Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How the Microsoft Tortoise will Defeat the QuickBooks Hare

Like the readers of this blog, we wear two hats.

We are consumers of products to run our business. We are also advisors to our clients regarding their business.

Susan teaches us that we need to be leery of software providers that require us to disable User Account Control in Vista in order to run their software. (See her posts.)

And, truth, be told, this is nothing new.

Forever we have railed against poor programming and poor administration. The hallmarks of poorly written software are:
- Doesn't work with the current version of Windows.
- Requires holes in firewall (or worst, disabling firewall).
- Requires all users to have elevated security (or worst, be administrators).
- Doesn't run as a service, therefore requiring someone to be logged on at all times.
- Requires full-open permissions on shares or files.
- Requires itself to run as an administrator (or worst, "the" administrator.

and two modern additions are:
- Requires you to disable UAC.
- Requires you to disable your local windows firewall.

We've all dealt with some combination of these. Most often, it's a mission critical Line of Business application. So we can inform the client, but they basically don't listen.

They can't stop using their medical imaging software. Or their legal practice management software. Etc.

We do what we can, but there are a lot of really expensive LOBs out there that just refuse to keep up with the rest of the world. And when your business relies on this software, you don't have much choice.

Which brings us around to QuickBooks.

When Microsoft Small Biz Financials was introduced, I had the same experience as most people.

I loaded it. I opened it. I clicked through the menus. It looked like QuickBooks. I assumed it was the same, with a few features missing.

I closed it. I removed it from my PC.

And I made the assumption that someday Microsoft would own this market. But today my stuff is in QuickBooks.

As a loyal partner, I encourage my accounting clients to join the MS Professional Accountants' Network (MPAN: http://accounting.microsoft.com/mpanuk.aspx.

Two of my accountant clients had the same reaction: I loaded it. I opened it. It looks like QuickBooks. I closed it. I unloaded it. I use QuickBooks.

QuickBooks 2006 was the problem child from hell. I lost track of how many updates they had. It was horrible and embarrassing. I bought 2007 in hopes that it would work securely on a network. Better.

My accountant bought 2008 and our machines moved to Vista, so I bought QuickBooks 2008. So, instead of upgrading every 2-3 years, I bought it three years in a row.

And after a great deal of lost productivity for three people, the only way to make this poorly written piece of junk work smoothly is to disable UAC. Oh and disable the Windows firewall. And disable local security. Etc. Etc.

The consultant in me reads about the massive waves of robots out there scouring the earth for sensitive data. I read how the threat grows stronger every day. Spyware kits are easy to get and easy to use. Stealing information has become a real money making industry.

We are under attack.

But the business owner in me has three people whose productivity has gone to zero whenever two of them try to access the same QuickBooks file. I need to run my business!

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And so the future is clear.

Before this year is out, I will load Microsoft Small Business Financials. I will verify that it works with Vista, and IE7, and the built-in firewalls, and UAC. I'll verify my assumption that I don't have to stand naked and defenseless in front of a growing threat to my business.

And if it does what I need it to do, I will never buy another version of QuickBooks.

Line of business applications that require you to lower your security are, in my opinion, the greatest threat to your business. Why? Because once you accept their reduced security, you stop thinking about operating in a more secure environment.

Last year's threats won't go away.

This year's threats will be worst, and more effective.

Disabling security cannot be part of the equation.

4 comments:

  1. Yes, and if you switch to Shockey Monkey you'll also be able to export invoices from it into MS Office Accounting :)

    -Vlad

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  2. JGranade3:48 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. JGranade3:50 PM

    The challenge is getting the accountants to embrace something besides Quickbooks. If you can make a backup or Accountant's Review and your accountant can't work with it, you'll quickly feel like your out on a limb all by yourself. If MS can continue to court and win over the accountant's of the world, then I think businesses will embrace MS financials much quickier...and love it.

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  4. Well, that's true. It's also why MS created the accountant program.

    Given the thousand+ dollars I've flushed down the QuickBooks toilet in the last three years, I'd buy a copy of MS Financials for by accountant if he didn't already have it.

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