Switching to QuickBooks Online From Desktop? Be Prepared for Conversion Headaches


Is switching to QuickBooks online a focus for your business? QuickBooks Desktop version isn’t going away anytime soon. But it seems that Intuit, the program’s developer, wants every desktop user to transition to the online version eventually.

Furthermore, Intuit seems poised to give desktop holdouts an incentive for switching to QuickBooks online. The transition to the online version will bolster Intuit’s revenue streams from the hit accounting program.

As Charlie Russell notes in The Sleeter Report: “[We] can see that the majority of Intuit’s efforts have been focused on QuickBooks Online. Certainly from the marketing and research standpoint. While Intuit is still selling a lot of units of QuickBooks desktop, is the writing on the wall? Is the desktop going to wither away?”



Intuit seems to have shown its hand during its fourth quarter 2014 report to investors. Company executives noted that QuickBooks Online generates more than $800 in annual revenue per customer, which is a $300 increase over QuickBooks Desktop. Also, QuickBooks Online is a global platform, meaning the company can target a much larger market in terms of geographical size. Finally, the QuickBooks online platform allows for the easy purchase of additional service solutions for things like payroll.

Another thing to consider is the general trend toward a cloud-based business model.

The online version of QuickBooks is an attractive option. There’s not much attractive about the conversion process, however. So the actual breakdown of tasks required to transition from the software to the online version may not be as simple or cost effective as many business users would like.

The key issue doesn’t involve the basic conversion to QuickBooks Online itself. Rather, problems arise from the migration process in terms of QuickBooks-related applications. These are the programs that facilitate billing, merchant service, payroll and other financial applications, all of which play a role in each Quickbooks transaction.

It’s not that you, the small business owner, should be deterred from the online conversion process. Rather, you should be prepared for a migration route that will require extra time and effort, as well as a one-time cost.

Depending upon your approach to business, you may want to hire an accounting firm or a firm that specializes in conversions to take the load off your back.

As Jim Filicetti, CPA and President of QBO Hero, notes in an article for Accounting Web.

“We are now officially in a QuickBooks Online conversion crisis. The crisis is brewing from within the accounting profession itself. From the intimate relationships that I share with my accounting peers across the globe, one thing stands out more than any other in the conversion crisis: the ability for accountants and accounting firms to stage effective, useful conversions from any software to QBO and the ecosystem of application add-ons. Intuit does a good job in converting data. However, they are not accountants.

“Intuit has a basic understanding of the accountant and accounting firm. Yet after the client’s case is converted from QuickBooks desktop product to QBO, there are other items that need to be converted and staged properly in order for the conversion to be considered a success.”

Yes , you could certainly attempt too handle the conversion yourself. But this is where those add-on programs that facilitate billing, merchant service, payroll, and other financial applications come into play by gumming up what is billed as a simple transition.

If you are not a hard-core do-it-yourselfer, it probably would be simpler and less expensive to hire a company to do this conversion for you.

By entrusting your conversion to experts, you are free to focus on what you do best — running your small business.

However, the next obvious issue that arises has to do with pricing. Accountants and companies that specialize in conversions don’t work for free. They will present you with a bill when the work is finished.

If you use an accounting firm, you will most likely be presented with a menu of options for how the service of switching to QuickBoks online can be provided and billed.

Look for an accountant that simplifies the decision-making process as much as possible. A rule of thumb in the accounting industry is to offer no more than three options for this service, so that’s what you should be looking for in a service provider.

Also, some accounting firms should be using this opportunity to finally discard the time-honored (but outdated, some believe) practice of hourly billing. So this is another option you may want to ask about if it works for your small business.

Image: Intuit/YouTube

8 Comments ▼

Ed Lieber


Ed Lieber Ed Lieber is a staff writer for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and marketing copywriter with 20 years of experience writing, editing and managing for print and digital vehicles.

8 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    Sad to know that it is hard to convert everything. If it takes that much effort to migrate, then you would do the same even if you choose another platform. I think that this is something that they should also focus on.

  2. Great QBDT to QBO Survival Guide here: https://community.intuit.com/articles/1145779-survival-guide-import-to-quickbooks-online-from-quickbooks-desktop

    I am a big fan of QBO Hero as well, let them do it for you. It is very reasonable fee and the process works well.

  3. Though at first switching to QuickBooks online is quite messy from the desktop version but with the QuickBook Support services bought a relief among the accounting software users.

  4. Migration headaches are nothing… Good luck getting your data back out of QBO… in Canada, there doesn’t seem to be ANY WAY, except maybe creating your own program or by paying one company to sell you some drivers that MIGHT help. You cant even export the lists in a format for import … ie. address is exported into a single cell in excel, and takes days/months to break out for import into QB Desktop!

    • We’re running into the same thing today. We checked to see if we would be able to go back to Desktop before we made the switch and the representative said “If you decide in the future to move to desktop you are able to migrate your files over by exporting them through Excel or CSV file and import them to Desktop.” When I talked to them today to find out how to do that, they said it’s simply not possible. The best they can do is restore an old backup and we lose the data we’ve entered over the last six months.

      • I asked the same question in April 2017 when I was looking into switching to QBO and was also told that it was possible. 2 months later I have decided to switch back and have been looking for information on what to expect when I export my company back to QB desktop. Not having any luck which more than likely means it is still not possible. At least I only have 2 1/2 months worth or work to recreate.

  5. We are going from Quickbooks desktop to quickbooks on line. I want to upload my entire desktop file to the online version. Can I do this? Can I modify my chart of accounts after the upload by making the accounts not needed inactive??

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