QuickBooks Online vs Hosted QuickBooks

By Patrick Bonnaure, ProLedge founder.

You may have heard of SAAS. It stands for Software as a Service. It’s essentially any application that you use that is hosted remotely and that you use through a web browser. There are thousands of SAAS applications out there and most likely, you already use many of them, such as Gmail, Salesforce.com, etc…

Bookkeeping applications have been moving to SAAS very quickly over the past few years, mainly for medium and large size companies. For medium size companies and for small businesses with sophisticated needs, there are great choices out there, including Intacct and NetSuites. Unfortunately, for true small businesses, we’re not there yet, mainly if you want to stay in the QuickBooks universe, which is the safest approach nowadays.

Intuit (the maker of QuickBooks) doesn’t have a good SAAS solution. Their only true SAAS product is QuickBooks Online Edition (“QBOE”) which is not a very good product. It’s far from the quality of the desktop version of QuickBooks. Not only is QBOE’s range of features very limited, but, most importantly,  its user experience is poor. Let me give you just one example. In the desktop version, you can have multiple windows open at the same time. For instance, you can create a report, drill down into some of the transactions and see the details of the transactions in a separate window. When you’re done looking at the detailed transaction, you can come back to the report in a second. With QBOE on the other hand, you can only have one window open. If you create a report and drill down into it to see the details of a transaction, the report is gone. For you to go back to the report, you have to recreate the report from scratch, which is hugely time consuming, mainly if you have to go back and forth between the report and other windows.

Luckily, there is still a way of getting  the QuickBooks experience online without having to use QBOE. It’s called QuickBooks Hosting. The way it works is that a hosting provider will install a regular desktop version of QuickBooks (Pro, Premier or Enterprise) on its server and allow you to access it online. The two most popular ways of accessing it is through applications called Remote Desktop or Citrix. I don’t want to go into too much detail in this blog. Let’s just say that the end result is that QuickBooks is running on a remote server, but it appears to be running on your PC.

The advantages of using Hosted QuickBooks are many. I’ll go into more detail in a later blog, but at high level, the benefits are:

  • You get the full feature QuickBooks
  • You can access your QuickBooks file from anywhere
  • Multiple users can be using the same QuickBooks file in parallel without having to create a complex network.
  • The files are backed by the hosting provider on a regular basis and the odds are that their server is more stable than your PC.
  • If one day, you want to bring QuickBooks back to your PC, it’s just a matter of copying a file. You’re not hostage to the hosting provider.

ProLedge offers Hosted QuickBooks to its clients, but there are several 3rd party hosting providers who offer such services as well. Just Google “Hosted QuickBooks”. Be careful though, there are many different flavors of QuickBooks hosting services out there and it can get pricey pretty quickly if you don’t choose the right configuration.


  • 11-02-10

    Thank you very much for this valuable post.This is the type of post we are looking for our site. It provides a cost effective business solution to us. So let me add on your site.

  • 11-02-10

    Very good sharing this.

  • Alex S says:

    QuickBooks is essentially a desktop program, designed to be installed on your local computer. That is fine if you always work out of your office, and if all of the people who need access to the data are connected to the same local area network. Thanks for giving such nice details about quickbooks online and hosting. Good work.

  • 11-02-10

    We’ve found that Right Networks®, out of Nashua, New Hampshire (http://www.rightnetworks.com/) is close to ideal. They’re the largest Intuit-authorized QuickBooks® hosting company (15,000+ users). They’re a Microsoft® Licensed Service Provider (required to host QuickBooks® legally), and as a user you can see and run your own application license. They support multiple versions of QuickBooks with no problem, and QB add-ons are not an issue either. Integration with Microsoft® Word®, Excel®, and Exchange® 2010 is seamless. We let them handle the nightly backups, but we can also drag-and-drop files and copy them to our personal PC hard drives to augment what they’re doing “offline”. And anytime we’ve had questions, they’ve got US-based support by phone, email, and web.

  • Mark says:

    Good post- but it would be helpful if your blog included a date. Are you reviewing the software as it is today? 2009? Obviously they change alot over the years- and I am sure the online version will get better with time.

  • 11-02-10

    We blog about the hosting advantage incessantly, but so many small businesses still mindlessly choose QuickBooks Online … thanks for a great primer, Patrick! LOL

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