The Difference Between QuickBooks Online and Desktop

Qbo Vs Qbes

QuickBooks is the most dominant accounting product on the market. 80% of small and mid-size businesses use a QuickBooks product. Rightfully so! It offers comprehensive features that will make running your business a little bit easier.

But between QuickBooks Online (QBO) and QuickBooks Desktop (QBD), you may be wondering what the difference is. QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop have some key differences that can be more ideal for your needs depending on the size of a business and how your business operates. Here are a few:

Subscription vs. Licensed

Let’s start by looking at QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online is a subscription-based software with a monthly fee. The monthly fees start at $20/month for the most basic plan, Simple Start, and going up to $60/month for the Plus version. The features of each plan differ in terms of users allowed, time tracking, managing bills, and tracking inventory. All plans conveniently include receipt capture, 24/7 support, and integration with other apps.

In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop is a licensed software where you pay a one-time cost ranging from $299.95 for Pro to $1,100 for Enterprise.

Although subscription software has become the norm, many businesses prefer to purchase the software outright, thus putting a limit on their capital expenses. Ostensibly, you could purchase QuickBooks Pro or Premier one time, and run it for a decade. However, we strongly recommend upgrading every three years. So let’s take a look at the expense of each software over a seven year time span.

QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Pro

Costof Quickbooks Online vs Pro
TOTAL COST QB Online: $1560

QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Premier

Cost of QuickBooks Online Vs Premier
TOTAL COST QB Online: $4,680

These prices reflect the first year promotional pricing of QuickBooks Online,  but quickly show that over the long term, purchasing Desktop software is more cost effective.


When it comes to support, as stated earlier, QuickBooks Online’s subscription fee includes 24/7 phone support, while QuickBooks Desktop has an $89 fee for 90 days of the same support.

Bank Transactions

QuickBooks Online can automatically download bank transactions, while this feature is a paid add-on for Desktop. Both products sync natively with most major banks, but the link is much easier on QuickBooks Online.

Cloud-based vs. Installed

QuickBooks Online is not installed and does not run on your computer. Rather, it runs through a browser which allows you to access QuickBooks from wherever you have internet access with a set login and password.

It is a cloud-based subscription service that gives you the freedom to work from any device, including a phone. Accessibility is one great benefit of QuickBooks Online. An entrepreneur or small business owner will benefit from the easy access to data and the ability to us both Mac and PC operating systems.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Desktop is installed on your office desktop computer. This means that you will not be able to access the software from other locations or devices unless you opt to purchase hosting. Hosting simulates the cloud-based environment by pushing your QuickBooks Desktop to the cloud, and giving you a remote login and password.

Cloud Based

Cloud Acc
  • Access anywhere
  • Associated mobile app
  • Hosted by a third party company
  • Accessed in browser

Hosted Locally

  • Hosted securely by your company
  • Available offline
  • Runs as a program on your computer
  • No mobile app


Another key difference is that being a cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online automatically does data encrypted back-ups. The desktop version of the software, however, charges $9.99 a month for this service.


QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are both great accounting software, in that they offer features that can make running your business much smoother.

If you need to access anywhere and you don’t mind paying a higher price, QuickBooks Online may be the best option. However, if you’re looking to limit your capital expenses long-term, and want to securely host your file, we recommend QuickBooks Desktop.

For a free consultation,  email


About Marjorie Adams

Our head QuickBooks trainer and guru, Marjorie Adams, is Founder and CEO of Fourlane, Inc., an award-winning consulting firm and Intuit’s #1 QuickBooks Reseller Partner. Fourlane’s team of experts offers several QuickBooks oriented services including consulting, training, programming, integration, and more. Over the years, Fourlane has helped over 10,000 customers across many different industries with their QuickBooks accounting software. Marjorie Adams is considered one of the top QuickBooks trainers in the country. She was listed on CPA Practice Advisor’s 40 Under 40 in 2014 & 2015, and has been recognized as Intuitive Accountant’s 2015 QuickBooks Desktop ProAdvisor of the Year. Marjorie sits on Intuit’s VIP Program, is a frequent contributor to Inuit Accountants News Central, and has developed Intuit’s QuickBooks Enterprise Certification training. She has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, BusinessWeek, American Express Open, the Huffington Post, and Inc. Magazine.

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One thought on “The Difference Between QuickBooks Online and Desktop

  1. Great information, especially for our online accounting students. Thanks!

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