Note: This article provides a quick comparison, but for a more detailed review and information on which version of QuickBooks is right for you, see our ultimate guide to QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop.QuickBooks Online

You need accounting software, yet you are plagued with the anxiety of choice. Do a quick online search, and you find that a particularly well-known and recommended company, QuickBooks, is the most highly-rated and lauded for its simplified accounting software.

But, you’re not here for me to tell you about what you already know — you came here because now you’ve reached the next step in your decision: do I need QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop?

Soon after searching for comparisons between Online versus Desktop, you get bogged by repetitive illustrations that essentially just reword details about these two products that are inherent:

QuickBooks Online is cloud-based, QuickBooks Desktop is not.

QuickBooks Desktop allows one user, while with QuickBooks Online you can enable multiple users access.

None of these surface-skimming explanations sate your ability to decide on which product will benefit your company best—hours later and hundreds of thousands of words browsed, you feel defeated. Why can’t you find the answers you really need? What is missing?

What many of the articles you read through have not informed you of is that though QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are both made by the same company, they are two completely different products that cannot be lined up so neatly and compared. Instead, we should be looking at them as separate entities that fulfill different needs.

I’ll make this easy for you right now: if you’re a small to medium sized business, you need QuickBooks Online. The burden of offerings in QuickBooks Desktop will weigh you and your business down, as opposed to the ease-of-use and lightness of being provided in QuickBooks Online— but, don’t just take my word on it. I will concisely walk you through the some of the pertinent, intimate details of both of these products so you can make your decision based on knowledgeable insight.

1. Features, Features Everywhere But Which Ones Do I Need?

We want to purchase products that will get us the most features out of the cost we pay. Clearly QuickBooks Desktop would be your go to, right?

I would rethink this position for just a moment.

Think about, say, Microsoft Suite Products. They are loaded with features, but unless if you are a serious tech-inundated professional it’s likely you are not using it to its fullest capacity. It is kind of like that theory that went around that we only use 10% of our brain but unlike that disinformation, we can be confident in our assertion that you will only be using an iota of the features in QuickBooks Desktop.

QuickBooks Online does not get laden with all of the extensive features, thus making your experience of the product more streamlined and in-tune to what you will actually utilize regularly—and it comes at a per-month price on a scale from the Simple option starting at $10 a month to Pro at $40 a month.

Compare this to the albeit one-time Desktop purchase per year, as you will need to repurchase the Desktop version every year to keep up with software updates, which ranges from $300 for Pro and up to $5,000 for Enterprise.

And, let’s be honest, running your own business is hard enough without having to learn all of the accountant jargon that would come along with QuickBooks Desktop.

2. Accessibility

QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based solution while QuickBooks Desktop is based locally.

What does that mean exactly?

Intuitively, you will be able to access the Online version anywhere you go as opposed to Desktop which can only be on the desktop to which you purchase it for and it can only be for PC or Mac.  Also keep in mind that QuickBooks Desktop is likely to be discontinued as everyone continues to move to cloud based software (SaaS), which could make the move to QuickBooks Online inevitable.

Let’s look into a few more accessibility differences more deeply:

Multiple users can access both the Online and Desktop versions. However, you would need to purchase additional user licenses for QuickBooks Desktop. In QuickBooks Online, you can allow up to five users depending on the size of your plan.

As a small business owner, you likely have a staff whose jobs intermingle which makes software that inherently possesses the potential to grant access to your staff (from anywhere!) a smarter choice. In addition, each of the users will have a unique username and password and when there is a software update, QuickBooks Online will update for everyone automatically.

In QuickBooks Desktop, you have Audit Trail — it allows you to see activity on transactions in your books such as when they have been created or deleted. QuickBooks Online goes the further distance with its Activity Log feature, which provides more in-depth information. You can view edits a user does to information such as to a vendor, times for user login and logout, and for tracking banking actions such as transactions. This sort of information can help keep an accurate record, especially for checking for fraud.

3. Automation

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have someone to do the small things for you, like empty the dishwasher and take out the trash? Alleviating the smaller tasks from your workload can add up to big time-savers.

Unfortunately, there is nothing affordable available (yet) to do these things for you—but what you do have QuickBooks Online, which has automated features that can free up your time and mental space.

With QuickBooks Online, you don’t have to worry about things like security because your information is protected and backed up by Intuit. You can also automate email reports that can be adjusted to look like they were sent from a particular Online user, and with the “recurring transactions” tool you can predetermine when to send an invoice to a client. Lastly, your bank transactions are downloaded and pulled all without any further action required on your end.

QuickBooks Desktop possesses some of these same characteristics, such as the ability to download bank transactions and send invoices, but you have to manually complete these processes.

4. Integration

You may ask, “What is the future of software solutions?” The answer is cloud-based software as a service. Inherently, this makes sense: it is much easier to live-sync and integrate with a web-based product, as the process is automated through an application programming interface. Many companies are now making the transition to only integrate with a cloud-based software — and this is a metamorphosis that will become the standard as opposed to the exception. For example, FieldPulse and many other companies chose to integrate with the more modern and amenable option of QuickBooks Online because of the growth this product experienced and its integration capabilities unavailable to QuickBooks Desktop. Ultimately, companies will choose QuickBooks Online as it will be the software that will bring them more business. If you’re not thinking about integrations between your software solutions, you should be, as it can streamline your workflow and save you time — and in the end, QuickBooks Online will have more options and flexibility when it comes to integrations.

It’s much easier to live sync/integrate with a web-based product as both products can sync over the internet automatically by using an application programming interface. Not only does it provide a more automated integration, but since cloud based software as a service solutions are already the present and the future of software, many companies will choose to only integrate with software that will continue to grow rather than decline. For example, FieldPulse chose to initially only integrate with one of the two solutions (QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop). Due to the growth and integration capabilities of QuickBooks Online, FieldPulse and many others chose to integrate with the more modern option of QuickBooks Online that will ultimately bring them more business. If integrating and syncing with other software solutions is important for you, then QuickBooks Online will have more options and flexibility.

Should the choice still be unclear, QuickBooks Online offers a free 30-day trial and will provide you with 24/7 technical support even after that trial period — QuickBooks Desktop has no trial, and they only have 30 days of free support.

Or, you can simply let our team of experts at CUE give you peace of mind by assisting you in assessing, selecting, and integrating the best software for your small business.

Try FieldPulse FREE for 14 Days

More Academy Insights

Safe Work Method Statement

Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS): Why It's Essential for Your Next Big Project

While workplace safety is a priority for all businesses, it’s even more critical in the field service industry....


The Best Business Brains Do This When People Panic

All of us at FieldPulse are witnessing dramatic news emerge daily about the coronavirus and the economic impact...

fleet tracking

Managing Field Technicians: How Technology Lowers Risk

As a service business owner, it can be difficult to know what each of your field technicians is...