QuickBooks Online versus QuickBooks Desktop – Which is the Right Choice?

With the use of Cloud accounting resources growing at an exponential rate, one of the most common questions I am asked about QuickBooks is “Is the Online or Desktop version better?” or “Should we switch from Desktop to the Online product?”

While “better” is always a matter of opinion, there are a few irrefutable facts that you should consider when making your decision:

Mobile Functionality
Do you want the option to use 300+ cloud-based Apps that integrate with your accounting functions from your tablet or phone? Only QuickBooks Online can do this; Desktop cannot. With the Online product, you can work anywhere from your smartphone or tablet. You can send invoices, reconcile your bank statement, and run a payroll provided you have a secure Internet connection. While cloud access (hosting) is available for the Desktop product through other vendors, it involves additional costs and often requires more IT expertise. Additionally, security issues can be a concern if a PC is left on in your office.

Remote Access
Is remote access mandatory for your business? Perhaps the bookkeeper (or your crazy CPA that likes to work all night) wants 24/7 access without dealing with backup or transfer files. If so, the Online product may be a better option. Up to 25 users can use the Online product at the same time. The Desktop product would require significant IT costs and licensing fees to accomplish this.

Internet Speed
If you are looking at going with the Online product, a high-speed and reliable Internet connection is a must (trust me on this one).

Access with a PC or a Mac
The Online product doesn’t care which you use. If you have a Mac and choose the Desktop version, you will probably be disappointed compared to the PC version. Also, using the Desktop version with a Mac often produces confusion when interfacing with your CPA.

Automatic Backups with Data Encryption
Online performs automatic backups with data encryption while the Desktop product relies upon you or your IT team to manage the process

With Desktop, transactions are more manually produced while the Online product can automatically schedule and send invoices to your customers via email.

Track Mileage
The Online product can track your mileage using the GPS tracker on your smartphone.

While the Online product has greatly improved, the Desktop product offers more customization options.

The basic QuickBooks product that you would typically buy off the shelf at Staples does not come with support; however, QuickBooks online has free support. While support packages are available for the Desktop product, it’s an important thing to know before making the final decision.

Is cost an issue? A typical QuickBooks Pro license without payroll at Staples will run you $199.00. QuickBooks Online with similar features will cost as much as four times that. In fact, at the time of writing this blog, the online product can run around $840 per year, depending on which features you pick. The Intuit website offers a detailed chart to help with the selection process, but features are pricey with the Online product.

Beyond these facts, the final choice often boils down to a matter of opinion. I’ve worked with hundreds of QuickBooks users over the years, and I have not met one yet that prefers the Online product to the Desktop product. The reason for this is that the Desktop product is more intuitive and user-friendly. I’ve heard people consistently say, “I love the remote accessibility and the ability to use my smartphone with the Online product, but I hate the screens; they make no sense!”

I have no idea why Intuit did not simply make their cloud-based product look the same as the desktop version – if they had, it would have been the “Chupacabra” of modern-day small business accounting software. For whatever reason, they went in an entirely different direction, leaving experienced Desktop product users frustrated…or, in many cases, angry.

The good news: If you are already a Desktop user but wish to migrate to the Online product for any of the above features offered, you can simply upload your file. In most cases, all of your data will successfully upload. However, in certain instances, there may be particular types of data that cannot upload. That is a matter to consider with a QuickBooks Certified Pro Advisor.

The best news: No matter what your final QuickBooks choice, the team at Leone, McDonnell & Roberts is here for you! Contact us today with your questions – we are happy to help walk you through the decision-making process.

Blog author, Tavia Cederberg, is a CPA in our Wolfeboro, NH office. She is a Certified Pro Advisor passing the Advanced Exams for both the Desktop Enterprise and Online products. She has successfully migrated accounting data from much larger, more complex and expensive accounting systems to QuickBooks providing customers the customization they desired making their accounting environment more user friendly at a lesser cost.