QuickBooks has over 3 million small businesses in the United States using the desktop version of its accounting software program.
But the big buzz these days is about online software, or as it is called, software as a service (SaaS). With SaaS, instead of installing software on your computer, you log on to the Web and use the software online. Typically you pay a monthly or annual subscription entitling you to use the latest version of the software.
Since 2001 QuickBooks has also offered an online version of QuickBooks, in addition to its desktop version. The online version is now up to 110,000 users. QuickBooks Online is an alternative for those who want accounting software, but need the convenience and features of an online application.
I happen to love to use online software — when it makes sense. For instance, I’m not a big believer in online word processing, only because of the limited advantages of going online to write a document, and some considerable drawbacks.
On the other hand, when a software application brings extra value by virtue of being online, then I’m all for it.
QuickBooks Online is one of those applications that makes sense to me.
I’ve been experimenting off and on with QuickBooks Online for several weeks, and like what I see.
QuickBooks Online has a number of advantages for those who can appreciate the online features:
- As the business owner, you can manage your books from anywhere. For business owners who travel regularly or business owners doing their books at night at home (like so many of us), this is a real benefit.
- QuickBooks Online is especially good for businesses with a distributed workforce. If you have employees or independent contractors working from home or from remote locations they can have access to the software as needed (up to 3 simultaneous users, plus your accountant or up to 20 users for an additional fee). For instance, you or your employees can create estimates directly at a customer’s site using a laptop.
- You can even give hourly employees or independent contractors the authority to log in for the limited purpose of filling out timesheets. Then you can process payroll or contractor payments easily.
- QuickBooks Online makes it easy to share data with an outside accountant. For instance, if your accountant helps you close or balance your books each month or quarter, you don’t have to hassle with exchanging data. Your accountant logs in from his or her office and can nip errors in the bud by following an activity log. Your accountant can even log on simultaneously with you to show you how to do something.
- You get the advantage of your data being backed up offsite.
- You pay a lower recurring monthly payment, instead of paying a software license fee up front.
- You do not have to install software on your hard drive. The online application is designed for do-it-yourselfers and walks you through a wizard to help you get set up.
- You get support included in the monthly fee. The website says that if you submit a question via email, they usually get back to you within 30 minutes.
- Another helpful feature: when you log on to QuickBooks Online, there is a small widget that appears on your screen with the latest QuickBooks forums discussion. You can see questions from others (questions you also may have) and be able to get answers. Or you can ask your own questions of the community.
I also like the online version because it has a clean and streamlined interface. It lets you focus on key activities without a lot of confusing accounting jargon (a benefit for the non-accountants among us).
I’m not alone according to Ed Mobraaten, QuickBooks Online marketing manager, who told me in an email, “Ease of use is one of the top reasons why over 80% of QuickBooks Online users are very satisfied with the software. Let’s face it, you go into business because you’re passionate about something, and that something is most likely not accounting. We get it. That’s why we’ve made QuickBooks Online simple to use with an easy-to-follow workflow and everyday language like ‘Money In’ instead of Accounts Receivable.”
The online version offers many but not all of the features of the desktop version of QuickBooks. One notable exception: the online version is not suited for a business that needs to track inventory.
But for independent professionals, startups, young businesses, mobile business owners/salespeople, and business owners who like the freedom to collaborate with their outside accountants seamlessly, QuickBooks Online offers advantages.
To me QuickBooks Online is an example of intelligent online software. You only need to log in when you are working on the application. When you do, being online saves you time and money and helps you do business the way today’s new breed of small businesses actually does business.
Currently you can try QuickBooks Online for free for 30 days. You don’t even have to enter a credit card for the trial (I didn’t have to).
Graham Lutz, The Young Capitalist
This is Very helpful! I’ve been looking into accounting software for a while, and I just would rather not spend the money of front if I don’t have to. Do you know of any other services like this that are useful to one person businesses?
SlickPie is the best alternate for Quickbooks software. I have been using it for a year now. It is easy to use. Sharing and collaborating is easy with it. My business cannot run without it services. I am importing all bank accounts and PayPal transactions are easily done with it.
Hi Jennifer, first let me clarify the point about online banking and credit cards.
Actually — yes — you can download your transactions from your online accounts.
And for me, QB automatically downloads new transactions each day. You can also tell QB to match downloaded transactions in your banking or credit card records with what you have listed in your accounting records, to make it easier to reconcile your records.
You might be confusing this with a different product — maybe Simple Start?
But QuickBooks Online definitely supports downloading bank and credit card transactions.
Nice review. The main thing holding me back from using or recommending QB Online is that banking and credit card transactions cannot be downloaded. Once that feature is added, then I’ll most likely switch my own books to QB Online, as well as recommend it to others. I’m glad you are having success with it though! How do you find the reporting – desktop versions of QB are quite robust in their reporting, search, and custom reports features. Is QB online as good in these areas?
Custom License Plates
I have dying for Quickbooks to have a version that I could use on Linux (Ubuntu). I was very excited to see the web version, figuring that I could use it from a web browser the same in Linux as I could in Windows, But alas Quickbooks detects that I am using Firefox and not using windows and tells me I must use IE and Windows. I would be a customer in a heartbeat if they could fix this.
Dang, I didn’t know that the online banking feature had been added to QB Online! Nice!
Dear Anita –
Thanks so much fo such a thorough review. I’ve been thinking about converting the Quickbooks from Quicken – and then I saw that Quickbooks was online! At first I had some reservations, but your review has clinched it for me. Thanks – Ivana
Hi. Wanted to thank you for this site; very useful. I’m a marketing consultant and have found that being onsite with clients makes a huge difference from a customer service and relationship building perspective. It’s not always possible, of course, but I did just find a great tool other readers might benefit from, a videoconferencing/collaboration service that’s cheap and easy. Next best thing to being there and a HUGE difference in personalizing presentations, brainstorming sessions, etc. Except I can’t work in sweats on those days:).
KnowledgeNetworks at http://poundi.com/knowledgeltd.com/
I currently use the simple start edition and like it’s benefits. The online edition sound great! The fact that you can access your info from any location is a plus. I also like that your data does not have to be stored on your hard drive.
Great review. Looks like QuickBooks has taken another big step forward…
Quickbooks is perfect for many situation but the majority don’t need the feature bloat that Quickbooks has. If you are looking for a slim, nimble accounting app check out – http://www.LessAccounting.com
Thank you for your review. The other online reviews are all years out of date.
One complaint by prior reviewers was the lack of import/export capability. Do you know if this has been added? In particular, I would love to start with the online edition (low startup cost) and then transfer everything to the desktop version of QB Pro after a year or so when our business is ready for its own computer.
I am interested in using the payroll portion. Can you use the site as a time clock to have employee sing in and out. So your log in is your time in and log out is your time out? Also can your track the sign in locations?
Horrible Product- Flawed, Bad Interface, Slow, Inefficient
I tested QuickBooks online for my business for 2 weeks, and decided that this product is decades behind and not worth it. I own a brick and mortar retail store that I run from the other side of the country, so remote access is very important to me. However the program is seriously flawed.
It is way too slow- and the internet connection is the least of its problems. Even if you had the fastest connection in the world the design of the interface is what makes it slow. If you enter in whole bank statements at a time or more than 3 transactions a day, it’s a headache. Example: To move from one line to the next in a deposit screen, you can’t just press the arrow key, you have to use the mouse (tab key does work- but only in one direction). Even with high speed internet, there were times that I spent quit a bit of time on a screen; only to have the data lost due to some kind of connection error. Furthermore you can’t open multiple screens at a time; the only go-around is to open multiple browsers, which is the real basis of the problem. Internet browser programs are extremely slow and unreliable and prawn to crashing and losing data. There is no high speed internet available on the consumer level that would make a browser program as fast as the desktop version.
Other problems with QuickBooks online- No exporting or memorizing of reconciliation reports; no importing any data; only being able to use electronic banking with their handpicked accounts; no setting up multiple files on one account like you can do on the desktop version- each company is a separate $45/month charge; no electronic bill pay; only one vertical shortcut menu- no horizontal shortcut menu like in the desktop version; and my biggest problem with QuickBooks, both desktop and online versions, you can’t customize security levels of different users! This is the only financial bookkeeping program that does not allow you to customize what you want an additional user to be able to view, access, or change in your book!
In conclusion the fastest and most reliable way to work remotely in QuickBooks is to use the desktop edition and access the file through some kind of network. This would require you to have a server at your main location. I considered QuickBooks online because I didn’t want to operate my own server. There are programs out there, that instead of offering an online browser based program, offer their server for you to access a company file- one such example is “MyBooks” (who I’m not thrilled about for other reasons- but that’s a different review). Why QuickBooks doesn’t do this instead, I don’t know.
I would only recommend this product to high charging consultants that only work with two or three customers at a time, and have only a handful of projects a year. But even if that describes you, I would imagine that you’d have plenty of expenses to enter in, and trust me, it won’t be fun.
QB online is very awkward to use compared to the software version, after a year of trying it, I cannot recommend it. It was difficult to move around the online version. Also, I had a very bad experience with customer service, they came off as not caring about the customer which is a shame because like many, I use all sorts of intuit products and that was a big turnoff to me.
This product starts out fast but the more data you have the slower and slower it gets. Don’t get hooked into buying it. Now I have to look and transfer 2 years worthy of data. I loath the day I started with QB online. Don’t make my mistake.
clunk o matic…I used the desktop version for years and switched to the online for ‘convenience’…PROS – convenient and accesible from anywhere
CONS – 1. no longer can you track client type..as in what marketing brought you this client…this is bad for our type of service business. 2. Payroll does not transfer over..this is absolutely ridiculous. All payroll records from the desktop version are inaccesible from the online version so you better keep the desktop version. 3. There are many features that were very easy to use on the desktop that are now non-existent or hidden…for example, where is the employee info, like SSN, DOB etc? Nowhere to be found. You also have to wait for download times.
Synopsis…the online version lacks quality. It is a beta version and they apparently got the software done by a relative of the boss. You would kind of expect a newer version to be superior and it does not appear at least from this writers standpoint.
The Quickbooks mobile app is useless. The real problem with this is that any Android or mobile phone is automatically routed through the mobile app and isn’t allowed to enter the main QBO web site they’re paying for.
When my employees are out in the field they need to create new invoices that can be attached to a “parent company” (ie. maintenance contracts, tenants, business leases, etc.) and enter time card information. (Pretty normal business stuff)
The QBO customer service told me to get a laptop for every technician out in the field. Isn’t that taking a step back??
Step it up Quickbooks Online!!
Allow your customers to have access to their information when in the field!!
The online version is now up to 110,000 users. QuickBooks Online is an alternative for those who want accounting software, but need the convenience and features of an online application.
just learning it. Seems cool.