QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks On Premises

April 20, 2012 by Aaron Thomas
Audit & Accounting

Intuit offers 3 flavors of QuickBooks “Online” – Simple Start $12.95/month, Essentials $26.95/month and Plus for $39.95/month.  Intuit offers “on premises” QuickBooks Pro $229.95/supported 3 years and QuickBooks Premier $319.95/supported 3 years.  I intentional do not speak of QuickBooks Enterprise as Intuit does not offer an online equivalent.

By the numbers

Online Simple Start – Simple Means Simple!  You want to track your accounts payable, not with this version.  This version does have vendor transaction reporting, but does not summarize or identify 1099 vendors.  Sales tax tracking, as with all online version, is possible, but don’t plan on getting a detail report of how much is state, city, county or transit tax.    As for reporting, What You See is What You Get.  No report customization.   This version is only offered as a single user.

Online Essentials – For twice the price you get up to 3 users, and the ability to track accounts payble.  You also get 40 more reports than Simple Start.  Some reports would be beneficial in Simple Start, such as Customer Balance Detail and a Profit Loss Detail.   The other limitations described in Simple Start still remain.

Online Plus – For 3 times the price of Simple Start or roughly 6 times the On Premises Pro price you can get the online version which Intuit compares to it’s on premise products.  With this version you can accumulate and produce 1099’s, and run a transaction by detail report (probably should have been included with Simple Start).  You do get purchase orders, budgeting capability, class and location tracking.  By far this is the most complete offering of the “Online” products, but it still has deficiencies with sales tax reporting.

Pro – Does everything Online Plus does; it does a better job of tracking sales tax, and has more options when it comes to reporting.    Admittedly you will have to back up your QuickBooks data rather than have Intuit do it for you.  Even with a fairly expensive cloud backup solution at $30/month you are still cheaper than the Online Plus.

Premier – Gets mention as the Online Plus cost is equivalent to this higher end product with cloud backup. This higher end version is intended for 5 user environments, with the ability to track international sales, multi-currency, and manage sales leads.  None of this functionality is available with online versions.

From this analysis it is clear to see that the online offerings from Intuit don’t measure up to the on premises offerings.  Although cloud computing sounds like a great value, it is often has fewer features and can be more expensive.  Before you committing to QuickBooks Online you should utilize the free trials offered by Intuit.  You should also have an alternative game plan in the event QuickBooks Online does not work out.  QuickBooks Online doesn’t work well offline as others have experienced.