Is moving from QuickBooks Desktop to Online a smart choice?

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Today, you’ll get some clarity on a pretty common question — when (or does) it make sense to switch from QuickBooks Desktop to Online?

In the next few paragraphs, you’ll get guidance on how to make this decision but I’d like to preface things by saying that the answer really depends on how your business is set up and operates!

Keep reading to learn the:

  • Scenarios where you should stay on QuickBooks Desktop
  • Top reasons businesses make the switch to QuickBooks Online
  • New subscription option for QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Desktop to Online: When it doesn’t make sense to switch

The first major checkpoint in this decision is evaluating the current features you use against what’s available in the QuickBooks Online platform and app ecosystem.

While QuickBooks Desktop and Online share some features and functionality, they are not a like-for-like replacement.

Here are the features native to QuickBooks Desktop that are not available “out of the box” in the online versions:

  • Inventory tracking and automated reordering points 
  • IIF import files 
  • Custom fields on invoices and bills 
  • Job progress invoicing 
  • Job costing
  • Sales orders

If any of these features are part of your workflow today, you may need to get creative and dig deeper into the nitty-gritty of the QuickBooks Online offering. 

For example, let’s look at custom invoice fields in QuickBooks Online. While the capability exists, it does so in a more limited capacity than in QuickBooks Desktop.

As a result, you need to think about the level of customization your QuickBooks invoices need and include this in your decision to move from QuickBooks Desktop to Online. 

In other cases, such as inventory tracking, you will need to invest in a 3rd party application from the QuickBooks Online app store to unlock the functionality. 

Now, it’s important to note that installing 3rd party applications is not necessarily a bad thing. You should instead view this as an opportunity to extend the power of QuickBooks Online and get the exact functionality you need.

In some cases, the combination of QuickBooks Online and 3rd party applications can result in a solution that goes well beyond the functionality of QuickBooks Desktop and provide you with a more powerful tool!

When looking at apps as part of your decision to move from QuickBooks Desktop to Online, you should consider:

  • Does the app meet (or exceed) the QuickBooks Desktop features you use today? 
  • Does the incremental cost of the app justify the impact it will have on your business?
  • Can you import your historical data from QuickBooks Desktop into this new app? 

If you answer those three questions with a yes, continuing on the path to switch to QuickBooks Online may make sense. 

The top 3 reasons to switch from QuickBooks Desktop To Online

Now that you know the initial considerations to think through, let’s review the top reasons that businesses make the switch from QuickBooks Desktop to Online.

Again, I’ll preface this list by saying that “better” is a relative term, and you need to make the decision based on what will help your business run the most efficiently.

1. Improved workflow and automation

One of the most common reasons to make the switch from QuickBooks Desktop to Online is to increase the level of automation in your back office accounting processes.

With QBO being a native online platform, it opens many interesting, automation opportunities for your business. Out of the box, you’ll enjoy support for two common recurring workflows — invoicing and bank statement imports. 

2. The robust app ecosystem

A natural extension of QBO’s cloud-based architecture is the ease with which you can connect QuickBooks with other solutions.

Especially, when you consider that the QuickBooks Online app store is filled with hundreds of apps that can provide solutions for the different scenarios and workflows you face.

From specific point solutions through to full-fledged QuickBooks CRM integrations, you will be able to find tools that free up time by reducing the amount of manual, repetitive work you need to do. 

3. Access from any location, on any device

As is the case with any cloud product, you no longer need to worry about hardware compatibility, or having the latest and greatest technology to run your business applications with QBO.

So, in other words, as long as your devices have a browser, you’ll have access to your QuickBooks data! 

This also means you do not need to manage any local installations or “helper” applications for 3rd party tools, which are often a point of friction for businesses that are getting set up or migrating to new hardware. 

Because QuickBooks Online runs on Intuit’s servers and databases, they also manage the hardware and its redundancy. Now compare that to the cost and headaches of knowing your QuickBooks Desktop file is stored on a local machine.

Truth be told, this is a reason that’s often compelling enough to push QuickBooks Desktop users to make the shift to Online!

Subscriptions for QuickBooks Desktop

As I was doing my final edits on this post, I noticed that Intuit made some changes to their website.

Today, they are pushing new signups for desktop versions to sign up with subscription pricing, versus the historical fixed pricing they offered.

While it appears that the fixed prices are still available, users need to call in and speak to a rep. 

This is significant for a few reasons.

First and foremost, one of the drawbacks of the fixed pricing model for desktop versions was that upgrades were only available within a certain window and phone support came at an incremental cost.

I imagine that we will see both become part of the base subscription packages for desktop versions, as the economics of a recurring payment model make that much more realistic.

Second, this has the potential to drastically change the cost of owning QuickBooks Desktop over the long term.

Many users liked purchasing QuickBooks Desktop as it was a one-time payment, which could be supported by additional one-time payments every few years to get access to upgrades. The shift to a subscription model drastically changes that and levels the playing field when it comes to cost and pricing model being a key decision influencer on the transition from QuickBooks Desktop to Online. 

We will see how this unfolds as more details become available, but it marks a big departure from how QuickBooks Desktop was priced in the market historically!

Wrap up + some bonus reading

As you can tell, deciding to switch from QuickBooks Desktop to Online is not as straightforward of a choice as you may have thought.

The beauty of this decision, though, is that both platforms are very similar in terms of core functionality. This means that the factors you need to consider are more around the nuances of how you ultimately use QuickBooks on a day-to-day basis. 

For some further reading, check out how Method:Partner Victoria Cameron evaluated the switch, as well as her top tips for making the transition!

Image credit: Jan Vasek via Pixabay

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