If your business is considering a move from one of the desktop versions of QuickBooks (that would be Pro, Premier or Enterprise) into QuickBooks Online (QBO), it is critical that you...
Consider the decision fully BEFORE making the move.
Why is that important you say?
I recently surveyed my newsletter readers on this very topic, and got some terrific feedback from them on this very question.
Let's explore in more detail...
READER FEEDBACK ON MOVING TO QBO
I recently asked my readers the following:
"Did your business make a move from QB Desktop (Pro, Premier or Enterprise) into QB Online(QBO)? If so, how did the process go? Any unplanned surprises or trouble spots? Are you glad you made the switch or do you plan on going back to QB Desktop"
A flood of responses came back (some of which are still too warm to touch!), and the responses revolved around the following themes:
- I had no idea there was even a QBO product
- We're not making any move into QBO as long as we can avoid it
- We've made the move into QBO and are moving back to QB Desktop
- We've made the move into QBO and are happy with it
Let's dig in, shall we?
WHERE QBO SHINES
Having worked with the QB desktop products for 20+ years now, and QBO for the last couple of years, I can say that QBO wins hands down in these areas:
- Anytime, anywhere, 24/7 access - this is a beautiful thing. You can work on your accounting from anywhere that has an internet connection, or even on your mobile device via the QBO app. It is very true that there are ways to set up anytime, anywhere access to the desktop versions of QB - they aren't nearly as simple as what QBO offers.
- No updates, upgrades or hassles - when you log into QBO, you're always working with the latest version of the software. Compared to the desktop versions where you have to download and install updates/patches and/or the upgrade to the newest edition (i.e. moving from QuickBooks 2016 to QuickBooks 2017), there is none of that with QBO. If Intuit is rolling out a feature update to QBO, they sometimes choose to stagger the release of those feature updates over time, but THEY handle all of that. No muss. No fuss for you.
- An ever-increasing ecosystem of add-ons and apps - from my vantage point as a consultant, I am seeing the development of new apps and add-ons for QBO far outpacing those for the QB desktop product line. There just simply seems to be a more dedicated effort now to bring products to market in support of QBO, which is likely due to...
- Intuit's development dollars are primarily going into QBO - Intuit has not been bashful in any way about plainly saying they see the future of their accounting software - and it is on the trail of QBO. While Intuit has made a commitment to the desktop versions of their software for the foreseeable future, the new features and functionality baked into the last couple of releases have been quite underwhelming (to me at least!). I'm just not seeing anything substantial happening on the desktop side (maybe I'll be proven wrong when QuickBooks 2018 is released?!)
THAT'S ALL GREAT, BUT....
For many businesses, there's more to their story (and needs) than just the benefits detailed above.
It's essential to have a wide-eyed understanding of the "migration" process - what happens at the time you would actually choose to make the move into QBO. You would either do one of two things at that time:
- Create a brand new QuickBooks company file OR
- Migrate your existing QuickBooks company file from QB desktop to QBO
To begin, Intuit has published a list of information and data that does not transition (or where there are limitations) when transitioning from QB desktop to QBO. Here are some things (not the entire list!!) that simply do not transfer over:
- Bank reconciliations and reconciliation reports
- Recurring credit card charges
- Memorized Reports
- Attachments to transactions
- Audit Trail
- Payroll details may or may not transfer over
- Inventory costing moves from average cost to FIFO cost (unless you are using QB Enterprise Platinum with FIFO turned on) - this by itself could qualify as a change in accounting principles that a business would need to understand and report
- Customer types
- User permissions and settings
In addition, it is essential to understand that QBO (as of this posting) does NOT provide these features/functionality that are found in QB Desktop:
- Progress invoicing
- Sales orders
- Fixed asset tracking
- Price levels
IT'S CRITICAL THAT YOU KNOW...
QBO is absolutely, positively, NOT just a case of Intuit taking the desktop version of QuickBooks and moving it online.
Far from it in fact.
- QBO was written from the ground up and has a look and feel very different from QB desktop - Naturally, it attempts to offer some features that are the same (i.e. creating invoices, entering and paying vendor bills, running reports, etc.), but the process of getting you there may be very, very different.
- QBO is "in the cloud", not on your local computers, server, and network - the good news is that you don't have to horse around with the support and maintenance of QuickBooks on your local computers. Intuit takes care of all that for you.
The not so good news is that you really don't have any control of your data and company information - there is no way (that I am aware of without asking QBO support to generate it for you) to actually download a copy of your QuickBooks company file from QBO. Also, if your internet is not working, your only access to QBO would be through the app on the mobile device. When you store your information locally, you have full control over it.
- QBO is a monthly subscription: you do NOT just pay for it once and use it for many years like QB desktop (Pro and Premier) - just like your cable bill, your bank or credit card will be charged every month for access to QBO. No pay, no play. With the Pro and Premier desktop versions, many businesses buy it once and use it for many years, so the QBO model is much different when it comes to the potential economic impact on a business.
QB Enterprise is similar to QBO, in that it too is now on the subscription only basis. As a reseller for Enterprise, I can positively share that there has been much rumbling and dissatisfaction expressed about that move. To me, I'm amazed that Pro and Premier haven't moved to a subscription only basis too (the Pro PLUS and Premier PLUS versions ARE subscription based), but it is not mandatory to use them at this time.
BUT WHAT DO THE ACTUAL USERS HAVE TO SAY?
So far, you've read my thoughts on the QBO vs. QB desktop situation as I see it, being knee deep in it every day.
Let's get on to the good stuff so you can see what your peers are saying:
On switching from QB desktop to QBO:
- Jim writes - "I did switch from QB Premier desktop to QB online. I had no problems at all switching. The program led me thru the process without any problems at all. The conversion was surprisingly simple and very easy."
- Cheryl writes - " I am thinking about switching to the on line so I can access my QB from any location."
- Michael writes - "I was not prepared for all the payroll info that had to be reentered. I started in April and had to enter salary totals for each individual. I also had to resent all payroll pay dates and update each persons payroll information. The way online is setup and the location of every thing is totally different. Very hard to get used to where everything can be found. I believe that I will finally learn everything just not sure it was worth the effort. Still have problems getting checks to print with the info on the check in the right place. The print of the check ledger has to be sent to excel to print plus you then have to highlight what you want to print. It just seems line online is too difficult to get use to and so different than computer based quickbooks. I do not believe that that was necessary."
- Mike writes - "we are now in the process of moving from desktop to QBO"
- April writes - "I just moved my first client from QuickBooks Pro to Online two weeks ago. Everything went good so far but there are few things I am now finding that were in desktop that at now showing up online. I know that I verified the P&L and Balance Sheet when I first switched them over and everything matched up so I am digging into this more to see if it is an issue that just happened or what is going on. Other than that, I thought the overall proces was very easy and smooth. Personally I like the desktop version much better than Online because you have so many more options with reports and it is easier to explain to new clients how to use the desktop version. Everything is right there it shows you flow of how things should work. I am moving my clients to the Online version though as it is so much easier for me working remotely than trying to remote into their computer. I have not figured out the whole hosting thing for desktop yet. I have tried QBox for one of my clients using payroll with Enterprise but I am lost on that. I don’t know if it is working or not and I still can’t get it where more than one of us can be in there at a time."
- Karla writes - "I have moved several clients from QB Desktop to QBO for various reasons, the primary reason being that the client wants to be able to access and/or work in the file and the accountant’s copy limits what we can do and some clients are simply uneasy with that process. (I find that it works great, but it doesn’t allow me to build reports for my clients along with a few other tasks they’d like me to be able to do, and that is a problem) QBO continues to be a subpar product and disappoints me, as a bookkeeper, on a daily basis. They seem very concerned with the way that QBO looks, but not so much about the stuff that really matters, like being able to run a sales tax report that includes the gross sales by state, which is a glaring omission on their part, but it’s been three years since I’ve become aware of it, and still there has been no attempt to rectify the matter. I could go on and on, but I’ll just stop there. One more, I can’t help myself. I am able to offer a 30% or even (in some cases) a 50% discount to my clients, but there seems to be no lid on the number of increases QBO plans to roll out each year. My clients don’t care for that and neither do I.
I do have a short list of things I like about QBO: Availability of apps that sync easily with QBO, Ability to schedule reports (DT 2017 does this now too), The bank feed option seems to work better, but I still have to do manual updates for many clients and that number is now growing due to heightened security at most banks.. Wow, I’m reaching. I guess it really is a short list.
I am currently looking into moving my QBO clients back to the desktop version via cloud access and most clients are very interested. It will allow me to better control the monthly cost for the product and still allow remote access for a more stable and reliable product."
- Michelle writes - "IT WASN'T AWFUL. THE BIGGEST ISSUE WITH THE MOVE RELATES TO THE BANK RECONCILIATION FUNCTION. THE CLIENT WILL STAY WITH QBO BUT IT'S BEEN QUITE THE LEARNING CURVE."
- Sharon writes - "I am definitely glad I made the switch and I am glad that I am able to get my clients to switch or get started this way."
- Kay writes - "I like QBO for certain kinds of businesses, typically service, and recommend QBD for other businesses, typically heavy inventory. I particularly like the ability to log in to the client data in QBO when they have questions and the ease of using the bank downloads. It all depends on the business & in particular the owner. Is the owner willing to learn a new way of doing things? "
On reasons not to switch from QB desktop to QBO:
- Tracie writes - "No, not large enough yet, and not sure how secure our data would be"
- Russell writes - "We did investigate but we must import Invoice Data and they do not support importing IIF files. If QB online offered the same features we would have moved immediately"
- Ray writes - "I did not opt for the cloud version (on-line). I’m an old dude and I don’t trust my data and applications to some else’s platform."
- Amy writes - "We have not switched to QBO and are not considering it at all."
- David writes - "I tried using QBO for a client who insisted on its use. I found the reports less than satisfactory, the set up awkward and QB tech support less than advertised."
- Rich writes - "We did not care for quickbooks online. My accoutant was not a fan of it. He said that it was missing some of the features that he likes to use."
- Mike writes - "We have not switched to QB Online because we need the Advanced Inventory features for our distribution/retail business."
- Nora writes - "I did consider moving to QBO. I felt pressured to move but was not feeling comfortable about it. I finally decided not to convert because, among other reasons, QBO does not support payroll for Puerto Rico. Recently, after reading reviews, I am glad I stayed with QB Desktop Pro. I also considered moving to IntAcct, but I really feel comfortable with my current setup."
- Laura writes - "We have stayed with desktop because of the reports we have heard from other companies we know about the problems involved--getting shut out of their account for hours and sometimes days, many nightmares I can't even remember the details of now. The worst case was for a company that was able to go back to desktop even though it was a hard process But I have been told by the makers of the dispatching software we use that the next version of the software will require online Quickbooks in order to import invoices from the dispatching software. Or we will have to enter each invoice manually if we want to stay with the desktop version. I am not looking forward to having to make that decision. That decision may come as early as September 2017 or possibly later."
- Gabriela writes - "Also, I only use QB Desktop. Frankly, I am not comfortable using QB online. I guess I'm more "old school" and prefer to keep my work here in the office only. As a matter of fact, I had been using a program for truckers that we purchased from JJ Keller. When they informed me that they would no longer support the desktop version and the online version was my only option, I quit using the program entirely."
- Susan writes - "I don’t use QBO and won’t."
- Joe writes - "WHY would anyone use QB Online???! I worked with a customer who used it, and that progrm is sooooo different from QB desktop it took a major learning curve to address the accounting process. Online is NOT intuitive; it is soooo different from Desktop."
- Donny writes - "We have not gone to QB online and we probably never will. I played with the online version a bit but it seemed to have even more limitations that the actual desktop versions. While it is a good basic accounting program, there are things it does not do, even in enterprise (well the last enterprise that I used several years ago). This appears to be more for market segmentation than any real coding reason and imho, the 15 or 20 years that they have had to add, fix, improve is more than enough time to have fixed that. Instead, they made the QBO with even more limitations."
- Wray writes - "We looked at moving to the online products and had major resistance from our staff and have upgraded to the latest desktop versions. One of the companies in our local business group went to QB online and had a terrible experience and went back to the desktop product."
- Mary writes - "I have looked at QB online and even helped someone else to set it up for their business. It is significantly different from the desktop version and doesn't have some functionality that desktop has. And then I have been using desktop versions for decades now and am comfortable with them. Not in a rush to make a change that would not add any value that I can see. And would have a big drawback. Sometimes one's Internet connection goes down, for whatever reason. I would not like to lose access to QB even temporarily just because the connection has been lost. I know current desktop versions like to be always connected too, but when I was having connection issues awhile back I could still get a lot done in QB"
- Lucian writes - "Our small firm did not make the switch from QBD to QBO. Based on my limited experience with QBO, and user comments, I think my preference is with QBD. The desktop version seems to offer much more bells & whistles, plus the more familiar format."
- Allen writes - "We tried QB online but stayed with desktop premier. Online didn't have the set of features we needed. We have, for example, developed a number of custom reports that couldn't be reproduced online. To use QB online, we would pretty much have to start over."
- Brian writes - "Hope never to have to move from Desktop version. More facilities than QBO."
- Corinne writes - "we moved from enterprise to QBO and it was horrible. the data transferred poorly and the functionality that we were promised existed on QBO was not there."
- Connie writes - "I have been a desktop QB user for 20 years. The online version has limitations that are not in the desktop version so if you are an experienced user you would be very disappointed to switch to online and loose functionality. It's not like Intuit took their desktop software and made it available online. They rewrote the Accounting software to make it online so it's entirely different. I have no experience converting from QB desktop to QB online but I am confident it won't go well. "
- Denise writes - "I never moved from QB pro to an on-line version. I have not heard good things about QB on line."
- Diane writes - "If anyone asks about moving to QBO, I don't actually recommend it, but I just tell them it's going to take some learning."
- Pam writes - "Yes I have moved desktop to online. I personally hate online quickbooks but my son argued with me to have it online so I put desktop online with no trouble at all uploading. I hadn't taken a job with online since 2010 so I gave it a try. After I worked for a day I told him I would quit as his accountant if I had to work in quickbooks online."
On having switched to QBO and then BACK to QB desktop:
- Kathi writes - "We went from desktop to online and went back to desktop. This was several years ago and it was an easy process, but we found online did not have everything that the desktop did, and we were unable to work effectively online. The one thing we did like is being able to work from any computer, anywhere."
- Tom writes - "A couple of clients switched to QB online but they did not take the time to understand the process, We are trying to get them back to Desktop."
- Norma writes - "We had one client try to switch from QBES to QBO but it was such a downgrade in the long run, that they switched right back after less than 2 months. There were many issues during the switch including
- The reconciliations did not go thru
- Equity side had issues where it would not tie / roll forward number had to be adjusted
- time issue with quickbooks online being too slow
- Darcy writes - "We moved from QB desktop to QBO a couple years ago. QBO worked well for us since we are not inventory-intensive and our accounting needs are very simple. BUT, we moved back to QBD (Pro) because it is less expensive than a QBO subscription... and since we use Crik-IT, our team can access info they need via that."
- Sherry writes - "We just switched over from QB Desktop to QB Online. There are several features that aren't available in QBO that are essential to my operations. First, you can only send an invoice by email to one address, unless you set it up as a recurring invoice. Many of my clients have the invoice sent to them for approval and directly to their AP Department to save time. I had crazy problems setting up the invoice template, but I always have issues with QB templates. They're not exactly easy to work with. Also, you can't pay vendors using direct deposit. Our sub-contractors are used to being paid by DD and I had to set up a whole new system to deal with getting the money into their accounts. I've also got lots of questions about the software and help isn't very helpful. I'm one who likes to have a manual available so I can look up the answers and learn something in the process. If I could, I would go back to desktop, but I've got partners in other states who want transparency and the ability to look at the books whenever they want."
- Robert writes - "I Use both Desktop & online. The online is very limited in capability as compared to desktop. The reason I use both is that I use client’s systems and they vary. The client using online is looking at going to Enterprise with Hosting. They have multiple locations and that seems easier than managing a File Server."
HERE'S WHAT NOT TO DO...AND THINGS YOU SHOULD DO
Hopefully this article has provided some insights that help solidify the key point I mentioned early on:
Consider the decision on moving into QBO fully BEFORE making such a move.
- Make a move into QBO because the boss talked to his friend over the weekend who said it's "great"
- Make a move into QBO because your accountant is "only working with businesses in the cloud now" (or some derivative of that - this is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard in years)
- Make a move into QBO because of external pressures
- Make a move into QBO without a complete and thorough test-drive of QBO AND a full understanding of what will/will not transfer over from QB desktop into QBO.
- Take a full test drive of QBO (what I mean by this is literally run all your current transactions and reports through it to ensure it works well for you) and gain a full understanding of what will/will not transfer over from QB desktop into QBO (yes, I am repeating myself, as this is a super critical thing to understand)
- Be certain to run copies of all your critical reports (balance sheet, profit and loss, AR Summary/Detail, AP Summary/Detail, Inventory Summary/Detail etc.) both BEFORE you transition and AFTER you transition to ensure everything balances before and after
- Make the move to QBO once you've checked it out for the specific nuances of YOUR business
- Enjoy your new software, as you will have moved into QBO in the best possible manner - with your eyes wide open...
That's my take on the question of whether to move from QuickBooks desktop into QuickBooks online. I welcome your comments to keep the conversation going!