Folks want free support. There’s nothing wrong with wanting free. I want free. Everyone wants free!

But for QuickBooks, I think there are some particular reasons people want and often expect free support:

1. For most users, QuickBooks is pretty inexpensive software, and people want inexpensive (free!) support to go with it.

2. Free is quite attractive to small businesses or nonprofits who are struggling to keep their heads above water in a tough economy.

3. There’s often a do-it-yourself ethos with QuickBooks. I’m going to save money by doing it myself — it’s easy, right?! If you can write a check, you can do your own books with QuickBooks! And when you (almost) do it yourself, it’s supposed to be free.

To be sure, we have a free QuickBooks Forum where tens of thousands of questions and problems have been asked and answered. It’s free, no strings attached.

And Twitter is a place for limited free support. Limited, because it’s difficult to ask and answer questions in just 140 characters.

The Intuit Community is a free support resource.

Otherwise, support doesn’t come free. And there’s a good reason for that…the people providing the support have to make a living at what they do. Our forums are amazing because there are a lot of members who volunteer their time to help other people out. I am so impressed with the altruism of our members.

But if you want to talk to someone now to resolve your QuickBooks problem, whether it’s at QuickbooksUsers.com or elsewhere, well, that someone has to make a living. Don’t we all!

How do you feel about paying (or being paid) for software support?

Take care of your computer, and it will take care of you. Here are five easy and inexpensive ways to bullet-proof your PC.

1. Have each computer you use on a battery backup. Electric surge protection is not enough. If the power goes out when you have critical files open and your computer blinks off, you have a big problem. Battery backups are not that expensive.

2. Have every computer you use do Windows auto-updates. Access the settings through your Windows Control Panel. Auto-updates will make sure that you get critical service-packs, security updates, and Windows bug fixes.

3. Have every computer running security software. Symantec and McAfee are the big dogs for subscription-based solutions. But you can still get some free solutions, like AVG’s free edition. You’d have to be crazy to have a computer connected to the internet these days without some basic protection.

4. Be smart with your passwords. Don’t use your name or your address or your phone number, etc. Use numbers, upper and lower case letters, special characters, and nonsense words.

5. Don’t ignore warning signs. If your computer starts making funky noises, or getting intermittent bootup errors, or hanging up a lot, don’t wait around for it to get worse. Unlike the human body, computers aren’t self-healing. Get your IT pro to diagnose/repair, or just go get a new computer before the big crash.

Any other suggestions?

Posted in IT.

There are some QuickBooks data situations that have good endings, and some that don’t.

RECOVERABLE:

  • -6000 errors. If you get a 6000 error when you try to open your company file, most of the time if means that your data is corrupted, but most of the time, it is also repairable.
  • “Connection to database lost” errors. Ditto above.
  • Errors triggered when accessing particular accounts or transactions. Same.
  • Failures during upgrades, backups, verifies, rebuilds. We can fix these.
  • For pre-2006 QuickBooks versions, c-342, c-43, c-44 errors are almost always repairable.

USUALLY UNRECOVERABLE:

  • -6150 errors. This error usually indicates hopeless file corruption. A critical area of the file has become damaged that is not reconstructable. Although this error indicates that the QBW file is unrecoverable, we can still help you if you have an old but good backup and a current TLG file.
  • Files recovered from damaged or reformatted hard drives. This situation is common, but unfortunately, does not usually have a good outcome for data repair. Files recovered from damaged or reformatted HDs, or undeleted from drives, often have random contents — not the original QuickBooks data that was there in the first place. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve talked to a lot of users and IT people over the years with this situation, and that seems to be the case about 90% of the time that people contact us.

A quick way to test the recoverability of a file recovered from bad media is to zip the recovered file with WinZip or Windows folder compression. In a lot of cases, the file will zip up 99%. For example, a 100MB QBW file will zip down to 1MB. That indicates that the original contents of the file did not get recovered properly, and you ended up with a QBW file full of zeroes.

    I icefish for trout on high mountain reservoirs here in Colorado. One of the downsides of ice fishing is the potential danger of going through weak ice. Every ice fisherman has that in the back of his or her mind, especially early and late in the icefishing season when the ice is thinner.

    So I thought this video was great. It teaches you how to survive if you happen to go through the ice.

    And it got me thinking about what QuickBooks users should do if they crash. Some of the principles are the same as going through thin ice into frigid water.

    1. Don’t panic. A great danger to people who break through the ice is that they panic, hyperventilate and drown.

    Kinda the same with a QuickBooks crash. People panic and start clicking things and doing things frantically to fix it. They restore files without thinking, delete files without thinking, reinstall things frantically. Don’t do that. Go get a glass of water and calm down.

    2. Backup. If you are trying to get out of the water back onto the ice, where should you go? Back where you came from — that ice supported you before, and should support you again.

    If QuickBooks crashes, backup, then and there. I know, I know, your data may be corrupted…but back it up anyway. Just copy your company QBW file to your desktop or somewhere where it will be easy to find. (Of course, don’t overwrite any of your previous backups!) Copy your company’s TLG file also (same location, same name, .TLG extension.)

    Reason: You may need those files later, even if your data is corrupted. Once you restore a backup, your current data is gone, and you want to keep all your options open.

    3. Restore. Once you are back up on the ice, roll back the way you came.

    If QuickBooks crashes, roll back to your last backup. Hopefully it is in good condition and not too old.

    4. If you need help, call for help fast. Someone can throw you a rope and help you if you can’t get out by yourself.

    If your backup situation isn’t as it should be, give us a call. We can take your corrupted current data and fix it for you in just a few hours. Or we can take your old backup and make it current with your current TLG file. 1-800-999-9209

    What do you think? Anybody have a story to tell?

    Starting out with QuickBooks? Or wanting a good reference resource for the software?

    Some of the most popular books to help you learn about QuickBooks:

    If you want to become a QuickBooks consultant, Michelle Long’s book is well-spoken of:

    Successful QuickBooks Consulting: The Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Growing a QuickBooks Consulting Business. 200 pages, published by CreateSpace, 2007.

    Any other books about QuickBooks you have found especially valuable?

    I spoke with Brian Sweat of Alterity, Inc. about developing products for the Intuit Workplace App Center. The App Center connects QuickBooks users with a variety of optional software products.

    Brian, tell me a little about your background and your company.

    I’m the Product Manager at Alterity and have been working on the ACCTivate! product line for the last 9 years.  ACCTivate! is a full-featured inventory and distribution management system designed for QuickBooks® users.  We joined the Intuit Developer Network in 2003 and were in the first group of Gold Developers in 2006.

    Alterity just released EZ Analytics for Inventory as a solution within QuickBooks’ App Center. Tell us how that product came to be and what business problems it aims to solve.

    The Intuit Partner Platform was launched in late 2008 as a part of Intuit’s  “Connected Services” strategy.  We recognized this was a great opportunity for both Alterity and Intuit.

    Advanced inventory management is a common need for many QuickBooks users.  We realize that many users don’t want to switch to a mid-market system for better inventory management.  EZ Analytics for Inventory provides simple tools to better understand their inventory without any changes to their business process.

    Your inventory solution is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). And that seems to be a trend for QuickBooks add-ons starting with the new QuickBooks 2010 versions…user data moving into “the cloud”. What do you think the users’ experience will be like compared to using desktop software?

    The experience is great!  You can sign up with just a few clicks using your Intuit account.  Intuit handles the entire sign-up and billing process.   Of course, there’s no software to install and updates are automatic.  The user interface is much more robust than traditional desktop software.

    What technical issues did you run into in developing a web-based product that interfaces with QuickBooks? And what is it like supporting a web-based product?

    There were a few major changes for us.  First, it required a new set of development tools (ie Adobe Flex Builder).  We also switched from using Microsoft SQL Server to the online Intuit Data Services.  There was definitely a transition for our development team, but we’re really happy with the changes.

    Providing end user support is very different as well.  Intuit is responsible for synchronizing and storing the QuickBooks data.  EZ Analytics for Inventory is pretty easy to use, so we really haven’t had much additional support.

    On a closing note, it seems to me that for both financial and technological reasons, the App Center approach could be a win-win-win for 3rd party developers, Intuit, and end users. Any final thoughts, Brian, about the QuickBooks App Center?

    We completely agree!  We are very excited to see more users and developers discover the Intuit Workplace App Center.  EZ Analytics for Inventory is our first Workplace App and we have big plans for the future.  I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.

    Thank you, Brian!

    I’ve got a phish story for you.

    Someone I know buys and sells stuff on eBay. During the course of one of his auctions, he got an email from eBay with a question from a potential buyer. This is a very normal experience for eBay sellers. The email had details about him, his item, his auction.

    He clicked the “Reply to question” link in the email, and logged in to eBay. Except it wasn’t eBay.

    Just as he clicked the Login button, he noticed that his address bar didn’t say eBay.com. It had an IP address. Ding, ding, ding, red alert!

    He immediately logged into the real eBay site and changed his password. So there was no harm done.

    He had been phished. Actually, spear-phished. He was specifically targeted. Why? He had made the mistake of putting his email address as part of the auction information. So some cybercriminal had sent him a tailor-made phishing email that looked, felt, and smelled like a real eBay email.

    The reason it worked is because he expected to receive an email just like the one he was sent.

    How could he have avoided this? By not clicking the link in the email. He could have, and should have, logged into eBay through eBay.com.

    That is the main way to not get caught in a phishing scam. Whether it’s an email supposedly from Intuit, your bank, the government, etc., the safe way is to avoid the link in the email and go straight to the website from your address bar or your trusted browser bookmarks.

    Recently there have been a lot of phishing emails going around that falsely claim to be from Intuit. You can check on Intuit security alerts at http://security.intuit.com.

    Do you have a phish story? Or any other advice?

    If you are like most small businesses, you don’t have a systematic method or procedure for backing up your business data. I know this because I have talked to literally thousands of people over the years who find themselves needing a backup they don’t have.

    So here’s a habit to get into that is not too hard to do, and that potentially can keep catastrophe away from your door. Backup on Fridays.

    Now it’s true that it’s better to have a daily or nightly backup. And there are ways to do that that I’ll post about sometime. But don’t let perfection keep you from better. The best backup plan is one that will actually happen.

    So if you aren’t making regular backups now, decide to make Friday your backup day. That way, your worst case scenario in case of a data disaster would probably be to rekey one weeks’ worth of data. For most businesses, that would be inconvenient but not a total nightmare. (Have the nightmare scenario? Click here.)

    One critical element to this plan is to get your backup off your hard drive, and take the backup offsite.

    Why? If you backup to your hard drive and your computer gets stolen, burned up, flooded, or just plain crashes the next time you turn it on, your backup is useless if it’s still on that computer.

    But if you backup to a flash drive (aka USB drive, thumb drive, memory stick), CD, external hard drive, and you take it home or keep it in your purse or pocket, then you’re covered regardless of what happens to your office computer. Just common sense, eh?

    A lot of flash drives have built in security, so you can password-protect your information.

    You should backup not only your QuickBooks data files, but any mission-critical files, or files that otherwise would be inconvenient to lose (e.g. your /documents folder.)

    So put it on your calendar for every Friday: BACKUP TODAY. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s important.

    What is your backup plan or procedure? Does it work well for you?

    What version of QuickBooks am I using?

    What edition of QuickBooks am I using?

    What update patch do I have installed?

    How big is my data file?

    How fragmented is it? (And thus, how potentially unstable is it?)

    Where is my data file located?

    Where is my license number information?

    All these questions and more are easily found simply by pressing the F2 key when you are in QuickBooks with your company opened.

    If you find yourself needing support, through QuickbooksUsers.com or otherwise, this will probably be information you are going to need.

    The update patch is shown right after your version. In this screen shot, it shows R5P.

    If your file size is large (250MB or more for Pro or Premier versions, 750MB or more for Enterprise) and your DB file fragments are high (20 or more), then your file is potentially more likely to get corrupted. You can get those numbers down with supercondensing or a company recreate.

    One other nice number from the F2 screen: free memory. QuickBooks likes to have lots of elbow room.