Category Archives: Quickbooks

Quick Take: Quickbooks and The Cloud

At Charland Tech, we’re Quickbooks Certified ProAdvisors of a different sort. We’re not accountants. We don’t want to be accountants. But it’s critical for us to be able to install, support, and advise on Quickbooks issues.

One of the most common questions to come up lately is “Can I run Quickbooks from my favorite cloud provider (i.e. JungleDisk, Box.Net, DropBox, SkyDrive, etc)? What’s the best way to share or use a company file remotely?”

Sadly, we’re not always able to give the answer they’re looking for. Short answer: Quickbooks does not “play nice” with any kind of cloud/file sharing systems.

As most of us in the business know, the QuickBase database the runs Quickbooks panics whenever it “loses sight” of its files for a millisecond. The program has become more robust over the years but it still needs a CONSTANT network connection to avoid errors and corruption.

The problem comes when your cloud file service downloads a local copy…then opens it in QB…then QB tries to open another file handle in the cloud file, which is still being saved (and pushed back to the cloud). QuickBooks has so many different file handles open in different states that it won’t work well on a Network-Attached Storage device or Windows Home Server with DriveExtender even on a Local Area Network.

 We have tried several different providers, and even those using a local cache still have enough lag and file system mapping that the QB DB connection will break, even in single user mode. It’s a company file corruption waiting to happen. Similar to a NAS configuration, we recommend hosting the company on a local workstation that backs it up to the cloud.

It may appear to be working for a while but there’s a very high risk of data corruption. Company file corruption = no fun at all and often no way to recover.

For those businesses who want/need to have multiple users in multiple locations accessing a company file at the same time, there are options:
1. Use one of the intuit-approved QB hosting providers
2. Use gotomypc, logmein, etc to remote into desktops on your local network
3. We’ve found that Windows terminal services configurations are stable and reliable when set up properly (although technically unsupported by Intuit). SBS2011 gives us the ability to very easily run server-based applications on a remote desktop, which is nice because the Quickbooks data connection is not reliant on your network.

Keep in mind that each of these setups has its own performance and security ramifications. Contact us for more info about your specific situation and we’ll give our recommendations on best practices for your Quickbooks installation!

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Dude, Where’s My Cloud?

Millions of small businesses use Intuit’s Quickbooks accounting software. It’s clearly the market leader in small business accounting.

In the past few years the company has been moving to online services, including Quickbooks Online, a “software-as-a-service” offering that allows businesses to access their accounting data from anywhere with no software to install, no data file to back up, no updates to install, etc.

The company offers similar “hosted” services handling small business payroll, accountant services, and tax processing.

Intuit reports that about 24 hours ago a power failure occurred during planned maintenance work, starting with their San Diego data center. My conjecture is that there were some concerns with corruption and data consistency as the changes were being made as the power outage hit.

The “cloud” has been down since then. First, a little background:

Why the cloud? From Intuit’s perspective

For Intuit the “move to the cloud” makes a lot of sense. Instead of relying on customers to buy Quickbooks every year (in my experience a 2 or 3-year buying cycle generally makes more sense) Intuit gets customers to sign up and provide a credit card on a monthly basis. This ensures a recurring revenue stream for Intuit.

This also makes support easier in most cases, as everybody on Quickbooks Online is on the same version, running the same up-to-date code. And far fewer problems with data storage, network database performance, and file permissions.

Why it’s good for the customer

The benefits for the customer are much the same:

  • customers always run the most up-to-date version with fixes and security updates
  • customers don’t need to worry about managing their data files, updating Quickbooks, or dealing with network administration.
  • customers can access their Quickbooks Online data from any internet connection. Office internet down? Go to the nearest Starbucks or McDonalds.
  • Predictable costs. You know what the monthly cost will be.

QBO Down! OMG! WTFN?

But what happens when your hosted service goes down? Whether it’s planned maintenance, widespread power failures, major Internet routing problems (more common than most people know), or a software glich, bad things CAN happen.

It’s nice to know that you can run to a local wifi hotspot and get to your credit card processor…but what happens when you’re ready for business and they’re the broken link?

A few thoughts:

  1. If you had an on-site server you would have a finite amount of downtime for patching, updates, maintenance, hardware failures, software problems, internet outages, etc.
  2. Your business needs an emergency plan in place before a crisis hits. During the outage, my sources indicate that they were able to call the Intuit Merchant Center and Payroll Processing departments and process transactions over the phone.
  3. Consider your options before you jump into (or out of) hosted services. If you’re spending money the moment it hits your account, can’t live for 1-2 days without invoicing or accessing your data, then the hosted solution may not be the best for you. (neither is a single PC or small business network.) Don’t expect Intuit to pay your overdraft fees, late fees, or pay you back for lost business because their site was down. They’ll give you a month or two free, apologize profusely, and hopefully improve their stuff. But their business frankly isn’t on the line; yours is.
  4. Marketing copy (and marketers) will always overstate the reliability of their services. I worked in Managed Hosting Services for a very large company for several years (in no way related to Intuit). We were a top-notch but small group, with no control over the Internet and at the mercy of our hardware vendors.

Bottom line? It’s my opinion that hosted services (including Quickbooks Online) are still a good value for most small business clients, and on the whole are as reliable as in-office server and desktop software.

But like any major business decision it’s critical to weigh the different options, understand what you’re getting, and have a plan of action in place before bad things happen.

Want to discuss business tech options? Trying to decide between on-site and in-house solutions? Contact Charland Technology today!

Full disclosure: Gregory Charland is a Quickbooks ProAdvisor specializing in Quickbooks installation, migration, and support.

Second Thought: On re-reading this, I’ll concede to being a bit soft on Intuit. Let me make this clear: Intuit needs to do better and make their services more reliable. They NEED to have redundancy and ways to quickly bring backup resources online in a crisis like this. Thus the power of the monopoly comes into play: At the moment I don’t see a viable competitor to the Quickbooks line of products. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

However business owners still need to understand and take responsibility for their own decisions…financial, technical, and operational.

Amazing things….Small-business intelligence in 2010

A few weeks ago, old friend Steven Fowler opened my eyes to SharePoint. Being a Small Business Specialist, I knew that Sharepoint is included in Small Business Server but hadn’t really gotten too much farther into it.

For the uninitiated (which is most of us) SharePoint has some basic benefits:

  • Document libraries make sure everyone has the most recent copies of documents, no more looking a modified-dates…great for shared spreadsheets, employee handbooks, etc
  • All content can be searchable. With everything in one place and fast full-text indexing on the server we can find things quickly.
  • Easy-to-set permissions and revisioning. Someone messed up their sales template? Go back in time and grab the most recent copy.
  • Wikis and sub-sites let your staff document procedures, issues, and add notes as things happen. And as soon as they’re saved these notes are searchable, backed up, and right where they should be.

Great stuff! The core package can be installed on any Windows server and is included in SBS.

The basics are just the tip of the iceberg:

When everyone is on the same page working with the same info, we can we extend the information into intelligence.

What do you want to know today? What do you want your staff to know today?

Key indicators? Sales figures? Top clients by sales? Top clients by margin? Top products by margin?

What do you want your customers to know today?

Outstanding balance? Recent order history? Order status?

Of course it needs to be reliable. Of course it needs to be secure. These concerns are givens and require attention…but this is doable even for small businesses today.

These are the very questions I’m looking at in my new case study, enhancing SBS Companyweb and connecting to Quickbooks.

I’m also working on the Charland Technology companyweb to make it the center of my business.

More details to come.

Happy 2010!

(repost) Quickbooks on linux (well, sort of)

There’s ONE piece of the puzzle that’s keeping lots of small-to-medium businesses tied to Windows Operating Systems. Ironically, it’s also a market leader that Microsoft themselves have been unable to counter at all.

Quickbooks.

It’s well-known by now that some older versions of Quickbooks will run under some versions of wine and CrossoverOffice…sometimes. Not supported. Nor stable.

There are several promising linux-based accounting packages out there, like Appgen’s MyBooks, xTuples’ PostBooks, and the SMB-Ledger project. I’m not going to go into the pro’s and con’s of these solutions, but suffice to say that none of these have the stability, versatility, and universal acceptance of Quickbooks. A small business owner can talk to any bookkeeping services, accountant, bank, etc, and be assured that they “speak” Quickbooks.

So….we can either wait for Intuit to realize that they could easily own the linux SMB accounting market if they released something, even if it was only supported on FC or Ubuntu… or wait for one of the linux-native solutions to mature…

…or we can start doing something now.

Here’s the plan:

-Keep a Windows machine to run Quickbooks.

-Install seamlessrdpshell on the Windows machine. Look here for the files:http://www.cendio.com/files/thinlinc/seamlessrdp/seamlessrdp.zip
Install these files on the Windows machine to a simple location like C:\seamlessrdp\

-Install rdesktop 1.5 or later on your linux machine

-Add an icon to the desktop of your linux machine to execute

rdesktop -A -s "c:\seamlessrdp\seamlessrdpshell.exe C:\Program Files\Quickbooks\QBW.exe"

You CAN use options like -u gregc -p K00lDood$ but I’m not comfortable running it that way myself.

Look here for more info about SeamlessRDP! http://www.cendio.com/seamlessrdp/

Legalities, licensing, etc.

It would be really nifty to run ONE Windows XP machine as an RDP terminal server to connect all of your company’s linux boxes for Quickbooks. There’s a registry hack that is supposed to allow up to three simultaneous connections, and there are several commercial products (XP Unlimited, Terminal Server Pro, to name a few) that do this very nicely. Given my non-lawyer read of the Windows XP EULA found herehttp://download.microsoft.com/documents/useterms/Windows%20XP_Professional_English_9e8a2f82-c320-4301-869f-839a853868a1.pdf
I see contradictory language regarding remote desktop or remote execution usage. The “safe way” appears to be pretty simple, though. Buy a retail copy of Windows XP for each concurrent terminal connection. That way, even IF Microsoft audits you and finds out you’re running Windows XP, you have at least made a show of good faith that you’re trying to comply with the licensing requirements.

This advice is based only on interpretations of Windows EULAs from Microsoft licensing “experts,” and the common sense that says…if you own the correct number of licenses then you can use them in ways that Microsoft doesn’t explicitly grant or deny. I’m not a lawyer and if you’re really concerned about this beyond my “do the right thing and but the right # of Windows” thinking then please contact a lawyer to discuss this.

I’d be interested in hearing how this concept works out for people. Please register and post a comment if you find this useful, or if there’s something I need to explain further.

-Greg C

(repost) Norton + Quickbooks + SBS = Hours of Extra Work

I had an “interesting” experience this week, where I moved a client from an existing peer-to-peer network to a shiny new SBS03 setup. The user profile migration went well, the e-mail copy-over went fine and didn’t take that long to do manually for 6 users…

…then I got the old Quickbooks file off their old “server” and tried running QB. They are running Enterprise 8, which had been upgraded from QBE 7 a few months ago, which has been upgraded on a regular basis since Quickbooks Pro ’97.

Some of the desktop PCs sat at “Starting Quickbooks…….” for a long time. Some also came up with a Windows Installer window that wouldn’t go away.

There’s a known issue listed on the Quickbooks support site (“Clicking the QuickBooks icon displays the Microsoft Windows Installer message and QuickBooks does not start “): http://support.quickbooks.intuit.com/support/Pages/KnowledgeBaseArticle/1004428Which is all well and good. I start working away to do a repair reinstall of Quickbooks. No good. Move on to Part 3, Uninstall the “Quickbooks Product Listing Service.” Easy enough…..Hey, it’s asking for an .msi file that I can’t find (QBPLSInstaller.msi). Try with the QBE8 CD…still no good.

Turns out Quickbooks Product Listing Service is on the QBE7 CD. Fortunately the client is a pack-rat who didn’t throw away the older Quickbooks disks. Pop the Enterprise 7 CD in, Add/Remove Programs, Quickbooks Product Listing Service, reboot.Some of the machines started working OK at this point, others needed a Repair installation of QBE8.One machine didn’t even like a repair install of ent 8. I went through and tried the reboot.bat file in the Quickbooks directory, like shown here: http://msmvps.com/blogs/bradley/archive/2008/05/21/if-you-act-fast-the-laptop-may-still-be-in-one-piece.aspx

I ended up uninstalling everything Quickbooks…scouring the registry by hand to remove anything with the work “Intuit” or “Quickb” (took about 45 mins) and rebooted.After the restart I was finally able to get Quickbooks EE 8 running again.Crap list:

  • Symantec. There’s no reason why Norton’s uninstall should touch anything to do with Quickbooks.
  • Intuit. I removed BY HAND several hundred registry entries and files that were obviously Quickbooks-related. Why couldn’t the Quickbooks uninstaller wipe them out?
  • Me. I should have moved them off Norton AV LONG ago.

That’s why we schedule extra time for these things.