QuickBooks Desktop or QuickBooks Online?

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Is QuickBooks Desktop better than QuickBooks Online?

I really didn’t want to like QuickBooks Online, but the cloud is where the world is going so I gave it a try and found it to be a very powerful accounting program.

Clients often say that they stay with the desktop version because QuickBooks Online isn’t as robust.  That may have been true in the past, but not today.  Are there features in desktop that aren’t available in the online version.  Absolutely; however, the reverse is also true.

So, what does QuickBooks Online do better than its counterpart?

Automation:  The desktop version allows users to memorize transactions that they can later manually send to customers.  QuickBooks Online’s “recurring transaction” feature allows users to set up invoices to be emailed automatically to the customer.  Imagine setting up the auto pay and sales receipt once and being done with it.  You can also schedule reports to send automatically.  What a time saver!

Accountant Access:  Gone are the days of emailing your company file to your accountant, or even worse, putting your file on a flash drive and delivering personally.   With the cloud version providing your accountant access to your books is as simple as sending an email invitation. 

Updates:  It used to drive me crazy when I would log into desktop to run payroll only to encounter an order to install updates.  I don’t miss that pop-up and neither will you!  And don’t even get me started about having to buy a new version every three years.  QuickBooks Online automatically updates every four weeks so you will always have the latest version and newest features.

Cloud-based:  The fact that the program is cloud based offers several real advantages.  How many of you have ever found that your company file is corrupt and you hadn’t run a backup in over a week?  Unfortunately I have, but with the cloud’s automatic backup feature I never have to relive that nightmare.  Another important feature is the bank level security.  It is true that nobody, not even Uncle Sam, is safe from hackers but your server will NEVER be as secure as Intuit’s.  Think about it.  All it takes for someone to gain access to your computer is one unfortunate click of an email.

What features of QuickBooks Desktop are missing from the online version?

Inventory:  Without a doubt the inventory tracking capabilities within desktop are vastly better. 

QuickBooks Statement Writer:  While this is an add-on feature in desktop, it is very popular.  With it you can create customized, professional financial statements that remain synchronized with changes made in the program.

Period Copy:  The Period Copy feature is designed to allow users to make a copy of their QuickBooks file that includes ONLY the data they wish to share.  This is particularly desirable in the case of an IRS audit.  Without this feature you would have to create a backup of the entire QuickBooks file and send it to the auditor. That file would, of course, include financial information for years not pertaining to the audit. (That is never a good idea!)

The numbers say it all

Intuit is aware that their online program comes up short in some areas and they are constantly working on it.   In the meantime, they have partnered with over 400 aps that integrate with the program to create work-arounds.  This truly is a situation where “there’s an app for that.”

Cloud based software is here to stay and that is where Intuit has shifted their attention.  That only makes sense when you consider that online sales have outpaced those of desktop products for several years now.  According to Intuit, 80% of new users choose QuickBooks Online and the rate of migration from desktop is experiencing a steady increase.  That translates to 2.3 million businesses and counting.

The Clash once asked a very important question….Should I stay or should I go?

Increased emphasis on QuickBooks Online will mean the product will get better faster, leaving QuickBooks Desktop behind.   Will Intuit say goodbye to its desktop product?  Probably not, at least not anytime soon.  Should you?  Having a conversation with your bookkeeper can help you make the right decision for your company and assist in the conversion if necessary.


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