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.

Time To Chose A QuickBooks Hosting Provider

If you are tackling a new QuickBooks server installation, consider this story line.

Let me be honest with myself here. I would like to have a five user QuickBooks installation that allows me the same functionality as a commercially hosted QuickBooks setup, one that would run me $250 per month.

Actually, I really want to recoup my cost by hosting a few of my clients for $50 a user. I know of twenty clients that I can host right now. It can’t be that hard, as I find myself opening up my new $1000 Dell server I succumbed to purchasing online.

Much to my surprise, the server sets up almost automatically right out of the box. My new copy of QuickBooks Pro sets up quickly. Within a few hours, I’m up on the network and sharing files and QuickBooks with my other two employees. So, I’ve decided to add a couple more employees and set this server up for a few customers. Although sharing QuickBooks with a few employees and customers sounds simple and straight forward, this story usually ends with many unhappy customers and a project that turns into a money pit.

Consider the real gotchas.

The $1000 on sale server might be enough to share QuickBooks among three employees, but it won’t live in a situation that demands any more stress. Options like virtualization, redundant power supplies, redundant disk arrays, multiple processors and up to 32GB memory for multiple application loads do not come standard on a $1000 server.

Terminal Services, a necessity for running QuickBooks in a multi user remote access environment requires additional Microsoft licensing to be purchased. Microsoft states, “In addition to a server license, a Windows Server Client Access License (CAL) is required to access the Windows Server software. If you wish to utilize the RDS functionality of the Windows Server software, an incremental Terminal Services Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services Client Access License (TS CAL), or the new Remote Desktop Services Client Access License (RDS CAL) is required as well”

Intuit will not support QuickBooks Pro in a Terminal Services environment for end user customers. One will lose access to any support help from Intuit unless the Enterprise version and Enterprise support are purchased and run exclusively.

The typical software architecture to add multiple secured users to Windows Server is not possible, when clients require any third party add on software or integrated FEDEX or UPS shipping functionality. Virtualization of QuickBooks and the underlying server software established itself as a mature technology long ago. Third party software is expensive but an absolute must.

Recently, Rick Fallahee, CEO of NovelASPect, offered some great advice about choosing an application Hosting provider. One of Rick’s suggestions is spot on. “When searching for an application hosting provider, make sure they offer Citrix.” Microsoft Terminal Services presents a “remote desktop” to the end user. But software designed to virtualize applications such as QuickBooks and Peachtree often finds its way to the cutting room floor in order for hosting providers to cut cost. Citrix removes boundaries imposed by default Terminal Services and allows effortless printing and scanning from USB devices such as POS devices, webcams, microphones, scanners, digital cameras, and more. Citrix facilitates access from many types of devices like Apple MACs and smart phones. Invest your $250 a month (a typical five user hosted application) in a solution with Citrix.

QuickBooks Enterprise retails for $3000 for a five user version. A fully virtualized and redundant server setup from Dell with appropriate licensing runs well over $20000. I don’t think I’ll be offering up my $1000 server to host QuickBooks Pro and Premier to my customers anytime soon.

If you need QuickBooks hosting or Peachtree hosting, contact me. I can help out.

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.