The purpose of this article is to help a typical small business owner understand the differences between using the remote access capabilities with QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Online Plus. A less expensive QuickBooks Online version is also available, however that software is not considered for this analysis. I did consider a more robust version called, QuickBooks Online Plus. Before we address the differences, its first important to understand the term remote access. The term remote access has been with us for a long time and has emerged to mean, according to Wikipedia, a form of communication with a data processing facility from a remote location or facility through a data link. One of the more common methods of providing this type of remote access is using a virtual private network(VPN). The definition is further enhanced by the term remote desktop, which also according to Wikipedia refers to a software or an operating system feature allowing graphical applications to be run remotely on a server, while being displayed locally. Remote desktop applications have varying features. Some allow attaching to an existing user’s session (i.e. a running desktop) and “remote controlling” it in front of the user’s eyes. Whereas, according to a Google definition, online accounting relates to accounting that can be done on the World Wide Web. I agree with both definitions, however there are important differences that an owner or accountant for a small business or even a midsize business needs to consider and they are addressed below.
Generally speaking, QuickBooks Pro with remote access gives you access to your desktop QuickBooks Pro accounting program and data while the QuickBooks Pro and data resides on your server in your office or your local hard drive. Whereas QuickBooks Online Plus is a web enabled accounting package with some advantages and some disadvantages, specifically less functionality for one of the most important parts of a business namely, no inventory capabilities. To some of you this could be important and to others not so important. Simply said, the benefits and drawbacks with a general ranking of each benefit or limitation of “online accounting” with QuickBooks Online Plus as compared to QuickBooks Pro is analyzed below.
Some of the major benefits are summarized and ranked by level of importance as follows:
1. No wired network required – you can connect with WIFI from anywhere in the world that has internet access and you can connect different department or offices in multiple locations.
2. Includes up to 3 simultaneous users plus your accountant. The cost to add another 25 users is a little more than $3 per month per user.
3. Offsite daily backup at Intuit servers
4. Automatic software updates and support included in cost
5. Quicker and simpler sign in – Just press your Web shortcut key
Some of the major drawbacks are summarized and ranked by level of importance as follows:
1. Does not handle inventory and purchase orders, this rules out retail, manufacturing and distribution type companies
2. Lacks multi-currency functionality
3. Unable to open multiple QuickBooks windows in QuickBooks
4. No Company snapshot/dashboard in one desktop view
In summary, the importance of having simultaneous access from any location, allows employers, employees, owners, investors to collaborate, share and make informed and timely decisions because everyone gets the same information in real time, by simply using a typical web based sign-on. There is no time learning the remote access interface for sign on, for use with the remote software. Furthermore, your accountants can review your financials, journals, general ledgers, from their own office and answer your questions or even correct mistakes in real time. Further, you can easily outsource some of your accounting functions with QuickBooks Online Plus, as long as you set up a system to review the work product of the outsourced employee.
I am very impressed with the above mentioned benefits and for these reasons if there is not a need to account for inventories or multi-currencies then my inclination is for QuickBooks Online Plus to handle a typical small businesses accounting needs. A more detailed analysis of the functionality and data entry capabilities and performance processing will be the subject of another blog topic. Even if such analysis existed, I would recommend that you consult with an accounting professional who can best evaluate whether the QuickBooks Online Plus or remote access platform is best suited for your particular situation. When evaluating this software, its also important to determine how your employees will use the software in their to day to day activities and during a test period you should evaluate the speed in which the employees are able to enter the data and the computer/web processing(performance) speed of each relevant accounting process i.e. paying vendor bills, customer invoicing, record deposits, etc.