QuickBooks Online Vs. Desktop: What’s The Difference? [2024]

In the realm of accounting software, two names often surface as major contenders: QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. Both versions have carved out their niches in the market, helping countless businesses streamline their financial operations.

Understanding the differences between QuickBooks Online and Desktop is vital for businesses seeking a tailored solution that aligns perfectly with their operational needs, scalability aspirations, and financial management preferences.

However, as many CPAs will attest, the choice between the two isn’t always straightforward.

Let’s delve deeper into the unique capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of both these platforms.

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QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Key Differences

QuickBooks Online is cloud-based with monthly subscriptions, while QuickBooks Desktop is locally installed with one-time purchases. QuickBooks Online offers multi-user access and automatic updates, whereas QuickBooks Desktop allows for advanced customization and industry-specific versions.

Have a look at the key difference:

FeatureQuickBooks OnlineQuickBooks Desktop
AccessibilityCloud-based; accessible from any device with an internet connectionInstalled locally on a computer
Pricing modelMonthly subscription-based pricingOne-time purchase with optional annual upgrades
Version updatesAutomatically updatedRequires manual updates and upgrades
User accessMultiple users can access simultaneouslyDepending on the license
Data storageData stored in the cloudData stored on the local computer
ScalabilitySuitable for small to medium-sized businessesSuitable for small to large-sized businesses
Industry-specific toolsOffers industry-specific versions (e.g., retail, nonprofit)Offers industry-specific versions (e.g., contractor, manufacturing)
CustomizationLimited customization optionsHighly customizable with advanced features
IntegrationExtensive integrations with third-party appsLimited integrations with third-party apps
Remote accessAvailable through web browser or mobile appRequires remote desktop software for access
Automatic backupsIncluded in the subscriptionManual backups required
Support optionsOnline support, community forums, and chatPhone and email support, knowledge base

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1. Accessibility

QuickBooks Online shines when it comes to accessibility. As a cloud-based solution, it enables you to access your data from anywhere, anytime, and on any device with an internet connection. Its standout features include automatic scheduling and sending of transactions, attaching documents, photos, signatures & more to transactions, and tracking income and expenses.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Desktop is known for its robust and comprehensive features. It outperforms the Online version when it comes to advanced job costing, batch invoicing, and industry-specific features. According to research reports from Gartner and Forrester, QuickBooks Desktop often scores higher than QuickBooks Online in terms of functionality.

Recommended Read: Cloud-Based QuickBooks Hosting Soultion

2. Evaluating Pricing and Billing

QuickBooks Online operates on a subscription-based model with various pricing tiers, each offering a different level of features. The charges are on a monthly basis, which some users prefer for its flexibility.

QuickBooks Desktop requires a one-time upfront payment, making it more cost-effective in the long run for users who don’t require regular upgrades. There’s also an option for an annual subscription which includes updates and upgrades.

3. Integration: A Key Parameter

QuickBooks Online offers seamless integration with a multitude of third-party apps, thanks to its SaaS model. Although QuickBooks Desktop also supports integrations, setting them up and maintaining them might require more technical know-how.

Recommended Read: Time Tracking Apps to Integrate with QuickBooks in 2024

4. Security Measures

QuickBooks Online excels at security due to automatic data backups, encryption, and regular security audits. However, QuickBooks Desktop relies on users to implement security measures and perform regular data backups.

5. Ease of Use

QuickBooks Online boasts a user-friendly, intuitive interface, making it easy even for accounting novices to navigate. In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop, while offering more advanced functionalities, may pose a steeper learning curve due to its traditional interface.

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QuickBooks Online: The Cloud Crusader

QuickBooks Online is like the charismatic superhero who can do it all while looking cool. Being cloud-based, it offers the convenience of anytime, anywhere access – perfect for the accountant who likes to work in their pajamas or has developed a knack for crunching numbers during the half-time break of their kid’s soccer game.

Advantages-

  • Mobility: With QuickBooks Online, you can manage your finances on the go. Whether you’re on a tropical beach or in a traffic jam, you can always stay connected.
  • Automatic Updates: QuickBooks Online takes care of all the updates, so you don’t have to worry about manually upgrading your software.
  • Multiple User Access: With QuickBooks Online, your entire team can access the same data in real time, promoting efficient collaboration.

Disadvantages-

  • Internet Dependency: Since QuickBooks Online is cloud-based, you’ll need a stable internet connection to access your data. So, if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with spotty Wi-Fi, you might be in a bit of a pickle.
  • Monthly Subscription: Unlike the Desktop version where you pay once, QuickBooks Online involves a monthly subscription, which might not be ideal for some businesses.

Areas Where Desktop Outscores Online?

According to in-depth research reports from Gartner and Forrester, QuickBooks Desktop often scores higher points than QuickBooks Online when it comes to advanced features and industry-specific functionalities.

While the cloud-based convenience of QuickBooks Online certainly has its appeal, it seems that when functionality takes center stage, QuickBooks Desktop often steals the limelight. QuickBooks Desktop is like the traditional superhero – reliable, strong, and has been saving the day for years.

Advantages

  • Robust Features: According to research reports from Gartner and Forrester, QuickBooks Desktop tends to score higher points in terms of features. With advanced inventory tracking, job costing capabilities, and industry-specific versions, it’s like the superhero with a utility belt full of specialized tools.
  • One-Time Purchase: QuickBooks Desktop can be purchased outright and used for several years without additional monthly charges. It’s like buying a DVD of your favorite movie – pay once, enjoy forever!

Disadvantages

  • Limited Accessibility: Unlike QuickBooks Online, the Desktop version is tied to the computer it’s installed on, limiting remote access.
  • Update Hassle: Updates aren’t automatic in the Desktop version. It’s like having to manually update your superhero suit every time a new model comes out.

Enhancing Desktop with Cloud Hosting

Interestingly, the benefits of QuickBooks Desktop can be further amplified if the software is hosted on the cloud by a credible service provider. This approach essentially marries the robust functionality of QuickBooks Desktop with the accessibility of QuickBooks Online, providing businesses with a powerful, flexible solution.

Cloud-hosted QuickBooks Desktop offers the best of both worlds, enabling businesses to leverage the full feature set of the Desktop version from anywhere, anytime.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop Similarities & Differences

FeatureQuickBooks OnlineQuickBooks Desktop
Similarities   
Accounting FeaturesCore accounting functionalities such as invoicing,Core accounting functionalities available, including
 expense tracking, bank reconciliation, and reportinginvoicing, expense tracking, bank reconciliation, and more
Financial ReportingRobust financial reporting capabilitiesComprehensive financial reporting features
Data SecurityEncryption, secure data backup, and user access controlsEncryption, secure data backup, and user access controls
Multi-Currency SupportAbility to handle multiple currenciesAbility to handle multiple currencies
Integration with Third-Party AppsIntegration with a wide range of third-party applicationsIntegration with various third-party applications
Differences   
AccessibilityCloud-based, accessible from any device with an internet connectionInstalled locally on a computer
Pricing ModelMonthly subscription-based pricingOne-time purchase with optional annual upgrades
Version UpdatesAutomatically updatedRequires manual updates and upgrades
User AccessMultiple users can access simultaneouslyLimited number of users, depending on the QuickBooks license
Data StorageData stored in the cloudData stored on the local computer
ScalabilitySuitable for small to medium-sized businessesSuitable for small to large-sized businesses
Industry-Specific ToolsOffers industry-specific versions (e.g., retail, nonprofit)Offers industry-specific versions (e.g., contractor, manufacturing)
CustomizationLimited customization optionsHighly customizable with advanced features
Remote AccessAvailable through web browser or mobile appRequires remote desktop software for access
Automatic BackupsIncluded in the subscriptionManual backups required
Support OptionsOnline support, community forums, and chatPhone and email support, knowledge base

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Which should you choose for your business?

While QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop both have their merits, experts suggest that certain capabilities of QuickBooks Desktop often score better points for their robust capabilities. Moreover, the benefits of QuickBooks Desktop can be amplified when hosted on the cloud by a reliable partner, combining the extensive features of the Desktop version with the accessibility of Online.

In conclusion, the choice between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop comes down to individual business needs. By understanding the unique offerings of both, CPAs can make well-informed recommendations to their clients, ultimately enhancing their accounting processes and business efficiency. This pillar blog has aimed to provide an in-depth, comparative guide to assist in that decision-making process.

Read More: Why CPAs Prefer QuickBooks Hosting Over QuickBooks Online

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Is QuickBooks Online better than Desktop?

The superiority of QuickBooks Online or Desktop depends on your specific needs. QuickBooks Online offers accessibility, automatic updates, and multi-user access, making it ideal for small to medium-sized businesses. QuickBooks Desktop, on the other hand, is highly customizable and suitable for small to large-sized businesses with advanced requirements. Consider factors like mobility, collaboration, and customization to determine which version aligns better with your business.

Q: Can you use both QuickBooks Online and Desktop?

Yes, you can use both, but they function separately. They don’t sync automatically, so data transfer between them is manual. It’s best to choose one based on your needs, but some businesses use both for specific purposes or workflows.

Q: When is QuickBooks Desktop better than QuickBooks Online?

QuickBooks Desktop is preferable when advanced customization, industry-specific versions, or offline access are required. It suits larger businesses and those with complex accounting needs.

Q: What are the disadvantages of QuickBooks Online?

QuickBooks Online has limitations like internet dependence, ongoing subscription costs, limited customization options, and fewer integrations compared to QuickBooks Desktop. It may not suit businesses with advanced needs or those without reliable internet access.

Q: Is QuickBooks Online cheaper than QuickBooks Desktop?

QuickBooks Online follows a monthly subscription model, making it more affordable for businesses with limited upfront budgets. QuickBooks Desktop requires a one-time purchase, but long-term costs may be higher due to upgrade expenses. Cost considerations depend on individual business needs and preferences.

Q: Can I switch from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online?

Yes, you can migrate your data from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online. Intuit provides conversion tools and services to facilitate the transition. However, it’s recommended to consult the migration guide and backup your data before proceeding with the switch.

Q: Can I switch from QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Desktop?

Yes, you can convert your QuickBooks Online data to QuickBooks Desktop using Intuit’s conversion tools. It’s important to note that the process may not transfer all data and features, so thorough preparation and backup are advised before switching.

About Julie Watson

Julie is a dynamic professional with over 16 years of rich experience as a VDI and Application Hosting expert. At Ace Cloud Hosting, she humanizes disruptive and emerging remote working trends to help leaders discover new and better possibilities for digital transformation and innovation by using cloud solutions with an enterprise-class security approach. Beyond work, Julie is a passionate surfer.
On the weekend, you will find her hanging out with her family or surfing around the North Shore of Oahu.

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