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  • Writer's picturePlymouth Wright

QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop

What they do and which software is right for your business.

QuickBooks, developed by Intuit, is a popular accounting software used by businesses worldwide. QuickBooks Online (QBO) and QuickBooks Desktop are two versions of this software, each with its own set of features, benefits, and drawbacks. Let's delve into each to understand their differences comprehensively.

QuickBooks Online (QBO)

QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based accounting software that allows users to access their financial data from anywhere with an internet connection. Here are some key features:

1. Accessibility: QBO can be accessed via any web browser, making it convenient for users to work remotely or collaborate with others in real-time.

2. Automatic Updates: Since QBO is cloud-based, updates are automatic and do not require manual installations. This ensures users always have access to the latest features and improvements.

3. Multi-User Access: Multiple users can access QBO simultaneously, making it suitable for businesses with teams working remotely or in different locations.

4. Integration: QBO seamlessly integrates with a variety of third-party applications, allowing users to streamline their workflows and sync data across different platforms.

5. Scalability: QBO offers different pricing plans to accommodate businesses of various sizes, allowing users to scale their subscription as their business grows.

6. Automatic Backups: Data in QBO is automatically backed up in the cloud, reducing the risk of data loss due to hardware failures or other issues.

QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Desktop is a software installed on a computer and is not dependent on an internet connection for access. Here are some key features:

1. Performance: QuickBooks Desktop is known for its robust performance, especially when handling large datasets. Since it operates locally, it can handle complex accounting tasks efficiently.

2. Customization: QuickBooks Desktop offers more customization options compared to QBO. Users can tailor reports, forms, and other features to suit their specific business needs.

3. One-Time Payment: Unlike QBO, which operates on a subscription-based model, QuickBooks Desktop is typically purchased with a one-time payment. This may be more cost-effective for some businesses in the long run.

4. Industry-Specific Versions: QuickBooks Desktop offers industry-specific versions tailored to the needs of different industries, such as manufacturing, retail, and nonprofit organizations.

5. Data Security: Since QuickBooks Desktop operates locally, some users perceive it as having better data security compared to cloud-based solutions. However, this also means users are responsible for backing up their data regularly.

6. Advanced Features: QuickBooks Desktop often offers more advanced features and functionality compared to QBO, particularly in areas like inventory management and job costing.


Now, let's compare QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop across various aspects:

1. Accessibility: QBO wins in terms of accessibility since it can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. QuickBooks Desktop requires users to work on the computer where it's installed.

2. Cost: QuickBooks Desktop may be more cost-effective for some businesses due to its one-time payment model, while QBO requires a monthly subscription fee.

3. Performance: QuickBooks Desktop generally outperforms QBO when it comes to handling large datasets and complex accounting tasks.

4. Collaboration: QBO offers better collaboration features, allowing multiple users to access the software simultaneously and work on the same data in real-time.

5. Customization: QuickBooks Desktop provides more customization options compared to QBO, making it suitable for businesses with unique accounting needs.

6. Industry-Specific Versions: QuickBooks Desktop offers industry-specific versions, which may be beneficial for businesses operating in specialized industries.

7. Data Security: QuickBooks Desktop may be perceived as having better data security since it operates locally, but both versions implement robust security measures to protect user data.

8. Integration: While both versions integrate with third-party applications, QBO's cloud-based nature makes it easier to sync data across different platforms seamlessly.


In summary, QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are both powerful accounting solutions with their own set of features and advantages. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the specific needs and preferences of the business. Businesses looking for flexibility, accessibility, and real-time collaboration may prefer QuickBooks Online, while those requiring advanced customization options and robust performance may opt for QuickBooks Desktop. Ultimately, both versions are capable of meeting the accounting needs of businesses of all sizes and industries.


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