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QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Pro

Intuit has is pushing their newest major product, QuickBooks Online, hard. QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based SaaS product that offers many of the basic features of QuickBooks in-browser. But QuickBooks’ desktop software, QuickBooks Pro, is far from outdated. Te QuickBooks Desktop suite still has a dedicated development team and regularly releases new features. Deciding between the two can be tricky. In order to determine which is the best option, you’ll need to take a careful look at everything they have in common as well as the features that set them apart

Operating System

QuickBooks Desktop products are not Mac compatible. They only run on Windows OS. So if you’re strictly a Mac user, you’ll be forced to go with QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online is also probably the right option if you need to access your accounting system from a lot of different devices like your phone or a home computer. Since the product is cloud-based, you can login anywhere.

However, this comes with some added security risk that isn’t there when using QuickBooks Pro on a dedicated device. QuickBooks Pro also does not require internet to run, which eliminates most of the risk of being hacked, or having your data compromised

What Do They Have in Common?

Whether you choose QuickBooks Online or a trusted desktop option like QuickBooks Pro, you’re guaranteed access to QuickBooks’ best features. You can easily track sales and expenses and manage accounts payable. You also have access to professional invoice tools and can easily send or print invoices. They both have decently robust reporting dashboards where you can see things like outstanding payments, sales estimates in the pipeline, income vs. outgo, etc.

Accounting Features

Simply put, QuickBooks Pro is better for accounting. Not to say that QuickBooks Online is a bad product, it just is designed for small, service based businesses who are sending out just a few invoices every week. QuickBooks Pro also has a calendar features, as well as a todo list, which makes it more of a one-stop-shop for running your business. You can do light project management and scheduling right from inside the software. As a traditional desktop software product, QuickBooks Pro allows a few more calculation features than Online can. In Pro, you can calculate and re-bill job costs, and you can also calculate discounts by customer. Although these are fairly simple features, they are still very practical and worth consideration. The developers really thought of everything when they built this product. There is a reason why QuickBooks Pro is preferred by accountants. It is because QuickBooks Pro can do way more stuff that QuickBooks Online, and allows more flexibility and customization to the unique needs of your small business.

Extra Fees

In an effort to incentivize users to switch to QuickBooks Online, Intuit has offered a lot of free services as part of the monthly subscription.

  • Phone-based technical support. If you use a desktop program, you’ll be paying about a dollar a day for this service. The same access comes free with QuickBooks Online.
  • Downloading bank transactions. This is a big one. Online automatically downloads bank transactions as part of its regular features, but that service costs around ten to fifteen dollars every month for Pro users.
  • Data encrypted backups and Cloud storage access can cost desktop users hundreds per month. Both of these come as part of regular Online service.
  • Updates. Even updates cost more for QuickBooks Pro. Users should expect to pay nearly three hundred dollars if they want the latest software updates. Online incorporates these updates as they come out for free.
  • User licensing. A business with multiple users using Pro will need a five user license, which comes at an additional cost. QuickBooks Online is designed for up to five users as part of its regular program.


Cost Comparison

QuickBooks Pro has a fairly low up front cost of around $599. Intuit provides support and updates for three years from the date of purchase. If you opt to do monthly bank transactions that will run you roughly $120 additional each year, and payroll is an additional $39.99/month, for a total  per month cost of $53.40. Unless you need more frequent updates, or your business undergoes a rapid expansion, QuickBooks Pro is much more cost effective on a per-month basis. You could also, ostensibly, keep QuickBooks Pro forever, you just won’t be getting regular updates or support after the three year period. This would make the product even more affordable long term.

Since QuickBooks Online operates under a SaaS model, you have to pay a monthly fee. Various packages are available, but the lowest packages are pretty basic. If you’re even considering QuickBooks Pro it’s likely that you would need at least the $39.99/month version of QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online also has the additional monthly cost of $39 for payroll, so you’re looking at an indefinite monthly cost of $79, or roughly 40% more per month over a three year period. That also assumes that Intuit does not raise their prices during that time. Since, with QuickBooks Pro, you own the software, you would be immune from any price increases.

If you plan on adding any extra features to Pro, however, the cost will quickly pull even with Online’s plans. As we discussed above, QuickBooks Online comes with a number of features and services that Pro users must pay for in addition to their actual software. Fourlane specializes in helping small businesses figure out which QuickBooks product will be right for them, so feel free to reach out and let us know your unique considerations. We can help you make the right choice and save money in the long run.

Which is Right for You?

Most QuickBooks Online users are willing to pay higher monthly dues in exchange for the flexibility and integrated services available through SaaS products. As handy as those advantages are, however, QuickBooks Online isn’t suited for all businesses. QuickBooks Pro gives users a long term solution for regular bookkeeping work, and for most businesses with limited bookkeeping staff, this works perfectly well. A lot goes into the decision between desktop and SaaS products, but at the heart of the debate are several key points. Both products have their uses, but which will work best for you? Take Our Quiz to find out which QuickBooks version is best for you.

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