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Comparing QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop

QuickBooks was born out of the success of the popular financial management program Quicken, the first product Scott Cook and Tom Proulx created when they founded Intuit in 1983.

Due to Quicken’s widespread success, Intuit continued to expand and developed the first version of QuickBooks in 1998.

Intuit has continued to lead the market in financial software solutions with QuickBooks. In the same way technology has transformed global industry, QuickBooks has adapted to the complex needs of organizations at every scale. 

We’ll discuss QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop, including the difference in features, benefits, and pricing structure, so you can decide which version is best for your business. 

What Is the Difference Between QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop?

QuickBooks Online and Desktop both have multiple tiers and add-on features that make it easy to tailor them to your needs. We’ll look at the main differences between QuickBooks Desktop and Online, along with the breakdown of features in each tier.

QuickBooks Online

Intuit first launched QuickBooks Online (QBO) in 2001. They were incredibly early in using cloud technology, so Intuit had many years to innovate QBO’s features, including:

  • Built-in real-time updates
  • Mobile-friendly interface
  • Photo-capture for business receipts
  • No installation required
  • Accessible wherever internet is available
  • Monthly subscription

There are currently five versions of QBO to choose from:

1. Self-Employed

Made for freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors to track income and expenses and estimate quarterly taxes.

2. Simple Start

The most basic version of QBO for small businesses, including the ability to send invoices.

3. Essentials

Includes all Simple Start features plus bill management and time tracking.

4. Plus

Includes all Essentials features, plus tracking inventory.

5. Advanced

The most comprehensive version of QBO for advanced reporting and support. QBO Advanced allows up to 25 users without additional costs.

QuickBooks Desktop

All versions of QuickBooks Desktop include the option to generate payroll for your employees and 1099 contract workers. There are three programs in the QuickBooks desktop family. 


Pro is the most economical version of the desktop programs. With Pro, you can track income, expenses, inventory, and taxes. You can also generate estimates, send bills, and monitor employee hours. 

QuickBooks Desktop Pro can be shared by up to three users.


In addition to having all of the features included in Pro, QuickBooks Desktop Premier can be customized to create industry-specific reports, forecast revenue, and track inventory using mobile scanning devices. 

QuickBooks Desktop Premier can be shared by up to five users.


QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise is the most powerful version of QuickBooks Desktop. It is the best version of Desktop for medium to large businesses. In addition to the features included in Premier, Enterprise also includes:

  • Advanced reporting
  • Advanced inventory
  • Additional order fulfillment tools

QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise can be shared by up to 40 users. Gold, Platinum, and Diamond plans are also available for Enterprise, based on a company’s needs.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Which One Is Right for Me?

Intuit has designed QuickBooks to accommodate every conceivable organizational need and configuration. Regardless of your company’s size or industry, there is a way to custom-tailor QuickBooks to meet your accounting needs without wasting unused features or overpaying for things you won’t use. 

First, let’s look at a general comparison of versions, and then we’ll break down key feature differences that help you determine which version is right for you.

When to Use QuickBooks Online

For organizations always on the move or out in the field, QBO is designed with flexibility in mind. Log in using any secure device. Your files are at your fingertips, no matter where you are. 

QBO is easy to share with your accountants and simple to automate and integrate with other applications.

When to Use QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Desktop is perfect for small companies that conduct business from a centralized location and handle all their financial data in-house. The Enterprise version is designed for the largest scale operations.

QuickBooks Desktop may be preferable if you need industry-specific solutions and wish to work in a dedicated location or several stationary locations. QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise is the most feature-rich financial software in its price range. This includes the volume of data it can manage and the advanced reporting options enterprise-level organizations seek.

Even with a detailed breakdown of every feature, you might still find it overwhelming to choose between Online and Desktop versions, so Fourlane created this quiz you can take to decide. And if you still have any questions, get in touch with Fourlane for a consultation!

Now, let’s compare QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop feature by feature.    


Both QBO and Desktop offer quality invoicing features, although there are some differences. For example, QBO lets you send invoices from your phone, while Enterprise allows for batch invoicing, so you can send numerous invoices at once.

Tech Support

Because QuickBooks sits at the heart of your daily business operations, Fourlane understands the importance of great customer support, and that includes everything from consultation to customization

The customer support offered for Online and Desktop versions of QuickBooks follows two distinct models.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online support is not as extensive as QuickBooks Enterprise, encouraging users to find their own answers using the online knowledgebase before contacting a human. There is 24/7 support through:

  • Live chat
  • Receiving a callback
  • Asking the community

QuickBooks Enterprise

With Enterprise, every account is assigned a dedicated customer service manager (CSM). This CSM is your account’s Intuit point person. They are armed with in-depth technical knowledge, and if you have several users or your company is growing quickly, Intuit can promote your account to their Priority Circle for an even higher level of support.


There are multiple tiers of QuickBooks Desktop that allow you to sync to the cloud, but this is accessed solely from the computer(s) where Desktop is installed.

QuickBooks Online is completely cloud-based, accessed through the user’s browser. It is designed for easy on-the-go use on any mobile device. 

Reporting & Analytics

QBO comes with 65 reports accessed from your Dashboard view. This is designed to provide day-to-day financial data but is not as in-depth as the reporting found in Enterprise.

Desktop Enterprise comes with over 150 reports, including industry-specific reports for the Contractor, Non-Profit, and Manufacturing Editions. You can also build additional custom reports as needed.

Inventory Management

With QBO, you can manage inventory basics, including a limited number of inventory items, create purchase orders and sales orders, and set alerts to manage reorders.

Enterprise allows more inventory items—as many as 100,000 items. It provides more flexibility, bin and serial number tracking, barcode scanning, and other advanced features.

Security and Data Backup

Having strong security protections against hacks and cyberattacks is essential since you are entering and storing sensitive financial data and personally identifiable information. There are a few distinct differences between Online and Desktop Quickbook versions with security and protection against data loss.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online provides strong security to protect your data with encryption and server-side security audits. It also schedules automated backups, so your QuickBooks data isn’t affected even if you run into issues with your remote computer or other devices.

QuickBooks Desktop

With QuickBooks Desktop, security is the user’s responsibility, meaning you are storing and protecting your data locally on your own servers and computers. QuickBooks makes it easy to backup and restore your data to keep it safe, and you can select between manual and automatic backup options.

Integration and Third-Party Apps

QuickBooks Online supports over 750 third-party applications, while QuickBooks Desktop supports over 260.

Pricing Models 

Because QuickBooks is as diverse as the companies that use it, there are numerous plans to choose from. This makes it possible to pay for precisely what serves you best.

QuickBooks Online

QBO is available with four pricing tiers based on whether you are a new QuickBooks Online user or moving your QuickBooks subscription from Desktop to Online:

New to QuickBooks: Price per Month
  • Simple Start: $21
  • Essentials: $42
  • Plus: $63
  • Advanced: $140
Moving from Desktop: Price per Month
  • Simple Start: $15
  • Essentials: $30
  • Plus: $45
  • Advanced: $100

QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise

The Enterprise version of Desktop is available with and without cloud access—each for four possible tiers:

Enterprise Cloud Access: Price per Month
  • Silver: $148
  • Gold: $176
  • Platinum: $204
  • Diamond: $350
Enterprise Local Only: Price per Month
  • Silver: $108
  • Gold: $148
  • Platinum: $176
  • Diamond: $296

Talk to Fourlane to Make the Right Choice with QuickBooks

You can see that Intuit has every business in mind, with the ability to customize, personalize, and scale QuickBooks for every business structure. If ease of use and on-the-go accounting access is the most important thing to you, Online is the way to go. If you are a stationery business needing more features and more control, Desktop is probably the better path.

With both Online and Desktop versions of QuickBooks, you can add to the basic features in your chosen tier to make sure you have exactly what serves you best.

We encourage you to take the quiz to see what fits your company best, and get in touch with our experts at Fourlane for a consultation today!

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