By Justin Holmes and Tiziana Smit (QuickBooks Tech Team)
This month, we’re looking at the differences between QuickBooks desktop and QuickBooks online, addressing a debate that’s been raging since we launched the latter product.
In the past, when someone asked us to compare these two, the standard answer was: “They are different products and fit different situations. Don’t compare them.” This was followed by: “Analyse the client’s needs first. Then, decide which tool is the best one to solve their business situation.”
However, if you think about it, these are conflicting statements. “Don’t compare,” but then “choose between them?” How can you pick one without making a comparison? To help you, we’ve compiled this short report on the ways in which they contrast.
A Basic Distinction
From the outset, know that QuickBooks Online isn’t simply a copy of QuickBooks Desktop that’s been web-enabled. They are different products with unique database structures and contrasting approaches to solving problems, even though both were developed in-house by Intuit.
An increasing number of business owners want to move to online solutions, get rid of their in-house servers and need for outside IT assistance. In addition, they want to be able to access their accounting data from wherever they are, with whatever device they happen to have. Even their resellers and accounting professionals benefit from it, as the move would make it much easier for them to access their client’s information.
This is the wave of the future. And if you aren’t in a rush to make the move, you’re probably being pushed in that direction anyway.
QuickBooks Online is a cloud based financial management software, designed to slash the time you spend managing your business finances by helping you with tasks, such as:
- Creating estimates and invoices
- Managing your customers and suppliers
- Monitoring your tax and making tax returns easier
- Planning ahead and budgeting
- Tracking sales and cash flow
- Understanding your company’s performance
As a true cloud solution, there’s no need to install any software. You access QuickBooks Online straight from your internet browser, on any computer or web-enabled device whenever and wherever. You simply need to have the recommended system requirements, namely:
- A high-speed internet connection, such as DSL, cable or T1
- The latest version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome or Safari
- Apple Mac: An Intel-based Mac, running OS X 10.5 or a newer edition
- Windows PC: A 1 GHz computer with 256 MB of RAM, running Windows XP or a newer edition
Advantages of QuickBooks Online
The main benefits of using this accounting solution are:
- Accessible anytime and anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection
- Compatible with Mac, iPhones, iPads and Android devices
- Cost efficient, with monthly packages available at a low cost
It also gives you:
- An activity log
- Automated backups, email reports and customer billing
- Location tracking
- Multiple AR/AP lines
- Multiple user and simultaneous access capability, depending on the package
Disadvantages of QuickBooks Online
Unfortunately, this offering isn’t without a few cons. If you choose it, be aware that regular updates change the product making it difficult to re-learn and re-teach procedures. Furthermore:
- It lacks the extensive range of features and report customisations that QB Desktop has.
- Each company file requires a separate subscription.
- Inventory tracking is difficult to do.
- Server downtime caused by heavy internet traffic can halt your access to important data.
- Does not do complete job costing, offer QB bill pay, PO or inventory tracking, and can’t integrate with QB POS.
What Desktop Offers
In contrast, these products are geared mainly towards small and medium-sized businesses, providing on premise accounting applications and a fully networkable environment solution. They are also reviewed and updated when needed.
In fact, we’re making important changes in 2015 to strengthen our QuickBooks Desktop product by delivering ongoing upgrades that improve your experience. These include operating system updates and access to connected services.
Advantages of QuickBooks Desktop
This product enables business owners to do stock assemblies, mileage tracking, progress invoicing, sales orders, profit and loss calculations and custom reporting via the software. You also receive:
- Anytime/anywhere access through as Intuit certified host
- Auto-calculators of statement charges
- Budget vs Actual job costing capabilities
- QuickBooks statement writer (Only in Accountant)
- Simultaneous access to data for multiple users with appropriate licensing
The Cons for QuickBooks Desktop
That being said, be aware that it’s difficult to integrate this program with third party apps and to share files. What’s more, it:
- Offers no IT support
- Conflicts between inconsistent Windows and Mac versions
- Shows escalations with pricing
- Retires older products after 2 years
After going over the pros and cons, you should have a better understanding of which software solution is the best fit for your company.
Although QuickBooks Desktop can be more expensive than QuickBooks Online, several companies prefer it. Similarly, businesses that need the functionality of the desktop version have benefitted from the multi-user, anytime/anywhere access capabilities that are offered in a hosted environment.
Some important questions you need to ask yourself when deciding between using QBO vs QBD would be:
- What software do you use?
- Do you require remote access?
- Does your business track inventory?
- How many company files do you have?
QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are both here to solve business accounting problems. Once you recognize the needs and goals of your company, it should be easy to choose between the two products.