Cloud Accounting QuickBooks

Can I Share My QuickBooks File on Google Drive or Dropbox?

Written by Charlie Russell

I’m seeing this question quite often these days, and the answer is really simple. If you are talking about just passing a copy of the file around from one person to another with only one person using the file at a time, sure, go ahead, use a service like Google Drive or Dropbox if you want to (although I don’t usually recommend that). However, if you are talking about accessing your QuickBooks file from one of these drives in a multi-user configuration, do not even consider doing this! You don’t even have to read this article, just don’t do it. Don’t believe me? Well, read on…

Sharing a QuickBooks file can mean different things to different people. Are you going to have one person use the file at a time, “serially”, or will multiple people try to update the file at the same, in “parallel”?

Cloud based shared folder products like Dropbox and Google Drive offer free services (for a limited amount of storage) that let you store files on a cloud server that can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer. This is a very convenient way for moving files between different computers. Often these shared folders appear on your computer just like any other shared drive in your network. You can even map them to a drive letter. However, they are only set up for “serial” sharing, they should not be used for “parallel” sharing.

Serial Sharing Can Be OK

By “serial” I mean one person at a time, one after the other. Do you have a single user installation of QuickBooks and just use it on one computer? You aren’t sharing the file, so you are OK. What if you have the QuickBooks database (your “company file” or QBW file) at your office and you want to take it home to work on it over the weekend? You have to be careful and make sure that while you have a copy at home nobody else will work on the office copy. After you work with it at home you can copy the file back to the office. This is “serial” sharing, with one person at a time, one copy of the file.

This kind of sharing can be risky because there are no controls over how the file is managed. You have to have good discipline, a good procedure so that you don’t have mix-ups.

Shared cloud based file services like Dropbox or Google Drive work well in this situation as long as you are sure that only one person is working with the file. You are passing that file around from one place to another and only that one copy is being updated. If two people access a copy of the file and update it you have a problem, as you can’t easily merge the changes that both people make into one file (you can, with tools like the Data Transfer Utility, but that can be complicated).

And, let me be clear, I’m only talking about using this to move the file from one computer to another. DO NOT use QuickBooks to open the file on this service/drive directly, only use the service to move the file from one place to another. Copy it to a local drive (or a drive on your LAN) and access it from there.

One Program to Control Them All

By “parallel” I mean two or more people trying to update the file at the same time.

A QuickBooks database file isn’t just a simple file that you are opening directly, like a Word document file. When you start QuickBooks on your computer the program isn’t opening the file directly, it is actually communicating with a data “service”. If you have a properly set up multi user system you will have one data service that is managing all of the access to your QuickBooks database file from each user. Each QuickBooks “client” is communicating with this service, which acts as a traffic cop to control the flow of information in and out of the database.

If two people try to update the same piece of information at the same time, the data service may allow one user to update but tell the other user that they have to wait (the information is “locked”). You can’t have two people editing the same invoice at one time. In some cases it is simply a matter of making sure that information is updated sequentially, such as how transaction numbers are assigned in the proper order when multiple people are adding invoices.

The essential element here is that there is one program, the data service, that is handling all of the reading and writing of data. In addition, there is really only one copy of the database that is being managed by the data service.

How Cloud Shared Drives Work

If you set up a shared drive like Dropbox or Google Drive it often looks like you just have another shared drive on your computer, just like any other drive on your local network. You can even map a drive letter to this shared drive. However, that isn’t really what is happening. What you are accessing is a synchronized copy of your file that is stored locally on your computer. You’ll see (using Dropbox as an example) a “My Dropbox” folder in your C: drive. As you make changes to the file on your local computer, Dropbox will make a copy of that file onto the shared drive so that other remote users can see it. This is NOT a single file being shared – each user has their own local copy. There isn’t a “traffic cop” that is keeping all your updates in order.

Wait, don’t you have a copy of the data service running on your computer, that is managing the access to the file? Well, yes, but the problem is that each user at a different location will have their own copy of the data service, not just one. These data services aren’t connected, they aren’t talking to each other, so data access is not being coordinated.

Problems, There Will Be Problems

As you can see, if you are trying to set up a cloud shared folder so that you can share your QuickBooks database for multi user (parallel) access, there are going to be problems. You don’t have one traffic cop out there to keep things flowing smoothly. Each user will have their own local copy of the data, which is periodically sent to the cloud drive. There is no arbitration, not merging, no coordination of the data being updated. You don’t know which user’s data will be saved, which will be lost.

Note that the QuickBooks data service is trying to provide data to you as quickly as possible, so it might hold on to some information in memory without fully writing it back to the database file immediately. It is possible that the copy of the file that the cloud service saves might be an incompletely or partially updated copy of the file as it exists on your hard drive.

At the very least you will have some users getting out of date information. You can easily, however, run into data integrity problems or even corrupted/damaged data. You might not see the results of these problems immediately, which is worse because problems can accumulate and be more difficult to repair later.

And if that isn’t enough, let’s look at Google Terms of Service and Google Privacy Policy. There has been a vigorous discussion over what exactly you are agreeing to when you place your data on a free service like this. Are you giving “Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works” based on your data? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. In any case, if you use Intuit products, this might not be the first time that you have had to think about who has access to your data.

There was a lively discussion on this topic in The Sleeter Group’s member forum on this topic, with contributions from Mario Nowogrodzki, Mike Branch and Seth David. Thanks for hashing this out for us, guys! And my thanks to Bill Murphy for helping me think out some of the details (and I’m sure he’ll have some clarifications on what I wrote here).

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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been the managing editor and primary writer for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. Charlie can be reached at [email protected]

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


    • Well said Charlie and Doug…

      On the other hand…maybe I should be saying for ‘them’ to just go ahead and do it..(open that file in a drop box)….afterall I need all the ‘QB file repair’ business I can get, and that is one certain way for someone to need a file recovery service in no time at all. HaHa HaHa HaHa HaHa


      • There are a couple of these kinds of “sharing” services around, where you check a copy of the file in and out. But it is a stopgap, and it does NOT address some of the concerns here.

        That product (and others like it) allow just one person, or location, to “check out” the file at a time (as I understand it from the website, I’ll admit I haven’t tried this particular service).

        That isn’t the main thing that I’m addressing – which is using something like DropBox as a way to have SHARED – SIMULTANEOUS use of the file. Using DropBox (and other similar services) as a “file drive in the cloud”. That is a very different issue.

        • With Qbox, there is no need to ‘check out’ the QBW file – it is automatically synced to the Qbox shared folder. When opened, Qbox prompts the user to ‘lock’ the file. Only changes made by a user with ‘file lock’ are synced and shared. Other users can simultaneously view the file on their desktops, but any changes they make will not be synced, ensuring file coherency.

          It is correct that Qbox allows only one user to make changes at a time – it is not meant to address the need for multiple users wanting to enter transactions simultaneously.

      • You can select to show the comlun item number and description and remove the option to show item number and description as individual comluns and then the line note will show up in the PO Report.

  • I understand about not putting a “live” QB file in DropBox, but what about backups that will be restored on another computer.

    I’ve used DropBox for that purpose. I do try to limit the restored copy for read/reporting purposes, and transactional work only as necessary. If the transactional work is necessary, I’ve then made a backup and put in DropBox for restoring on the original computer.

    I can report that I’ve had no problems that I am aware of from Windows backup – to storage – to PC restore, but had a MAJOR corruption issue using cloud storage for MAC to Windows conversion for restore and transactional work. Never again……

    • Cynthia, that is what I say right in the opening paragraph. If you are just using it to pass the file around, go ahead. That is also what I was trying to say in the “serial sharing” paragraph as well.

      Although there are still cautions, mainly security (who has access), control (if multiple people are sharing, who has the file now?) and possibly the terms of use of the provider.

      • Thanks for the quick response Charlie…. looooong day, tired brain.

        I guess I misunderstood “copy” — because I still say/think “backup” (QBB)…

        and when I think “live” I think QBW — especially after rereading Michelle Long’s April 3, 2011 blog just this morning discussing not putting the QBW in a shared directory….

  • And with all this discussion of how to and how not to share a file, I just must ask….one more time….and just ‘what’ happened to ‘Share- books’, Intuit’s limited (extremely limited) version of Sybase replication manager…that would have let people share multiple working copies of a file???????? Oh apparently it conflicts with their intention of pushing, pushing, pushing ‘QuickBooks on-line’; afterall why let them share desktop copies when they can migrate their customer’s file to the Intuit cloud product in the long run..????????

    Indeed, the cloud has ‘not so silver’ a lining unless you own the cloud, then it is all ‘golden’.


    • Murph, haven’t heard of it for awhile. They had a “check in-check out” system set up so that only one person would have the file at a time. I’m not surprised that it didn’t fly – it didn’t get a great reception from most testers/users. And, Intuit looks (from where I sit) to be cutting back on many kinds of services that it provides on their servers (document management, for example), I think that they didn’t want to get into that aspect of the business at this time.

  • Thanks, Charlie! I always enjoy your thoughtful, easy-to-understand articles–you’re one of the only people I read consistently. I appreciate your detailed explanation of lots of complicated topics. I have learned so much from you.

    Keep it comin’…

  • Charlie, one other nuance re the use of Google Drive/CloudDrive/JungleDisk mapped cloud drives. It’s a bad idea EVEN FOR A SINGLE USER to keep a live company file on these services. I’ve seen corruption happen during the delayed synchronization these systems use. Backup files in the cloud are OK but not the company file.

  • Hello Charlie,

    I read your articles as often as possible; I, too, have learned so much from reading your articles. I recently started sharing a file with a client, who isn’t computer savvy and it’s already turning into somewhat of a nightmare! Today, he did what I’ve feared most, opened an old file and started working in it! Thank goodness, he decided to call and ask a question before he started re-creating the data! What is your suggestion for the safest method to share a file? Is QuickBooks remote a good option? Thank you.

    • Nancy, there are lots of ways of dealing with client files, each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. I can’t say which would work for you without knowing a lot more.

      You can use one of many remote access tools to directly access the client file.

      You can share files back and forth, as long as you are careful.

      You can use the “accountant’s copy” feature of QuickBooks Accountant for many kinds of operations.

      You can use a “Hosted” setup, with InSynq or one of the many similar hosting solutions.

      You can move to QuickBooks Online Edition.

      All have good and not as good points.

  • I’m the only person using Quickbooks Pro 2008 in my very small single person operation. I have a very capable Windows Desktop (its my primary computer) and when I travel, use my MacBook. I am a new user to Google Drive. I updated my QB (Reconciled) yesterday. This morning I wanted to look at the file from my Mac and confusingly, the file has not been updated via Google Drive. Could anyone advise me what perhaps the problem might be? I am online 24/7. One of the main reasons for going the Cloud route was to have constantly “real time” files. And to be frank – primarily for QB. Thanks in anticipation.

    • Hartog, hard to say exactly what the issue is, as there are a lot of details missing. How are you trying to access you QB for Windows file from a Mac? And, is the Google drive the primary location for the QB file from your desktop, or are you copying it there? I would never, ever use a Google drive to store the main, active QB file. I would keep it on my local computer, and copy it there when I’m going out (but, again, how are you accessing from a Mac?).

  • Hi Charlie –

    Thanks for the great information. I see you were already asked a similar question to what I’m going to ask – sorry! I’m wondering if there are options I’m not thinking of – here are the ways I can think of to have multiple users at multiple locations access QuickBooks, and the problems I see with them. Can you give me guidance as to what I may be missing or any misconceptions I have?

    QuickBooks Online – I HATE this program for anything beyond basic bookkeeping. It’s clunky and seems dumbed down.

    QuickBooks Remote Access through WebEx – the host computer has to always be on and awake and it can’t be used for other work while it is being remotely accessed.

    Sharing files through various methods – have to use great caution to make sure the right files are being shared.

    “Cloud” hosting services – expensive, generally around $50/user/month just for the access.

    Are there other solutions?


    • Diane, you’ve pretty much run through the list. I wouldn’t use the “sharing files” option as it is just too risky and problematical. There are other remote access options other than WebEx but they all have that same issue. There are other online accounting products other than QBO (like, Xero, Intacct, etc) but they are very different. But your list is pretty accurate.

  • This article is wrong. I’ve been using Dropbox for several years to share live Quickbooks files and have never had any problem besides the same one you’ll have any time two users open the same file, whether it’s a QB file, a spreadsheet, or anything else.

    And that’s because Dropbox *can’t* sync files to everyone’s computer in real-time. There is no conflict for the file to work through, because when I have a file open on my computer, it will only send my file to the other user’s Dropboxes when it’s saved; or in the case of Quickbooks, when the file is closed. And as long as I’ve got my QB file open, it will only save changes on my computer and not try to send to anyone else’s.

    And what happens when two people are accessing the file at the same time? It saves *both* copies to Dropbox, just like it does with every other file opened by more than one person. So the person who’s in first has the main copy and the other user’s file is labeled as a “conflicted” copy; which only appears on your computer once they close their file. And I’ve seen this happen when people are being careless, and the only solution is to check for that regularly and when you see it, to pull an Audit Report in both files to see what’s missing. And then you manually enter the info into the main copy and delete the conflicted copy. Is that a bit of a pain? A little. But the advantages for me of using Dropbox far outweigh the pain of having to keep checking for conflicted files. And again, this is the same problem you’ll have with *any* file in Dropbox, because it can’t merge files together and doesn’t even try to. Dropbox replaces files with the most recently saved one. It never merges files together.

    And as for the idea of lost data, I’ve heard of it in theory but haven’t seen it at all. Nor do I see why that’d be. Because until you close your company file, it’s just saving it to your local computer, just like normal, and isn’t trying to send it to anyone else’s. And once you close it, it sends the entire file to the other users, in the same way it sends your file to a backup drive or cloud when you backup your computer. When you back up a server that has a live QB file on it, are you worried about data integrity then? Or do you trust that it will save the file properly? It’s the same thing.

    Thus said, you can’t use Dropbox in multi-user mode. It’s impossible, for the same reason Dropbox doesn’t mess up your file: Because it won’t send your changes to anyone’s computer until after you close the file. And while it says you’re in multi-user mode, you’re really using two separate files that can’t merge. I tried that briefly with a client who insisted we use it, and quickly abandoned it when we realized it wasn’t working. Didn’t mess anything up. It just gave us multiple copies of the same file which I had to manually merge together; just like normal.

    And hey, maybe I’m wrong about this and have gotten lucky that it’s worked all this time. But the people saying why it shouldn’t be done should at least accurately explain how Dropbox works and not give misinformation based upon bad guesses. Just try using it yourself with a test file and see how it works, rather than repeating the myth that it doesn’t work. And you’ll see that I’m right and that the only problem is that you can create multiple copies of the same file that you’ll have to merge together manually.

    And that’s the same problem you’ll have with *any* file in Dropbox. And as long as you’re careful and don’t have people opening the same file at the same time, there won’t be any issues at all. Or at least that’s been my experience. And while I might be wrong, I’d like to hear why from someone who’s done it and not someone who’s guessing. And anyone who’s worried that QB will have trouble merging the data together needs to learn how Dropbox works and stop repeating that myth. Not only is it not a concern, but it’s impossible, because Dropbox doesn’t merge files together.

    • Thank you for your comment. A few replies:

      -As you said yourself, you can’t use it in multi user mode. So, the value of having it out there to share is greatly diminished.

      -Having to go back to look at your audit trail to see what someone may have entered, then reentering your data a second time? That is a terrible solution. Lost time, and a huge increase in the likelihood that you will have incorrect data when you reenter it. I would never, ever recommend that to someone.

      -Data corruption CAN occur, and I’m not just guessing. I have had it happen. Now, mind you, QuickBooks can have data corruption even without using DropBox in this way, because of the ancient technology that they are using. I can’t guarantee that the corruption that I’ve seen was due solely to the way DropBox is used. But it can happen, particularly if you have a situation where one (or more) of the users have the QuicKBooks database server set up in multi user mode. I’m going to guess that in your situation you don’t have this setup, although that isn’t certain.

      Regardless of your own experience, I’ll stand by the basic premise here. Don’t do it, you will create lots and lots of problems and extra work for yourself.

    • Jim, I agree with you. I, too, have been using the dropbox for QB live files (one user at a time) for three years. Dropbox provides a wonderful solution as long everyone using it understands that only ONE person can use it at a time and that one should allow time for the file to completely upload to the dropbox before opening it after someone else has used it. I have all my clients open the file from the DROPBOX folder, never from QuickBooks opening screen. I have them CLOSE the file BEFORE EXITING QuickBooks and it works like a charm. I would like it if Dropbox had a communication feature wherein one could not it is “checked out” and when “checked back in,” but have survived without that feature for three years.

      In fact, I’ve also, for about a year now, put all my (I’m the only one that uses them) live QB files in the dropbox and it works wonderful when I am on the road. Less time to prepare for road trips and less unpacking when I return.

      Furthermore, at least one member of the ProAdvisor sales team has told me that they regularly recommend dropbox applications to the QB Developers as the desktop version is much more powerful than the online version.

      Yes, there is a way to use the dropbox efficiently and effectively, but only ONE person can use it at a time. Be sure each person has a user license.


      • Thanks for the comments, Jeannine. As the article says “serial” sharing can work, if you are careful. That is what you are talking about. My biggest issue is when people talk about multiple user access, which is demonstrably disastrous.

        With serial sharing you can get away with it, but you have to be absolutely sure that someone doesn’t violate the manual process.

  • On the contrary, I find it of GREAT value to be able to share the file in Dropbox. That way, I can do work at home or on the road, and it’s just the same as if I’m on my work computer. In some situations, I’m the only one who does work in the file, but I’m not there every day and so the business owner can look at reports from his computer instead of having to wait for me to be there or getting on my computer. But if I’m there, he wouldn’t need to get into the file, so multi-user isn’t necessary.

    And I’ve got clients who cut checks and create invoices during the day, and then I get in their computer at night to do online banking, reconciliations, and fix any problems. And sure, there are other ways of going about that, but the most simple way is using Dropbox. That way, I’ve got full access to their file, rather than dealing with the limitations of Accountant’s Copies or having to access their computer remotely which is far slower than getting into the file directly. I’ve been doing this for several years and wouldn’t consider doing anything else.

    As for conflicted copies, no, I don’t find it much of a burden. For one thing, when someone creates a conflicted file, closes it, and then gets back in again, the file they’re getting back into will be the main file again and not their conflicted copy because Quickbooks isn’t looking for the new file name. And that limits how much damage they can do. And so far, I’ve never had to enter more than a few invoices or checks at a time. And even then, when I’m entering them I’ve sometimes seen that the client entered them wrong, and so I’ve got the chance to enter it properly. But that’s a rare event and the advantages of using Dropbox make it worth the slight hassle. And I only have one client where that’s a regular problem, because he’s used to using multi-user mode and keeps forgetting that he can’t do that anymore. But he’s gotten better about that.

    As for data corruption, I suspect you’re right that it’s a multi-user problem. And that’s why I advise my clients against using multi-user mode, as it’s sketchy. But I have no qualms about using Dropbox and have experienced no problems beyond having duplicate copies, which is something that can happen to ANY file in Dropbox. And since QB has audit reports, it’s easier to fix this problem than if you’re dealing with multiple copies of spreadsheets or other files which don’t necessarily record changes.

    And so I refute your basic premise. I’ve used it for several years with many company files, and haven’t had lots of problems or extra work. Sure, it’s not perfect, but neither are the alternatives. To me, multi-user mode is far more of a problem than Dropbox is, so if data corruption is your worry, then advise against multi-user, not Dropbox. And all the same, you should accurately describe how Dropbox works and not suggest that it’ll merge the files as that simply can’t happen in Dropbox. I don’t see Dropbox as being a good solution for everyone, but it’s most definitely a great solution for my needs and I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have multiple users needing access at the same time.

    • Oh, and one thing I should note: I have the accountant version of Quickbooks, so when I’m reconciling conflicted copies, I can look at both files at the same time and make sure everything matches. And if they’ve entered detailed info on invoices, I can just copy & paste them into the proper file and not have to worry about mistakes.

      Now, if I had clients who were entering lots of transactions every week, I’d either advise them to not use Dropbox or to be SUPER careful about who was accessing the files. But my clients are all small businesses who will only have a few checks and invoices a week, so it’s really not a big issue.

      And without a doubt, if a single person would like to be able to access their file from work, home, and traveling, I would definitely recommend for them to use Dropbox. I’m the kind of guy who’s always working, even on vacations, so it’s great to be able to do work on my laptop without having to always use my laptop.

      • Jim, I guess we’ll have to just agree to disagree on this. Nothing you have said convinces me that this is anything that I would ever advise any of my clients to do. I don’t like any scenario where you have to recommend that someone do something that they have to be “SUPER careful about”. And, as I have said, data corruption is possible.

        If I’m a single person business and I’m traveling, I can take my QuickBooks file on my laptop with me.

        Alternately, I can take my laptop, or even my iPad, and use a product like LogMeIn or TeamViewer (which is what I use) to log in to my file in my office at any time.

        I have traveled all over the US and managed my own business, as well as client accounts, in this fashion. I’ve even been able to do this from locations outside of the US. I only use DropBox for storing documents that I might need, and only documents that don’t contain critical or proprietary information.

        In any case, it is always nice to have a comment from someone that has a different view of a particular subject, and I thank you for taking the time to explain your thoughts on this.

  • All helpful information, but I need a practical solution. We live in one state and our rental homes are in another. My relative pays bills in the state where the homes are and keeps books. I also have QB entries in my state on the same file. How can we each put entries in the same QB file without conflicts? We don’t want two sets of books. Too much extra work. It is a small business, very small. Is there a practical easy problem-free solution? Thanks.

    • Jay, three ideas – the one that works the best depends on some details that I don’t know about in your situation:
      1) Have one copy of QuickBooks on the computer of the person who uses QB the most. The other person can log in remotely and run that same copy of QB when the owner of the computer isn’t using it – using a product like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC (or others).

      2) Get QuickBooks in a “hosted” environment, such as with Cloud9, then anyone can use it from a remote location.

      3) Consider moving to an online accounting product. QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, or others that are similar.

  • How about other alternatives such as,, or amazon web services? Will any of these work in a shared environment?

  • I read this too late. Shared it with and now can’t open QuickBooks. Any ideas for a solution? QuickBooks file doctor doesn’t work and can’t install a backup file. Just delete the file in box or need to do something else?

    • Mark, I can’t answer that based on the info you provided. If you move the file from to your local computer, can you open it there? When you say “can’t install a backup file”, what do you mean by that?

  • Hi, I wanted to find out if you had any thoughts/experience with using a cloud drive services like CloudSafe that supports WebDav.

    • I’ve not worked with that specifically.

      There are multiple issues. However, even for this kind of service, you do NOT want to use it to actively host your QB file. You always want the QB file to be located on the same system as the database manager, or you will run into corruption problems if multiple people try to access the file.

  • Hi Charlie,

    You may have posted this answer already.

    What is the best way to share quickbooks. We have two offices and both need to be able to access the same quickbooks file. Both offices would be makeing changes to Quickbooks. I did think about about google drive ,but I’m glad I read your article about not doing that.

    Thank you,


  • I heard google drive can do it. you can simultaneously use quick books file at same time when you sare by google drive.

    • Vase, nope, won’t work. Not only is it going to be painfully slow in some cases, you are going to have a multitude of corruption problems and lost data.

      Remember that in a multi user environment, QuickBooks has a “database manager” program running. In a local area network all users are not connected to the data file directly, they are connected to the database manager. The only program that accesses the database is the database manager, one instance of that.

      If you have two people running QuickBooks using a drive like Google or anything similar, accessing from separate locations not on the same LAN, then the user’s copies of QuickBooks aren’t talking to each other or to the same copy of the database manager. So then there is no coordination between them. Disaster…

  • I am running QB 2012 Premier Manufacturing & Wholesale. I would like to purchase another copy for my co-worker so we can access the DB in Multi-User mode.

    What kind of version restrictions are there for the second copy. Does is have to be a 2012 version also? I cannot find my exact version for sale. What are my options?

    I appreciate your informative article and answers.

    • First of all, if you are running QB 2012, every other user accessing the same file has to be on QB 2012.

      QB 2014 is all that is being sold by Intuit now, although you can try adding a license by selecting “Help” and then “manage my license”, there should be an option to add a user – but I am not sure Intuit will do that or not.

      You can sometimes find older products on eBay, but I strongly recommend against that as usually those are “used” copies that you most likely cannot register to be used on your system.

      Or, upgrade to QB 2014 and you’ll be able to add licenses there.

  • Thanks for the tip on QBox, everyone. Has exactly what dropbox is missing!! Both are viable solutions.

    Granted they do not address multiuser/simultaneous but if one can see the file is locked, cannot they wait until it is unlocked or send an email requesting the other log out for a bit if it is urgent. They only urgent I could see would be an invoice that needs to be handed to someone immediately and that’s not something that would happen frequently.

  • Related question: I have QB 2013 with no payroll subscription at home, and we have QB 2013 with a payroll subscription at work (enhanced, I think, the one where it figures your payroll deductions and you can file your own W-2’s, etc.) Anyway, if I access the company file at home, will I mess up the payroll subscription for my company? Thanks!

    • Kathy, if you have a payroll subscription you should have access to support for the payroll product, and I would check with them. My gut feeling is that if you bring home the QB company file with the subscription you should be able to access it from there, as the subscription is associated with the company file itself. But I’ll admit that I am not a payroll expert, so I’m not sure. I avoid working with payroll as much as possible…

  • Hello,
    A simple question.
    1. quickbooks file is on main computer
    2. the other 2 users connect and use qb from main computer (mapped drive). Office environment.

    I want to put the QB file into dropbox or google drive for automatic backup. The other 2 users will still only connect to the file as they do currently. They will NOT have dropbox or google drive, they connect to the source file in the dropbox/googledrive folder.

    Is this ok to do?


    • I’m not sure what you mean – you say you want the file on dropbox (etc), but the two other users won’t have dropbox but will access the file? Confusing.

      If the main file is on a Dropbox drive, and that is where people will access it, you will have trouble most likely.

      If all you want is backup, set QuickBooks to make an automatic backup daily, and have the backup destination be the Dropbox drive. There are other ways to do backups as well.

  • I apologize for the confusion over the domain change. The original domain was pointed to an introductory “splash” page but was not a secured URL. We have done away with that URL and you can now only view the Qbox home page using the https secured URL.

  • Hi Charlie,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your articles. They are simple to understand, more so than many others, hence me asking you my question 🙂

    I understand if you want to use DropBox (or GoogleDrive, etc.) to share a QB file, you need to be careful. Can you explain the best way to set up that workflow so two people can share the same Quickbooks (or Quicken) file from two different laptops/locations. We will NOT be working on the file at the same time. (One may want to view the file, if possible, while the other is working on it, but only one person at a time will be inputting data.) We are both new to Quickbooks and DropBox.

    Remote Login isn’t a great solution for us, and we don’t want the extra expense of QBO or hosting (unless we can do it on our own private website?) because it’s a small company (2ppl). We simply need to tag/categorize our expenses and various income sources, but we are not always in the same location, and we don’t have an office with a main computer. We probably would work on the file once a week, since we don’t have a ton of expenses, and could probably have designated times to do so to avoid any confusion/corruption. I’m just not sure if we need to copy or rename the file before or after copying it to DropBox (for extra precaution) or the best way to do this. A step-by-step might make it easier to understand and follow.

    Much appreciated,

    • There is a product called Qbox that many people seem to like – I have not used it myself. This solves many of the problems.

      For workflow, it is all about communication. If you don’t want to use the more foolproof methods, then you just have to communicate. Keep track of who has the “real” copy. If you have it, you tell the other person, they stay out of it until you are done. AND – don’t work with it from the DropBox drive. Always copy it to your local drive to run from. In fact, save a backup to the DropBox file (a QBB file) rather than the live QBW file.

        • Good point. Attachments are stored in a separate folder adjacent to the QBW file, so JUST moving the QBW file back and forth doesn’t work for attachments. I’ve not worked with QBox to know if they have any other options, but moving document attachments back and forth could be complicated.

          On the other hand, I really don’t recommend that people use the QuickBooks attachment feature in any case, because of flaws and security risks.

  • Charlie, I just found this thread and I’m sure you can guess what I’ve been searching. I’m curious as to why sharing the file this way can’t work if you are still logging in to a file through your quickbooks from a desktop. If the data manager within quickbooks is syncing all of the data, what difference does it make where the source file is located? I guess I’m asking what the difference is from how qb accesses the file that is based on another computer vs the file that is stored in a cloud account if they are open within the quickbooks program? The only thing I can think of is if the cloud storage doesn’t use the same file location or renames the file. If the file path stays the same but only the data changes then how is this different from sharing a file within a local network on another computer?

    • How does the quickbooks data manager not sort/sync the data the same way it would if it were stored locally? Wouldn’t it still do it’s job?

    • Chris, there are several issues, depending on your situation.

      If you just use it as a drive for a single user situation, you can get away with it probably, but you run the risk of data corruption. As I explain in the article, cloud drives aren’t drives that you access directly like a local hard drive, they are swapping the data back and forth to a local copy. Information isn’t necessarily synced immediately, and there are some people that see data corruption with this in a QB environment. In any case, QuickBooks is designed to have the database manager (the program that reads/writes the data directly) on the same computer as the one that is hosting the drive, and if you are using a “remote” or cloud drive then you will run into, at the very least, poor performance.

      In a multi-user shared environment, as I explain, it is worse. QuickBooks is designed to have ONE program access the database, the database manager, which is running on your local computer in this scenario. Two people running QB on unconnected computers will have two copies of the database manager running, since each user doesn’t know that the other user has the DBM running. So each user is accessing the database separately and with no coordination. There is no multi user access this way, no locking of records, no arbitration between competing requests. At the very least you will lose data, and it is very likely that you will get corrupted data.

      • I didn’t mean to make you repeat yourself as I noticed you have had to do that several times replying to other comments. It seems my knowledge of how this works is limited to how cloud storage actually works. I’m new to cloud technology myself so I was unaware just how differently it deals with data. I assumed since you were still logging in to a QuickBooks database that it would still sort the data the same way no matter where the file was actually located but from what you have patiently explained, this is just not the case. I’m still interested in learning more about how cloud storage works. Thanks for taking the time to respond and if you happen to have a little deeper insight on how cloud storage vs local drive file storage works, it would be much appreciated as this is the source of my confusion.

        • Chris, don’t worry – if I have to go into more detail in comments, then I didn’t go into enough detail in the article. It is tough to write an article that covers multiple audiences – end users who aren’t experienced with QuickBooks concepts and accounting professionals who should be.

          “Cloud Storage” means different things in different contexts. And, it means different things to different applications. In this case it is a bit of an odd situation. The desktop app isn’t specifically written to access a cloud storage drive. Different vendors implement the cloud storage apps themselves in different ways. People think of them just like another local disk drive (you may have a desktop app that makes it look like the storage is just the same as a local drive) but they aren’t.

          QuickBooks has a database manager, a program that sits in memory on a local computer. In a multi-user environment each computer on your local network is communicating with the ONE computer that has the database manager. So, if you have a multi user environment, your desktop QB program communicates via the network to the database manager. The database manager actually does the reading and writing. ONE program reads/writes, all the users are communicating with the database manager (DBM), who is the traffic cop. You want the DBM and the actual physical database to be on the same computer for efficiency. If the DBM and database are on different computers, performance suffers because that connection is slower than if they are both on the same computer. Also, because the connection over a network is slow and may be more likely to be interrupted, you run the risk of there being problems with the database. It can get corrupted.

          Now, extend this to a “cloud storage” drive. It is very removed – not even on your local network. The DBM can’t run on that cloud storage, it is running on your computer. So, we have, at the very least, the kind of situation you don’t want in a QB environment – the DBM is on a different system than the database, and in fact this remote storage may be even slower than a local network. That alone is a potential problem. THEN, introduce the issue that you may have users who are NOT on the same local network. Someone can be in New York accessing that file, someone can be in San Francisco accessing that file. The problem HERE is that there isn’t one DBM trying to use the file. One user has a DBM running, it can’t communicate with the other user, so that other user has their own DBM running. That means two DBM’s trying to access that remote file, and that isn’t the way QB is designed. Problems ensue. There are more details with how the cloud storage works with your local computer, but that just adds to the woes.

          Hope that makes a bit more sense?

  • One more thing; If I was planning on ONLY using the QuickBooks file to login from home say after hours when nobody else is accessing the file and all other users were logged out, would this then be a viable option or would I still run a high risk of data corruption? Is it possible this could be an alternative to remote access then and only in this fashion?

  • Hi Charlie, sorry if this was asked before but I am the only user of Quickbooks on a desktop. Would Google Drive (or similar) still be risky to back up?

    I currently use Copy but they are ending the service this month. With them, the files are stored on my computer and everything is backed up on their servers, where it seems with Google Drive that the only way is to keep the files on their servers. I’m guessing this is the big difference.

    • Using Google Drive to hold a BACKUP of your file is fine, same as any of the multiple other cloud drives. What you don’t want to do is OPEN that file with QuickBooks while it is stored on those drives.

  • Good information and thanks! I was just on the verge of using a google drive. What is my alternative? I own the business and the quickbooks is mostly run by my office manager but I need it at times to balance the checkbook, payroll etc. It isn’t very often but enough to not want to kick her off her computer each time. Would love some advice. Thanks!

  • What if you just had the Quickbooks company file in a dropbox folder, without a multi-user setup (database service) and EVERY person who accesses the file uses LAN to get to the psuedo-server’s Dropbox folder? Would the psuedo-server lock out the client trying to access the file? Would Dropbox lock the file until the first user saves changes and exits the database?

    What I’ve described above is less of a syncing solution and more about backups. But hey, if it works… Please let me know if this sounds off (genuine questions – no rhetorical 🙂 ).

  • I’m considering to use Dropbox for a backup system (NOT for file sharing) I will setup Dropbox on the the server which will contain all my company files and QuickBook files as well, but Dropbox won’t be installed on the workstations rather they will be accessing the files via a network LAN which means that Dropbox sync only from the server. I wonder if i will have an issue with the QuickBooks file, another option i’m thinking of is to employ the Windows Task Scheduler to stop and start the qickbooks.exe to run only at night for backup, now using QuickBooks like this will i have any issue?

    • Don’t use the Windows Task Scheduler, if I understand what you are looking to do, you will have file corruption issues. Use the backup scheduler in QuickBooks itself, and when that backup is created then have it go to a place where your backup system will handle it.

  • Charlie:

    What is the best solution to have multiple book keepers & accountants working on a company file remotely? (Separate offices and separate intranets)

    QBOX and other hosting solutions aside, how would you recommend having multiple users access and edit in parallel a company file?

    • The best solution depends on the circumstances. There are many different solutions, each has advantages and disadvantages. Why are you ruling out QBbox and hosting solutions? Qbox is endorsed by many people – I’ve not used it, I’m not necessarily a fan of the general approach but it fits some situations and the company does it well ( Hosting is a big bonus for some companies, but doesn’t fit everyone (I prefer dedicated hosts over shared hosts, usually). Remote access with one of many tools on the market can work in some cases (I use TeamViewer). MyQuickCloud worked well in testing ( People supported with good technicians working with Windows Server can set up remote access in several ways. There isn’t one particular approach that makes sense for ALL situations, you have to talk about the advantages and disadvantages (and costs) of each approach and see what fits the situation. And, of course, in some cases working with QuickBooks Online or Xero (or similar products) may be the best fit, but not for everyone.

  • Charlies:

    Why are you not mentioning using Quickbooks Multi User over a intranet (local or remote)? This provides all of the access to the Quickbooks company file with the protections of not being overwritten and allowing multiple users to be productive.

    This hasn’t been mentioned and seems to be a very simple & effective way to accomplish all of the goals mentioned.

    • Define by what you mean by an “Intranet (local or remote)”. If you are talking about a local network, that isn’t what you asked for, since you specifically mentioned “separate intranets”. So by your question, you took those out of the equation. When you say “remote Intranet”, I’m not sure what specifically you are referring to. Working through workstations connected by a VPN, for example, is generally a good way to introduce file corruption due to the way that QuickBooks multi user access works.

      • Thank you again for your response. I’m referring to a multi user setup with remote users connecting to the same network/server.

        Is it common for QB Multi User to be used over an intranet (LAN or WAN)? If so, why would connecting over WAN introduce file corruption? This should be handled in the same fashion that local machines are accessing and working on QB Multi User? I was under the impression that larger enterprises used Multi User to be productive from multiple locations. If this is not the case, then QB Multi User wouldn’t seem to be very useful except for a local department on the same LAN to be working. Which is quite small minded.

        • It is hard to go into details in blog comments. In short – for multi user access QuickBooks has a database manager program that has to run on one of your computers or servers. In a local area network each workstation connects to that DBM, all works well. When you start to work with computers that are remotely located over a WAN, it is very likely that the connection will be slower (VPN’s slow things down, slow Internet connections, etc., depending on how you are set up), at least intermittently. The QB DBM isn’t designed for this kind of situation, and connections between the client and DBM may break or time out. This greatly increases the possibility of database corruption, again due to the somewhat arcane way that QuickBooks works. It isn’t guaranteed to be a problem, but it is very likely that you will have error messages at the least, possibly database issues. It is just bad practice to try to make that kind of connection. Better to work with a Windows Server environment and use the remote desktop features, where the remote workstation is essentially just a terminal connecting to an instance of the client running on the server, so the DBM doesn’t have to work across the WAN. That is an option that I talked about briefly earlier, it is a solution that requires a higher degree of IT competence to set up and maintain. QuickBooks Enterprise has some very specific requirements to be able to run in that kind of environment.

  • Hi Charlie, Wow! how do you handle all these different views? It tires me just reading some of it .. lol..

    Anyhow, Is there a way to use your own server space for hosting these QB mult-user server files? I have had server space for many years and i have not come across any way for a user in my situation to use their own server space for QB multi-user use.. only through Qbox, QB and other hosting services.

    Thanks for any helpful info on this.

      • Ok Charlie, for instance, I have sever space I use through Godaddy for my website files etc.. I do have a windows based account, however, most of my stuff is setup on UNIX based server.

        To be a bit more clear, I am just trying to ask, why would I want to pay for hosting through these companies when I can host the files myself on my server space? Thanks.

        • Last I looked, Intuit did provide a UNIX database manager, but there were limits to what flavors of Unix it ran on. I have not looked into that, I don’t know anyone who is using it. But that is generally set up for a local server, not a remote server.

          In general, you want to have the QuickBooks database manager program running on the same physical system as the QBW database file itself. That is how QuickBooks is designed to work. If you are running on GoDaddy or a similar system, most likely you would be hosting just the database file there but then you would be running the QB database manager on your local system, since the DBM has specific requirements you wan’t be providing. Having the DBM and the datafile itself on different systems is a recipe for database corruption, for a number of reasons. You won’t be happy.

          • Ok, clear enough, Thanks Charlie, you are a quite well-informed info machine when it comes to this stuff.. lol.. I Appreciate your information.. Thanks Alot.


  • Any thoughts on using a external SSD (not a cheap thumb drive) holding the working QuickBooks company files as a means to serial sharing between work and home computers (essentially taking the working file back and forth)? Since I always back up, in each move there would be a backup copy left behind for safety. My concern is about any reads/writes becoming scrambled because it an external drive.

    • I really don’t like that approach. QB generally doesn’t like working on removable drives directly. So you need to copy the file back and forth. Lots of potential for user error, copying the wrong file the wrong time, using the wrong copy, and so forth. But people do it. You just have to be very, very careful.

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