Have you ever seen a screen like this?

I hope not!

But if you ever do find yourself unable to open your company, or it fails when you try to do certain operations in QuickBooks, there are three possibilities for recovery:

1. Restore your last good backup. Hopefully you have one that is pretty current.

Just make sure that you copy off your bad version of the data before you restore. Sound strange? Once you restore, your backup will overwrite your current data — that’s a permanent thing. So copy your bad version of the QBW file to a different location before restoring, just to keep all your options open.

If option #1 is unavailable or impractical for you…

2.  Upload your damaged file to QuickbooksUsers.com for repair. We have corrected over 10,000 damaged accounting databases since the 1980s, and our success rate with damaged QuickBooks data files is 95%.

If your QBW file is hopelessly corrupted, or is somehow even missing…

3. Upload your last good backup — even if it’s old — and your current TLG file.  The TLG file is your transaction log file and has the same name as your QBW file, but has a TLG extension. We can take your old backup and your current TLG file and bring your old backup up to date.

Most users never encounter this problem. But if you do, at least you have some options.

Last Friday, QuickBooks Online was offline for about a half day. There was quite a bit of Twitter traffic about it — people were frustrated who needed to access their books and couldn’t.

That is the downside of cloud computing: When there’s a problem with the cloud, everybody gets rained on. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)

So you might conclude that putting your accounting data in the cloud makes you vulnerable to outages like last Friday’s. And you’d be right about that.

The alternative is desktop software, like QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Enterprise. When QuickBooks is installed on your server or your computer’s hard drive, it is under YOUR control, and any problems on Intuit’s servers aren’t going to affect you too much.

No, you then have a different set of potential issues to deal with: issues with your own system.

  • Power blips in your office
  • Hard drive crashes on your computer
  • Viruses/worms/malware on your computer
  • Backup failures on your computer
  • Theft/fire/flood affecting your computer
  • Software conflicts between QuickBooks and other software installed on your computer
  • Outdated versions on your computer

There is an extremely good chance that Intuit’s IT department is more sophisticated than yours and is better equipped to prevent these kinds of problems than you are. But if you are running QuickBooks on your own computer(s) and have a good IT plan in place, you might go for years without any problems.

So the bottomline is this: Who do you want to manage the inherent risks associated with business IT?

One final thing.  This isn’t especially a QuickBooks question or even an accounting software question; it is a question that exists for any cloud vs. desktop business app.

What do you think? Do you trust the cloud or your desktop machine more?

This error showed up over the weekend. It is associated with an update that came out in AVG’s anti-virus software. This update, 271.1.1/2832 (AVG v9.0.814) falsely detects QuickBooks as being infected with a virus.

The workaround to the problem is to set up an AVG exception so that the QuickBooks folder is not scanned.

Details are on a QuickBooks KnowledgeBase page here.

If additional help needed — a walkthrough of the process, for example — give us a call at 1-800-999-9209 or click here.

At lunchtime, I had a bit of a dilemma: eat the grapefruit, which was what I really wanted to eat, or eat some strawberries, which are more expensive and which spoil faster.

I felt slightly guilty about letting the strawberries potentially spoil, so I grabbed them.

But then I heard in my mind the words of my old University of Texas economics professor: “Sunk costs are forever sunk!”

That simple sentence means that if you’ve paid for something, that decision is done, and it should not emotionally effect the decisions you make now. I paid for the strawberries, and that’s not going to change, whether I eat them or not.

What’s my goal? A pleasant meal. The meal would be nicer with grapefruit rather than with strawberries, given my current mood. So I should not let the cost of the strawberries drive my decision.

We encounter this in small business all the time.

“I spent a fortune to hire that guy — I can’t fire him now!”

“We spent a lot for that machine. I don’t care that it’s worse than what we did before, we can’t afford to just stop using it.”

“We’ve invested years in that product…we’ve got to make it profitable.”

No. No. No.

Sunk costs are forever sunk. What we chose to do in the past — what we spent in the past — doesn’t matter now. What we choose to do now should be what will advance our goals now.

Oh and by the way, I put the strawberries back in the fridge and ate the grapefruit.

With the 2010 version, QuickBooks added a new feature called the Company Snapshot. It gives you a consolidated screen of most-important information about your company’s finances.

quickbooks company snapshot

There are bar graphs, pie charts, and key lists of accounts. Most of them are related to income/expense trends, comparative figures for current/last year, and most important A/R and A/P accounts. Good stuff to get a handle on the financial big picture at one look.

Intuit gives you some up-sell options, but they don’t seem too intrusive.

These bar graphs show trends for income and expense, and you can view different time frames. This is a simple but very important metric for small business owners and managers to follow — are sales going up, or not? Are we making a profit, or not? A lot of businesses fail for lack of such basic financial information, and QuickBooks makes it easy to grasp the trends here very quickly.

Another bar graph I like is Top Customers by Sales. Look at it and ask yourself how much attention you are giving to those accounts. They are not ones to be neglected…rather, they are the ones most likely to continue giving you substantial orders or contracts. Again, QuickBooks 2010 makes it easy to see it.

There are 3rd party solutions that do even more with the dashboard concept for QuickBooks, but the built-in Company Snapshot is a good approach for a lot of small businesses.

QuickBooks 2010 introduced something new: a suite of optional products/services that integrate into QuickBooks. There have been 3rd party solutions available for QuickBooks for years, but the difference here is that these new products/services live on the web.

They are accessible directly within the QuickBooks application, by clicking on the App Center button. You’ll see the Intuit Workplace App Center.

Almost all of these solutions are available to try for free for a limited time. Then there is a monthly subscription fee if you choose to continue using them.

There are currently three main categories of apps:

1. Professional Services apps. These include document, fax, and expense managers and other efficiency-enhancers for professional offices.

2. Financial Services apps. Add-ins for accountants, tax practioners and financial advisors.

3. Field Service apps. Route and vehicle tracking and more.

There are also project management apps, marketing and CRM apps, management reporting apps, and a nice inventory analysis app.

The suite of available solutions is growing all the time and with it, the possibility of making millions of offices more productive.

I interviewed Allison Semancik, a marketing consultant in Miami, and asked her questions about marketing principles for CPAs and other professionals. This entry is the last in the series.

* * *

Me: Email seems pretty low-tech these days, but studies indicate it still dominates business-to-business communications. Any ideas about how accountants and other professionals can do more with email to enhance their overall marketing?

Allison: I love email marketing and for most people, it’s still the choice of communication online (as opposed to social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn). It’s very inexpensive to sign up with an email marketing service (iContact and MailChimp are two I like) that offers slick newsletter templates.

Accountants and IT professionals have a wealth of information that their clients and potential clients are craving.  Send out a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter with tips or let them know about upcoming seminars you are presenting.  The important things to remember:

1. Be consistent with your email marketing – set up a schedule and stick to it.  Send out your newsletter every month or quarter, so your list expect.  You don’t want to have someone sign up and then not email them for months.

2. Give your list useful information – it’s not all about selling.

3. Build your own list – don’t buy it.  You’ll be much better off with a targeted list of people who have a real interest in what you have to say.

4. Put a newsletter sign up form on your website and considering giving a free report to anyone who signs up.  They’ll have an incentive to sign up and it gives them a taste of the great information you’ll be providing in your newsletter.

Me: Any final tips or ideas for us?

Allison: Have some patience!  Inbound marketing is a great way to build relationships, drive traffic to your site and gain new clients.  But it will take time.  Give yourself 3-4 months before you can expect to see some results.  Once you do, you’ll be well on your way to expanding your online presence.

Me: Thank you, Allison!

Allison Semancik can be contacted through her blog.

I interviewed Allison Semancik, a marketing consultant in Miami, and asked her questions about marketing principles for CPAs and other professionals. This entry is the 3rd in the series.

* * *

Me: What do you think some reasonable goals would be for accounting or other professionals who have a presence in social media? How would you recognize a win?

Allison:  First, determine your reason(s) for getting involved in social media.  Examples might be: drive traffic to your site, network with other professionals or establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Second, dedicate 15 minutes a day to social media and decide where you want to get involved.  Remember, even though Facebook and Twitter are very popular right now, it might not be the first place you need to start (depending on your industry).  Perhaps you start by answering questions in forums where your potential clients are asking questions.  Check out the Intuit Community forum or the QuickBooksUsers forum.

Some of your goals can be measured concretely with Google Analytics.  You’ll be able to see the amount of traffic coming from other sites and forums to your website.   You can even set up goals within Analytics to see if that traffic converts.

There are also other kinds of wins – you find a great referral source or you become known as an expert in your field.  These are not as easily measured, but equally important to your long term success.

Allison Semancik can be contacted through her blog.

  • Next blog entry: How accountants can use email to enhance their marketing.