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QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop – Which one is right for your business?

May 22, 2013 by Ed Becker

With an ever-expanding collection of features and options, businesses are left with a difficult choice between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. It is important to analyze your business strategy and choose a platform that will be most beneficial to your unique business model.

The Key Differences

QuickBooks Online lives in the cloud. It functions as software-as-a-service (SaaS), which means you must have an Internet connection to access the program. However, you do not need to install the program on your business computer and can access your data from any device, including most smartphones and tablets. This differs from the desktop version, which must be manually installed, but does not require an Internet connection.

In terms of functionality, these two platforms are surprisingly different. Although the QuickBooks brand name implies otherwise, the core software of each program was developed with independent objectives. The Online version is designed to run efficiently in the cloud, but lacks many of the complex forecasting and budgeting features found on the desktop version. Check out the full QuickBooks features comparison.

5 Exclusive Features to QuickBooks Online

  • Delayed Customer Billing
  • Automated Email Reports
  • Multiple Users at No Additional Cost
  • Activity Log
  • Simultaneous Remote Access to Data

5 Exclusive Features of QuickBooks Desktop

  • Prepare 1099s
  • Budget vs. Accrual Job Costing
  • Balance Sheet by Class
  • Mileage Tracking
  • Advanced Excel Export

What’s the Damage?

Cost is typically on the forefront of small business decisions. The pricing model is completely different for each platform as outlined below.

QuickBooks Online starts with a free 30-day trial before defaulting to $26.95 per month for the core software, or $52.76 per month with payroll. Your total annual spend (not including the free trial) for QuickBooks Online will amount to $323.40 or $633.12, respectively.

QuickBooks Pro 2013, on the other hand, requires a full one-time payment of $199 for the core version of the software. You can tack on an additional $329 per year if plan on running payroll through QuickBooks, bringing the total cost to $528 for the first year. It is important to note that updated QuickBooks software is released annually, but you are not required purchase the latest version every year. It is typical to update QuickBooks software every 3 years.

Choosing the Right Platform

The primary advantage of QuickBooks Online is the ability to operate within the cloud. In addition, it can perform automated email reporting and delayed customer billing, allowing you put your bookkeeping duties on autopilot. If you’re the type of business owner who is rarely in the office, the online version will offer the flexibility needed to manage bookkeeping on the run. The initial costs are also much lower, which can be an important benefit for a bootstrapping start-up company.

QuickBooks Desktop offers several key advantages over its online counterpart. First, the functionality of the desktop software is vastly superior and includes powerful features like inventory tracking, time tracking, and budgeting. In addition, enabling the Intuit Remote Access app for $3.95 per month will provide the ability to access your QuickBooks Data via the Internet.

Ultimately, you as the business owner will need to determine which features will help your business thrive in the future.

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