All I Know

Don’t Use Quickbooks

If you’re a small business and are contemplating a move to an accounting software package, my counsel in the strongest possible terms is to avoid Quickbooks.

I understand that they have had a stranglehold on the small- to medium-sized business market for the last 15 years at least, and I applaud their success in delivering a core product that works, their marketing achievements, and in having achieved success through the horizontal and vertical integration.  However their stewardship of their hard-earned market share and their concern for their clientele leaves quite a bit to be desired.  I have been involved with  a half dozen or so Quickbooks implementations over the years, and have had a financial interest in about half of those.  In every case, each of those business entities have had to engage the Quickbooks organization in order to have their data from a previous version be compatible with an upgrade.

As a programmer and a data jock, it makes me particularly insane that a task that is so easy to achieve is so miserably executed by such a major company.  As software evolves over time, the developer can always have the new software be able to read the old software, because you already do read and use the old data.  All you need to do is integrate that capability into the new software.   You can elect to convert it to the new format if you like.

I believe their motivation in being so unmotivated on backward integration is rooted in their zealous defense of their licensed software.  Quickbooks has always been enthusiastic about application of security measures intended chiefly to keep illegal copies of their software from being used.  As a career software developer, I can appreciate that, but the fact is that the service and care to the paying client base is being impeded.

Recently my wife Debbie, who operates a small business, had to buy herself a new laptop because the old one was worn out.  When you buy a new laptop these days, it comes with Windows 8.  Well, the version of Quickbooks she paid real money for just a few years ago doesn’t work Windows 8.  Why shouldn’t it?  Most all of the other programs do.

The reason is said that Quickbooks wants to sell more software.

And that’s what they did.  As a systems professional, I am a fan of web-based deployment for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s always up-to-date.  So I switched from Microsoft accounting that puts a few years back, I opted for the Quickbooks online.  It costs about $10.00 a month, and I think that’s fair for the service and the way I use it.  At length, Debbie reached the same conclusion.


When it came to converting are all data from her existing Quickbooks version to the online version, all we got was an organization that couldn’t get out of its own way.

Having connected to the online system, we were supposed to update the existing data to the new version.  The online software simply did not have Debbie’s version of Quickbooks as an option to select.  So we had to contact user support.

The following sequence of events repeated itself at least three times and I think it is probably four:

When you contact user support, you have to talk to the wrong person several times before you’re connected to a person who concedes that perhaps the problem you are describing is theirs to handle.  Once you find yourself connected to such a purpose, I encourage you mightily to stay on the line with that person until your problem is solved, otherwise you’ll simply have to start all over again someone else.  No amount of asking for that person’s direct number were asking for a callback will help the situation.  Do not let them hangup regardless of their pledge to call you back.

So you will walk the help desk analyst through the problem; at length they will say “I need to confer with someone else about this,” you have a lot of wait a long time.  When they come back, they will propose a solution like “just select option C,” even though it is not the right choice for your application.  It won’t work, and they will ask to try other options and they won’t work either.  They will propose that you download a 30-day free trial download of the desktop version and use it to convert the data; that won’t work either.

Somewhere along the line the analyst will say, “Well, you wouldn’t have this issue if you purchased the $30.00 a month version.”  Well.  $30.00 a month as $360 a year, every year, and that’s starting to be some real money.  The product only ever was worth a few hundred in the past, and that license would last several years.

But back to the help desk analyst.  At length, he/she will reach the conclusion that this is a special case, and that Quickbooks can modify the data for you, if you send it in.  There may be a price.  And you, in your exhaustion, will think that sounds like an okay idea. “How long will it take?” we ask.  “About five business days,” we’re told.

So after about 2 ½ weeks of not hearing anything we call.  No one has ever heard of this issue, this case number, or our data.  So, rinse and repeat.


I’m not exaggerating when I say that a couple of months later, we finally got our data, and it didn’t just arrive one day, we had to fight continually.

There must be a better way.  All those hours we spent trying to solve this problem (it was dozens, possibly topping 100).  Even a modest hourly rate for our time,  that would add up to being a lot of money.

I am not running a small business now and am not in a position to experiment.  I might be able to prevail on my wife to try one of these solutions*, or maybe we could have a little parallel processing.  JMoney and gnucash look like good starting places to me.

I have a technical beef with Quickbooks, too.  You can read about it here.

* [the original linked article is no longer available]

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