Using a QuickBooks desktop product is pretty simple – you install it and then you run it. For many users, it’s just that easy and uncomplicated because they don’t need 3rd party integrated software, they don’t sync their files to other computers or services or try to share their QuickBooks data, and they remember to exit QuickBooks and back their files up each and every time they use them. On the other hand, many QuickBooks users experience quite a lot of frustration with the product – frustration which may often be the result of a poor practice when using the software. QuickBooks has been engineered over many years to be as simple to use as possible, but at the same time has grown to be a product with lots of features, add-ons and extensions. Users have also found ways to make QuickBooks do things it wasn’t really designed to do, this truth being one of the good things and the bad things about the product. When it works, it works great. When it doesn’t work, it’s beyond frustrating. It is a shame that a lot of the problems users have with solution may be rooted in the habits and behaviors of the QuickBooks users themselves.
Bad software use habits will cause problems whether the software is installed on the user PC or whether it’s being managed by a hosting service provider. Certainly there are some issues that hosts may mitigate, but the following is a list of good habits for keeping the QuickBooks software and data healthy and working that should be standard operating procedure for any QuickBooks user, whether QuickBooks is being hosted or not.
Keep the company file in good condition.
I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping the file in good condition. What’s the accounting and financial data worth, after all? A little time spent taking care of the file can save on a lot of time and headaches trying to reinvent the information. A QuickBooks company file is really a database, and is a rather complicated framework for keeping track of all sorts of related information. Anyone who has used QuickBooks desktop products for a while understands that the data file can get screwed up for a variety of reasons, and it is no fun. Yet QuickBooks has utilities to verify and rebuild data files, so it makes sense to periodically use them to check for problems. Like a check-up with the doctor, these utilities can help diagnose issues with the data file before they become really big issues. Another good practice is to back up the company file to a “portable” once in a while, and to then restore it for use. This process can not only validate the integrity of the file, it also helps condense and “condition” the file. Particularly when using a hosting service, but also when just running local on the PC, conditioning the data file once in a while can help prevent data corruption and/or loss (of data, time, productivity, revenue).
Close the company file and exit QuickBooks once in a while, would ya?
Users who leave their computers on all the time are missing out on the fun of letting their machines reset and do a POST (power on self-test), which means the machine or operating system could have an issue and the user wouldn’t recognize it until the machine was powered off and then restarted. For this same reason, programs and their data files should be closed when not being used – so they can run through their own startup and validation routines before you use them. Also, leaving the program open means it is active on the computer, and leaving the data file open means that it’s available (read=vulnerable). A random bypasser accessing the computer, a program crash, a machine crash… loss of power or a kitten running over the keyboard could all result in catastrophic damage to the application and/or data. It’s just better for all involved if the files and programs are closed when not being used. Maybe use a screensaver with a password, too.
Don’t try to use QuickBooks with a VPN (virtual private network) connection.
Just because a user can connect their remote PC to the office network doesn’t mean the PC will work like it’s in the office. In the office, it’s a Local Area Network, and the speed is fine enough to allow multiple computers to share a QuickBooks company file in multi-user mode. When there is a remote PC connected via a VPN, it’s usually a Wide Area Network connection, meaning that the network has been extended to include the remote computer, but that network connection IS NOT fast enough to allow the remote user to open QuickBooks along with others in the network. QuickBooks multi-user access only works on a local network (where local means the machines are all “local” to each other – on the same LAN). When QuickBooks is hosted by a service provider, the QuickBooks stations and the data files are all located inside the host’s network, making it all LAN stuff. The only remote part of it is sending the input and output (display, printing, keyboard and mouse) information “over the wire”. This is why a hosting model works when the app and data are hosted, but doesn’t work when only the data file is hosted.
Use Automatic Update, not Manual (but DO update).
Features change, new technologies must be supported, and user expectations adjust based on a wide variety of influences. What this means is that software products will necessarily experience change over time and users will be expected to update them. The first release of any new product is rarely flawless. It’s during that first introduction to a volume of users where many issues are found, making the v1 release of a software product something many people try to avoid. Yet there are still lots of folks who just can’t wait to have the newest thing, even when it comes to something like software patches. Regardless of how much they may put at risk, these folks want each and every patch and update as soon as it is available somewhere. These are the users who end up debugging the software for the rest of us, so I guess we should thank them.
For most users, however, it makes sense to wait until the software has been out for a bit and those initial issues identified and corrected, perhaps bypassing v1 and going straight to v2. If the product will allow, that is. QuickBooks has this great (or annoying, depends on how you look at it) feature that can tell users when there is an update available. This “automatic update” feature checks with Intuit to see if there are updates available for the product, and then tells the user they can download and install them. Generally, Intuit pushes these updates out only when they’ve been debugged and are deemed ready for volumes of users. If people want to get an update before Intuit pushes it out, they may be able to obtain it for manual installation. This is not the recommended method of handling QuickBooks updates; for most users, waiting until the product tells them it’s time to update is best.