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Is QuickBooks Online Better Than QuickBooks Pro?

Jul 14th 2015
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For the past few years, Intuit has been heavily promoting its new darling – QuickBooks Online, yet many accountants have grown increasingly worried that QuickBooks Pro is going away or wondering if QBO is truly better than Pro.

Well, I had the opportunity to attend the Scaling New Heights conference last month. If you haven't heard of it, Scaling New Heights is the premier conference for ProAdvisors where Intuit as well as technology vendors showcase the latest in tools, software, and trends in the modern accounting industry.

As Intuit executives addressed the audience of over 1,000 accounting professionals, you could feel the tension in the room around the question, “What are Intuit's plans for QuickBooks Pro?” Although Intuit cannot disclose their exact plans, they reassured the audience that they plan to continue supporting it, at least into the near future, and reaffirmed their commitment to QuickBooks Pro users.

However, lingering questions in many accountants' minds remain: Is QuickBooks Online better than QuickBooks Pro? Should accountants embrace QuickBooks Online and resign themselves to the fact that QuickBooks Pro will go away sometime in the near future?

My answer when I am asked the question if QBO is better than Pro is always “QuickBooks Online is not necessarily better than QuickBooks Pro. it is just different.” Moreover, in some cases QuickBooks Online is far better than QuickBooks Pro and in other ways, QuickBooks Online lacks some functionalities that non-hosted QuickBooks Pro has.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of key features:

QB Side by Side Comparison

QuickBooks Online alone is not the answer to every business and neither is QuickBooks Pro. In some cases, other desktop versions of QuickBooks may be a better fit for the client (such as QuickBooks Enterprise Solution). However, QBO integrated with software applications will match if not exceed the functionality of QBPro. For example, QBO integrated with SOS Inventory or Exact Online far outperforms the functionality of QBPro alone for companies with inventory needs.

Here are a few additional examples of how QBO integrated with other software applications will yield a more streamlined and efficient solution for clients:

·       QBO integrated with Ebillity or BigTime or BillQuick for professional services companies.

·       QBO integrated with Tallie or Expensify for web-based expense reporting and reimbursements.

·       QBO integrated with Corecon or BuilderTrend for construction companies.

·       QBO integrated with TSheets for tracking hours for multiple hourly employees.

What I have found in my experience that despite some shortcomings, QBO integrated with software applications is by far a better solution for certain clients. This is because I can recommend an integrated software application that is a better overall solution for my clients than QuickBooks Pro alone.

In addition, Intuit continues to improve QBO. In fact, they are currently working on improving the inventory functionality and they are continually releasing new updates and improvements.

What's the Real Question?

My question to accountants who are still uncomfortable with QuickBooks Online is, “what is the real reason for your discomfort?”

Our profession is continually dealing with and adapting to change – new tax laws, new accounting and audit standards, etc. Why is QuickBooks Online such a polarizing topic?

In my opinion, the reason that many accountants are uncomfortable with QuickBooks Online is because QBO is ushering in a new era in accounting.  QuickBooks Online is forcing accountants to work in areas that we are generally uncomfortable with, such as:

·       Cloud-based technology

·       Collaborating with clients on their day-to-day issues

·       Advising clients on software applications

·       Providing clients with business advice

·       Helping clients streamline workflows

Sure it's easy for us to recommend QuickBooks Pro and move on so that we can get back to compliance work. QuickBooks Online, on the other hand, forces us to move towards new roles, such as that of trusted advisor and technology consultant.

Are You Ready to Embrace QBO?

Whether you think you are ready or not, QuickBooks Online and cloud-based accounting technology is the way of the future; a future that is here now. You must embrace cloud-based processes and technologies or your firm will be replaced by firms who are already leveraging the power of the cloud and related applications

I can tell you this as well in all honesty: I started my journey four years ago by switching my own firm to QBO. The majority of my clients are now on QBO and I can say without hesitation that QBO has been a huge part of my firm's success.

Veronica Wasek, CPA, is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, a public speaker, and a member of the national Intuit Trainer/Writer Network. She is the founder ofVM Wasek CPA, LLC, a QuickBooks-centric firm specializing in customized QuickBooks set up, training, clean up, consulting, and bookkeeping. 

Replies (6)

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
Jul 15th 2015 04:05 EDT

Thanks for a great round-up Veronica - I think you've caught the essentials really well, and posed the difficult challenge about the reasons desktop users want to retain their existing arrangements and functionality.
The comparison chart makes it clear that for certain sectors and businesses, the capabilities of QB Pro trump QBO - but for how long is that going to continue?
Intuit has made it clear that while it won't abandon its desktop products yet, it's main focus is on building the market for QBO to catch the new cloud accounting wave. The availability of third-party add-ons to cover things like inventory, payments, advanced reporting and vertical industry needs will greatly extend QBO's reach and functionality, so any head-to-head comparison should also take them into account.
There are a lot of other objections and concerns to talk through, and as chance would have it, that debate has already started in our new Any Answers section:

For anyone else reading this article, feel free to join this conversation by replying here - or in our Any Answers section. I think there are a lot of issues QuickBooks users on both sides of the fence are going to need to work through.

Thanks (1)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
By CCRussell
Jul 17th 2015 13:48 EDT

John, while add-ons greatly expand QBO's reach and functionality, the same is true for QB Desktop. In some cases there are better options with addons on the desktop than with QBO, at this time. inventory, payments, advanced reporting and vertical industry add-ons are all there for the desktop as well. So, yes, any head-to-head comparison has to take add-ons into account, but you have to include those for both sides.

And the comparison gets tricky - while this compares QuickBooks Pro with QuickBooks Online, you have to also look at the features of QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise. More features there than Pro. As a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, I rarely recommend that people use the Pro version, because of its limitations.

Thanks (1)
By CCRussell
Jul 17th 2015 13:43 EDT

Veronica, you list "yes" for manufacturing with QuickBooks Pro. While it might be possible with Pro, it isn't easy, as the manufacturing features (inventory assembly items) are found in QuickBooks Premier, not Pro. Pro and Online have just about the same capabilities when it comes to manufacturing.

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By lynetter
Jul 17th 2015 14:02 EDT

I have about 20% of clients using qbo. I dont mind it even if it is slow and you must use the mouse for everything. The biggest issue I am having is bringing data back down to desk top. There seems to be a big tech issue with this. I have had downloads crash in the middle or just fail. The worst was woth my own personal qbo account. I need 4 invoicing options and 8 templates. QBO can not fo this so I was using excel and letter head. Realized it was just too much hassle and decided to bring it back down. I couldnt bring my 7 year old company back to desk top. I tried at least a dozen times. It would only show me data through 8/14, the month I put the data online. It was now 5/2015. After more than a month of calls and bogus case numbers, i finally got my data file. However, I lost access to qbo. I couldnt access client notes (that do not download), or cant even make sure my data is right. After another call in with 2 hours of veing handed off i talked to a rep that said he had seen this before. He would call me the next day, which he did... they needed more time, he would call me on X day, which he did, they need more time. 2 months later and still nothing. I am not even sure if I am still getting charged (i didnt qualify for a free account but thats another story). It will be very hard to refer clients to qbo when i know their data is safer than me. It is hard to refer when their own accountant can not get to her data.

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Paul Dunne
By paul2512
Jul 17th 2015 15:46 EDT

Frankly if QB Pro is in used in a secure hosted environment, the comparison between the two tilts greatly in favour of the desktop product. I host 90% of my clients on a third party server that specialises in hosting QB products with bank encryption security. Not only do they have more functionality (and a lots less bugs!) than they would using QBO but they have the capability to upgrade to the Premier and Enterprise versions. Not mentioned here is the fact that QBO does not create a separate datafile as such which means the user has no control over backups. Hosted datafiles for desktop products can be backed up to local computers at any time. Bottom line is that QBO is definitely the software of the future but until the future arrives, my clients will stick with the more funtional and reliable software of the present.

Thanks (1)
By mike117
Dec 26th 2017 11:41 EST

Even I perfectly agree that Online version of QuickBooks is no better than QuickBooks Desktop. The reason why I say so is that:
1) QB desktop is a fully functional program that runs independently on your system.
2) If you are running more than 1 company or managing a client who does so, then Desktop is the best platform for you.
3) QuickBooks desktop can be easily integrated with any third party software, thus making life easy.
4) There Intuit helpdesk for QuickBooks support is far better than there online assistance.
The reason, I favor Desktop so much is because I had a first-hand experience with the program and I am loving it.

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