Outgrowing Quickbooks...any recommendations?


M

Michael Boehm

Hi,

I work for a company that is currently using Quickbooks Pro as their
accounting software. So many transactions are being entered into the
system that the data file is growing uncontrollably (at last check it
was at about 150 megabytes). The data file resides on a server with 3
users working on the data simultaneously. As you can probably guess,
the accountant/clerks are complaining loudly about the abysmal
performance of Quickbooks. Anyway, my point is that we are looking for
an accounting package that can handle a higher volume of transactions
than Quickbooks for 3-5 users simultaneously (with decent
performance). Has anybody here been in a similar situation? I'm just
the IT guy, so I don't know a whole lot about accounting but the
accountant says that Quickbooks fits the bill features-wise, but just
can't handle the volume we're doing anymore.

As a side note, it would be really helpful was easy to use...the
accountant/clerks aren't very computer literate!

Our accountant checked with some of her business acquaintances and
here are some of the names that came up:

-Quickbooks Enterprise (I'm concernced that this is only going to
provide temporary relief, plus Intuit's support is just plain
worthless)
-MAS90 from Best Software
-ACCPAC Advantage Series
-BusinessVision 32 from Softline

If you have any experience with the above packages or other
suggestions, I would reeeeally appreciate some input.

Thanks bunches,
Mike
 
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G

Guest

-Quickbooks Enterprise (I'm concernced that this is only going to
provide temporary relief, plus Intuit's support is just plain
worthless)
Yes, on both counts.

If you decide to go with QB EE, or if you get a demo and run it for a
while, which is what I would advise with any choice you're
considering, please let us know how it compares to the regular QB
version in terms of performance.

I assume your users have started seeing the ridiculous "if you want to
wait less call Intuit for the Enterprise Edition" message that comes
up when they wait forever to get something done in QB. I suspect
Intuit has changed only a couple of algorithms here and there and that
the performance gain won't be substantial for the $1K++ they're
asking. But I don't know for sure.

I don't have any extensive experience with any of the packages you
mentioned for a recommendation (I've tried two of them for a while
some time ago) but comparing any program with the molasses called
Quickbooks would probably favor the competition at least in terms of
performance.

I think all the ones you mention are based on a standard database
structure that, at the least, does not put the brakes on multiuser
access like Quickbooks, which is still using the most archaic,
convoluted, inefficient and inadequate way to store and retrieve data
that you could ever imagine.

Other important issues though are any familiarity that the users have
developed with the program and the ability to transfer historical data
to the new system.

For example, the auto-fill of QB is very useful and very easy to get
used to. I don't remember now if any of those programs can do the same
or they have numbers for Vendor Names or the user has to enter
something and press a key to find the full name, etc, etc, etc.

As far as transferring historical data, with 2002 and later you can
get additional utilities that export data to Access (for example) and
from there you may be able to get them into the new program. Generally
it's a costly and difficult task and some times impossible.

So, get as many demos (not slide shows and ad material) as you can and
ask someone to run them and duplicate daily bookkeeping activities for
as long as they can - even do annual reports or any other important
reports for the company accountant, etc. Believe me, if you spend the
time now you'll have much less hell to go through later if someone
doesn't like something about the new system that *you* chose - and you
will, no question about it. <g>

Good luck with your search.

==
 
A

Allan Martin

Michael Boehm said:
Hi,

I work for a company that is currently using Quickbooks Pro as their
accounting software. So many transactions are being entered into the
system that the data file is growing uncontrollably (at last check it
was at about 150 megabytes). The data file resides on a server with 3
users working on the data simultaneously. As you can probably guess,
the accountant/clerks are complaining loudly about the abysmal
performance of Quickbooks. Anyway, my point is that we are looking for
an accounting package that can handle a higher volume of transactions
than Quickbooks for 3-5 users simultaneously (with decent
performance). Has anybody here been in a similar situation? I'm just
the IT guy, so I don't know a whole lot about accounting but the
accountant says that Quickbooks fits the bill features-wise, but just
can't handle the volume we're doing anymore.

As a side note, it would be really helpful was easy to use...the
accountant/clerks aren't very computer literate!

Our accountant checked with some of her business acquaintances and
here are some of the names that came up:

-Quickbooks Enterprise (I'm concernced that this is only going to
provide temporary relief, plus Intuit's support is just plain
worthless)
-MAS90 from Best Software
-ACCPAC Advantage Series
-BusinessVision 32 from Softline

Just for your information, all three programs abpove are owned by the same
company (Sage).
 
A

Allan Martin

Yes, on both counts.

If you decide to go with QB EE, or if you get a demo and run it for a
while, which is what I would advise with any choice you're
considering, please let us know how it compares to the regular QB
version in terms of performance.

I assume your users have started seeing the ridiculous "if you want to
wait less call Intuit for the Enterprise Edition" message that comes
up when they wait forever to get something done in QB. I suspect
Intuit has changed only a couple of algorithms here and there and that
the performance gain won't be substantial for the $1K++ they're
asking. But I don't know for sure.

I don't have any extensive experience with any of the packages you
mentioned for a recommendation (I've tried two of them for a while
some time ago) but comparing any program with the molasses called
Quickbooks would probably favor the competition at least in terms of
performance.

I think all the ones you mention are based on a standard database
structure that, at the least, does not put the brakes on multiuser
access like Quickbooks, which is still using the most archaic,
convoluted, inefficient and inadequate way to store and retrieve data
that you could ever imagine.

In the case of Accpac Advantage Series, because the user interface and the
program logic are separate from the database, the user has the choice of
either Pervasive SQL, Microsoft SQL, IBM DB2, or Oracle.
 
M

Michael Boehm

First of all, I just want to thank you all for your quick responses.

As for the difficulties associated with transferring historical data
to a new package, this shouldn't really be a problem. Our company is
in the process of changing ownership...starting 8/1, a completely new
set of books is going to be opened. This is about an opportune time as
any to be switching to a new accounting package.

I am in the process of obtaining demo versions of several packages,
and I will post my thoughts on Quickbooks EE as soon as I play around
with it.

-Mike
 
C

Catherine White

Michael --

If the main problem is that the file is too large and unwieldy, have you
considered reducing the size of the file? You could (first make several
backups, in case something goes wrong!) "save a copy", and choose only
transactions after a certain date -- one year, two years, whatever.
It's the bulk of old information that's making everything take so long.
That may give you (at least) some breathing room before you need to move
up, and may even solve the problem.

Catherine
 
T

Tee

I have zero experience with MAS90 but have heard really great things about
it from people I know who use it. I consider QB, Peachtree, Simply
Accounting & MYOB to all be the same product in terms of what they're geared
towards (small company with average needs). MAS90 is the only one I've
heard of (firsthand) working in a larger company and without any major
complaints. I'd recommend asking your accountant. Chances are that he/she
has other clients, or the firm does, in your company size range and can
offer program suggestions.
 
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M

Mike Schumann

If you like Quickbooks and it has the functionality you need, don't give up
on it just because of performance.

We are successfully running Quickbooks with a 250MByte data file. Using a
typical LAN configuration, with each user running Quickbooks on their own
PC, results in terrible performance, due to the large amount of data being
transferred over the network.

The simple, but unsupported, solution is to run Quickbooks on a Windows 2003
Server using Terminal Services. Each user's PC acts as a dumb terminal for
a separate session running on the server.

The performance is dramatically better than a networked environment, when
you are running large data files, as there is almost no data being
transferred over the LAN (you can very successfully run Quickbooks sessions
over a 24KB dialup connection).

The only gotcha, is that you can only install the Quickbooks 5 user pack on
the server, due to the structure of the Quickbooks registry hive (you can't
install multiple individual Quickbooks copies).

Another big speed boost can be achieved on the server by configuring
mirrored disk drives and having enough RAM so that the Quickbooks data file
resides in cache when it is used.

A quick test of whether this will solve your problem is to run a single user
Quickbooks session on the computer where the data file resides. If this is
OK, then a Terminal Server multi-user solution will probably work just fine.

Note: One area that is particularly slow in Quickbooks is recording audit
trails. This can cause significant delays in multi-user environments when
an existing transaction is being edited (entering new transactions does not
have this problem). Terminal Server will improve this delay by an order of
magnitude, but you may still see ~10 second delays when editing a long
transaction (i.e. many line POs). If you don't need audit trails, turn this
feature off and you will see a big improvement.

The advantage of sticking with Quickbooks if the functionality works for
you, is that you will be very hard pressed to find another package that has
as nice a user interface, or is as stable. Intuit is acutely aware that
people are outgrowing their software, and I'm sure that this is a very high
priority for them to solve. If Terminal Services gives you a couple of
years of breathing room, Intuit is bound to have a solution for you.

Another note: The Quickbooks enterprise edition, probably won't help your
performance problem much. The big difference is supporting up to 10
simultaneous users, but you will probably still have to run it on Terminal
Services to get decent performance if you have a big data file.

Good luck,
Mike Schumann
 
G

Guest

Mike Schumann said:
...
Intuit is acutely aware that
people are outgrowing their software, and I'm sure that this is a very high
priority for them to solve. ...

Another note: The Quickbooks enterprise edition, probably won't help your
performance problem much.
...
You are wrong on the "acutely aware / high priority" statement above.

It seems that the high priority they have assigned in the performance
issue of their program has thus far resulted only in a message
advertising the Enterprise Edition when Quickbooks takes more than
15-20 seconds to complete a task.

If you think (reasonable assumption, I'm sure) that the Enterprise
Edition won't help the performance issue much then they are, again,
selling hot air when they are prodding the user who waits for QB to
finish to call them for the Enterprise Edition and dump another
$1,000+ on them apparently for nothing.

If they had put any priority on the performance issue they wouldn't
have the reports regenerate from scratch when a user changes the
report's title or when a user wants to add one more column on the
report.

The inefficiency, bad design and complete disregard of user's needs is
still there with or without a Windows 2003 Server, Terminal Services
and a person to know how to install, manage and maintain all this in
addition to the unnecessary cost.

A 150MB file is nothing when we consider the current computing power
on the average desktop machine in a small business. We all have 1,000
times the power (probably even more) that was available when
Quickbooks entered the market.

However, after 10 years, Quickbooks is still an inefficient, slow and
inadequate program which is more a hurdle to small business owners
that have more than, say, 20 checks to deal with per month, rather
than a decent software tool for bookkeeping.

So, if you're saying that a "solution" is probably coming down the
pipe in a couple of years then there may be some common useless
vapor-ware ad material that may have influenced your expectations.
Because from the state of things now it is unreasonable to infer that
knowledgeable and skillful people that give any kind of priority to
user's needs are in charge of that program's development.

==
 
M

Mike Schumann

Sorry, but I don't share your negative attitude towards Quickbooks.

Intuit has a very big problem to deal with, as they are running on a
database architecture that never anticipated a multi-user environment.
There is no question that the multi-user functionality in Quickbooks was put
together with bailing wire.

On the other hand, Quickbooks has the best user interface of any accounting
package out there. It is also one of the most stable pieces of software
available on a PC. Preserving both of these attributes and providing
seamless upgradeability for users, along with supporting their new API
interface, makes radical database changes very difficult and time consuming.

I'm not an Intuit employee, and have my frustrations with their lack of
responsiveness in certain areas. However, I also have a lot of experience
in software development, and understand the challenges that Intuit faces.

Everyone needs to make their own decisions on what works best for them. Any
software migration is always a big hassle. I'm just suggesting, that if you
already run Quickbooks, and if you like it, and it works for you, then you
can postpone the day of reckoning by running on Terminal Services. If you
are lucky Intuit may have a solution for you by the time you run out of gas
with that approach.

If you are just starting out and know that you are going to run into the
Quickbook's multi-user issues, you might want to look at other software.

Mike Schumann
 
G

Guest

Mike Schumann said:
Sorry, but I don't share your negative attitude towards Quickbooks.
Attitude is irrelevant. We are talking about the probability of
something decent coming out of the Intuit non-development team that is
responsible for Quickbooks.

Intuit has a very big problem to deal with, as they are running on a
database architecture that never anticipated a multi-user environment.
Apparently the database architecture they are dealing with came down
from the sky as an unanticipated act of a software spirit. It's Intuit
that designed it and implemented it. Even if they completely changed
their programming staff from the starting one (it seems like one of
those drastic changes took place around version 6 to version 99, and
the rest, who knows) it's again Intuit that should either correct or
improve their own product. That's their job.

There is no question that the multi-user functionality in Quickbooks was put
together with bailing wire.
Like everything else in the program. And what stops them from dumping
the existing data file structure and adopting any other common,
standard and widely accepted one? Their successive versions are not
backwardly compatible anyway. What stops them is certainly not any
consideration for decent program performance or user need.

On the other hand, Quickbooks has the best user interface of any accounting
package out there.
Not really.

When it first came out the initial developers tried to incorporate the
current user interface elements of the time into the program. That was
probably the single most important reason for their success. The rest
of the accounting software out there is still up to 15 years behind,
even the $10K+ programs that you've probably tried first hand, like I
have.

However, compared with any other general office type application
Quickbooks is nothing special. Actually it is surprisingly user
unfriendly and sloppy.

They are changing useful keyboard shortcuts with almost every version,
input screens are very badly designed, sorting is pathetically buggy
and even numbers on some reports are aligned to the left!

This is sufficient cause for an immediate failing grade in any first
year course in programming. Meaning, no one that has ever sat down to
use Quickbooks for more than 10 minutes had anything to do with the
development of it.

It is also one of the most stable pieces of software
available on a PC. Preserving both of these attributes and providing
seamless upgradeability for users, along with supporting their new API
interface, makes radical database changes very difficult and time consuming.
What did their users get with all the useless bloat ware of customer
centers and vendor centers and all the cute icons that mask the
underlying "bailing wire" as you put it? Absolutely nothing. Where are
the useful working features they have added in the past, let's say, 3
years? Absolutely nowhere.

Instead, they took that mess of a program and offered an XML (?!)
based bloated interface on top of that for some kind of Quickbooks
severely restricted inter-operability with other software. This is
like your car's engine about to burn out and you use it to deliver
1,000 lbs of 4x4s across your State. Twice.

However, I also have a lot of experience
in software development, and understand the challenges that Intuit faces.
Fine. So why doesn't Intuit deal with them instead of dumping all
development on people who are really ignorant about what they are
doing? It has probably something to do with the priority they have
assigned to the usability of Quickbooks: zero.

If you
are lucky Intuit may have a solution for you by the time you run out of gas
with that approach.
With the "lucky" and "may" you're closer to reality compared to your
unrealistic assertions on your previous message. Now we agree -
somewhat.

If you are just starting out and know that you are going to run into the
Quickbook's multi-user issues, you might want to look at other software.
I'd say in all cases use a program that will not lock your data
forever - intentionally for Quickbooks, I might add - so that it can
be used if needed by another program with more capabilities.

==
 
J

JerryMouse

Mike said:
If you like Quickbooks and it has the functionality you need, don't
give up on it just because of performance.

We are successfully running Quickbooks with a 250MByte data file.
Using a typical LAN configuration, with each user running Quickbooks
on their own PC, results in terrible performance, due to the large
amount of data being transferred over the network.

The simple, but unsupported, solution is to run Quickbooks on a
Windows 2003 Server using Terminal Services. Each user's PC acts as
a dumb terminal for a separate session running on the server.

The performance is dramatically better than a networked environment,
when you are running large data files, as there is almost no data
being transferred over the LAN (you can very successfully run
Quickbooks sessions over a 24KB dialup connection).

Another big speed boost can be achieved on the server by configuring
mirrored disk drives and having enough RAM so that the Quickbooks
data file resides in cache when it is used.

A quick test of whether this will solve your problem is to run a
single user Quickbooks session on the computer where the data file
resides. If this is OK, then a Terminal Server multi-user solution
will probably work just fine.

Note: One area that is particularly slow in Quickbooks is recording
audit trails. This can cause significant delays in multi-user
environments when an existing transaction is being edited (entering
new transactions does not have this problem). Terminal Server will
improve this delay by an order of magnitude, but you may still see
~10 second delays when editing a long transaction (i.e. many line
POs). If you don't need audit trails, turn this feature off and you
will see a big improvement.

The advantage of sticking with Quickbooks if the functionality works
for you, is that you will be very hard pressed to find another
package that has as nice a user interface, or is as stable. Intuit
is acutely aware that people are outgrowing their software, and I'm
sure that this is a very high priority for them to solve. If
Terminal Services gives you a couple of years of breathing room,
Intuit is bound to have a solution for you.

Another note: The Quickbooks enterprise edition, probably won't help
your performance problem much. The big difference is supporting up
to 10 simultaneous users, but you will probably still have to run it
on Terminal Services to get decent performance if you have a big data
file.
I wholeheartedly agree. If the software works but performance is inadequate,
a hardware solution is easy and cheap.

Remember, the speed of a computer system is limited to the speed of its
slowest part.

You can start with a modern machine. Say 2-3 GHz with oodles of memory ( <
$500). Not fast enough? Add a RAID controller with mirroring, striping, and
smart fetch ($450 for three more drives, $75 for the RAID controller). Still
not fast enough?

Gulp! Go for the 2003 Server and Terminal Services.

All of the above can be had for just the cost of an enterprise software
package (Solomon, Great Plains, etc.). Plus, no conversion, no chance for
error, and, most significantly, no retraining of the staff.
 
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M

Mike Schumann

Actually, all of the hardware can be bought for just a couple of the basic
modules of "enterprise" class software. If you start adding all the
options, you quickly start talking about some serious money.

Mike Schumann
 

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