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Simple questions and answers for those wondering which to choose.

Most Quickbooks clients/users often ask me which edition of QuickBooks they should choose for their business,

but the answer isn’t so cut and dry. Over the last several years it seems that Intuit has been focused on QuickBooks Online and moving everything to the cloud. But QuickBooks Online may not have the capabilities you need and QuickBooks Desktop might be more powerful than necessary for an SMB. Here’s an overview of the big differences between the two based on the varying needs of ecommerce businesses.

From what device or from what location do you run operations?
QuickBooks Online is cloud based, so you can access it from any web browser, your phone, tablet, or computer. QuickBooks Desktop runs from a stationary computer, but you can also have it on a hosted solution and still get the remote capabilities

What are your inventory needs?
Yes, QuickBooks is accounting software, but it’s also plays a key part in inventory management, especially as it relates to the cost you pay for your stock. A big factor to consider when choosing which version to use is the complexity of the inventory. For example, if you’ve got finished goods that you’re selling out of a single location, QuickBooks Online is a great choice. But if you have more advanced needs like multiple warehouses, choose QuickBooks Desktop, specifically the Accountant edition. And if you sell assemblies or bundled products or need barcode scanning and serial tracking, you’ll also need the advanced features of QuickBooks Desktop.

What are your accounting needs?
When it comes to accounting, the capabilities are the same with a few variations. For example, the workflow looks a little a different and the interface is a little different but from an accounting standpoint, they accomplish all the same tasks. The one exception to that is sales orders, which is a capability needed by many B2B businesses. Since the purpose of sales orders is to take units out of the available quantities so they’re not being sold, QuickBooks Desktop is the best choice. You can’t do that with QuickBooks Online.

It’s worth noting, purchase orders have previously been a limitation for QuickBooks Online but that capabilities has recently improved. So for businesses that might’ve hesitated because of purchase orders and partial bills, that feature is no longer a deal breaker.

The only thing that’s constant with these two products is change, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the differences. Even though it may seem that Intuit is putting more resources toward QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop is still evolving and expanding features all the time.

What else can help me cut out back-office busywork?
No matter which one you use, Quickbooks can help manage all sales and returns from a single dashboard. You can even take a look at all of the costs you have associated with selling online, like Amazon and eBay fees, payment processor fees, and shipping fees. Quckbooks brings all of those expenses into one so you have visibility into both the revenue and the expense side of your finances. Quickbooks also automates shipping and fulfillment. So whether you ship items yourself with a USPS, FedEx, or UPS, or doing third-party fulfillment with a dropshipper. And since I mentioned how inventory is an important consideration when setting up your accounting system, it’s worth noting that Quickbooks syncs inventory across different sales channels for ecommerce sellers who are trying to manage it all without overselling.

Because your accounting system—most often QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop—is the system of record or the single source of truth for your ecommerce business, the data you post to it must be clean, accurate, and timely. To run and build a multichannel business strategically, it’s absolutely critical to use a powerful, trustworthy solution to keep all of your data in sync. This will ensure that when you or your accountant review your sales and expenses daily, weekly, or monthly, you’ll always know where your money is.

Stay tuned for more QuickBooks tips and tricks.