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The QuickBooks Hosting Challenge

QuickbooksQuickBooks is the leading accounting package for small business. And yet, many businesses cannot run QuickBooks Online, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version. Whether the online versions lack industry-specific features you need, or you have integrated third party tools/add-ons, staying with an on-premise version of QuickBooks remains the best solution for your business.

As you move to the cloud, hosting your QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Enterprise system makes sense. You keep the version of QuickBooks you need and improve accessibility, reliability, security, and resiliency from system failures and disasters.

In general, we find two levels of common QuickBooks hosting options. Looking at these services more closely, we find these services often fail to meet basic needs without expensive upgrades.  Fortunately, we have a third option designed to deliver the business value you need and want.

Basic

Basic QuickBooks hosting services run between $27 and $30 per user per month, with you purchasing and providing the QuickBooks license key. These services start with 1 GB of storage with fees for added storage that add-up quickly. Adding storage you need for reports, exports, etc., can easily increase the cost to the $75-$90 per user per month range. More importantly, your instance of QuickBooks is running on shared servers and on a shared network. As such, you have greater risk for performance issues, security breaches, and outages. In this type of multi-tenant environment, the actions of other can impact your business. These services offer backup, usually once per day with a fixed retention period of 7, 14, 30, or 90 days, depending on the service.

Better

The better QuickBooks hosting services cost between $49 and $60 per user per month, with you purchasing and providing the QuickBooks license key.  These services also start with 1 GB of storage with fees that add up when you need more space. Typical fees quickly creep up to the $95 to $120 per user per month range.  The main difference is that these services generally run your version of QuickBooks on a dedicated server, but still run on a shared network. While this does reduce the chance of interference from other tenants, this model still has your service running in the same security envelope as other companies. You still have a risk. Like the basic services, you have a once per day backup with a fixed retention period that varies with each service provider.

Best

The best solution for hosting QuickBooks will use your license of QuickBooks in the following environment:

  • Dedicated server
  • Private network
  • A usable amount of storage included (100 GB or more)
  • Flexible backup schedules and retention plans
  • Easy access from desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones
  • Access to Excel (MS Office) in the hosted environment

We this type of setup, you are more secure, will have better performance, and greater reliability.

The good news is that we can build you this type of environment at a cost comparable to other services, and we can integrate your QuickBooks environment with your Office 365 or G Suite service.


If you are interested in learning more about QuickBooks hosting options, please contact us for a free Cloud Advisor session.


 

Moving to the Cloud: Provider Reliability

 

Green_GaugeThis post is the third in a series addressing concerns organizations may have that prevent them from moving the cloud-based solutions.

One of the challenges in planning a move to the cloud remains the relative youth of the current industry.  While the concept of cloud computing is not new (tip your hat to Control Data in the 1980’s and their mainframe time-sharing service), most cloud computing services are relatively new.  Even services from long-standing, reliable vendors — like IBM and Dell — are relatively new ventures for these firms and have yet to be proven in a long-term market.

Organizations looking at any cloud service, be it SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS, must consider the reliability of the provider.  In doing so, it is the customer that must also understand the benchmarks being used by vendors when reporting their statistics.  Considerations include:

  • What is the availability of the service?  How well does the service provider meet their Service Level Agreement (SLA) benchmarks in terms of total downtime and/or service disruptions?
  • What is the reliability of the service?  How often does the service experience issues?  While most organizations tout availability, 6 disruptions lasting 10 minutes may have more impact on your operations than a single hour-long disruption.
  • Does the provider have performance benchmarks?  If so, how well does the provider meet the benchmarks?  In moving to the service provider, what expectations/needs will you have with respect to WiFi capacity, fixed network performance, and Internet capacity?   In many cases, the limiting factor on end-user performance is not the service provider or the Internet speed — it is the organization’s internal wired and wireless capacity.
  • What level of support do you expect?  Understanding how the provider delivers support — directly or through resellers/partners — is key to an organization’s long-term satisfaction with the service.
  • Does the vendor have the financial stability for the long-term?  With the number of start-ups in the cloud space, this factor may be the most difficult to ascertain.  Looking at the company’s financials, funding levels, and profitability can provide some insight.  Assessing whether the provider would be a good buy-out or merger target can also instill confidence that your provider will not go away unexpectedly.

With a modicum of due diligence, organizations can assess the reliability of cloud solution providers before making a commitment.  Reputable vendors will openly share their data and will not hesitate to discuss failures and how similar events will be prevented going forward.  And while, this type of discussion feels new, it is the same process CIOs and IT decision makers have been using for decades as they evaluate new technologies and vendors.  The players are new, but the process remains the same.

Next Post in the Series:  Privacy

Previous Post in the Series:  Moving to the Cloud: Cost Savings

 

Tuesday Take-Away: The True Role of the SLA

As you look towards cloud solutions for more cost effective applications, infrastructure, or services, you are going to hear (and learn) a lot about Service Level Agreements, or SLAs.  Much of what you will hear is a big debate about the value of SLAs and what SLAs offer you, the customer.

Unfortunately, the some vendors are framing the value of their SLAs based on the compensation customers receive when the vendor fails to meet their service level commitments.  The best example of this attitude is Microsoft’s comparison of its cash payouts to Google’s SLA that provides free days of service.  Microsoft touts its cash refunds as a better response to failure.  Why any company would send out a marketing message that begins with “When we fail …” is beyond me.  But, that is a subject for another post someday.

That said, Microsoft and its customers that are comforted by the compensation, are totally missing the point of the SLA in the first place.  Any compensation for excessive downtime is irrelevant with respect to the actual cost and impact on your business.  And unless a vendor is failing miserably and often, the compensation itself is not going to change the vendor’s track record.

The true rule of the SLA is to communicate the vendor’s commitment to providing you with service that meets defined expectations for Performance, Availability, and Reliability (PAR).  The SLA should also communicate how the vendor defines and sets priorities for problems and how they will respond based on those priorities.  A good SLA will set expectations and define the method of measuring if those expectations are met.

Continuing with the Microsoft and Google example.  Microsoft sets an expectation that you will have downtime.  While the downtime is normally scheduled in advance, it may not be.  Google, in contrast, sets an expectation that you should have no downtime, ever.   The details follow.

Microsoft’s SLA is typical in that it excludes maintenance windows, periods of time the system will be unavailable for scheduled or emergency maintenance.  While Microsoft does not schedule these windows at a regular weekly or monthly time frame, they do promise to give you reasonable notice for maintenance windows.  The SLA, however, allows Microsoft to declare emergency maintenance windows with little or no maintenance.

In August 2010, Microsoft’s BPOS service had 6 emergency maintenance windows, totaling more than 10 hours, in response to customers losing connectivity to the service, along with 30 hours of scheduled maintenance windows.  In line with Microsoft’s SLA, customers experienced more than 40 hours of downtime that month, which is within the boundaries of the SLA and its expectations.  On August 17, 2011, Microsoft experienced a data center failure that resulted in loss of Exchange access for its Office365 customers in North America for as long a five hours.  The system was down for 90 minutes before Microsoft acknowledged this as an outage.

Google’s SLA sets and expectation for system availability 24x7x365, with no scheduled downtime for maintenance and no emergency maintenance windows.

The difference in SLAs sets a very different expectation and makes a statement about how each vendor builds, manages, and provides the services you pay for.

When comparing SLAs, understand the role of maintenance windows and other “exceptions” that give the vendor an out.  Also, look at the following.

  • Definitions for critical, important, normal, and low priority issues
  • Initial response times for issues based on priority level
  • Target time to repair for issues based on priority level
  • Methods of communicating system status and health
  • Methods of informing customers of issues and actions/results

Remember, if you need to use the compensation clause, your vendor has already failed.

 

 

 

Webcasts

Next Normal: Apps & Servers

3T@3 Webcast Series: Tuesday, Mar 16th at 3:00 PM

COVID-19 and the events of the past year have, and continue, to change the way we run our businesses.  While some of these changes are temporary, many will become part of our next normal. For many of us, these changes came in a scramble to work from home.

What IT changes best position your business for the future?

This month’s 3T@3 Webcast, is the second in our “Next Normal” series looking at how we adapt, prepare, and respond to economic, social, and business changes.  

With “Apps and Systems”, we explore how your team accesses the applications, systems, and data they need to succeed, whether in the office or working remotely. We will compare the pros and cons of on-site systems, hosted servers, and cloud solutions with respect to performance, availability, reliability, and security. In doing so, we will discuss options and roadmaps for modernizing your apps and systems infrastructure. 

Watch the recording on-demand



Data Protection & Security