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Tag Archives: Intuit QuickBooks
Fishbowl announced the release of SalesPoint, a new point of sale (POS) software add-on to Fishbowl Inventory, a popular addition to QuickBooks that helps companies manage their inventory. SalesPoint integrates with Fishbowl Inventory to track a product from the time it enters a warehouse to the time it leaves in a customer’s hands. The Utah-based company says the integration eliminates time loss and errors due to double entry and typing product information.
Android users, you can now use QuickBooks on your phone. This week Intuit announced QuickBooks Mobile for Android, allowing you to create estimates, manage invoices, view customer details and more all from your mobile phone. The application, which is designed for small business owners who are regularly on the go, lets you access customer and sales information, check customer balances, create estimates on-the-go and invoice at a job site without having to go back to the office.
Small business owners need an online presence to survive these days, but regulating a website becomes difficult when you don’t know a lick of HTML. Targeting this demographic, Intuit has announced the latest upgrade to its Intuit Websites platform, providing tools that make it drop-dead simple to create websites and boost online visibility.
Once upon a time, Microsoft introduced Windows Vista, assuming Windows XP users would upgrade to the new operating system as a matter of course. We all know how that turned out. This past October, Microsoft tried again, with the release of its newest operating system, Windows 7. This time around the new operating system is gathering kudos from users and reviewers, who praise the features and performance, and the fact that Windows 7 does not demand as much computing power as Windows Vista did. Oddly, experts also all note that Windows 7… really isn’t all that different from Vista after all. “I look at Windows 7 as new service pack for Windows Vista,” says Christopher Blake, workstation administrator, The Benchmark Group, an architectural and engineering firm. Still, he says, the new name made it easier for Benchmark to opt for the upgrade. “In my opinion, Vista was a good operating system for the enterprise, but the problem was really psychological. People hated the word ‘Vista,’ and we would have been martyrs if we’d tried to roll it out.” Like The Benchmark Group, the majority of companies that stuck with Windows XP in the face of Vista’s real or reputed problems now face an additional challenge as they plan their move to Windows 7. While upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 is merely a matter of installing the new disk, an upgrade from Windows XP means reinstalling all the applications on the computer as well. “I don’t know if the intent was to reward the people who upgraded to Vista or punish the people who stayed with XP, but they did not include a user-friendly tool for migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 — and they knew that was what most of their customer base would be doing,” Blake says. Still, the new features in Windows 7 make it appealing to both end users and IT staff. Most smart phones and mobile devices are recognized instantly when they are plugged in, and mobile workers can now have laptops that recognize their location and sent print jobs to the nearest printer, while the IT team gains the ability to install software remotely and handle power management more efficiently. “Now is the right time for us to move to Windows 7, because we’re seeing that we can benefit from the new technology and new features,” Blake says. Time to switch With Microsoft committed to security support for Windows XP (with Service Pack 3) until at least 2014, is now the right time to move to Windows 7 for your company? Yes, if you want Windows 7’s new features, if your users do a lot of mobile computing, and if you use mostly standard business applications such as QuickBooks and Microsoft Office. Also if you are buying new desktop computers, since the new machines will likely come with Windows 7 preloaded. No, if you don’t want to buy any new hardware, since moving to Windows 7 will probably require new video cards for some computers at the very least. You should also wait if your company uses large numbers of unusual or custom applications. “Our accountant clients use a huge number of different applications, and I wouldn’t even consider upgrading them right now because too many of those applications won’t run on Windows 7 yet,” notes Byron Patrick, CEO of Simplified Innovations, a managed IT provider that supplies both IT services and leased equipment to small business clients. Windows 7 does come with Windows XP Mode, which creates a virtual XP environment within a Windows 7 computer, for the purpose of running any applications that don’t run on Windows 7. But managing a virtual personal computer inside of a physical personal computer may be a bit much for some users. “Like any computer, it has to have network access set up, be connected to a printer, and to the Internet,” Patrick says. “Expecting corporate users to handle all this may be unrealistic.” Ready or not To its credit, Microsoft has provided some tools this time around to help you determine both whether the hardware you have will be adequate to run Windows 7, and whether the applications you have are compatible with it yet. “We have a compatibility wizard built into Windows 7 that will scan the hard drive and let you know if your hardware and software are Windows 7 compatible,” says Lee Sabow, marketing manager in the Windows Client Organization at Microsoft. Or, if you want to find out before investing in the new operating system whether your applications will work with it, you can find out at Microsoft’s Compatibility Center, he says. If you do decide to go ahead, Patrick recommends copying the data off the computer to be upgraded, and then formatting its hard drive before installing Windows 7. “On any system, when you have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, it’s great,” he says. “And by doing it now, you avoid any anomalies that might occur because of the upgrade.” As for installing the new operating system itself, he says, it’s easier than with any previous Windows installation. “With Windows XP, halfway through there were things we had to click to continue the process. With Windows 7, we have it loaded on a USB drive. We plug it in, set it to install, and half an hour later, it’s done.” For small group upgrades, it may make sense to reinstall applications manually, but Blake advises using an automated software deployment tool if you’re upgrading more than 50 users, especially if you only have one or two IT staff members to handle the job. “Most tools won’t deploy the operating system itself, but they will deploy the applications,” he says. “He advises choosing a tool with reporting capabilities, so you can see what upgrades have been successfully completed and which users have which software installed. “You have to know what’s going on in your environment before you can manage your environment,” he explains. The Benchmark Group uses a KBOX appliance from KACE for software deployment, he adds. However you do it, make sure to build in enough time for testing the new operating system with your company’s applications, and also for training on how to use it. “Don’t get into a situation where the upgrade will become a pain point for people,” Blake says. “We have time, so take it slow, and do it right.”
While the economy limps along, Chris Cunningham’s heating and air conditioning business in suburban Indianapolis is enjoying unprecedented success. Business at Service Plus Heating and Air Conditioning is up 40 percent since Cunningham passed out a new tool to his technicians earlier this year. Moving much of his business to iPhones has transformed his operation, says Cunningham. “It has really set us apart locally, set us light years ahead of my competition,’’ Cunningham says. “It has changed everything. I’ve been able to hire two extra technicians.” Business applications for iPhones are expanding at a mind-boggling pace. You can manage your payroll, bank accounts, transactions, appointments, communications, and more from an appliance small enough to slip in a pocket. But does it make sense to move almost all of your business operations to an iPhone? Is it possible to be too reliant on the iPhone and its many apps? The answers, say the experts, depend much on what type of business you’re running and what sort of functionalities you require. Putting mobility in new hands The ability to conduct business via the iPhone or a smartphone is bringing connectivity to the blue collar workforce — or at least the blue collar workers who toil from location to location, notes Luc Vezina, director of product marketing for Protus, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business communications company. “I’m always amazed at how often it’s the people who aren’t in the office setting who are using this stuff,’’ says Vezina. “Now you can give a smartphone to an employee where it didn’t make sense to give them a computer. You have people who were before doing paper-based tasks and giving them a smartphone isn’t costing you as much as providing a computer and an Internet connection.” For businesses that move functions such as service orders and credit card processing to an iPhone at work sites, the benefits are readily apparent, says Cunningham. He notes these improvements: More efficient customer service. With the flick of a thumb, his technicians can show manufacturers’ websites with furnace specifications. On a standard proposal, each model number links back to the manufacturer’s site. Bills, pricing forms, and estimates are loaded and ready to go. Cunningham, who says wryly, “I’m not a computer programmer,” spent a weekend creating the forms using FormSpring’s Web form builders. He spends just $30 a month for the FormSpring service. “My guys can produce three or four estimates effortlessly,” Cunningham says. Quicker turnaround. Businesses that rely on writing orders in the field can particularly benefit from using iPhone apps. “We used to have to do a paper carbonless copy, and it would take a 24-hour turnaround,’’ says Cunningham. “Now, when a technician hits send, I know instantly what he’s done, what he’s charged. Mitigating human error. Handwriting can be difficult to read. Workers without any great love for completing forms can be sloppy or forgetful. “We had a great office staff before, but the road block was always my technicians,’’ Cunningham says. Cost savings. Cunningham spent $1,200 on six iPhones and pays about $700 a month for AT&T service, less than his phone bill was before. He saves the money he spent printing orders, and he figures the expense is a far cry from the $10,000 to $15,000 he would have spent on other automation systems he considered. Performing so many business apps on iPhones and smartphones clearly works well if you’re not tethered to an office. Vezina sees real estate agents, truck drivers, and construction supervisors taking advantage of the apps. Marc Cantell and his Chinook Materials team use Egnyte, a virtual file server, to pull up architectural drawings or contracts at construction sites in suburban Portland, Ore. The best business apps are single purpose and easy to use without much of a learning curve, Vezina advises. When using an iPhone doesn’t make sense Still, there are times when an iPhone won’t suffice. An iPhone or a smartphone work well when you’re not trying to enter a significant amount of information, points out Vezina. Trying to write a lengthy e-mail? Working on multiple files at once? Manipulate a complicated website? You don’t want to abandon your laptop or PC just yet. For folks who work extensively with spreadsheets, the trend is actually toward bigger monitors, Vezina says. Cunningham still uses an office PC to run Quickbooks. And while some business apps are a revelation and are transforming the way we do business, others are downright buggy, says Mark Kadrich, CEO of The Security Consortium, a business security consulting company. He particularly dislikes the inability to effectively edit documents. “Yes, there are apps that allow you to edit documents, but give me a break!” he says. “They’re buggy and difficult to use. There’s no way for you to see how a doc looks, not to mention being able to print something.” Kadrich and others also caution that they still have security concerns about vulnerabilities in the iPhone platform. Reliability is an issue as well for Tony Nestor, CEO of Progress Technologies, Inc., and a software developer. Enjoy the benefits of connectivity, but remain a bit cautious, he advises. Back up data elsewhere and have an alternative appliance readily available. “As a small business owner, I have found our iPhones and Blackberry devices to be crucial to staying connected while on the move,’’ Nestor says. “Er, that is until they stop working. I would say moving everything over to mobile is a lot like the old saying, ‘Putting all your eggs in one basket.’’’