QuickBooks Online versus Desktop: Comparing the Benefits and Limitations

Choosing the right accounting software can be a critical decision that has a drastic effect on your company’s accounting processes for years to come. For entrepreneurs starting their business, or established small and medium sized business, this is no exception. With so many applications available, it is certainly a decision that needs to be researched and thought out.One question that the bookkeeping team at LedgersOnline hears almost daily is “What is the difference between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop?” This is a loaded question, as both applications are great in their own way, and also have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. It is also important to keep in mind that there are many accounting applications out there; each of which have their own pros and cons.

QuickBooks Online

It is clear that the Intuit team has been working on their online version for some time now, and it is only going to get better. QuickBooks Online has some great attributes for small businesses, and is a cost effective application that gives a range of interesting features. Some things that stand out when compared to their desktop counterpart include:

  • Multi-User, Anytime/Anywhere Access Through any Web Browser
  • Mobile Compatible for iPhone, iPad, and Android
  • Automated Customer Billing
  • Automated Email Reports
  • Activity Log (Audit Trail)
  • Location Tracking
  • Multiple AR/AP Lines
  • Monthly packages starting at $12.95 USD & $9.99 CDN

QuickBooks Desktop

As mentioned, both the QuickBooks Online and Desktop applications offer distinct features that are beneficial in their own way. It is important for businesses to evaluate these features to see which application will work best for them. The desktop version, for example, offers increased functionality when it comes to custom reporting and inventory management. For many businesses, the combination of these features can make the desktop version of QuickBooks an automatic choice. The Desktop version also includes:

  • Custom Reporting
  • Sales Orders
  • Inventory Assemblies
  • Progress Invoicing
  • Receiving Partial Purchase Orders
  • Profit & Loss by Class
  • QuickBooks Statement Writer
  • Budget vs Actuals for Jobs
  • Annual fee starting at $349.95 CDN

One thing to take into consideration is QuickBooks hosting for the desktop version. LedgersOnline for example, is able to host the desktop version on our servers, giving businesses multi-user, anytime/anywhere access to their accounting file. Although more expensive than the online version, this can be a good alternative for businesses who need the functionality of the desktop version, as well as the accessibility of the online version.

Key Questions to Take Into Consideration

Choosing between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop is a difficult decision that needs to be researched and thought out thoroughly. Be sure to evaluate your current state, and where you could benefit from advancements to meet the future goals and needs of your business. Ask yourself:

1. What software do you use?

Are you an all Mac shop? QuickBooks Online can be used on any system, which draws many businesses in who use Apple computers. Keep in mind that you can also host the desktop version of QuickBooks, which allows for multi-user access from Macs and Windows alike. QuickBooks Desktop for the Mac does have its limitations, but we’ll save that for a future post.

2. Do you require remote access?

QuickBooks Online offers anywhere/anytime access to multiple users, which makes multi-user access to your accounting file simple. Again, you can also host the desktop version, but there are additional costs associated with this.

3. Does your business track inventory?

QuickBooks Desktop offers a number of features specific to industry, such as inventory controls, which are very important for some businesses. For example, if your business takes raw materials or components and builds products to sell to the end user, the desktop version of QuickBooks is a great choice. On the other hand, if you have very basic inventory, the online version of QuickBooks may be suitable.

The QuickBooks team offers a wide range of products that have something to offer for all businesses. It is important to understand the needs and goals of your business, both now and in the future, and compare them to the features and functionality that the online and desktop versions have to offer. It is also important to realize that there are many applications available for small and medium sized businesses, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
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