When Intuit created the Authorized Commercial Host for QuickBooks program, a variety of providers were enabled to offer not only managed application hosting services for QuickBooks desktop products, they were also permitted to provide QuickBooks desktop product licenses for rent. By allowing these hosting providers to also license the QuickBooks products on a subscription basis, the entire solution – the hosting of the QuickBooks, the management of the company data files, and the licensing of the software – was able to be packaged together and offered as an equivalent of the SaaS solution. The benefits of running tried-and-true business applications on the business network had already been proven, and creating the ability to access this resource at any time and from anywhere (mobility!) became the feature which encouraged a wide variety of large and small business to move to “cloud” and online working models.
While the complete hosted application model – where the business desktop applications and associated data are installed and managed on the service provider servers – addresses a broad requirement for many companies, there remains a large community of users who have needs which do not extend to “cloud server” or remotely hosted desktops and complete managed application services. For these users, having access to the data file from anywhere is the primary goal (maybe even multi-user access for just a couple of users), and management of the software and license across multiple computers is not their first consideration.
Here are the most popular models for working with QuickBooks desktop editions in/with the cloud. Each of these approaches solves a different business problem, so it is important to understand which problems need to be solved before shopping for the solution.
1. Storing the QuickBooks file in a file sync solution
Solves: gives access to the data file from various locations (not at the same time)
Doesn’t solve: no multi-user access in real time, still have to purchase QuickBooks licenses, install and manage applications, and secure and backup data
The popularity of Dropbox and similar file sync solutions clearly demonstrates the value of giving users the ability to store, sync and share files securely via the Web. Further, these services allow people at different locations to access files in a relatively collaborative manner, giving otherwise disconnected users the ability to sort of work like they’re on the same network and using the files in near-realtime. While this approach works awesomely well for Word documents, PDFs and other files, it doesn’t work as well for QuickBooks company data files. It’s pretty much an automated approach to using a file storage solution (like any web drive, file share service or such). To clarify, users can store copies of QuickBooks company files in a Dropbox or sync folder to have that file sync’d to the host and to other permitted computers, but a “live” QuickBooks data file doesn’t like living in this type of folder. The sync or file sharing method of applying a cloud solution to QuickBooks allows for only one person to be in the “real” file at a time, and each user still has to purchase, install and manage the QuickBooks software on their PC. Oh, and bandwidth will become an issue when files must be sync’d frequently and when the files are fairly large (which QB files tend to be).
2. Using secure remote access to QuickBooks, remote desktop or remote app solution (like hosting, but the host just happens to be an on-premises computer already in place)
Solves: gives access to the file and applications from various locations, allows for multi-user access to company file, allows access to just QuickBooks or any combination of applications on the host computer; low-cost solution providing mobility and device independence just like commercial hosting but at a fraction of the cost
Doesn’t solve: have to purchase QuickBooks licenses, install and manage applications on the host, and backup data
Secure remote access solutions like MyQuickCloud allow users to connect to applications that are installed on existing workstations or servers. This approach provides users with access to QuickBooks and other software installed on the in-house computer. The problem with this model is that the bandwidth and the in-house computer need to be sufficient to support remote users, and the activities of the user sitting at the in-house computer will take priority over the remote user requests.
3. Using a hosting provider and/or platforms for QuickBooks, remote desktop or remote app type of solution
Solves: gives access to the file and applications from various locations, allows for multi-user access to company file, may allow for rental licensing of QuickBooks software, files are backed up by service provider
Doesn’t solve: commercial hosting is not a very low-cost solution for those who only need file sharing
Application hosting models allow users to connect to servers where the applications are installed and managed by the service provider and delivered to customers as subscription service. This approach provides customers with flexible options for accessing QuickBooks software installed and maintained on the host’s servers, and to have the multi-user capabilities of the product just as it would function on a local network. Application hosting models are generally offered as standardized service or as custom service, with variable pricing and features associated with each.
Because these hosting models require that all components of the delivery be combined to deliver the service – from networks to servers to desktop virtualization to application virtualization, application licensing, data management… it’s a big list of things – the cost of service may seem a bit high for a single user or very small business to bear. This is among the reasons for continued popularity of do-it-yourself remote access solutions that deliver mobility but fail to address any sort of system management benefit.
When business users ask about using their QuickBooks desktop editions in the cloud, it makes sense to drill down into the details of what they’re really looking for. In many cases, the QB user simply doesn’t know how to ask for what they want, using popular terms without real understanding of what they mean. This is something which frequently happens when a prospective customer contacts a QuickBooks hosting provider, and the sales department of the hosting provider isn’t generally in a position to offer consultation – they are there to sell their solution to the prospect. The result is that the customer doesn’t really get what they want, and the provider gets a bad review.
The problem isn’t necessarily with the provider or service (I wish more sales teams were able to offer more consultative approaches, but that’s an entirely different conversation); the problem occurs largely due to the variety of services being offered around “cloud QuickBooks” and the ambiguity which exists in much of the marketing language around them. Maybe this information will help businesses as they look to find solutions to the variety of problems with “enabling” their desktop QuickBooks to work with the cloud.