QuickBooks is designed to help small businesses manage their finances, but because there are so many different types of business (service-based, professional, retail, small manufacturers, etc.), a single version meeting everyone’s needs would be difficult to produce. A service or professional business, for example, would not need to keep track of inventory, while a retail business would most likely not have to send out invoices and track receivables.
So which version is best? So, it really depends not only on the type of business, but also the budget, and in how your business operates. Your first decision is online vs. desktop. Online versions don't have to be installed. You simply sign into a website. Desktop software has to be installed from a download or a CD.
So what’s the difference. Here’s a quick synopsis:
QuickBooks Online: The most important advantage to Online is that there is no software. All entries are made in a browser by signing into a secure website. The software is always up to date. However, it is dependent on a good internet connection. Slow or spotty coverage will quickly frustrate users. However, it will work on many devices, including some tablets. Since it’s web based, you can manage your finances literally anywhere you can connect. Only is only sold by subscription.
QuickBooks Pro: If you don’t have a reliable internet connection, or if you would prefer the security of a desktop application, and you only have basic accounting needs, QuickBooks Pro may fill the bill. There are many more features in a desktop version of the software, and it’s purchased outright, so there are no monthly or annual fees. However, updates to the software are not automatic (you have to repurchase the software each year to get the latest features), and after three years you won’t be able to obtain support from QuickBooks should you run into a problem. QuickBooks Pro will allow you to have up to three users working in your company’s data file at the same time (with the purchase of three users). It’s also the least expensive desktop version.
QuickBooks Premier: If you need features not in Pro, such as budget tracking or tracking payments to 1099 subcontractors, or if you have more than three users, you’ll need to upgrade to Premier. Like Pro, Premier is also an installed product. In this version the maximum number of concurrent users is five. You can also enter a budget, and have QuickBooks compare actual income and expenses to the budget, a common way of managing finances. There are also reports designed for specific industries: Contractors, Manufacturers/Wholesalers, Professional Services, Retail and Non Profit.
QuickBooks Enterprise: As your company grows, you may see that you need more from your accounting software. Manufacturers/wholesalers may wish to use the First In First Out (FIFO) method of determining the cost of the goods they sell. Perhaps more than five people may need to be able to access QuickBooks at the same time. QuickBooks Enterprise, another desktop product, supports up to 30 users, and will process and store a much larger number of transactions. You can choose FIFO costing, and customize your pricing structure. It also supports inventory items with serial numbers. Like Premier, QuickBooks also includes industry-specific reports. QuickBooks Enterprise allows you to get more out your software without paying the high price of more complex accounting applications. And since it’s still a QuickBooks product, you’re upgrading to a familiar environment.