Virtual QuickBooks Multi User Into The Cloud

qbiconExtending our understanding of routine software tools such as QuickBooks Multi User sets the stage for us to profit from new technologies. Most of us know the QuickBooks icon well. Our common frame of reference allows us to explore over-used, over-hyped technology terms like virtual computing, virtualization, cloud computing, cloud services and the cloud, in a way that guides us to a solid business decision.

In an article I wrote for my business, the last server you will ever need may very well be the server that contains your QuickBooks multi user application. I’ll show you one way that QuickBooks might be moved into the Cloud, explaining the terminology as we go. Consider this pathway as evolving from one configuration to the next logical step and so on. Chances are, your QuickBooks environment may reflect one on the steps along the path. Also consider that the entire point of this exercise, to replace the high cost of local infrastructure with the low cost of cloud resources motivates our journey down this path.

networkYou may not be using QuickBooks in your business, but you probably understand that networked QuickBooks multi user requires networked server or desktop resources to share company files with other computers that have QuickBooks installed on them. Larger QuickBooks environments can have as many as thirty users. So you may have something like this illustration with PC1 hosting QuickBooks company files for PC2 through however many computers you have QuickBooks installed on.

Now, consider the very next step. Suppose you’ve reached the point in your business that you have more than a few users, you also have some automation going on with QuickBooks, you’ve purchased my “Build Your Own QuickBooks Production Server” book and you’ve replaced PC1 with a QuickBooks server. You now have the classic QuickBooks client/server environment that the majority of businesses find themselves inextricably bound to. That may sound negative, but it’s predicated on a business decision. Perhaps the classic QuickBooks client/server environment returns the best benefit for your investment.vs

Or, perhaps you require several servers, one for QuickBooks, one for your Goldmine CRM system and one for your email system. Enter virtual computing and virtualization, a popular “new” systems concept that’s been around for many, many years. I explored the costs of virtualization in a previous post.

Essentially, virtualization uses massive physical resources to create virtual resources. In other words, use one server to create three virtual servers. Then, instead of using three physical servers for your QuickBooks, Goldmine and email, you can use one physical server, much like this illustration.

The point of my previous post focuses on cost and how very difficult it becomes to make a business case for virtual computing and virtualization. But if you can make the business case, then by all means, utilize virtualization in your business, which brings us to the next step in our journey down this path.

Consider for a moment that your new massive physical server, now the most mission critical physical device in your inventory of business tools requires a more stable physical environment in which to operate and your employees desperately need remote access to QuickBooks, Goldmine and email from home and at customer locations.

Your choices require you to make software changes and place your hardware into a data center environment, either in your present offices or a datacenter. You’ve now entered a world of remote services utilizing Internet communications resources to access QuickBooks, Goldmine and email.

You own the server and other hardware as well as the hardware life cycle that dictates periodic replacement. You pay the monthly datacenter charges and equipment notes. You’re responsible to your employees, customers and vendors for uptime and service quality, even though you may have hired several IT people to keep things running. You know the costs and you’ve carefully considered ROI. You continue to pay for your computing resources 24/7 whether your employees, customers and vendors utilize them or not.

So, I want to introduce a new notion. Cloud computing covers a lot of ground, but the primary distinction rests with money. It’s a pay as you go program and has much in common with time shared computing introduced in the 1960s. You pay for only the computing resources that you use, and you can scale up or down as needed. “The very concept of cloud computing, and of cloud services, has been a long time in the making” but the name’s not important, the concept is. Yes, it’s datacenter and Internet based computing, using terminal services, web applications and Internet communications, but so is your own datacenter focused, virtualized computing environment.

So let’s unwind a bit. Some new ROI calculations comparing your own datacenter focused, virtualized computing environment and a Cloud computing environment are in order. Focus on the primary distinction of Cloud computing, paying for only the computing resources that you use, and scalability as needed.

Consider the three simple business necessities from the examples I’ve used above; accounting, CRM and email. Although your situation differs from my example, the logic aligns. QuickBooks alternatives exist, anywhere from utilizing RackSpace Windows Server instances to various QuickBooks hosted solutions certified by Intuit. CRM from 37signals continually receives rave reviews and easily replaces Goldmine. Email lives anywhere from an Amazon server instance or a cheap BlueHost web hosting account to a hosted Exchange Server account from Intermedia.

Research your own alternatives. You could save a boat load of money, returning it straight to the bottom line.

QuickBooks Multi User Server Uses Up A License

Question: I recently set up the XP Pro QuickBooks server and have a couple of questions.

The only way for all users to have access to files is to keep QuickBooks open on the server. This, in turn is using up one of my licenses. I have tried the server manager, but it is not allowing users to access the files.

Is this the way it has to be setup? How can I fix this?

Answer: No, this is not the way it has to be set up.  The entire version of QuickBooks should be installed on your server and hosting company files does not require QuickBooks to stay open or use up a user license.

The only time a user license comes into play on the server is when QuickBooks is open and has a company file open on the server for those times that you might be configuring automation or performing file maintenance.

These steps will clear up your installation:

1 – Restart your server then access the server’s desktop.

2 – Open QuickBooks with the Admin user and confirm that the server is hosting multi user access. From file, select Utilities. The drop out menu will show "Stop Hosting Multi-User Access…" (see below) The server is the only QuickBooks installation that should show "Stop Hosting Multi-User Access…"

"Stop Hosting Multi-User Access..."

3 – Select the F2 key to pop out the "Product Information" screen (see below). Print the screen or take note of these items. At the top, the "Product" "License Number", "Product number" and "User Licenses" needs to match on each computer that has QuickBooks installed. The "File Information" "Location" needs to be the network location and match on each computer accessing QuickBooks including the server.

F2 Product Info 

4 – Confirm that you have unique users set up in QuickBooks. Select "Company" then "Set Up Users And Passwords" then "Set Up Users…" (see below) Every unique logon to QuickBooks requires a unique user.

"Set Up Users And Passwords" 

5 – Close QuickBooks on the server

6 – Open QuickBooks on each client computer confirm that the server is hosting multi user access. From file, select Utilities. The drop out menu will show "Host Multi-User Access…" (see below)

"Host Multi-User Access..." 

7 – On each client computer, select the F2 key to pop out the "Product Information" screen and confirm that each item in step 3 matches.

Update your clients to the latest version if the "Product" does not match. Contact QuickBooks support if the "License Number", "Product number" and "User Licenses" do not match. Browse to open company files from the correct network location if  "File Information" "Location" does not match.

8 – Confirm that no firewall software is turned on or running on either the server or any of the clients. Firewalls belong on your Internet gateway device, not on your business desktop computer. If you use a laptop, you need to learn how to disable and enable the firewall software.

Secret to Google Apps

There is no secret. Transitioning to Google Apps is hard work and not for the faint of heart!

It’s also no secret that Google targets Microsoft Outlook used with Exchange Server or with just plain old POP3 to build the APPs market share. Consequently, using Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook for deployment requires those supporting Google Apps for small business to understand all of the nuances of Outlook. (yes it’s a blank page)

Although I am admittedly new at Google Apps, I come to this with many years of Outlook and Exchange experience. So, I would like to give you my steps to successfully sync Google Apps with Microsoft Outlook. Then, please comment with your insight to Google Apps deployment so we can all learn something.

My focus here centers on working with the Microsoft Outlook PST file created from standard email or as a backup of an Exchange mailbox. There are other tools available for migrating Microsoft Exchange mail boxes.

1 – Start by checking Google mail to confirm that the Google Apps account you are working with receives email correctly and that sent email carries the correct name and reply address and comes from the correct domain. If there are problems here, you must work out the issues before you attempt a Google Apps Sync with Microsoft Outlook.

2 – Insure that the computer operating system and Outlook software that you are working with meets system requirements for Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. Remove any malware or virus and optimize the computer so that it runs correctly.

3 – Work to clean up the PST file associated with the Outlook profile that you plan to sync with Google Apps. Delete any old information and compress the file. Then, create a backup of the PST file.

4 – Run scanpst.exe, the inbox repair tool in Outlook, to repair any errors with the PST file you are working with. Backup the newly repaired PST file, because you might have to recover this backup to return Outlook to it’s original functionality, when or if Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook fails.

5 – Restart the computer you are working with.

6 – Download the Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook tool to begin the sync process. Enter the account information, then select options to turn “AutoArchive” off. Google created good instructions for first time users.

7 – Set the Google APPs email profile to be the default profile and the only profile to open up when Outlook starts up.

Te recap; take a look at the Google Apps with Microsoft Outlook video below and again, please comment about your experience with your Google Apps deployment. We can all use the help.