In Pursuit of Profit
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Several years ago, we published a resource for business owners to help them understand the difference between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online. This resource tackled one of the biggest questions we were getting at the time (and still get frequently today!): “Which QuickBooks do I need?” In all this time it has remained one of our most popular articles, even though some of the information related to functionality and cost has now become outdated.
So, we have put together a new resource for you to provide more current information about these two bookkeeping software options. Additionally, we are including some information about the newest QuickBooks offering – QuickBooks Live. Our hope is that this new resource will provide the information you need to make the best choice for your business or organization.
If you’re ready to find out more about QuickBooks, let’s get started!
The basic difference between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online is that QB Desktop needs to be installed on a single computer, while QB Online is cloud-based so it can be accessed anywhere. But there are far more differences that you should be aware of between these two platforms from Intuit.
QB Desktop can have multiple users, but only one can be logged into the program at a time without having to pay to have additional users added. With QuickBooks Pro Plus you can install the platform on 3 computers, QuickBooks Premier Plus allows installation on up to 5 computers, and QuickBooks Enterprise allows installation on up to 40 computers. Depending on how many users you need, this can create a significant cost difference. The costs of these plan range from $249.99/year for QuickBooks Pro Plus to $1340/year for QuickBooks Enterprise.
Experienced, full-time bookkeepers can benefit from using QB Desktop because it does not rely on internet speed to accomplish bookkeeping tasks at scale. For a dedicated bookkeeper, this time difference can really add up over the course of a day. In more rural and remote areas where internet speed is slow or internet connection is spotty, this is especially beneficial because it means bookkeeping tasks will not have to wait on lagging internet.
There has been a lot of confusion recently around whether QB Desktop is being phased out or whether you can even still purchase it anymore. This is as a result of two new announcements from Intuit:
It is worth noting, however, that QuickBooks is definitely prioritizing QB Online over QB Desktop as they roll out new features, meaning that future improvements are likely going to skew towards the QB Online platform instead of QB Desktop. However, for some industries this tradeoff is worth it because QB Desktop offers several editions geared towards businesses and organizations with unique reporting and workflow needs, such as:
Their more advanced accounting needs, especially around inventory management, typically make QB Desktop a better choice for their industries.
QuickBooks Online allows multiple users simultaneous access. The number of users you are allowed will depend on your QB Online plan. QuickBooks Simple Start includes 1 user, QuickBooks Essential includes 3 users, QuickBooks Plus includes 5 users, and QuickBooks Advanced includes up to 25 users. These plans range in price from $25/month for QuickBooks Simple Start to $180/month for QuickBooks Advanced, putting them on par with the annual costs associated with Desktop.
One of the great things about QB Online is that it has a mobile app, which allows you to carry out many of the same functions as the computer-based platform to give you greater flexibility on the go. This is especially helpful with so many employees working remotely.
When outsourcing your accounting functions to a third-party, QB Online offers significant benefits because an external accountant or controller can get real-time access to your company’s financials without having to create a copy to send to your accountant like you do with QB Desktop, which they need to import back into your system after they have made changes. The result is much more streamlined usage when working with an outsourced provider.
The rise of ecommerce has been the primary driver for the increase in the popularity of QB Online. It integrates far better with other software applications and platforms, especially in the areas of inventory management, expense management, and invoicing. Tech-forward companies prefer to use QB Online because of its superior accessibility across all devices and locations.
QuickBooks Live is the newest offering from QuickBooks and is available as an add-on charge to QB Online. The setup fee is $500 and then the ongoing QB Live monthly fee is based on your company’s monthly expenses with rates ranging from $200 (for expenses of $25K or less/month) to $600 (for expenses of more than $150K/month). QuickBooks typically has a reduced promotional rate on the setup if you add this service when you first sign up for QB Online.
It partners business owners with QuickBooks-certified bookkeepers who have experience with QB Online to communicate virtually. There is no indication that the bookkeeper you are assigned is paired with your company based on industry or any other preference-based criteria. Instead, it appears that a business is simply assigned the next bookkeeper up in the queue. However, QuickBooks does specify that you will keep that bookkeeper for the duration of the engagement instead of getting assistance in a rotating format. A QB Live bookkeeper can do ongoing bookkeeping tasks, clean up financials, close your books, and run reports.
We would be remiss if we did not mention that this type of service is not unique to QuickBooks. There are many other providers with these same types of offerings that pair businesses looking for bookkeeping assistance with independent bookkeepers. These kinds of services are ideally suited for low level bookkeeping tasks and is meant to appeal to time-strapped small businesses and organizations. However, offerings in this service category fall short if the assistance you need is anything more than a simple review of your books or help with repetitive ongoing bookkeeping tasks because these types of offerings do not have the backing of an accounting business.
Simply put, there is just not the same depth of offerings that an accounting company can provide to scale up alongside your company as it grows. Why does this matter? Accounting businesses employ highly experienced accountants, controllers, and CFOs that are capable of carrying out more consulting-type advisory work and advanced accounting functions. A reputable accounting organization can provide:
For these reasons, leaning on a respected accounting organization is likely going to be a better option when you want to outsource your accounting activities or need accounting consulting.
Even though QuickBooks may be the most popular bookkeeping software out there right now, it is not your only choice (especially if you are trying to decide if your existing platform will be able to grow with you or trying to transition to a new platform). If you have any questions about which accounting system is best for your business, please reach out to us. We would be happy to provide you with an experienced accountant to work with that understands your business to find the right software fit, get it set up, and maintain it on an ongoing basis. Our fractional accountants can provide as much or as little help as you need along the way!
QuickBooks® is a registered trademark of Intuit. For the most up-to-date plan features and pricing, as well as purchasing assistance, please visit the QuickBooks website.