QuickBooks Online Review 2017
Cloud accounting software that works well for everyone; great for people just starting out as well as those with more bookkeeping experience.
By Ben Schmitt – Last Updated: 19 Sep'17
Here at Cloudwards we’re all about making people’s lives easier through cloud-based computing.
Since small businesses are people, too, we’re doing a series on browser-based accounting apps that will allow you all the benefits of being able to work from anywhere yet still have all the power traditional accounting programs offer. If you’re feeling stuck at choosing the best cloud accounting software for your business check our overview article: Best Accounting Software.
Today, we’re reviewing QuickBooks Online.
If you’ve ever done any bookkeeping you’ll know Intuit’s QuickBooks, even just by reputation. This accounting program is so widespread and familiar it’s the closest thing the industry has to a standard. Not a company to let the world pass them by, Intuit has developed a cloud-based version of QuickBooks which we’ll be reviewing here.
QuickBooks Online is a good program, but it has to be said it’s a different beast from regular QuickBooks.
It’s easy to compare it thanks to the name but in a way you’re doing neither any justice. When you forget about regular QB for a while and just treat Online as a separate entity you’ll find quickly that it’s a great, easy-to-use program that offers plenty for novice and experienced users alike.
More info on QuickBooks Online
As with any other accounting software, QuickBooks Online has some strengths and weaknesses that we’ll cover in this 2017 review. Hopefully, it’ll make your decision easier.
- Offers great versatility and with some studying gives you the tools to run the entire financial side of your business;
- Easy to use, though you may want to devote some time to learning all the ins and outs;
- Great value for money, especially considering the sign-up discount;
- Built-in merchant services, great for when your clients like to pay by credit card.
- Beginners may have a hard time learning to use the program due to the volume of information coming at them and a steep-ish learning curve;
- Payroll is present and works well but the cost will accrue quickly, especially with several employees;
- Definitely not meant for people who place low priority on doing their own books.
More info on QuickBooks Online
Considering all it can do, QuickBooks Online is perfectly affordable. There are four plans, and new customers get varying discounts over the first few months ranging from 50 to 30 percent off. Compared to its competitors the price is average and the first six months are a steal.
$ 15 00monthly
$ 30 00monthly
$ 50 00monthly
Features tailored to U.S. sole proprietors, such as:
- Track income and expenses;
- Track income and expenses;
After the honeymoon is over, prices are still good, with $10 for the most basic package, a glorified tax program, and $40 for the most advanced. This last one has all the bells and whistles and allows someone who wants to invest time into it to run the financial side of a company on their own.
Most people will likely end up taking either of the middle options, though, as they allow you to do basic tasks without too much hassle but leave the advanced stuff to an accountant. $15 per month gets you the ability to send invoices, set up a general ledger (where you track in- and outgoing money) and set up feeds with your bank accounts.
QuickBooks for high rollers
The $30 package also lets you track bills and generate sales and profit reports, I leave it up to you to decide if that justifies an extra $15 every month. Whatever you decide, you can up- and downgrade at any time and all packages have a 30-day free trial to decide what works best for you.
Once you’ve decided on a plan you can get started on doing your own books, at least enough to keep those accountants’ bills to a reasonable minimum. Let’s take a look what QuickBooks Online lets you do and how well it performs in each of our QuickBooks Online review categories.
In the name of ease of use, accounts receivable has been named ‘customers’ in QuickBooks Online, but beside that it behaves the same as any professional accounting software. Though all needs are catered to, from sales receipts to credit memos, we’ll focus on invoicing here as this is what you’ll most likely be using the program for.
Invoicing the easy way
Invoices are entered very quickly and easily, especially if you have your own and your clients’ contact details already set up. You can easily code entries by type, so retrieving them is easy and the codes are customizable, to boot. Setting up contacts takes a few seconds and the whole process is smooth.
My favorite option is that, for a price that varies by country, you can send clients a link to your automatic payment option. It doesn’t work in every country or for every payment method, but it’s one of the few accounting apps I’ve reviewed that offers this.
If you use QuickBooks Online, you won’t have to bother getting a merchant account; something to keep in mind for business owners who spend a lot of their time chasing after debtors.
All sent invoices are entered into a general ledger and get a status update when they’re paid. With a minimal investment in time you’re getting a program that automates everything boring about bookkeeping: not only are you spending less time on finances, you’re also freeing some up for your actual business activities.
Known as ‘vendors,’ accounts payable also features a variety of options, from recording vendor credit to setting up expense accounts. The American version also allows you to cut checks directly in the program, so no more bank runs during lunch hour.
QuickBooks Online – effortless bills
No matter where you are, you can pay bills through QuickBooks Online as long as you have a feed with your bank account set up. This process can even be automated to a certain extent with recurring bills being automatically payable. Though not everyone will be that confident about their cashflow, it’s a nice feature to have.
Paying bills will still be a pain, but at least QuickBooks Online makes it a lot less time-consuming: you just enter where to file it (is it a medical bill, or one for goods you’ll be selling later?), enter the the amount, the recipient and that’s it. That information will go to your general ledger where it will be processed into a report.
Once you have your A/R and A/P sorted out, you’ll need to check the amounts in your ledger against each other as well as against your bank statements.
Automation the QuickBooks way
This is where desktop QuickBooks as well as Online shine. You can set up automated bank feeds that take the information from your bank and export it to QuickBooks Online. You can then compare these two sets of information and see if there are any discrepancies.
I was very happy to find out that QuickBooks Online practically made no changes to this compared to regular QuickBooks. Of all the functions they should have ported, I think this one is the most important and it works like a charm.
Alternative accounting programs offer the same function, but none do it with the same sleek elegance.
Feeds are set up for each separate account you have so you can easily track where money is being spent and on which card.
Setting up a feed is easy: all you need to do is fill in your banking information and you’re ready to rock ‘n roll.
As a bonus, once everything is set up you can also pay your bills through QuickBooks Online and add payment links to invoices. The program can become a command station for a business’ finances, it’s up to the user how far she wants to take it.
Before we go on, it does need to be pointed out that these bank feeds, or ‘syncs’ as QuickBooks Online calls them, don’t always work as well in every country or with every bank; it's best to check before making any purchase. Most U.S. banks as well as European ones seem to work, but you wouldn’t want to find out you can’t use this function after already signing up.
Payroll is technically not included in any of the packages but is a separate charge every month of $1 for the first employee, plus $2 for each employee after that. Though most payroll companies will include this in the price, I would say the small cost is worth it when you factor in how much they charge.
Payroll is pretty much automatic once set up, though the setup can take some time as you have to manually enter a lot of information the first time. If you see it as an investment, though, you’ll get through it as your employees’ wages will be withdrawn as if by magic every pay period without any intervention from you (unless you want that).
Since tax laws can vary wildly from country to country or even state to state, just like with bank feeds you may want to check first if payroll is supported for your location. The U.S. and Canada are catered to on both the federal as well as the state/province level, but coverage in Europe is spotty.
One benefit of using QuickBooks Online is that your accountant will love you for it: reports are easy to find and easy to print out. No longer will you be showing up with a stack of papers he needs to spit through to find what he needs.
Since they charge by the hour, it works well for the customer, too.
Reports are there in all flavors and varieties, from sales overviews, to cash flow and of course your general ledger; each of these can be sorted according to whichever data you need most.
This flexibility will give you great control over this aspect of your business which should help you spot weaknesses and will increase revenue while keeping expenditure low.
On top of that, accountants can be given direct access themselves if they are QuickBooks Online users, too, costing you even less time. Though this may seem a bit scary, it does mean that communication with your bookkeeping professional becomes less of an issue as they can simply call up the information they need without having to go through you.
Check out how this works on QuickBooks Online
Then again, it’s not entirely necessary since QuickBooks Online has been set up the same way professional programs are: before you know it you’ll be speaking the lingo as if you were born to it and will be able to talk to your accountant on more or less an equal footing when it comes to day-to-day money matters.
Setting up QuickBooks Online is a breeze, you won’t need to enter any credit card info or anything to register for the trial: once you’ve entered your name, company name and business address you’ll be good to go. The initial process takes a few minutes, though you’ll find yourself occasionally having to enter new information over the first week or so of using the program.
The first thing you notice once the program is fired up is that it may be set up a little differently than you’re used to if you’re coming from most other cloud accounting apps. Online kept a lot of the interface from the desktop version because why mess with a good thing?
The problem with the interface is the learning curve. The development team most certainly had accountants on board and in the beginning you’ll notice that very strongly. Expect to have to sit down for a few hours and figure everything out as well as get your head around the jargon.
The upside is that because it’s modeled on existing systems it works very well. Bookkeepers have been doing what they’re doing as long as they have for a reason, after all, so stepping a little into their world will ease working with them. As a further advantage, should you ever need to hire someone trained to do the books there should be no adjustment period as all will seem familiar to them.
Once you’ve toughed out the learning curve, you’ll more than likely end up loving QuickBooks Online. It’s very user-friendly thanks to the clarity of the menus and the way each tab is set up. There are plenty of links on each page so you can navigate directly from screen to screen without having to return to the dashboard or anything.
QB Online is a program meant for power-users, but thanks to the way it’s set up everyone can become one with minimum effort. One niggling detail is the lack of tooltips, so sometimes you do find yourself clicking things at random in the hopes of finding what you need. An annoying oversight in an otherwise excellent program.
Besides the lack of tooltips, the tutorial system works just fine explaining everything and Intuit’s customer service is really efficient and helpful. Learning QB Online can be tough, but it’s never tougher than it needs to be.
Unlike competitors, QuickBooks Online is most certainly not a work in progress. This product is finished and its basic functions work well. Updates usually center around small tweaks, optimizing mobile apps (tricky stuff in any industry) and publishing add-ons that help you optimize cashflow tracking or help you measure sales performance.
QuickBooks Online is a great program for users who want to put in the time and effort to learn it, but if you can’t, for whatever reason, you’ll most likely only be able to scratch the surface of all it can do.
If you’re more laid-back about your finances it may pay to look elsewhere, but everyone else should be able to do most of what they need to with this excellent program.