Some things in business improve over time, and others seem stuck.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell tested the first working telephone with the words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

If he had instead said, “Mr. Watson, come here. The answer is found!” then Watson would have replied, “The answer is sound? Yes, I hear it!” And Bell would have said, “No, no! Found! Found! F as in Frank!”

Which is what people still say in 2010 when they talk on the phone. You place an order over the phone. The rep asks you, “Is that F as in Frank?” “No, it’s S as in Sam”. “F” and “S” sounds are hard to differentiate over the phone even today.

You would think that after more than a century and billions of implementations, the telecommunication industry would have figured out how to make us intelligible to one another. But no. Smartphones are amazingly powerful, but how about some clear speech for our business phone calls?

Today there are a few centuries-old business practices/hassles that just might have taken a turn for the better with QuickBooks 2010:

* Filing documents. QuickBooks 2010 has an optional digital document management option. Scan and shred instead of file and store. There are 3rd party solutions for this too. Not only do you save storage space, but the digitized documents (invoices, for example) can be accessed within QuickBooks. That saves a lot of time on the retrieval side later on.

* Going to the bank to make deposits. The online check deposit option lets you scan and upload your checks for deposit instead of having to make a run to the bank. Saves time, gas, hassle. Brilliant!

* Making copies and taking them offsite. I have no idea how bookkeepers 100 years ago would deal with the possibility of the company books being destroyed by fire, etc. Maybe they would periodically make hand copies and take them offsite? Maybe not. In 2010, the online backup service offered by Intuit and 3rd party vendors makes it easy and efficient to safeguard the books in case something goes wrong.

The Intuit Workplace App Center adds even more problem-solving options to QuickBooks 2010.

Do you think QB 2010 makes a significant jump in office productivity? Are there other longstanding business problems you can think of that QuickBooks is addressing now?

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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.

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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?

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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?

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QuickBooks disasters come in at least three flavors.

Scenario #1: System failure: A QuickBooks user has some kind of system catastrophe. A fire, a computer theft, a flood, a server hard drive crash and trash. The computer goes down and takes QuickBooks with it.

That is the time when current, reliable backups are more than handy — they are the lifeline to restoring your normal accounting and/or business operations. It’s true that my company can repair damaged QuickBooks files, but the cost is not insignificant. The best thing is just to have a good backup from, say, yesterday. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Backup.

Scenario #2: Human failure: Your brother-in-law is pretty good with computers, you say. So he got on your computer, and trying to clean things up, ended up deleting your Quickbooks files. Or your just-fired bookkeeper sends you a message: he/she reformats your computer before he/she walks out the door. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Backup. IT pros can maybe recover your files intact, or maybe not. Best thing is to have good current backups.

Note: Making backups seems to be one of my big themes; I hope you don’t tire of it. The reason I talk about it so much is because I have conversations almost every day with QuickBooks users who find themselves wishing they had more or better backups than they have. The fact that they don’t have them is good for my support business, but not much fun for my clients. FYI.

Scenario #3: Accounting control failure: QuickBooks has the reputation of being pretty easy for non-accountants to use. That’s a double-edged sword: it gives people in small business the power to do their own books, but in the wrong hands, it also gives an avenue to embezzle money. This is especially true in businesses where one individual is responsible for everything related to the books.

A lady in my town was convicted a couple of years ago of defrauding the construction company she worked for out of several tens of thousands of dollars, and that was their scenario. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Have more than one person involved in the bookkeeping, and have your books audited. There is a lot more to say about this; consult your local CPA.

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Here are four ideas to be more successful with QuickBooks for the balance of this year:

1. Make a good backup plan, and implement it. Talk to your local IT pro or give us a call for practical advice on this. Everyone knows they should have good regular backups. Studies show that 90% don’t follow through. But you go ahead! If your computer crashes later this year, you will thank me. Yes! You will.

2. Get your versions of QuickBooks, Windows, and your hardware all lined up. Don’t run QuickBooks 2005 under Windows 7. Or run QuickBooks 2010 on a PC you bought in 2005. Hardware, operating system, and applications work together best when they were produced around the same time.

3. Make QuickBooks work harder for you. It can do more than just pay your bills and reconcile your bank account, you know? Have you ever showed your QuickBooks reports to someone who can interpret them for you and tell you how you could tweak your business to make it way more profitable? That’s where some hidden accounting beauty lies…in the potential bottom line. Talk to your CPA, to a virtual CFO, or talk to us to get connected to one. You’ll spend a little, but maybe save or make a lot.

4. If you are using QuickBooks 2010, check out some of the optional services/apps. Online document management, online check depositing, email marketing…there are lots of new services to consider that can help save time or create new revenue.

Are you going to try anything new with QuickBooks this year?

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