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QuickBooks Online? QuickBooks Desktop Version?

QuickBooks® Online offers the business owner certain advantages such as:

Quickbooks online

Those pluses are appealing but let’s dig a little deeper and see some more differences between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online.


QuickBooks Online offers anytime, anywhere access to QuickBooks for up to 25 simultaneous users, while the desktop version offers WebEx Remote Access (or similar technology) as a solution for accessing QuickBooks from a remote location, but does not allow simultaneous access for multiple remote users. As an alternative, there are hosting companies that can, as an example, put a QuickBooks Premier three user (or QuickBooks Enterprise 15-30 user) in the cloud so multiple users can have 24/7 access to the QuickBooks file.


QuickBooks Online upgrades are free and usually released two to three times per year so it’s not necessary to purchase a new version every year. Likewise, you don’t have to purchase a new version of the desktop software every year either. While there is a fee to “Upgrade” the desktop versions, users do have access to free updates to the program as they are released throughout the supported life of the purchased software. That means if your software has not been “sunsetted” by Intuit, you’ll receive the free updates to the desktop version. These updates fix bugs and often include product enhancements.


QuickBooks Online includes support at no additional cost. There is support for desktop versions, but it’s not included in the cost of the product. And, if your software has been “sunsetted,” support from Intuit is not an option. However, you can locate plenty of professionals or QuickBooks ProAdvisors via the Web that are trained and certified in a particular version of the software.


The Online edition Plus tracks inventory, but in a very simplistic manner. For the desktop versions, inventory functionality is included. Advanced inventory options, such as barcoding, lot or serial number tracking or FIFO valuation is available as an add-on to QuickBooks Enterprise. Or, there are third-party integrated applications such as Fishbowl Inventory™ available to track manufacturing and inventory management.

Point of Sale

Do you own or manage a retail location? You need to know that QuickBooks Point of Sale integrates with the desktop versions only.

Flexibility and User Interface

In general, QuickBooks desktop is currently more flexible than Online. There are more customization options with forms, reports and functionality in the desktop versions. Keep in mind you can only have one screen open at a time with QuickBooks Online. That can take some getting used to!

The above differences will evolve as both versions of QuickBooks continue to improve. If you’re looking for a way to access your QuickBooks 24/7, the online version is certainly a solution, assuming the overall software functionality is appropriate for the business. There are many QuickBooks hosting companies that offer the desktop versions in the cloud. Take the time to investigate all your options to find the one that’s best suited to your business processes and bottom line. Or, contact us and we can help.

Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell (CBM) is a professional services firm delivering tax, accounting and business advisory expertise throughout the Mid-Atlantic region from offices in Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC.   

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Contact Dominick V. Bellia, CPA, CITPView Profile

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