Of course, the best option will be defined by what your business needs.

QuickBooks Desktop (Pro, Premier, Accountant, Enterprise) has the advantage of having the longest and deepest track record. QuickBooks Desktop editions have have been installed millions of times since they were initially released in the early 1990s. Some people need the extra horsepower that Enterprise has, especially in inventory reporting. Or some people need an industry-specific sub-version that isn’t available in QuickBooks Online.

The main disadvantages of Desktop editions: You’re in charge of the IT necessary to make QuickBooks run on your network (hardware, networking, security, backups). And, if your users are distributed across different locations, that is a challenge.

QuickBooks Online has been growing in its userbase much faster than Desktop editions over the last few years. QuickBooks Online has also been gobbling up some of the Desktop userbase as desktop users migrate to the online edition.

The advantages of QuickBooks Online are the exact opposite of QuickBooks Desktop’s disadvantages: Intuit does the IT work for you, and you are free from geographical limitations in your user team. The main disadvantage? The software currently doesn’t have some features that are only found in Desktop.

Some people also take philosophical exception to having their accounting data reside in the cloud, on someone else’s computer (on Intuit’s server).

RELATED: My File’s Too Big to Migrate to QuickBooks Online!

Hosted QuickBooks is, in a way, having your cake and eating it too. Companies like Right Networks offer a subscription service where you run QuickBooks Desktop that is hosted on their servers.

So you don’t lose any functionality associated with QuickBooks Desktop, but you are freed from the demands of running QuickBooks across your own local network, and you can run QuickBooks Desktop from anywhere that has fast internet access.

What about you? Are you planning on making a change of QuickBooks platform this year?

Last month we took a survey of what people liked most and least about QuickBooks. If you took the survey, thanks!

It is easy to summarize what people liked the most: More than half of the respondents said that they liked how easy QuickBooks is to use. Easy.

It’s a little harder to summarize what people didn’t like, so I’ll just list some categories of gripes:

  • Password requirements. Several people complained about being forced to use passwords. Kinda like seatbelts, I guess
  • Specific reporting limitations (e.g. Can’t print 1099-INT, G/L by class, no report totals)
  • Limitations on doing one thing in QuickBooks when someone else is doing another thing
  • Problems with crashes, freezes
  • Limitations on inter-company data transfers (can’t automatically split a trans across companies)
  • Limitations in functionality in QuickBooks Online compared to Desktop (e.g. backups, groups)

I can’t imagine anything relating to passwords ever reversing course and becoming more lenient until a new kind of security tech is distributed that makes the whole idea of passwords obsolete anyway.

A lot of those other things people complain about should improve over time.

Until then…ain’t QuickBooks easy?

Oh, one other thing. Almost no one complained about the price of the software itself. Nor did anyone commend the price of the software. Pricing perfection.

Who are they? Increasingly, they are cloud users.

Intuit posted their latest quarterly results a couple of weeks ago, as reported in BusinessWire. There were some interesting details that the company shared.

  • Subscribers to QuickBooks Online grew 57 percent in the first quarter
  • Of the new subscribers to QuickBooks Online, over 80 percent were new customers to Intuit
  • Total subscribers to QuickBooks Online are now at 1,159,000
  • Intuit’s president and CEO, Brad Smith, said that their momentum comes as the company’s “intense focus on our global cloud strategy takes shape.”

Do the math backwards. In three months, the number of QuickBooks Online users grew by around 421,000. That’s amazing. And those aren’t one-time software purchasers…those are monthly subscribers. And 80%+ of them were new customers gained in the market, not customers cannibalized from the QuickBooks desktop user base. Just imagine the expansion of customer lifetime values going on there.

   RELATED: Self-Employed? Intuit Likes You

So that’s great for Intuit. What does it all mean for QuickBooks users themselves?

Well, in my opinion, it would be logical that Intuit’s “intense focus on their global cloud strategy” would include an intense focusing of their development resources. And therefore, more development for cloud services (including, of course, QuickBooks Online), and less development for desktop products. And therefore, more innovation in QuickBooks Online, and less innovation in the QuickBooks desktop editions. Again, this is just my opinion, but that line of thinking makes sense to me.

Another thing. Earlier this year, Intuit announced that they were putting their Quicken product up for sale and were seeking the right buyer. But Intuit said they would retain Mint.com, their cloud-based personal finance solution. Sell the desktop division, keep the cloud division. To me, this seems like more realignment towards the cloud and away from (even successful) desktop products.

From the desktop users’ point of view, maybe a focus shift — even an innovation shift — is not altogether a bad thing, as long as maintenance and support continue. I have heard over the years a lot of people say “leave well enough alone” when it comes to QuickBooks desktop editions. Well, what if that happened? What if Intuit left well enough alone?

Even if the desktop products stay largely the same in the years to come, I am wondering if their desktop licensing will stay the same. You probably know that Intuit changed their subscription model for Enterprise users last year, making it so you have to pay an annual subscription fee in order for Enterprise to keep working. I’m wondering if a time will come when Intuit brings all their desktop editions (Pro, Premier, Accountant, Mac) to a subscription based model like Enterprise (and like QuickBooks Online).

   RELATED: What Are the Options Now for Enterprise Users?

If they got to that point, all their accounting products would be subscription-based and lined up in the same direction from a strategic revenue model point of view. Tidy.

So, who are QuickBooks users these days? Increasingly, they are QuickBooks Online users. And even when QuickBooks users aren’t cloud customers, more than ever, they are recurring subscribers.

Sometimes QuickBooks users want to migrate from their desktop edition (Pro, Premier, or Enterprise) to QuickBooks Online. It’s supposed to be a hassle-free migration. What if it’s not?

The main kink people run into is file size. There is a 200MB limit on file size to do the migration. (This limit was 140MB until not long ago.) So if your QBW file is over that limit, you can’t create the special “Copy for QuickBooks Online” file in QuickBooks. And you therefore can’t import your desktop data to the QuickBooks Online system.

What to do?

1. You can export your company lists out of your desktop file and import the lists into QuickBooks Online. You would then need to enter in beginning balances or reenter open transactions.

2. You can use some third party tools to export and import transaction-level data from your QuickBooks company file into QuickBooks Online.

3. You can use the QuickBooks Online File Preparation Service. This service provides a turnkey solution to the problem: An importable OE.QBW file is returned to you that is ready to be imported into QuickBooks Online. By removing some of the oldest information, the 200MB limit can be observed even if your original QBW file is larger than 200MB.

Have you migrated QuickBooks desktop data to QuickBooks Online? How did it go?

ice cream conesQuickBooks comes in lots of flavors. That’s a good thing.

I remember as a kid growing up in Houston going to the Baskin Robbins store on Memorial Drive. 31 flavors! Mint Chocolate Chip or Rocky Road…hmmmm…

QuickBooks users make choices too.

The hot choice these days, at least from Intuit’s point of view, is QuickBooks Online. I just read an article interview with Intuit’s CFO that said that QuickBooks Online is growing at 30% per year and accounts for two-thirds of sales.

That edition’s advantages? There are several. You never have to worry about updating your software or data. You don’t have to worry about local network IT, as far as QuickBooks is concerned. Your team can access the books from any office, anywhere.

The most popular choice in the desktop editions? QuickBooks Pro. It has all the general accounting functionality that most small businesses need, and has a ton of optional add-in offerings that extend its usefulness even further. It’s affordable. Main drawback? You can only have three licenses on a network. That means only three simultaneous users.

Next flavor? Premier edition. This actually comes in a number of sub-flavors according to the type of business you have: Contractors, NonProfit, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Professional Services, Retail and Accountant versions. The Contractors and Manufacturers versions are especially popular. You can have up to five licenses on a network with the Premier edition, and you can buy 3-bundle licenses.

The heaviest lifting is done by the Enterprise edition. There are subflavors here as well that are industry-specific. Intuit has tuned this edition to perform under heavy user loads. I spoke with a user yesterday who had 25 Enterprise users on their network. (And that sometimes can bog down if the data file is very large. That’s why we supercondense a lot of large files for Enterprise users these days.)

Enterprise also is the only QuickBooks edition that has advanced inventory functions. It is the only edition except for Premier Accountants edition that can have more than one company open at a time. But mostly, it’s about IT performance for businesses with high transaction volume or heavy-duty inventory.

The various editions of QuickBooks mix and mingle within limits. You can upgrade your QuickBooks file to a higher edition whenever you want. That is, a Pro file will convert to Premier no problem. Either of these will convert to Enterprise. Any of those will convert to QuickBooks Online.

There is a 250MB size limit for converting from any of the desktop editions to QuickBooks Online, however. We often see files from people whose file size exceeds that, and we remove old years’ data to get the file small enough to convert to QuickBooks Online. (This is another application of our supercondense service.)

Data can be downgraded from Enterprise to Pro or Premier, but only with special conversion services.

Within the same edition, older version company files will automatically upgrade to newer versions whenever you open the company in the newer version. The opposite is not true, however: Newer version data cannot be converted to older versions (QuickBooks Pro 2013 cannot be converted to QuickBooks Pro 2012, for example).

You’ve also got the Mac version of QuickBooks. It kind of lives alone in the QuickBooks universe.

Anyway, you don’t have 31 flavors to pick from, but you do have several.

Thinking about moving from a QuickBooks desktop edition to the QuickBooks Online Edition? Check your file size.

There is a limit on the size of files that can be successfully uploaded/converted to QuickBooks Online. That limit is 140MB. This file size limitation refers to the size of the exportable file that QuickBooks creates in preparation for QB Online. It is roughly the same size as your QBW file, but will be a little different.

To see if you are above or below the limit, go to File>Utilities>Copy Company File for QuickBooks Online. The file may take several minutes to create. The file will have your same company name, but will have an .OE extension.

If the resulting file is under 140MB, you’re good to go, as far as having a file that could be converted to the online edition.

If your file is bigger than 140MB, then it can’t be converted as is. You could have old information in your file removed so that the resulting file is under the 140MB threshold, or you could create a new company in QuickBooks, and export/import your lists into the new company, and upload a small file that way.

Anyone want to report their experience in converting a desktop QuickBooks file to the Online edition?

Starting yesterday afternoon, and continuing into today, some of Intuit’s servers went offline to the outside world.

That means that businesses using QuickBooks Online, Intuit Merchant Services, or QuickBooks Online Payroll were left twiddling their thumbs. Lots of them were not too happy. I read these tweets on Tuesday afternoon:

* * *

“How can QuickBooks Online Edition be down all day? Very frustrating.”

“Quickbooks Online has been down for hours now. Anyone else feeling like “the cloud” is more like “the smoke”?”

“Freaking out a bit that QuickBooks is unavailable and has been all day. This is when “in the cloud” stuff scares me to death.”

* * *

This is one of the disadvantages of the cloud — it’s completely out of your hands. That’s also it’s biggest advantage (when it’s working right).

The pros and cons here apply to all cloud-based applications. There were the same mumblings and grumblings a week or so ago when a chunk of Gmail’s users lost access to their accounts because of a problem on Google’s servers.

What brings me down, though, is that this is not a rare event for Intuit customers. This happened back in January, a couple of times in 2010, and you can keep going back.

Honestly, Intuit makes great software. QuickBooks rocks. Quicken rocks. TurboTax rocks. ProSeries rocks.

But Intuit’s deliverable online IT doesn’t rock, and this is not new.

Why fight it? Why doesn’t Intuit farm out their online services IT to somebody who has a fantastic track record and can deliver 99.95% uptime? IBM, maybe? Sun?

There are several different editions of QuickBooks available. They vary in how well suited they are for different sizes and types of organizations and in the way users access their data.

All of the editions can do basic accounting – check printing, paying bills, processing payroll, invoicing customers — but some are better suited for specific requirements and situations. (Can I easily change between editions? See below.)

For Small Business – 100% Online Access:

QuickBooks Online Plus

Up to 5 simultaneous users + accountant
Seamlessly access accounting records real-time from multiple locations
Limited import/export and inventory capabilities

For Small Business – Mac:

QuickBooks Mac

Up to 5 simultaneous users on a network
$229.95 retail
Feature set similar to QuickBooks Online

For Small Business – PC/Network Based Accounting:

QuickBooks Pro

Up to 3 simultaneous users on a network
$229.95 retail for single user
Best combination of general accounting features for most small businesses
Wide selection of optional add-ins

For Small/Medium Business — Industry Focused PC/Network Based Accounting:

QuickBooks Premier

Up to 5 simultaneous users on a network
$399.95 retail for single user
Industry-specific editions for not-for-profits, construction, manuf., etc.
Extra management tools like business planning and forecasting

For Medium Business — Many Users/Network Based Accounting:

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions

Up to 30 simultaneous users on a network
$600 retail per user
More robust multiuser performance
Designed for higher transaction volumes and database sizes

Moving from One Edition to Another

You can easily upgrade between the following editions, simply by opening the file in the higher edition:

Pro -> Premier
Pro -> Enterprise
Premier -> Enterprise

You can convert from Pro or Premier to Online by uploading your file. But there is a 120MB file size limit; if your QBW file is bigger than that, QB Online won’t accept it. Your file can be recreated with only last year’s transaction history to bring the file size down and make it uploadable.

You can downgrade these editions:

Premier -> Pro (file formats are compatible)
Online -> Pro/Premier (upon request by Intuit)
Enterprise -> Pro/Premier (by AccountingUsers, Inc.)

Do you have the best version in place already? Or are you contemplating a switch?

Did you notice that blog.quickbooksonline.com stayed up even when quickbooksonline.com and quickbooksonline.intuit.com went down?

I’m talking about those few hours on July 14 when many of Intuit’s websites and online servers were unavailable because of a commercial power failure in San Diego.

I tried several Intuit sites and subsites during the episode, and that blog was the only Intuit site I could access. (I didn’t try Intuit’s non-US sites or tax software sites.)

But blog.quickbooksonline.com never went down, and started posting helpful status updates that morning.

How did the blog manage to stay up and running? Because it’s not on Intuit’s servers. The blog’s DNS resolves to wordpress.com — WordPress’ hosted version of their renowned blogging platform.

If the blog had been self-hosted on one of Intuit’s servers, it too would have been unavailable during those hours. It was a good thing that at least part of QuickBooks Online’s web presence was located somewhere else.