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QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks (an Intuit product) offers two main options for accounting records: QuickBooks Online (cloud-based) and QuickBooks Desktop (locally-hosted).  As both options have multiple product levels, this will focus on the benefits of both in general.  There are still important considerations and need for both products depending on the circumstances and business.  Lastly, please note that Intuit is making major changes to both options currently, so you’ll want to watch for updates as more is released.

QuickBooks Desktop (QBDT):

This is the first of the products, and there’s benefit from the long history and development of improvements.  Businesses that need advanced inventory tracking, job costing or in-depth reporting tools will likely benefit from the robust desktop program.  QBDT includes a higher number of users, accounts, inventory items, and report options.  QBDT can be utilized on a local device regardless of internet connection for many of its features (though will need updates). 

QBDT is locally hosted on a computer or network, requiring physical proximity or remote software/hosting to access the records from another location.  Businesses that need more widespread access will likely have the most struggle with the desktop program.  Other disadvantages include the inability to work with your accountant in real-time directly, and less automation of features.

QuickBooks Online (QBO):

Intuit’s new cloud-based version works on multiple devices through your internet browser, a desktop app, or a mobile app (all with an internet connection).  QBO has been designed to connect to bank and credit card accounts to reduce the amount of entry required, which can be a huge benefit to small or cash based businesses with simple record keeping needs.  QBO focuses on automating more of the services to try to reduce the strain on businesses.  QBO also provides real-time access to your accountant so they can work with you in your books.

QBO requires an internet connection to access or work on the books, so businesses with inadequate internet services will likely have the most struggle with the online program.  At this time, QBO also has more restrictions on users, accounts, reports, and inventory tracking.  Other disadvantages include a higher price point (*in 2021 and prior year comparisons), and less customization of information.

Upcoming Changes:

Up until now, the pricing difference has been a large detriment to QBO, which requires a monthly service fee.  In comparison, QBDT has historically been a ‘one-time’ purchase that many businesses have to do only every three years.  Intuit has announced that QBDT will be moving to a monthly service fee (starting with QBDT 2022, which is expected to be available to businesses in October of 2021).  Intuit boasts the change in pricing will come with faster and more reliable computer power, customer support and data recovery, time saving features, and increased productivity with a Desktop mobile app.  Older computers (32-bit) will not be able to use the 2022 version.