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Online or Desktop Software?
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Posted 3/1/2019 09:14 (#7351789 - in reply to #7351228)
Subject: RE: Online or Desktop Software?

A lot depends on how you use (or will use in the future) a desktop or online edition of anything. And right now, lots of people have had their eyes glaze over from being promised so much "in the future" with having "everything" online.

Have a list of stuff stored in the online edition of Word?...makes it easy to look up stuff in the list from your smartphone. But then, you can do the same thing with DropBox or Google Drive sync'd to your desktop computer. In fact, *much* of the stuff that seems only possible with online software is doable with desktop versions, and often costs less to use--as long as they continue to be updated/developed.

QuickBooks is an example. You don't need QuickBooks Online to use QuickBooks from multiple locations. You can pay $12/month for an add-on called QBox to give you access to your QuickBooks desktop files from anywhere (and no, you don't have to set up your farm computer as a Web server), for any number of users. Many CPAs are using QBox with their clients. You can use it to share QuickBooks desktop across farm locations, with your CPA/tax preparer, or wherever.

And depending on the number of users, etc., using QuickBooks desktop + QBox can be *much* less costly per month of ownership than QuickBooks Online. Here's a (free) ebook/article I wrote on some of that a couple years ago. The prices in it are getting a bit outdated now, but the general ideas are still accurate:

Just a couple years ago, Intuit was pushing all QuickBooks users toward QuickBooks Online. Their marketing blitz (and the fact that you had to work hard to even find the desktop editions on their Web site!) implied that the desktop editions were "going away soon, so you'd better switch NOW". They even seemed to be pushing us add-on developers away from desktop editions, with statements and "body language" that implied development was frozen on software access to the desktop editions.

But as many businesses moved to QuickBooks Online, then ran back screaming to their old trusty QuickBooks Pro or Premier edition, Intuit found that while sales of QuickBooks Online were growing, sales of the desktop editions were not dropping as they expected/hoped, and in fact were rising. (I say "hoped", because at one of Intuit's stockholder meetings a few years ago they proudly professed their findings that customers are willing to pay a lot more for software on a monthly subscription basis than when paying a couple hundred dollars up front.)

Development of the desktop editions is now happening again. Intuit seems to be supporting them well--maybe even better than before--and they are now visible/prominent on Intuit's Web sites...all indications that Intuit realized they could not herd every customer to a product which is inferior to what they were using before, in many areas.

QuickBooks Online is great in some ways, miserable in others. It has similar but slightly different capabilities compared to QuickBooks Pro. It is weak in the areas of inventories and reports, and especially so compared to the Premier editions, but it is great for access from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Some of QuickBooks Online's shortcoming can be fixed by paying for add-on services...but nearly all of them will cost you another $9 to $25 per month for each add-on service you use. Other thoughts:

* Even with fast Internet service, QuickBooks Online won't seem as "snappy" and quick to use as the desktop editions.

* Yes all of your accounting data is automatically backed up, but you don't have control over the backups. Find that you made a big accounting mistake last week and want to roll back to a week-ago copy of your company file? Can't do it (with desktop you could).

* Is your Internet service down or slow today? You won't be able to access any of you QuickBooks Online records.

* Is QuickBooks Online down? Though more rare now, Intuit has had some full-day (and at least one two-day) service outage with QuickBooks Online...absolutely no access during those times.

* Did a QuickBooks Online "update" mess you over? It seems Intuit must not have a great way to do a protected "sandboxed" test of all QuickBooks Online updates, so some are not well tested until they are released to many or all users. Something which worked fine for you yesterday may not work today. With desktop you could reinstall the QuickBooks program, but with QuickBooks Online you're stuck with what's available when you log in. Intuit is getting better at this, but still, its out of your control.

If you try QuickBooks Online, you might want to keep a dual set of records for a few months (i.e., keep them in QuickBooks desktop too). Intuit has made the upgrade path from desktop to online pretty easy, but not to go the other way. Once you move your company file to QuickBooks Online you lose some things like memorized transactions and reports, settings, etc....which then simply are "no longer there" if you decide to move back to QuickBooks desktop. Moving back to desktop is a lot more difficult than moving to QuickBooks Online...some people find it easier to set up a completely new company file in desktop, import their lists (customers, vendors, accounts, etc.), and start all over, from scratch.

Just two days ago I spoke with someone who asked if our software worked with QuickBooks Online, because they were trying it out and planning to replace their desktop QuickBooks. By yesterday already--in 24 hours--she had found out that a lot of what they liked/used in their desktop edition was missing from QuickBooks Online.

My final words are:  "Look before you leap", because "QuickBooks isn't QuickBooks" (Intuit markets the desktop and online editions as if they were just different versions with the same capabilities. They're not.) QuickBooks Online may work fine for you, depending on your needs and expectations, but there's a lot more to consider than a simple software change or getting used to working with software online.

Mark Wilsdorf
Flagship Technologies, Inc.

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