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).