Having your data available no matter where you work is awesome. Storing files in the cloud and being able to sync them with files on your PC is a great way to make sure the files are centrally available regardless of which machine you use to access them with. Dropbox is one of those sync and share solutions which provide users with cloud storage and an ability to sync files to various computers. While it is a very useful tool, not every type of file can live in a Drobox or file sync/share. Particularly for business users who want to store and sync their QuickBooks and other business files to the cloud, there are a few things to be aware of and one of them is to not Dropbox your QuickBooks company file.
The first thing to know is that a file is not always just a file. There are many different types and format of files, and not all of them work the same way. For example, desktop Word documents are files that only one person can work on at a time – there’s no actual “multi-user” functionality when it comes to a Word doc. You either get the file in a state that allows you to make changes to it, or you get it in ready-only mode. Desktop document files like this – Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs and text files – work great with sync solutions because the type of file being sync’d is designed to allow only one person at a time to have it open and editable. You sync it to your computer, work on the file, and then sync it back.
The file that isn’t just a file is a database – a file or series of files that make up a complete data set, and which have some type of database manager or other framework keeping track of things. These file types often have problems working in a sync solution. An Outlook data file (a .PST file) is a type of file which fits into this category. While the Outlook file is not generally viewed as a multi-user data file or a database file, it is being communicated with and written to by various processes while the application is running. There is information being added to the file as emails are received, even while the user may be writing an email or entering a calendar appointment. The point is that there are multiple types of data elements being updated all the time and by various processes. This type of file is always in use and getting changes, so there really isn’t a point in time when it’s closed and available to make copies of, which is what has to happen for a proper sync. And, because the sync solutions often try to sync incremental file changes, there is a big possibility of ending up with a damaged file because some changes were properly written where others might not be, ending up with file conflicts and corrupt data.
A QuickBooks company file is also a database file, so the same issues around syncing an Outlook data file exist with QuickBooks. When the QuickBooks software is open and a company file is being worked on, the file may get incremental changes throughout the work session. As each of these little changes happens, the sync program may attempt to copy those changes to the file in the cloud. Because the QuickBooks file is constantly being updated, the attempt to incrementally sync updates to the file in the cloud can easily cause damage and corruption to the file.
Users who have attempted to fake a sort of multi-user access to QuickBooks data files by using Dropbox or other sync services quickly find that the system is not going to work for them that way. Further, they often find that the QuickBooks data files get corrupted or just very messed up.
The only way to use QuickBooks, Outlook and similar types of data files with Dropbox is to recognize that the sync folders are only viable as a backup storage location for the files, not the place where the actual, working data files can be stored. If using an application such as QuickBooks, businesses should store the “working copy” of the file in the documents area on the machine, and then backup or copy the data file to the sync folder periodically. Placing the backup files or file copies in the sync folder allows them to sync to the cloud, storing them as offsite backups in case you need them, and allows the file to remain where it can be used by the application.
The better answer for businesses who need access to QuickBooks applications and data from different computers or locations is NOOBEH’s QuickBooks on Azure service. Our managed service for QuickBooks helps businesses make their software and data available anytime, anywhere. Whether working from PC, Mac or mobile computer, businesses can simplify their IT environments and centrally manage all their information assets in a secure and scalable environment.
When a company wants to keep backup copies of their information in the cloud, a sync service might be an okay solution. For folks who need to be able to access real time data and applications from a variety of locations, or if multi-user access is required (especially if those users are in different locations), then NOOBEH’s hosted service might be the better answer.
Contact Mendelson Consulting’s NOOBEH team today. Running your desktop applications and managing data in the cloud is a great way to get the company connected, and it is a far better alternative to pretending the system is multi-user when it really isn’t.