To QuickBooks or Not To QuickBooks

I was telling a friend of mine about the topic of this months’ newsletter and he said “you’re the expert in QuickBooks® and you make a living from setting it up and cleaning it up and teaching people how to use it – why in the world would you tell people NOT to use it?”

The answer is simple – QuickBooks® is a really great program, it’s relatively low cost and it works well for most small businesses. However, one size does not fit all. It’s like that suit in the back of your closet. If QuickBooks® doesn’t fit, it won’t work and it won’t get used.

Fortunately, QuickBooks® has many solutions in their product line-up and with our expertise and knowledge we can customize and tailor a program specifically for you and your small business.

Data File Sizes and Transaction Limits

What impacts whether you should use QuickBooks® Pro or Premier or the more powerful version, Enterprise Solutions, is the size of your data file today and how that data is expected to grow over the time period for which you want to keep all transaction data in one (1) company data file.

The rate of growth of QuickBooks® company data files varies significantly from company to company. There is no “average” or “typical” data file size, since businesses track different information. How quickly a file grows depends on the number of transactions, the amount of information entered in each transaction and the number of “links” per transaction.

If your business generates more transactions than QuickBooks® can handle, performance may be affected. Technically, QuickBooks® Pro and Premier can handle two billion transactions in a single company file. In practice, however, tasks like running reports and finding transactions can take longer if the file grows too large.

We recommend that QuickBooks Pro and Premier data files should not exceed 200MB and that Enterprise Solutions files should not exceed 300 MB. These are general guidelines, based on several factors. There are no specific maximum file sizes and your system will not come to a crashing halt if you exceed these recommended sizes, however, as the data file grows, the overall performance of the software declines and the risk of data corruption increases.

To see how large your data file is currently, open your QuickBooks® file and press the F2 key. A Product Information box will appear and your data file size will be listed on the left hand side of the screen under File Information.

Item or List Limitations

QuickBooks® also has item limitations – counts that cannot be exceeded. Companies with list requirements that exceed those in the following table are not a good fit for QuickBooks®. This list highlights some of the more important physical limits and it is not an all-inclusive list. These counts are “combined” counts. For example, in Premier, you can have 14,500 customers, vendors AND items combined, not 14,500 per list.

List Name Pro and Premier Enterprise Solutions
Chart of Accounts 10,000 10,000
Names (customers, vendors, employees and other names) 14,500 >100,000
Items (including inventory) 14,500 >100,000
Classes 10,000 10,000
Price Levels 100 750

*For an all inclusive list click here

For companies that require a more robust inventory, we recommend using Enterprise Solutions, QuickBooks® Point of Sale or an add-on software such as  Fishbowl.
To find out how many items your data file is currently using, open your QuickBooks® file and press the F2 key. A Product Information box will appear and your List Information will be shown on the right hand side of the screen – be sure to scroll down to see all of the lists.

User Access Limitations

QuickBooks® limits the number of users who can access the company data file simultaneously. Companies that require more users simultaneously accessing the company data file than QuickBooks® supports are not suited for QuickBooks®.

Inventory Method Limitations

Companies that require an inventory method other than average cost (such as FIFO or LIFO) may want to use QuickBooks® with an add-on software for the inventory feature. Note that an exception is QuickBooks® Online Plus – as of mid-2010 it offers Inventory using the FIFO cost method. Another exception is QuickBooks® Enterprise Solutions for 2012 with Advanced Inventory which has a FIFO option as well.

QuickBooks® Product # simultaneous users
Pro 3
Premier 5
Online Plus 5
Enterprise Solutions 30
Online 25


Although QuickBooks® works quite well for companies of various sizes and across many industries, there are a few situations in which QuickBooks® may not be the best solution.
If you are interested in finding out more about any of the QuickBooks® line of products or if you would like to discuss what solution is best for your small business, please call us.

This article of QuickBooks Tips and Tricks was based on the 2012 version of QuickBooks.