP) is a mid-market accounting solution serving customers internationally. GP was originally created in the early 1990s and is the first Windows-based accounting offerings.

Best Fit for…

Companies working within Consumer Packaged Goods, Distribution, High Tech, and Discrete Manufacturing who are heavy users of Microsoft products.

NetSuite vs. GP

●     GP is an on-premise software, while NetSuite is a true SaaS solution. This translates to cost saving over time for NetSuite customers, as upgrades and implementation are automated and/or easy to implement.

●     While GP does not make it easy for companies to scale as their needs change, NetSuite offers a highly flexible and configurable environment where changes can be made quickly and easily.

●     Limitations in GP’s reporting and the storage of data in different areas mean that reporting can be inaccurate and fail to offer real-time business intelligence. NetSuite offers instant insight into the full operations of the business with its reporting tool.


NetSuite vs. Microsoft Dynamics (AX)

 AX Image.jpg


Microsoft Dynamics AX began as a database and programming tool for the enterprise and evolved to offer ERP through several acquisitions.

Best Fit for…

AX was built for enterprise level customers in manufacturing, distribution, public sector, retail, and services.

NetSuite vs. AX

●     NetSuite’s SaaS model offers a multi-tenant architecture, AX does not, with each deployment running on isolated infrastructure, even though the Azure platform is multitenant.

●     NetSuite offers a quick deployment, where AX’s deployment process is lengthy.

●     Within NetSuite, customers can easily complete configurations. AX typically requires the assistance of a partner.



NetSuite vs. Microsoft Dynamics (Dynamics 365)

 365 v2 Image.jpg


Microsoft has been offering legacy Dynamics ERP solutions for over 15 years with SL, GP, NAV and AX. In 2012, Microsoft tried offering hosted versions (Azure focused) of each product through partners, however not all were successful. Customers bought multiple iterations of AX Cloud, but failed to actually go live and work at various customers. In order to streamline product portfolio and further secure the Microsoft stack, Dynamics 365 was announced. 365 is Microsoft’s attempted to revolutionize how they interact with customers providing a holistic integrated Microsoft solution that supports an entire customer’s end to end processes. From Office 365, PowerBI, Cortona Intelligence, Azure Intelligent Cloud, Azure IOT Platform and older Sunrise Industry Apps, customer have access to the entire MSFT through one holistic solution

Best Fit for…

365 Enterprise Edition (365 EE) was purpose built for Manufacturing, Distribution, Public Sector, Retail and Services for 250+ users.  There is a Small Business Edition for companies with less than 250 users. 

NetSuite vs. Dynamics 365

●     Product simplicity. 365 is too big & difficult for partners to propose the right configuration & tough for customers to understand what is critical.

●     NetSuite provides native integration for many capabilities like Mobile, CRM and BI.

●     365 requires separate technology stack needed to run BI, Mobile, and CRM.

●     NetSuite WMS is a core part of the platform. In AX the WMS message is confusing (Blue Horseshoe, Manhattan, internal 365 version).

●     Infrastructure is complicated. Customer needs to understand what happens at the application layer vs. the other 3 layers of the stack (IaaS, PaaS, DBaaS).

●     NetSuite infrastructure is straightforward and simpler.

●     NetSuite is a multitenant application & platform. 365 is not, with each deployment running on isolated infrastructure, even though the Azure platform is multi tenant.


NetSuite vs. Acumatica



$14.4M in sales (Hoovers), 350% growth YOY.  Over 2,000 customers in 30 countries globally. Primarily targeting small to mid-market sized companies. Acumatica appeals to smaller customers as it charges by transactional volume, not per user. However, this may become a weakness as the customer's’ scale. Largest market share of ERP Scandinavian countries. Acumatica allows their customers to switch between a fully managed SaaS solution and a traditional on-premise solution (install and manage on own or by a partner).

Best Fit for…

The SMB market which requires deeper functionality (than a typical QuickBooks), more flexibility, decision support and options for integration and customization. $20-50M in revenue/50-500 employee range.


NetSuite vs. Acumatica

●     Limited functionality – offers a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything.

●     They claim CRM, but it’s more like a contact management system. They have been releasing new versions very frequently and may eventually catch up.

●     Reporting is talked about like it is easy to do, but in actuality, it requires sophisticated programming knowledge – even then, minor changes are tough.

●     Fixed Assets – Only a few depreciation methods available

●     They are not multi-tenant – They can run on AWS and Microsoft Azure. Needing a third party host for their customers who want cloud adds a layer of complexity.


NetSuite vs. SAP Business ByDesign (ByD)

 BYD Image.jpg


ByD is SAP’s first organic cloud ERP (~$1-2B+ investment).It was released in 2007, and pulled back a few months later for re-tooling. It was re-released in 2008 with a focus on midmarket Professional Services, Wholesale Distribution and Manufacturing. In 2010 – 2011, ByD development stalled in order for SAP to change the application layer. The focus of product also
began to change to go upmarket (Tier 2).In 2012, German development and solution management essentially disbanded and the development hub moved to India. In 2013, much of development and support redeployed to HANA and rumors were that ByD was on the chopping block.

Best Fit for…

Current SAP customers wishing to deploy an integrated solution to subsidiaries that is more agile and cost effective than ECC or S/4HANA.  ByD is strong in manufacturing, supply chain (i.e.. retail and WD), and professional services/projects (i.e.. consulting, field services and repair) 

NetSuite vs. ByD


●     Application Weaknesses 

○     Financial consolidation, serial numbers, landed costs, budgeting and planning, sub-contracting, revenue recognition and CRM.

○     No IRFS15 or ASC606 capabilities (late 2017-2018).

○     No RF capabilities in manufacturing.

○     No ecommerce native to the platform.

○     No centralizing administration of the subsidiary system from corporate IT/admin.

○     Localization; SAP frequently says they support 100+ countries, but in reality many of these are customer-specific localizations done by partners, or “pre-localized” countries meaning that SAP has done enough work to get customer started, but that the customer/partner need to complete.

●     Platform Weaknesses

○     ByD has open APIs, (NetWeaver), which is technically open, but difficult to enhance, integrate and modify without development involvement (i.e. NetWeaver knowledge).

○     ByD is half way to full integration with HTML 5 (Fiori). Right now Admins use Silverlight and only users have access to HTML 5 UI.


NetSuite vs. SAP Business One (B1)

 B1 Image.jpg


SAP B1 was initially launched in Israel in 1996 under the name TopManage. SAP acquired TopManage financial management software in 2002 and rebranded it as SAP Business One The acquisition allowed SAP to reach out to the midmarket through its partners and also to gain additional business from the smaller subsidiaries of its enterprise customers. SAP B1 is a client–server model software product that is Microsoft Windows-based and connects to a back-end server; also offered on iOS and Android devices with a subset of the full features. SAP B1 can be hosted or managed on either a Microsoft SQL Server database (Windows) or SAP HANA database (Linux).


Best Fit for…

B1 has strong functionality and is a great fit for its original niche market segment.More recently B1 is sold into the midmarket and going directly up against NetSuite’s core market. SAP claims B1 is better integrated with other SAP products and is sold to fill gaps (acquisitions, subsidiaries, new business models).

NetSuite vs. B1

●     No native support for multi-company - requires multiple instances of the solution (no financial consolidation).

●     B1 OnDemand is not a multi tenant solution. Hosted by certified SAP partners, users still need a remote access client.

●     Economies of scale – performance issues over 50 users.

●     Pre-defined dashboards – Requires SAP Business Objects to create custom user dashboards.

●     ecommerce is not native to the platform.

●     The customization platform is a separate tool (MS Visual Studio) – requires coding for even simple changes such as hiding fields.

●     Releases approximately one new version/year (not automatic).

●     SLAs, security and upgrades may be more complex when B1 is hosted by a third party cloud vendor.

●     Implementation and maintenance is solely through third parties. Add-ons are developed by partners. Each partner may have its own flavor of an add-on.

●     B1 has key functional gaps such as project-based accounting, advanced revenue recognition, and service resource management.


Want All The Detailed Comparrisons?

Get The Ultimate NetSuite Comparison Guide Now.

New Call-to-action

Now that you have an understanding of software vendors that compete with NetSuite, It is time to give thought to how you plan to license and implement NetSuite.

NetSuite Partners

Did you know that approximately 50% of all new NetSuite customers work with a NetSuite Partner (aka NetSuite Solution Provider) to assist with NetSuite licensing and services.  A NetSuite partner can help you get the most out of your NetSuite experience, adding signficant value to your ERP initaitive.  

Are you curious if working with a partner might make sense for you? Keep reading to learn more.

#1: NetSuite Licensing

When it comes to NetSuite licensing, your NetSuite Solution Provider will help educate you on NetSuite's product offerings and assist you in the evaluation of NetSuite software. Should you decide that you are ready to move forward with a NetSuite solution, your NetSuite partner will assist you in negotiating a NetSuite license agreement and ensure that you are only licensing what you need and that you are getting the best possible price and terms. This has proven to be a great model for NetSuite customers in that they get access to NetSuite employees as well as a consulting firm that will advocate on the customer’s behalf to ensure they are getting a great license contract. Much of negotiating a software contract for a new software solution relies on your ability to “know what you don’t know.” In this case, your NetSuite partner is with you each step of the way to help you identify your needs and establish an agreement with the vendor that makes the most sense.

#2: NetSuite Implementation

In addition to licensing, NetSuite Solution Providers assist you with implementing NetSuite for the very first time.  No two implementations are identical. However there many are commonalities that occur while implementing NetSuite. There are also several common mistakes made by companies that choose to implement NetSuite on their own. By working with a partner, you’ll have access to a great depth of experience which includes what has worked and what has not with other companies like yours. Having access to this kind of knowledge can make or break your NetSuite implementation and of course, doing it right will mean saving on costs, time and frustration.

#3: NetSuite Integration

NetSuite is very extensible both in terms of customizations and integrations and there are several methods and technologies available to integrate NetSuite with other best of breed applications, both cloud and on-premise. Common NetSuite integrations tend to be around CRM, Ecommerce and online marketplaces. Your NetSuite partner can help you identify the right integrations/connectors for your needs as well as help you set up any necessary integrations.

#4: NetSuite Optimization

Most NetSuite Solution Providers have some sort of optimization and/or support program where they provide ongoing support and consulting to customers long after they are live on NetSuite.  The most successful NetSuite customers tend to be those who see the value in having a long term partnership with a consulting firm to provide continuity long after deploying NetSuite. Remember you want to plan for the marriage, not just the wedding when tackling an ERP project.  Look for a partner that will staff your optimization engagement with the same team that will perform your implementation. Having a team that knows you, your business, your instance, its customizations and integrations is invaluable. 

#5: NetSuite Training

One of the key metrics to determining whether or not a ERP system initiative was successful or not is how well the end users embrace the change.  We’ve all seen new software rollouts that are carried out by a company’s leadership, only to find out that end users are not using the new application as intended but instead revert back to old habits such as using spreadsheets for all sorts of purposes.  Often, this comes down to equipping the end users with sufficient training. NetSuite Solution Providers are able to address this through the training tools at their disposal, which may consist of custom end user training engagements or NetSuite training classes. NetSuite partners are able to prescribe a training solution that makes sense for your organization, needs and budget that will drive high levels of software adoption amongst its users.

How to Find the Right NetSuite Partner

There are many consultancies for you to choose from when you are looking for a NetSuite partner. Of course, NetSuite partners vary in area of focus, level of expertise, etc. Choosing the right NetSuite partner is both a short-term and long-term strategic decision, where “fit” is equally as important as capability and experience.

Take a deeper dive: How to Find the Right NetSuite Partners

Now that you understand how you could leverage a NetSuite Partner to assist with your NetSuite initiative, you might be starting to wonder “what’s this going to cost us?” Let’s explore that next.

What is NetSuite: Pricing & Licensing

If your like most customers your going to want to know how much NetSuite is going to cost, right? As you might have suspected, it depends. In fact, NetSuite recently updated its licensing and pricing model for several area's of the application.  In short, NetSuite provides tremendous value for companies looking to leverage the majority of the features found within the suite.  

Let's start with the basics...The Suite comes in three sizes, Limited Edition (Small), Mid-Market Edition (Medium) and Enterprise Edition (Large).  Each edition is based on the number of required full user licenses and the total number of employees within your organization. Additionally, each edition is identical in terms of the technology and code base. Therefore, as your company grows and you upgrade editions, there is no need for a migration project, but rather a simple adjustment in your licensing cost. NetSuite subscriptions start at $999 per month plus $99 per user per month for its Limited Edition (Starter Package)

Have needs beyond the standard NetSuite features?

NetSuite offers several advanced modules you can license based upon your business needs. You can add these advanced modules at any time during the length of your NetSuite subscription term. One exception:NetSuite OneWorld. If you have separate legal entities that require separate financials you will need to license NetSuite OneWorld from the start. The cost of the additional modules varies by type.

Take a Deeper Dive: NetSuite Pricing & Licensing Cheatsheet

Take a Deeper Dive: Learn More About NetSuite's Advanced Modules

NetSuite Reviews

NetSuite is definitely a clear leader in the cloud-based ERP arena but dont just take my word for it.  

For example, Gartner recently recognized NetSuite as a "Leader" in its most recent Magic Quadrant review for Financial Management Software (FMS) for mid-sized, large and global enterprises ($50M-$5B Annual Revenue).  


G2 Crowd, a leading business software review platform came out with their "Best Accounting Software" review this month that placed NetSuite in the "highest overall market presence" category for cloud-based ERP solutions aimed at the SMB and Mid-Market space.  

NetSuite's SuiteCommerce offering was recognized by Forrester as a leader for midmarket B2B customers looking for an easily-configured, value-priced multi-tenant cloud-based commerce suite that's fully unified with NetSuite ERP.   

Most recently IDC MarketScape named a NetSuite as a leader in its most recent evaluation of 14 leading SaaS cloud-based software vendors based on a wide range of criteria.  IDC cited NetSuite's deep functionality across multiple areas such as financial management, order management, ecommerce and human resources management.  With that being said IDC noted that it was NetSuite's single code base across all its ERP modules that stood them apart from the competition.  

With over 40,000 customers across the globe running their business on NetSuite you can be certain that NetSuite can work for your business.  Still not convinced try the software out for yourself!

 Take a Deeper Dive: Take a NetSuite Test Drive