Friday, February 7, 2014

QuickBooks or QuickBooks Online?

Many, perhaps most, Government contractors use a version of QuickBooks to process accounting transactions, compile job costs (i.e. costs by contract), summarize data needed to calculate indirect expense rates, and prepare billings. Many use the basic QuickBooks by itself while others have purchased "add-ons" that make Government-centric tasks a little more efficient. Whether stand-alone or paired with add-ons, QuickBooks fulfills the essential accounting needs required for Government contracting.

Recently, Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks, have been aggressively marketing their on-line version of QuickBooks. At a recent conference, a QuickBooks representative reported that Intuit is spending more than 70 percent of its research and development efforts into the on-line version of QuickBooks as the company believes that is the future of accounting products. This undoubtedly means that we will not be seeing many new features for the desktop versions and little, if any, compelling reasons to purchase frequent upgrades.

Many of our clients have asked us about converting from the desktop to the on-line version of QuickBooks. There are certainly advantages to operating in the "cloud". One big advantage is that you are no longer tethered to the desk to perform your accounting functions. Get yourself a $200 "Chromebook" and you can access your complete accounting records from wherever you have an internet connection. Another big advantage is the automatic backups. You data is always safe. Sure, you could perform regular backups yourself but who does that? Really? A third advantage to using the on-line version is there is no longer a need to pass around huge data files. You can "invite" your accountant into your accounting data.

While there are distinct advantages to the on-line version, there are also some drawbacks. First, based on our own experiences, the on-line version does not seem as crisp as a desktop version on a computer with a fast processor. There is a noticeable lag time even with fast internet connections. Second, the on-line version does not have the sidebar showing open windows. In the desktop version, you can go to any open window with one click. In the on-line version, you have to use the back and forward browser buttons. Intuit has a work-around - just open multiple browser windows. Perhaps that works for some but it is certainly not as elegant as the desktop structure. Thirdly, the on-line version does not have a "jobs" feature. This could be a fatal flaw for any contractor that is currently using "jobs" in their desktop versions. The on-line version does have the "class" feature but not the "job" feature. Finally, anyone using an add-on product to QuickBooks will not have that feature with the on-line version.

If you're just getting started in Government contracting and you have one or a few contracts, and you want to use QuickBooks, try the on-line version. If you're a current desktop user, you might just want to continue in that vein. Perhaps in a short period of time, especially with all the R&D effort that Intuit is pumping into its on-line version, the features of the on-line version will catch up with the desktop.

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