Move To A New QuickBooks Server

contactI recently responded to a request about using a Mac as a server. It got me to thinking about two things; how much I like Macs and how I move client’s QuickBooks to a new QuickBooks server after a hardware upgrade. I hope this information helps you out.

My response:

I also like Macs except when it comes to QuickBooks. You may have picked up on the fact that I always install a full version of QuickBooks on the server; never using Intuit’s “server install only” option for QuickBooks. Consequently, Mac is not an option for me. Intuit allows for a free extra server install in their licensing. I developed my XP Pro server installation as a reasonably inexpensive alternative to hosted QuickBooks, Windows Server operating systems/hardware installs and Apple or Linux installs.

For several years now, I’ve used my own methodology to move QuickBooks from a desktop or old server to a new server. I always use unique folders for each unique group of companies. I evaluate and enumerate the existing company files folder to see what I’m working with. Every company has their own unique mess. Once I’ve figured out the mess, I plan the cut-over date and build the new server including the new folder structure. Just prior to cut-over, I complete a fully verified backup of each company file. I will generally rebuild the company files when they do not verify. On many occasions, especially with large files, the company accountant will need to back out transactions or clean up the data before the file will verify.

Upon cut-over to the new server, I perform a restore from the verified QuickBooks backup file, moving unique companies into their respective new folders. Then, I go back to pick up custom reports, invoices, images, etc in their folders, like “QuickBooks Letter Templates”, “[company file name] – Images”, “Templates” as well as other folders with names relative to past versions. I will also pick up any shipping databases or other third party add on files. Finally, I copy the entire contents of the old company files folder to a unshared location on the server from where I can get anything that might be found missing several days after the cut-over.

Folks have a habit of placing task lists, spreadsheets, pdf docs and other extraneous files in the company files folder. I will copy those over to a shared “Accounting” folder and train users to place any accounting related support documents in that folder. In spite of that, I still see stuff land in the QuickBooks company file folders when I’ve returned weeks or months later.

On a side note, I’ve stopped using “Q” as a mapped drive letter. Microsoft reserved “Q” for their click to run software. Seems that everyone gets Microsoft Office from click to run these days. Consequently, I go to each client computer and map the server shared QuickBooks company files folder to a new drive letter.

QuickBooks Virtual Server

I install a lot of software, sometimes on a very large scale. My software installation best practice requires that anytime I install software for a client, I review release notes and minimum systems requirements from the software manufacturer. It’s not uncommon that major changes occur between version updates that will impact an installation that I’m doing.

Recently, I encountered a situation that challenged my default server installation methodology to the core. This challenge will prove to impact the way I look at QuickBooks in the future.

My server installation best practice requires me to consider virtualizing any server environment before I consider using a physical server. Virtual technologies integrated with RAID storage arrays are mature and as common as Ford trucks. Only a few architectural instances dictate a physical server; an on site domain controller and a network fax server using multi port pots lines come to mind.

My back up and disaster methodology depends upon continual data protection, continually writing an updated virtual server image to local and offsite storage. CDP is pretty much the norm in the industry today.

My most recent QuickBooks installation environment revolved around the role Remote Desktop Services plays in reducing costs and increasing manageability. It’s almost a no brainer to build a  thirty user QuickBooks Enterprise 13 set up with Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services on top of VMware, using Acronis to write a virtual image into a datacenter. However, QuickBooks release notes and latest system requirements stopped me dead in my tracks.

First, I came upon QuickBooks system requirements and Intuit’s concept of “natively installed” splattered all over the Intuit QuickBooks Support Systems Requirements page. I had not seen these requirements in the past. Check these out:

System requirements for QuickBooks 2013 and Enterprise Solutions 13.0  Native Installed

Apparently, Intuit does not recommend or support QuickBooks installation on a virtual server. An IT person might say, “so what.” My experience tells me that only a fool will run a large QuickBooks environment without a yearly Intuit QuickBooks Support Contract. There are always reasons to get Intuit’s assistance to keep your QuickBooks operational.

Secondly, if the failure to support QuickBooks installed on a virtual server is not bad enough, Intuit states that “QuickBooks will work with systems running RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) but this is not recommended because performance issues may cause QuickBooks to operate slowly.”

Essentially, Intuit prefers that the two pillars of server technology, virtualization and RAID be completely avoided, to the extent that Intuit will not support you if you deploy virtualization and RAID. This strikes me as a large problem or a great opportunity.

How might this situation effect you?

QuickBooks Multi User QuickBooks Server QuickBooks Remote Access

Not all small businesses can afford QuickBooks Hosting. But, many businesses can’t afford not to. A small business must make a solid business case to spend $50 per user on Hosted QuickBooks. Make the business case and you too can spend many years using QuickBooks Pro, Premier, Accountant or Enterprise Solutions trouble free.

If your business can’t make the case for Hosted QuickBooks, consider this unorthodox route to your own QuickBooks Multi User, Remote Access QuickBooks Server.

The process to build what you need is very straight forward. It will work for 3 user Pro or Premier. If you use a re purposed XP Pro computer, you can save quite a bit of money. The steps are below.

Build a new XP Pro or Win7 Pro computer.

Assign to a domain if it needs to be part of your domain.

Download and Install per their instructions the appropriate version of Thinstuff XP/VS Terminal Server (http://www.thinstuff.com)

Install your version of QuickBooks Pro or Premier.

Setup domain security or local user security.

Turn off any firewall software on the server or write rules to allow rdp and vpn.

Test multiuser desktop access on the local network.

Setup QuickBooks users.

Test multiuser QuickBooks access on the local network.

You now have a multiuser RDP accessible QuickBooks server.

You can use XP/VS Terminal Server to serve a desktop or TSX RemoteApp to serve only QuickBooks.

To add remote access to the server, install OpenVPN or LogMeIn Hamachi VPN on the server and on client computers. You can then access QuickBooks from anywhere you have fast broadband Internet.

Compare this to my Enterprise Solutions server by the book setup:

Remote Desktop Services with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 standard with the latest Intel 64 bit processors, 32 GB RAM and 1000GB drive (not raid) for serving thirty users’ desktops, the maximum size for a single Enterprise installation on a physical server. Add a backup/recovery scheme and redundancy to power and memory to allow for maximum uptime. For a datacenter, dedicate one physical server and network segment to one unique business.

One can save a ton of money.