As Intuit makes the push into cloud-based accounting software with QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop Pro — sometimes referred to as QuickBooks Desktop or QuickBooks Pro — is still alive and well. In fact, Intuit adds new features to QuickBooks Desktop Pro every year. While mostly cosmetic at this point, these features keep it relevant, even in a market that’s increasingly moving toward cloud-based software as a service model.
That said, just because QuickBooks Desktop Pro is popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your small business. Market share, ease of use and the availability of support are all important factors, but you should also consider the software’s features, pricing and the businesses it’s intended for before making your choice.
QuickBooks Desktop Pro pricing
QuickBooks Online users spend between $300 and $150 per month in subscription costs, which adds up to $300 to $1,800 per year. By comparison, QuickBooks Desktop Pro costs just under $400, and the user then owns the software outright. From this perspective, QuickBooks Desktop Pro generally seems like a better option from a price standpoint.
However, it’s important to note that Intuit “sunsets” its desktop products every three years. This means if you use certain features like QuickBooks Payroll or merchant services, you’ll have to repurchase the software at least once every three years to maintain all your functionality and to get updates and security patches.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’ll be connecting your business bank account and business credit card accounts to your QuickBooks file. For most banks, there’s a monthly upcharge for every bank account you connect to QuickBooks Desktop Pro. And other features — like hosted cloud access and multiple user capability — are also only available for QuickBooks Desktop Pro at an extra cost.
Which businesses should — and shouldn’t — use QuickBooks Desktop Pro?
Price shouldn’t be the only consideration when choosing your accounting software. When choosing a bookkeeping solution, business owners also need to consider ease of use and access, functionality and availability of support — not just from Intuit, but also from their accountants and bookkeepers. Yes, QuickBooks Online can cost more in the long run compared to purchasing QuickBooks Desktop Pro outright, but what you gain in terms of ease of access, instant updates and available integrations with third-party apps can quickly offset that additional cost.
Most small businesses can use QuickBooks Online without compromising in any of these areas. There are some exceptions, though. Small businesses with the following requirements should consider QuickBooks Desktop Pro over QuickBooks Online:
Unreliable or limited internet access: If your internet connection is unreliable or limited, using a cloud-based accounting software like QuickBooks Online will be frustrating. In this case, you’re better off using QuickBooks Desktop Pro or another desktop software like Quicken.
Need for job costing: QuickBooks Online is getting closer to fully functional job costing, but it’s not quite at the level of QuickBooks Desktop Pro. If you need job costing to run your business, consider sticking with QuickBooks Desktop Pro, at least for a little while longer.
Inventory management: QuickBooks Online’s inventory management features are improving, but they’re not yet at the level of QuickBooks Desktop Pro. If you need to manage your inventory inside of QuickBooks, your best bet will be to choose QuickBooks Pro (or QuickBooks Enterprise) over QuickBooks Online.
A need for speed: Most users who are familiar with QuickBooks Desktop Pro express frustration with the speed (or lack thereof) at which they can work in QuickBooks Online. And it’s true that larger company files seem to load slower in QuickBooks Online than they do in QuickBooks Desktop Pro. This can, of course, be attributed to internet speed as well as the size of the company file. Regardless, if you’re easily frustrated by slow-loading reports, you might want to stick with QuickBooks Desktop Pro.
Businesses with no remote access requirements: If your accountant is on staff, and if you don’t need to access your QuickBooks file remotely, you’ll likely be happiest with QuickBooks Desktop Pro. Just make sure you store company file backups offsite or in the cloud to prevent permanent loss of data.
Is QuickBooks Desktop Pro right for your business?
Even though Intuit is focusing most of its development and marketing efforts on QuickBooks Online, there’s no solid indication that Intuit will be discontinuing QuickBooks Desktop Pro in the immediate future. QuickBooks Desktop Pro is still a strong option for small business owners who can’t — or don’t want to — use QuickBooks Online or Desktop Premier.
All told, if your business has job costing or inventory needs, QuickBooks Desktop Pro is the best option for you. You’ll appreciate its functionality, ease of use and the availability of support not only from Intuit, but from accountants, bookkeepers and a variety of online resources, as well.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.