Like any other consumer I was interested in knowing exactly what was being offered for free by QuickBooks. An old finance professor of mine in an introductory finance course taught us the “no free lunch theorem”, which basically states that, there are no free lunches. I think what we have here, is a quick lunch rather than a three course meal. This article will address the pros and cons of QuickBooks online free version which was launched in October 2009.
Like any other optimist, I'll begin with the pros before the cons concerning the QuickBooks Online free version software.
Some of the positive aspects are as follows:
• Easy set up which includes many sample chart accounts with different companies in different industries.
• It is web-based which provides anytime and anywhere access and includes automatic backups at the Intuit's servers.
• The ability to print expense checks.
• Basic financial statements with some other supplemental reporting capabilities
• iPhone compatible with read-only rights and the ability to invoice customers on the fly.
Some of them that negative aspects are as follows:
• It is only limited to five customers.
• Lacks the ability to use form 1099s.
• No statement of cash flows -- this is important, because this financial statement portrays the sources and uses of your business’s cash from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
• Only one user access and your accountant does not have free online Internet access.
• Does not export to Excel.
When you're using this software you're actually using the bare-bones version of QuickBooks which is called QuickBooks Online Simple Start. For a detailed analysis of all of the features please feel free to click this link and you'll be directed to Intuit's website(you will be asked to sign in to use the website) that compares and contrasts the different features of QuickBooks Simple Start as compared to QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus.
As I mentioned above the setup is relatively easy, however there is one aspect that deserves discussion and a word of caution. The setup begins with a simple registration, completion of a company profile which includes selecting an industry, classifying your source of revenue as a customer, client, patient, etc... Towards the end of this process, Intuit requests billing information, i.e. Credit card information which they clearly state that it will not be used unless you purchase the software. To Intuit's credit this is very clear on the website after you press the submit button and you receive a receipt indicating that the price is free.
So in summary, unless you have a very small business with less than five customers or it's not important to track revenue by customer, then this version might be suited for your purposes. In addition, another use of the software would be to perform a write up of the accounting transactions which generally occurs after the fact, which means it's not used for real-time purposes. An example of a write up, would be to prepare the year-end tax return or to prepare a financial statement long after the transactions have occurred .
Notwithstanding the above, since there is no expiration period for the free use of the QuickBooks Online Simple Start, it does provide a good mechanism to test and more importantly use QuickBooks Online for more than 30 days. It should also be noted that QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus, both offer a 30 day free period to test drive the software. My experience is that 30 days may not be sufficient. So the remaining option is to either use the free 30 day period for QuickBooks Online Basic and QuickBooks Online Plus and if you need more than 30 days then purchase QuickBooks Online Basic for $9.95 a month or QuickBooks Online Plus for $34.95 a month. This is a viable option, since the software can be purchased on a month-to-month basis. The website clearly states “No contract, cancel anytime”.
Learn more about how QuickBooks Online can help your business and why not obtain this free accounting software before Intuit ends this free offer.