QuickBooks Online, Hosted QuickBooks, or Something Else for Remote Access?

QuickBooks Online has made notable progress this year in adoption rates, and at the same time the culture of using SaaS-based products is changing rapidly. For many of you and many of your clients, QuickBooks Online (QBO) is sufficient to complete the business accounting needed. For others, however, with more complex inventory and costing needs, the choice has been to stay on QuickBooks Desktop (QBD). You may also have considered leaving the Intuit family for other products, but ultimately concluded that it is in the best interests of your clients and your practice to stay in the Intuit fold. Still, your clients want you to provide remote access alternatives. What do you do?

Editor’s Note: Randy Johnston is a top rated technology speaker at the annual Sleeter Group SleeterCon. He will be covering hosting, both public and private, in the session “Risks and Rewards of Hosted, On-Premise, and Hybrid Solutions” at this year’s conference.

In prior columns, I and other authors have tried to outline when to use QuickBooks Online, when to add a third party add-on product to QuickBooks Desktop, or when to choose an alternative product altogether. This column aims to lay out the options for using QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop in a hosted environment or accessing either product remotely. We can certainly solve the user’s need for remote access, but the real question is: How and what is in the best interests of the client?

What’s the Right Tool for the Job?

I like to keep things simple, but I also want to “do things right.” It is clear that for businesses requiring multiple users and without inventory or costing needs, QuickBooks Online can be a very affordable and effective solution. In most situations, your clients will need the more sophisticated QuickBooks Online options included in QuickBooks Essentials (bill payment)—at $26.95 for three users, or Plus (Inventory & 1099s) at $39.95 for five users. With a per user per month charge of between $8 and $9, these multi-user versions make any hosting option we discuss seem over-the-top expensive. When you consider that all QuickBooks Online versions have automatic bank downloads, estimates, and invoices—and work on any PC, Mac, or mobile device—there are some immediate direct user benefits. It is also clear that all of you should be, at least, Intuit ProAdvisors (formerly Cloud ProAdvisors) in order to gain access to QuickBooks Online Accountant (QBOA) so that you can invite your clients and have a dashboard for access to all clients in one place.

On the other hand, some of you have done a very nice job of taking the traditional QuickBooks Desktop product and making it do things for clients that are well beyond the normal expectations. I know many of you have found “tricks” or “work-arounds” to help QuickBooks Desktop do the work of much more expensive mid-market products. However, the one thing that Intuit was not ready to do early in this product’s life cycle was to make it a multi-user, remotely accessible product. Today, QuickBooks Desktop can support up to 30 users, however supported remote access has primarily required expensive add-on licensing via Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS at $70 each) or more sophisticated and expensive tools like Citrix XenApp, Citrix XenDesktop, orVMware Horizon View. Unfortunately, QuickBooks Desktop licensing was not clearly defined to support these environments.

Enter the Intuit Hosting Program and certified vendors able to host QuickBooks. Examples include Right Networks, Skyline (UniData), and Qutera (to view more licensed QuickBooks hosting companies, see here). These vendors allow you to bring your own QuickBooks Desktop licenses or they can sell you licenses—and they support a broad array of third-party products. There are some 30 of these vendors, including the following nine:

QuickBooks Remote Access

These hosting vendors allow you share a QuickBooks Desktop file, eliminating the need for servers and IT complexity in many clients’ situations. The pricing runs from $17 to $60 per user per month, and the number of applications supported varies widely. Intuit has done a good job of vetting the providers so that your customers can have a good experience.

But there is one more approach that has some value and interest. With the popularity of home remodeling shows (and yes, I’m in the middle of a home remodel), the term “Do It Yourself” (DIY) is familiar to many of you. Historically, this meant products like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, Citrix ShareConnect, and a dozen or more similar remote access tools. But as authors have pointed out in other columns, there are two notable new entrants to help with QuickBooks Desktop remote access, Pertino and MyQuickCloud. Charlie Russell did an extensive review on MyQuickCloud (Part 1 and Part 2). Both products are trying to extend the traditional PC environment, including the entire desktop or the QuickBooks Desktop application only. The licensing charge is modest ($9 to $22) and the products seem to do pretty well in supporting up to about seven users remotely.

MyQuickCloud has some interesting features, including the following:

  • Ability to make use of your existing multi-user license by working with your clients on the same company file, at the same time, from anywhere.
  • No need to change your current set up. MyQuickCloud will allow you to work on your current PC/software from anywhere, anytime. Keep the desktop versions of programs you love, with the freedom of multi-user remote access.
  • It is affordable and will help you expand your business and give you more time.
  • Allows you and your clients/employees to work in real time. No syncing, while granting you remote access—and all the data stays on the “host” PC.
  • Capability to connect to clients’ PCs or allow clients to remote into yours.
  • Easy to use and set up and is the perfect solution for you to offer to your clients. Let them know about the latest technology in the market.
  • Access printers either from your remote location or your office where the “host” PC is.

Pertino has similar features, including:

  • Secure, remote access using VPN technology.
  • Scalability to allow many connections to a single computer.
  • Shared resources including disk and printers.

How Do We Pick the Right Tool?

The bottom line for all of these issues is picking the right tool for the job in order to best meet the client’s needs. If all of your clients are similar, you’ll be well served with a single tool. But most of us have clients of all sizes, and that means we will have more than one tool. You’ll probably standardize on hosting with QuickBooks Desktop, but may choose to add MyQuickCloud to drive down remote access costs in smaller installations.

On the other hand, you may look at your practice and realize it is time to add some QuickBooks Online clients to your mix. There are clearly clients who don’t have a lot of complexity and whose needs will be satisfied by QuickBooks Online. And particularly if they have remote access needs and have more than one user, QuickBooks Online can be a much less expensive choice for them.

Intuit is driving many changes in our small business accounting market. We can morph our practices to work with our clients using Intuit’s new methodologies, or we can continue to operate as we always have. However, vendors are bringing new tools to market that are reducing and simplifying the way traditional desktops are connected. SaaS applications are running faster and getting more sophisticated. Just because we thought an application only worked a certain way doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. Think about what is best for you and your client and help them navigate the ever-changing technology waters.

Randy Johnston and his NMGI team provide IT consulting services and recommendations to Sleeter Group Consultants Network members as a benefit and part of their membership. If you have questions on any hardware, software, procedures, or IT strategies for your firm, contact helpdesk@nmgi.com with your questions or to schedule a time to speak.

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