Have you ever needed to share a QuickBooks company file with someone outside your network? Qbox, from CoralTree, provides the ability to share QuickBooks company files among one or more users, regardless of their physical location. Qbox has been available for a number of years and many already utilize the tool. However, for those who haven’t and continue to use QuickBooks Desktop for your business or practice, this could streamline your operations.
Of course, sharing a QuickBooks company file with someone outside your network can be done with QuickBooks Online, but the traditional QuickBooks Desktop user has few options outside of remote access, hosting service, sending backup files back-and-forth, or using the Accountants version. Each of these approaches has its own inherent limitations:
- QuickBooks Online is QuickBooks Online and not Desktop;
- Remote access requires taking over control of a local computer;
- Hosting services costs add up;
- Terminal Services for QuickBooks Enterprise is not for the faint of IT heart;
- Sending backup or accountants file has its own nuanced challenges.
This is a common headache for QuickBooks Point of Sale (Desktop) users. One of the limitations of the QuickBooks POS – QuickBooks financial exchange is that the QuickBooks financials company file must reside in the same network as the QuickBooks POS company file. Thus, the bookkeeper or store personnel must find some way of accessing the QuickBooks file at the store/office, do the store exchange, and then send the file back. This adds time and hassle to the effort and every once in a while the files get out of sync. Yuck.
On the surface, Qbox is a pretty humble solution to this problem. It is not unlike any of the cloud based file sharing tools – Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, etc., but with two humongous differences:
- Qbox speaks QuickBooks, and
- It doesn’t corrupt QuickBooks.
(A not so gentle reminder—Don’t ever share your QuickBooks Desktop company file on any of these generic file sharing services. Backup files are fine but not the live file.)
Qbox still syncs the QuickBooks company file across the Internet in a similar way to these other tools, however it adds a needed layer of protection.
I’m sure the technology behind the scenes isn’t as simple as this description of its solution sounds, but basically what happens is that the live company file is distributed to all invited users whenever the QuickBooks company file is “locked” when opened so that others do not update the file. And when that user is done, the file is unlocked and becomes available for updating by other users. When the file is locked others can still view the file but cannot lock the file.
Qbox functions like Dropbox and similar tools in that it syncs the QuickBooks Company File to all authorized users. After a file is opened/locked and then closed, Qbox syncs the QuickBooks company file to the local drive of each authorized user. This way everyone has the most current version of the file stored locally. As you can see from the graphic, the sharing of files is not limited to just QuickBooks Company Files and could possibly replace the use of these tools.
The QuickBooks Company File can be shared with any authorized user.
If multiple users in a single office need access to the same QuickBooks Company File, a group folder can be set up to avoid making separate copies of the company file for each user. This also facilitates normal multi-user access—the first user to open the file locks the file for any/all users in that group.
This functions in a similar way for QuickBooks POS users, with one caveat: During the End of Day process (or whenever the Financial Exchange is performed), the user must manually open QuickBooks via Qbox in order to lock the file. Unfortunately, the standard End of Day process in POS cannot be altered to open the QuickBooks company file via Qbox. It is one extra manual step which does add a slight wrinkle. There are other benefits to this approach, so you would have to weigh pros/cons.
(Source of graphics: Qbox.com)
How Does Qbox Work?
The install/setup process is outlined below. Once it is set up, the ongoing process is straightforward. The Qbox Explorer application is the tool that functions as the dashboard for accessing and opening the shared QuickBooks files. You no longer open the QuickBooks files in the usual way.
Below is the Qbox Explorer window that appears on my desktop. We have set up a couple of clients in the bcents folder and the blurred one includes another set of clients.
(Excuse all the blurring. In hindsight, I could have used generic QuickBooks files but instead I chose to use a live customer.)
Clicking the folder on the left displays its shared QuickBooks files in the right-hand section. In this scenario there is one QuickBooks file in the M* folder—it shows when it was last updated and by whom. When someone opens the file, the file is “locked” and the username that has it locked is displayed. At the time of the screen shot above, it is not locked. Please note that this locking mechanism is a soft lock—it doesn’t truly lock anyone out of the file.
To open the QuickBooks file, double click the file in the right-hand section. QuickBooks launches the appropriate QuickBooks version (it just knows). The QuickBooks company file is opened and locked until the QuickBooks file is closed. After signing in, Qbox confirms that you want to lock the file. If you are just viewing, it suggests that the file not be locked.
Once locked, a confirmation window is displayed and Qbox tips are displayed (but can be disabled if desired).
Qbox Explorer is updated to show that the file is now locked. This is what all authorized users will see in their Qbox Explorer screen.
To unlock, just exit QuickBooks. Qbox will display a message indicating that the file is being synced. This means this most current version is being uploaded to the Cloud so it can then be distributed to all other users so that they have the most current version as well.
And while the sync is occurring, Qbox Explorer will also indicate that in various places—the row that shows the filename, that status bar at the bottom of the screen along with progress, and also in the Qbox app in the system tray.
When the sync completes, Qbox will let you know.
Upon completion, Qbox unlocks the file and initiates a download sync on all authorized users’ computers. This is how Qbox keeps the most current file on each user’s computer. Thus, when the next user wants to open the QuickBooks file, they don’t have to download or transfer the file but just open the file from Qbox Explorer, as it will always be the most current file.
If another user has locked the file, a message is displayed as an alert. As it states, be aware that any changes made during this session will not be saved or synced, so be alert when opening the file.