Avoid the Aftertaste| QuickBooks Desktop Hosting Comes in Many Flavors
There is a lot of activity and interest around the hosting of desktop applications in the cloud, and it is no wonder that a great deal of the effort centers on the use of Intuit QuickBooks desktop editions. QuickBooks is among the most popular software products used by small businesses, so it makes sense that service providers and hosting companies are taking advantage of that market share to reach prospective hosting customers. After all, a hosting platform may be kind of neat, but it is not all that valuable unless there are applications and data living on it.
For the average small business, the applications of choice include Microsoft Office and QuickBooks. Yes, there is an online edition of the QuickBooks product (called QuickBooks Online, of course). However, the market share Intuit earned for QuickBooks wasn’t accomplished with an online application, it was done with the desktop applications which still own market share today. Hosting service providers recognize this truth, and are taking steps to bring those QuickBooks desktop solutions into the cloud. Now we have the ability to get QuickBooks Desktop editions online – which is not the name of a service but a description of what it offers – available from a variety of authorized hosting providers (and from many unauthorized ones).
I’ve said before that there is a fine art to hosting QuickBooks desktop for lots of users. There are a great many different considerations and possible use cases, and not all providers will be able to meet every requirement. There are also lots of different technology models and methodologies which may be applied to the hosting model, and each has some benefit or barrier depending on the specific need of the client. Hosting companies may throw around terms like “cloud server” or “published application” or “remote desktop”, but at the end of the day, the systems are still Windows computers running QuickBooks software. How those systems are wrapped up, how you connect to them, and how you operate with them often becomes the real difference in the service experience.
The specific technology a hosting provider applies to the service does not necessarily describe exactly how the service works. Just because a provider may use Citrix doesn’t mean they have more capability to provide quality service than a provider using other technologies, or a host using VMWare is not necessarily creating better cloud servers than a host using Hyper-V or Parallels or some other virtualization strategy. The technology may impact how the infrastructure is operated and can impress upon the customer experience, but the real differences in delivery often come down to the provider’s understanding of the software product, the customer need, and their ability to meet the need directly.
Does the experience of connecting to and using the service work for the users, and are people able to get their jobs done quickly using the service without a lot of support or frustration? (**Please note that hosting services aren’t a solution for bad software and poor working processes. If the software or processes aren’t workable now, they’re likely not going to become magically more workable if hosted). Does the hosting service address issues like making the right data available to only the users who need it, and giving access to applications only when a user is permitted to use them? What about “external” users like contractors or client businesses… does the host offer a way for them to also participate in the solution?
It’s important to consider all of the aspects of how the service will be used, and by whom and under what circumstances, to ensure that the delivery offered is the solution needed. The point of all this is to encourage users to concern themselves a little less with exactly what technology the host is using to deliver QuickBooks applications, and to evaluate the actual solution. It won’t typically matter to an end-user what specific technology is being used to provide them with service as long as the service works well for them.
While some people do adopt a fondness for a particular “flavor” of technology or approach, the reality is that a quality user experience coupled with a useful and reliable system means much more to the business. And knowing that there are future options for growing, expanding or simply changing the service is essential. It’s not so much the flavor of technology users should be concerned with when shopping for QuickBooks hosting services, it’s avoiding that icky aftertaste that comes with selecting a QuickBooks hosting approach that just doesn’t meet the business need.