Accounting Software, QuickBooks Desktop Accounting

QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop: Which is Right for You?

money in a basket

It seems pretty straightforward. QuickBooks Online offers you the ability to use the online platform to complete and store all of your QuickBooks files and manage your account. The desktop version allows you to install the program to your computer and have all of your files and processes located on one computer (or multiple computers if you install it on more than one). Both of these programs work essentially the same; they offer the same accounting and billing features, but one is accessed online and the other is essentially a program on your computer which you manually maintain.

One main difference is in the way the programs are priced. QuickBooks Online is billed monthly. Essentially, you don’t own the program, you’re paying a monthly fee to use the program. When you purchase the Desktop version, you own the program and all of the reports and files are maintained on your own computer. The monthly fee for the online version is significantly less than purchasing the program outright – $27.00 per month vs. buying the program outright for $250.00. In the long term, though, it’s more cost effective to purchase the program if you’re planning on using it for more than 10 months.

QuickBooks Online

The online version of QuickBooks offers a lot of advantages for the business owner who’s on the go. Today’s entrepreneurs and small business owners often work at multiple locations, may be taking an iPad or Laptop to work while they’re on the road, or may be logging in from their phone. QuickBooks Online allows you to access your information whenever an internet connection is available.


  • Phone App. The phone app available for the online version makes this a far easier process for those who are often traveling or not stationed at a set computer for most of the day. With the phone app, you can take pictures of receipts to quickly account for expenditures. You can also handle all of your billing, reconcile accounts, send invoices, all from your phone. You can also quickly access customer information, which can be helpful if you need to answer questions on the go.
  • Works With Any Computer. Staff and officials can log into the account from their home computer or work computer and it will work just as well on a Mac as a PC.
  • Minimizes Data Entry. Bank and credit card information can be automatically downloaded to your QuickBooks Online account, so this tedious task is taken care of for you.
  • Access to Who Needs It. Rather than gathering all of your information in reports and documents, you can give your accountant and pertinent people access to the QuickBooks Online account so they can answer questions, ask questions, and work on any issues that may arise without any delay.


There are some great features with the online version, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for every business. If your AP/AR doesn’t need ready access to these features or is usually at one or two different computers, using the desktop version would likely work just as well and save quite a bit of money over a prolonged period. Another consideration is whether or not you have multiple business entities. For the online version, each business will need to be registered separately. This can be quite exorbitant in cost.

Another negative could be that you need an internet connection in order to work in QuickBooks Online. For most people, the internet connection is pretty reliable, but some people do have a slower speed than others and in some areas, the connection can get spotty.

QuickBooks Desktop 

While the desktop version doesn’t come with a phone app or any way to access your program outside of the computers it’s been installed on, it does have some great advantages. Price is probably the first thing that comes to mind. You’re paying outright for the program, but then you own it. You can install that program across company computers and you can also use that same program for any other companies you own. Once you buy the program, it’s supported for a full 3 years. For those who work solely from one or a few locations, the installed program works great and offers all of the same features except the ability to automatically download your banking and receipt records. Those will need to be manually added.

With the desktop version, you own the files. They’re your property. With the online version, the files reside online. If you have multiple companies, it’s definitely a money saver to use the desktop version, though the deciding vote might be the convenience. If you need the phone app and the timesaving convenience of using its features, that might be worth the monthly fee.