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The Great Debate – QuickBooks Desktop vs. QuickBooks Online

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There seems to be an incredible debate going on between QuickBooks Desktop vs QuickBooks Online; and it’s really beginning to bug the heck out of me.

debateLet’s start at the top, with Intuit.

If you visit the Intuit QuickBooks website at what you see advertised is the QuickBooks Online version and unless scroll all the way to the bottom of that page and look under the Products column, you don’t see the desktop versions of QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, QuickBooks Accountant or even the QuickBooks for the Mac versions!  Everything on that page points you to the “all-new QuickBooks” which is the QuickBooks Online product.

Right click to enlarge this image

Right click to enlarge this image

The same goes with Payroll, it’s almost impossible to find information on QuickBooks Basic, Enhanced or Assisted Payroll; all of which work with the desktop installation of QuickBooks.

Intuit is pushing and pointing everyone to using QuickBooks Online and Online Payroll; sort of making it seem like it’s the only game in town.  As a result, most Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors are also pushing their clients toward QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Online Payroll.

Everyone wants to move to the “cloud”; get rid of their own in-house servers, the need to hire an outside IT company, be able to access their accounting data from wherever they are, with whatever device they happen to have – or, if you are a ProAdvisor or other accounting professional it means that it’s so much easier to access client data.

Anytime, anywhere access is the wave of the future and everyone is in a rush to get there and if you aren’t in a rush – well you are being pushed, in my opinion.  And sometimes you are being pushed even though you are losing functionality by leaving the desktop version.

If you are a contractor, I highly recommend AVOIDING QuickBooks Online – especially if you want decent job costing reports, rely on the ability to create a Progress Invoice from an Estimate and want/need detailed payroll job costing.   Here is a link to a comparison chart of features – so that you can make an informed decision when someone starts to “push” you toward using QuickBooks Online and leaving your desktop version behind.

As a matter of fact Dan Wernikoff (an Intuit Senior Vice President) said on Intuit’s Annual Investor Day Call  in early October; that only 30% of current Desktop QuickBooks Users are suited for conversion to QBO as it stands today!  So if only 30% of Intuit’s entire desktop user base are a good fit for switching to QBO — WHY is everyone pushing QBO so much?

One of the big “pushes” for QuickBooks Online (QBO) is that it’s “cheaper” than QuickBooks Desktop (QBDT), and it is at this point – BUT only because Intuit has increased the price of the desktop software starting with the 2015 version.  Let’s compare the cost of a single user QuickBooks Desktop Premier Plus and QuickBooks Online Plus.  These are just the regular prices without any discounts or special offers that I am aware of.

QuickBooks Desktop Premier PlusQuickBooks Online Plus
Base Price$499.95$29.90 month/$358.80 year
Add Payroll:
   Enhanced Payroll – Desktop$39.00 mo/$468.00 year PLUS $2.00 per employee per month
  Intuit Online Payroll$68.99 month/$827.88 year
TOTAL$967.95 PLUS $2.00 per employee per month$68.99 month/$827.88 year

QuickBooks desktop IS $140.07 more expensive IF you upgrade every year – but lets say you only upgrade to a new version of QuickBooks once every 3 years, let’s look at the pricing then.

QuickBooks Desktop Premier PlusQuickBooks Online Plus
Base Price3 years payroll tax subscription$499.95$1404.00 Plus $2.00 per employee$2483.64
TOTAL$1903.95 PLUS $2.00 per employee$2483.64

Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT anti-QuickBooks Online – it has it’s place and I can see where it would be a good fit for some businesses; what I am against is the fact that Intuit makes it seem like it’s the only version available and that both Intuit and many of the QuickBooks accounting professionals are pushing their clients to make the move when the client then looses much of the job costing functionality that they have been used to.  I think there is a need for both systems and that they should be EQUALLY promoted.

What’s happened to “What’s right for MY business and What’s right for my clients”?

As for me, I’m a desktop gal.  Why?  Well it’s like this.  In my opinion, QuickBooks desktop is more powerful and certainly more flexible, it provides you with good/accurate job costing (IF it’s set up correctly), with desktop payroll I have all my payroll data included in my job costing reports – AND – because I live in an area where the internet is not 100% reliable – I don’t have to worry about my internet being down and being unable to access my accounting data.

What about you?  How do you feel about QuickBooks Desktop vs QuickBooks Online?


53 Responses to The Great Debate – QuickBooks Desktop vs. QuickBooks Online

    About Your Host:

    Nancy Smyth, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

    Nancy Smyth, Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
    QuickBooks Construction & Payroll Expert

    I've been using and supporting QuickBooks products since the early 1990's. I've worked with thousands of contractors, assisting them with QuickBooks setup, Certified Payroll Reporting requirements, AIA Billing and Weighted-Average Overtime.

    QuickBooks is a powerful product, but learning how to use it in your construction business can be difficult. I hope you find resources available here to be helpful.

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