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.

New Company File in QuickBooks

I start out each year with a new company file for QuickBooks. It seems perfectly reasonable because my QuickBooks complexity does not effect my process of creating the file. Starting with a new file keeps QuickBooks operating fast and error free. I’ve always taken my process for granted because is as simple as exporting lists and templates and beginning with opening balances in the appropriate accounts. Also, I export my financial statements and compare year to year trends in Excel. I’ve read several places that creating a new company file each year is a best practice.

I can see multitudes of problems for companies that have more complex requirements for QuickBooks than I have. In the past, I argued that creating a new company file each year was best practice. However, I now know that extenuating circumstances can prevent a business from creating a new file every year.Here’s what Intuit has to say about it.

If my business were more complex, I would have serious concerns around the limitations that payroll and time entries, online banking and comparative yearly reports have on my ability to mitigate performance problems with QuickBooks by creating a new company file every year. The large company files as well as the database serving methodology employed by QuickBooks seriously impacts QuickBooks Multi User performance.

I regularly upgrade networks to gigabit to mitigate the QuickBooks performance situation, something I do not do with Peachtree companies. I’m not recommending that you move to Peachtree. But, I am concerned that QuickBooks client server software architecture needs to be reevaluated, de-bloated and moved to a 21st century state of the art client server design. If my business’s accounting needs depended upon application performance and tight integration between payroll, time entry, banking and year to year comparative reporting, I would have to seriously consider something else other that QuickBooks Multi User.

Intuit’s efforts in licensing and improving Hosted QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online are admirable. But, hosted solutions are not the answer to every businesses’ requirements. Tell a doctor I know that’s office has no Internet connectivity, that he needs to move QuickBooks 2006 to QuickBooks online for the latest features and you’ll know what I mean.

The current state of QuickBooks client server performance needs a hard look by a few good client server architects. I don’t think I’m alone in my opinion. What do you think?