QuickBooks Desktop vs. QuickBooks Online

If you’re in a desktop version of QuickBooks (Pro/Premier/Enterprise) you may be wondering if it would be better to move to QuickBooks Online (QBO) so you have remote access. With the new products just rolling out, I thought this would be good to discuss pros/cons – and my opinion ;-)

Yes, Intuit has put a heavy emphasis on QBO, but they still have many more desktop customers than online (and those customers bring in more revenue), so they aren’t going do desert them!  While Intuit is spending a lot to continue to develop this product, they realize that their current online product doesn’t yet meet the needs of many of their customers, so they are still committed to adding new features and improvements for their desktop products.

If you’re on the fence as to which way you go, it’s wise to look at what the products have to offer BEFORE deciding.

So here’s the deal. Even though QuickBooks is part of the name, the online version of QB is VERY different from the desktop (2 different development teams) – just ask anyone who’s moved from one to the other! The look is definitely different as is some of the terminology, so anticipate a learning curve. Some have loved it, but I’ve had a few clients tell me they tried QBO and went back to desktop!

QBO offers 24/7 access, no worries about updates or upgrades, automatic invoicing and bank downloads and a growing number of add-on apps.

However, with QBO, you pay a subscription PER company.  For some of you, that can add up!  And, Intuit raised their QBO prices again this year, so this may cost you more, rather than less.

If you’re in QBO or considering QBO, mobile access is probably a key enticement.  While easy to access, QBO is not nearly as feature-rich as the desktop product – and may never be. In fact, Intuit (at least for right now), seems happy to focus mostly on accounting in QBO and letting apps solve for the additional features/functionality you need.  In particular, a couple areas that are limited are job costing and inventory.  So you may need to subscribe to additional apps – which means additional costs and having to learn another product – or 2 or 3 or ….

Intuit is aware that QBO is still NOT a good fit for those who need job costing.  However, they have added a few job cost features in the Plus level, albeit limited compared to desktop.

  • Projects (in the customer section) – I will admit this has the potential to be a nice feature (you can see both costs and revenue for a project). If you use and add-on product, it may work for sub-customers but not projects – so you should ask before you turn on this feature. Once you turn this feature on, you can’t turn it off.  There are still a few issues (like getting the project name and/or address on an invoice), so you might wait before moving forward with this feature.
  • Estimates -you can create an estimate for Revenue, but not costs
  • You can have now both a cost side for a product or service as well as an income side (especially useful if you invoice for time and materials).
  • You can finally progress invoice customers but I haven’t seen a way to customize a progress invoice.
  • There is no Estimated vs Actual so you use budgets for projects. Budgets use your Chart of Accounts, so, you would need to run a Budget vs Actual – and you might find you have to put more detail in the chart of accounts since you can’t run an estimated vs actual using your items (products & services)
  • You can’t job cost your labor. This is huge for many of you. Even if you can get the hours by job from a 3rd party product, QBO uses total hours only.  Nor can you “burden” your labor with payroll taxes, etc.   So you can’t run a report on a job, drill down the work done and find your true cost of labor (which is sooo easy in desktop QB).  Instead, you will have to find a way to get the information from your add-on product
  • You can’t run a job profitability detail report (which lets you see all the different services and materials), – but you can customize the Item Profitability report. There is a Job Profitability report which pulls from your Chart of Accounts
  • You can’t see open PO’s totaled by customer:job

I’m not sure just how much Intuit will add for job costing vs letting 3rd party apps solve for issues, but will continue to monitor.

Some other areas to consider:

  • Sales Orders There is no sales order feature (which you can also use as a Work Order in QBDT). In QBO, you can use an estimate template as a sales order, but you can’t track back orders.  Also in QBDT, you can create sales orders from your Estimate, obviously not an option in QBO
  • Fixed Asset List – QBDT has a nice Fixed Asset List (gives you detail without expanding your Chart of Accounts)
  • Price Levels – In QBDT, you can have automatic pricing based on customer or type of customer, but not in QBO
  • Reports – Currently there’s no group of job cost reports like you see in the desktop products. Not only are there fewer reports (65+ in QBO vs 100+ in QB Pro/Premier), there are fewer ways to customize reports. And as I mentioned above, since the subscription is for only one company, you can’t run a combined financial for multiple companies.
  • Permissions aren’t very strong – an employee able to do payroll can also see your financial reports – yikes! When you start having 3-5 people or more in your books, you definitely want to restrict who can see and/or do what.  Enterprise is by far the best at controlling access.
  • Backups – Intuit does keep your QBO backed up, but you can’t select a specific backup to restore if there are any problems. Likewise, you can’t manually backup QBO and have your own copy or decide to restore a backup.  So if there was a major problem that happened as a result of an incorrect integration with a product or a bookkeeper making a massive mistake (either accidentally or deliberately), you don’t have a backup to restore like you do with the desktop product. While you can export the data out, it’s not in a ready-to-go format that you could use in desktop QB.
  • While you get the ease of remote access, you miss out on some other time-saving features available in desktop QuickBooks. Here’s a chart comparing the availability of some time-saving features in QB.

For a more complete list, you can download my QB Feature Comparison Chart from this link.

So what are your options?  Personally, I still recommend the desktop versions of QuickBooks for anyone who wants job costing.  For remote access, here are some options:

  • You can use a product like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn or TeamViewer and remote into your computer – and you have access to your entire computer. If you choose this option, I strongly recommend a Windows password and turning off your monitor(s) when you’re out of the office.
  • QBox is a way to share a QuickBooks data file. It locks the file allowing only 1 person to work in it, so not a good fit if you need concurrent users, but for just a couple people, this might be a viable option.
  • There are Intuit-approved companies who will “store” (host) your QuickBooks and data; this gives you remote access plus the ability to use QB Pro/Premier or Enterprise. You pay per month per user to access the remote server in addition to your software.
  • Many 3rd party products work remotely, solving for your “need” and integrate with desktop QuickBooks. They tend to be either task-specific (e.g. time tracking) or industry-specific. Method is probably the product that gives you the most flexibility for remote access without being industry specific.
  • Enterprise can run in a “Remote Desktop” environment. In this setup, both the software and the data are on the server, so you just log into the server.  In a traditional network environment, the software is on your computer and the data is on the server.  The Remote Desktop servers have to be more powerful than traditional servers because everyone is using both software and data, but they can be really nice when you have people working remotely or in different locations.

If you still opt for QBO, just realize that you may need to find one or more products to integrate with QuickBooks or have work-arounds so you can do all that you need or maybe decide to do without.  Contact me if you want to discuss more or would like to see our discounted pricing on the QuickBooks products.

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