Understanding the Differences Between QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise

Published July 13, 2023
Quickbooks desktop enterprise vs Quickbooks Online Hosting Provider

When it comes to accounting software, the discussion frequently circles around two prominent players: QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. Both these variants have established themselves as market leaders, aiding a myriad of businesses to simplify their fiscal processes, nearly 3 Million daily users to be exact.

It’s crucial for businesses in pursuit of a customized solution to know the differences between QuickBooks Online and Desktop, aligning precisely with their operational requirements, growth prospects, and how they want to operate for financial management.

Nonetheless, as many seasoned accountants would acknowledge, deciding between the two can be challenging, and most accountants may not be the best source for implementing a solution that requires more than just accounting needs.

Let’s explore both platforms’ distinct capabilities, advantages, and limitations.

Key Differences Between QuickBooks Online and Desktop 

QuickBooks Online is a cloud-oriented solution (software as a service) that operates on a monthly subscription basis, while QuickBooks Desktop is either a locally-installed software or hosted solution and is also a subscription payment. QuickBooks Online provides access to multiple users and automatically handles software and version updates. In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop accommodates more advanced functionalities, which can be personalized, specialized versions for specific industries and requires the download and updates to be manually performed.

Let’s examine the key distinctions.

  1. Access and Functionality 

QuickBooks Online emerges as a top choice when discussing universal access and basic accounting needs (think bookkeeping only) for micro and very small businesses. This SaaS solution allows users to tap into their data from any location, at any time, and on any device with internet connectivity. Key features of this platform include automated scheduling of invoices and payments, the ability to attach documentation, image transactions, as well as tracking of time card entry, mileage, and receipt tracking. 

On the contrary, QuickBooks Desktop is renowned for its comprehensive and feature-rich environment. It eclipses the online version in complex areas such as enhanced job costing, inventory that requires using serialization or lots, and the inclusion of specialized features for distinct industries. Research from both Gartner and Forrester indicates that QuickBooks Desktop often surpasses QuickBooks Online regarding functionality.

  1. Price and Payment Models 

QuickBooks Online is based on a subscription model with varied pricing levels, each offering unique features. Some users favor the monthly fee structure due to its inherent flexibility. 

In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop involves an upfront payment but is moving to an annual, monthly subscription. The subscription model includes updates and upgrades.

  1. The Importance of Integration 

QuickBooks Online provides effortless integration with various third-party applications due to its SaaS (Software as a Service) nature and APIs (restful APIs). Though QuickBooks Desktop also facilitates integrations, their configuration and maintenance may require slightly different technical knowledge to integrate other software correctly.

  1. Data Security 

QuickBooks Online provides exceptional security measures, including automated data backups, encryption, and routine security audits. However, the security of QuickBooks Desktop is user-dependent, requiring individuals to enforce security protocols and conduct regular data backups. Using a highly secure hosting provider can mimic the security of QBO.

  1. User Experience QuickBooks 

Online is praised for its intuitive, user-friendly interface, simplifying navigation for accounting newcomers. In contrast, despite offering more sophisticated features, QuickBooks Desktop is similar in its ease of use however has not been updated with a fresh user interface like the web apps we all enjoy.

The Cloud Conqueror: QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online can be likened to a Honda Civic, tried, true, and great basic utility functions. As a cloud-based solution, it provides the convenience of universal access, which is ideal for users who prefer working from home or multitasking during their children’s soccer matches. 


  • Portability: QuickBooks Online enables financial management on the move. Regardless of your location, you can stay connected. 
  • Automatic Updates: QuickBooks Online handles all updates, eliminating the need for manual software upgrades. 
  • Real-Time Collaboration: QuickBooks Online allows your entire team to access the application, fostering efficient teamwork. 


  • Reliance on the Internet: QuickBooks Online’s cloud-based nature requires a reliable internet connection for data access. Therefore, in areas with weak Wi-Fi, users face challenges. 
  • Monthly Subscription: Unlike its Desktop counterpart, which requires a one-time payment, QuickBooks Online mandates a monthly subscription, which might not appeal to some businesses. 

QuickBooks Desktop Winning Areas 

Comprehensive research reports suggest that QuickBooks Desktop often outperforms QuickBooks Online in advanced functionalities and industry-specific features. 

While QuickBooks Online’s cloud-based convenience has merits, QuickBooks Desktop often grabs the spotlight regarding extensive functionality. QuickBooks Desktop resembles a traditional superhero – dependable, strong, and a time-tested problem-solver. 


  • Enhanced Features: Research indicates that QuickBooks Desktop frequently receives more commendation for its feature set. Its advanced inventory management, detailed job costing functionalities, and industry-tailored versions resemble a well-stocked toolbox brimming with specialized tools.
  • Single Purchase: QuickBooks Desktop can be bought outright and used for several years without additional monthly fees. It’s like owning a DVD of your favorite movie – buy once and enjoy it indefinitely! 


  • Restricted Accessibility: Unlike QuickBooks Online, the Desktop version’s usage is confined to the computer it is installed on, thereby limiting remote access. 
  • Manual Updates: Updates are not automatically provided in the Desktop version. It’s akin to having to manually refresh your technology every time a newer model hits the market.

Boosting Desktop with Cloud Hosting 

Interestingly, the advantages of QuickBooks Desktop can be significantly amplified if the software is hosted on the cloud by a reliable service provider. This strategy combines the extensive functionality of QuickBooks Desktop with the universal access of QuickBooks Online, offering businesses a potent, flexible solution. Cloud-hosted QuickBooks Desktop brings together the best of both worlds, enabling businesses to utilize the complete feature set of the Desktop version from any location at any time.

Deciding Between QuickBooks Online and Desktop: What’s Best for Your Business? 

While both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop hold distinct advantages, professionals often find that some aspects of QuickBooks Desktop earn higher praise for their comprehensive features. Furthermore, the potential of QuickBooks Desktop can be significantly enhanced when cloud-hosted by a trustworthy provider, fusing the robust attributes of the Desktop edition with the accessibility of the Online version. 

In summary, specific business requirements should dictate the selection between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. By comprehending the distinct attributes of each version, accounting professionals can offer insightful advice to their clients, optimizing their accounting practices and overall business performance. The purpose of this pillar blog post is to serve as a thorough, comparative guide to support such decision-making processes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Q: Which is superior, QuickBooks Online or Desktop? 

The choice between QuickBooks Online and Desktop depends mainly on your unique requirements. QuickBooks Online excels in providing accessibility, automated updates, and multi-user access, making it a fitting choice for small to medium-sized businesses. Conversely, QuickBooks Desktop offers high-level customization, suiting small to large businesses with more complex demands. Factors such as mobility, teamwork, and customization should be evaluated when deciding which version best aligns with your business. 

Q: Can I utilize both QuickBooks Online and Desktop? 

Yes, it is possible to use both versions, although they operate independently. There is no automatic synchronization; thus, any data transfer must be executed manually. Choose one version that best fits your requirements, although some businesses might opt for both versions for specific tasks or workflows. 

Q: When is QuickBooks Desktop a better choice than QuickBooks Online? 

QuickBooks Desktop is a more suitable option when advanced customization, industry-focused versions, or offline access is needed. It is beneficial for larger businesses or those with intricate accounting needs. 

Q: What are some limitations of QuickBooks Online? 

The downsides of QuickBooks Online include dependency on a stable internet connection, ongoing subscription fees, limited customization capabilities, and fewer integrations compared to QuickBooks Desktop. There may be better fits for businesses with advanced requirements or those operating in locations with unreliable internet connectivity. 

Q: Is QuickBooks Online more affordable than QuickBooks Desktop? 

QuickBooks Online operates on a monthly subscription model, which can be more cost-effective for businesses with limited initial budgets. QuickBooks Desktop involves a one-time payment, but there may be additional costs in the long term due to necessary upgrades. The cost implications should be weighed against each business’s specific needs and preferences. 

Q: Is it possible to migrate from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online? 

Yes, you can transition your data from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online. Intuit provides a range of conversion tools and services to ease this process. However, referring to the migration guide and backing up your data before initiating the switch is recommended. 

Q: Can I convert from QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Desktop? 

You can shift your QuickBooks Online data to QuickBooks Desktop utilizing Intuit’s conversion tools. Remember that the process may not transfer all data and features; hence thorough preparation and data backup are advisable before making the switch.