Running QuickBooks in the Cloud: Information from those who know

QBCloud consultants have been involved in virtually every aspect of the popular QuickBooks hosting service from the very beginning – all the way back to 1997, before the Internet was a hugely big deal, and prior to DSL broadband even being invented.

Back in those days, hosting of QuickBooks software seemed more like a license enforcement issue to Intuit than anything, because it was demonstrated that hosting business software might also a really great way to steal it.  Well, to provide lots of people with unauthorized use, anyway.  This is one of the main reasons why we worked for so long to try to get Intuit to recognize not only the business benefits of hosted applications, but to also recognize how the provider community could help protect the Intuit QuickBooks licensing.  After all, QuickBooks desktop editions are the bread and butter of the product line, and the after-market of developers, consultants, trainers, writers, and everyone else within the QuickBooks “sphere of influence”, will keep the QuickBooks solutions earning market share for some time.  Why not extend the lifespan of the solution by bringing it to the clouds?

After many years of exploration, testing, and proving the value of the business model, the Intuit Authorized QuickBooks Hosting program was finally launched, with only a few core providers initially participating.  The Authorized QuickBooks Hosting program represents a way for Intuit to provide at least a basic review and authorization for providers who wish to validate their hosted deliveries of QuickBooks applications, and provides a number of guidelines relating to treatment of the customer, the software, and the associated data.

Two of the most important elements of the Authorized QuickBooks Hosting program center around software licensing options and support availability.  The Authorized Commercial Hosts for QuickBooks are the only entities allowed to lawfully offer rental (subscription) licensing for QuickBooks Pro and Premier desktop editions.  Being able to provide QuickBooks licenses as a subscription service provides businesses with a simple and affordable means to keep their QuickBooks software up to date at all times, without the annual expense of upgrades and software installations.  Further, rental licensing programs allow providers to offer “turnkey” subscription services which include both the platform, the service delivery, and the application software license.  With this model, hosted QuickBooks acts more like a true SaaS (software as a service) offering.

The second element is support availability – support for end-users of the software as well as the service providers delivering the hosted apps.  Because Intuit does not support the Pro and Premier editions of QuickBooks in any sort of multi-tenant hosting environment, businesses electing to use these QuickBooks products in hosted infrastructure are on their own as far as support goes.  The commercial providers, at least those that were there from the beginning, paved the way for running QuickBooks in the clouds, developing the methodology and knowledge to implement and support the solution for many different and unrelated businesses from a central infrastructure. While the authorized commercial providers get a bit higher level of software support from Intuit than the average solution provider, the essentials of the architecture and implementation are completely up to the host. The hope is that the commercial providers will step in and assist the self-host and other businesses attempting to develop their own hosting to support client accounting and related processes, but there are very few providers with the knowledge, resources, or willingness to assist others in these areas.

**As a side note, it’s worth mentioning here that the consulting team at InsynQ is a resource which Intuit uses to refer self-hosts and other businesses who wish to develop their own hosted QuickBooks capability, so self-hosts and new hosting providers are not totally without resources for assistance.**

The other issue relating to support is end-user support for the customer-owned QuickBooks license.  When a QuickBooks license is utilized in a manner which does not conform with Intuit’s EULA (end-user license agreement), Intuit may be under no obligation to support that license – by offering technical assistance or by supporting service and product integrations.  This means that users running their businesses from hosting infrastructure that is not “authorized” by Intuit risk losing the support and serviceability of their software licenses.  We are seeing more instances where QuickBooks users are not able to obtain software support for their licenses, because those licenses are either hosted by an authorized delivery or provider, or the licenses were obtained via a method not allowed under the Intuit hosting program rules.

The Intuit Authorized Hosting program for QuickBooks is a good thing, even if there are a few “gotchas” in it (like the $5 per user per month surcharge on hosted QuickBooks users).  It provides the necessary guidance and framework for those who wish to offer hosted QuickBooks in the right way, and creates enough of a barrier (financially and otherwise) to keep out those who either aren’t serious about providing a quality service, or who don’t have the necessary resources to do things the proper way.  Even within the provider community today, there are varying opinions on how to handle certain aspects of the delivery.  There are different classes of providers, as well, with each offering a different solution set and support options, as well as varying in expertise and capability.  Certainly, different technologies will deliver different “customer experiences” but at a gut level, QuickBooks is still just QuickBooks.  It’s all about how much you know, and what experience you have in dealing with the application, the platform, and the user market.

As with so many things in life, experience does matter.  In this case, aligning with a company that has experience running QuickBooks for thousands of users – experience running the software on industry standard technologies and platforms – is the best experience you can draw from.  There is truly a fine art to delivering what isn’t exactly the most robust and well-designed software, and delivering it to a largely non-technical audience complicates things just that much more.  Without the direct support of Intuit and/or an experienced provider, those who embark on a do-it-yourself path will likely have a hard time making it to the clouds.

QBCloud hopes to make things a little easier by providing information and guidance on how QuickBooks in the Cloud works, providers offering the service, proper licensing, and other topics relating to QuickBooks application hosting.  We hope you find it useful.


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