QuickBooks Online VS QuickBooks Desktop: Which one should I use?
QuickBooks has been a staple in the bookkeeping business for almost four decades. Its predecessor, also made by Intuit, is called Quicken.
Quicken was launched in 1983. That means businesses had been using Intuit’s accounting technology for a full 8 years before the Berlin Wall fell. It’s no surprise, then, that Intuit is the biggest name in bookkeeping software, and has been for decades.
Quicken initially became popular by far exceeding its competitors in one main area: simplicity. While every other accounting software that was on the market was extremely complicated, Quicken employed a simple checkbook-like interface that made it especially appealing for both personal finances and simple business accounting. By enabling just about anyone to boot it up and start bookkeeping, Quicken changed the game. As a result of that initial genius, Intuit is still the king of the bookkeeping software space 5 decades later!
Quicken is still around today, although it’s best for personal finance, rather than for corporations. By the early ‘90s, Intuit realized that Quicken was missing the functionality necessary for accounting and bookkeeping for larger, more complicated businesses. In order to fill this hole in the market, Intuit launched QuickBooks. Initially, QuickBooks was only available as a desktop application that the user paid for one time and then used on one computer, as most software was back then. QuickBooks Desktop is still available as one of the main forms of QuickBooks to this day.
By 2002, however, the internet was a huge industry and growing fast. Intuit had another stroke of genius when it decided to pioneer the field of cloud-based accounting with QuickBooks Online. QBO allows multiple users to access the same QuickBooks account from different computers, anywhere with an internet connection. It’s paid on a monthly subscription, which can be scaled up or down according to the needs of the business.
Today, QuickBooks Online represents a significant portion of the use of QuickBooks. But, perhaps surprisingly, it has not completely dominated the field. QuickBooks Desktop still has its own loyal user base. But which version of QuickBooks is right for your business? What are the advantages and pitfalls of each?
Let’s walk through those questions and find out everything you need to know about QuickBooks for your business.
Comparing QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Desktop
QuickBooks Online is the most popular version of QuickBooks. In the modern era where everything is cloud-based, it makes a lot of sense to make your accounting software match.
QuickBooks Online is typically most popular with small to medium-sized businesses. The versatility of being able to log in from anywhere makes it very attractive to small business owners who must be mobile or who multitask with both administrative and operational responsibilities of their business.
Another big advantage to using QuickBooks Online is the sheer amount of add-on applications that are available for it. Since it’s internet-based, many apps, both third-party and Intuit-built, can link with QuickBooks Online and give it even more featurability. QuickBooks Desktop does have add-on applications, but they’re limited in usefulness by comparison. QuickBooks Desktop does allow the download of transaction information from your bank, however, which is one of the most important features for accounting software in general.
QuickBooks Online differs from QuickBooks Desktop in price, as well. A basic QBO Essentials plan costs $40 per month. Depending on your needs, however, you may opt for the cheaper QuickBooks Simple Start ($25/month) or the more expensive QuickBooks Advanced ($150/month). There are, obviously, differing features on each level. Intuit has outlayed a comparison of QBO plans on their website. As of writing, your first 30 days with QBO is totally free. After that, your first three paid months are 50% off. Talk about value!
QuickBooks Desktop, by contrast, starts at a one-time fee of $300 for the Pro version. The Premier version, which comes with additional features such as forecasting and industry-specific transactions, will run you $500. The flagship version of QuickBooks is called Enterprise, and it’s the perfect choice for large businesses with more complex finances.
Within Enterprise, there are varying levels of power and customizability, each with a different price. All of them are paid on a subscription basis, with discounts available for your first year. The Silver edition is the base level, which is $850 for your first year (30% off). The Gold level will run you $950 for the first year (40% off), and Platinum is $970 for the first year (50% off). You can find a full comparison of QBD versions on the QuickBooks website as well.
This pricing structure allows business owners to get the exact functionality they need, without having to spend extra on features they don’t. Depending on your exact needs, you will find that either QBO or QBD presents a strong financial advantage over its sister program.
Which version of QuickBooks is right for me?
Determining which version of QuickBooks you should use is fairly simple: It boils down to pricing and which features you can’t do without. If you need web-based CRM apps or time trackers, or if you need to access your books from anywhere, choose QuickBooks Online. If you want to create back-ups and copies of your financial data for external audits, or if a one-time purchase is better suited for your financial situation, choose QuickBooks Desktop. If you’re an inventory business or large company that needs powerful tax and payroll software, choose QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise.
QuickBooks is one of the most important inventions of the last 50 years. By allowing any business, from sole proprietorship to multinational corporations, to electronically manage their finances for an accessible price, Intuit has single-handedly innovated the efficiency and accuracy with which the business world’s financial performance is analyzed.