QuickBooks Service Outage – Again!

| June 19, 2010 | 10 Comments

Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water…

on Saturday June 19 a number of the QuickBooks services went out for  the second time in a week. This time it probably won’t have the same wide ranging effects as the QuickBooks Service Outage earlier this week, but we all need to be concerned.

Update 7/21/2010 – Please refer to my followup article on the latest news about outages.

Here is the public statement from Intuit on their QuickBase status page:

June 19, 7 p.m. Pacific Time

We’re sorry. We are experiencing technical difficulties with QuickBase.  We are aggressively working to resolve the issue.  We cannot say with certainty exactly how long it will take to get things back up and running.  But it may be a number of hours before we restore service completely. 

What happened? At this time it looks like we are experiencing trouble with the same hardware system we experienced trouble with last week.  That’s all we know right now.  Over the next two hours, Intuit and its vendor are all hands on deck and we will post an update at 9 p.m. PT

This could affect a variety of things that you might not expect, as QuickBase is the “engine” that runs many applications. The National Advisor Network for ProAdvisors runs on QuickBooks, for example, and users cannot gain entry. Intuit Appcenter applications (IPP apps, and the Intuit Document Management program) cannot be accessed.

From other sources (and I haven’t confirmed this) I’m told that Intuit Payroll services are OK, but that there may be problems with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Merchant Services (again, not confirmed).

Hopefully this will be a shorter outage. Weekend outages affect fewer people, although if Merchant Services is down that can be a big problem.

One way to keep track of their statements is to look at this discussion in the Intuit Community Forum.

What Is Going On?

I’ve asked a number of my contacts at Intuit for a detailed explanation of the problems, but I haven’t gotten any response other than the generic statements by their President, Brad Smith, and their CIO, Ginny Lee.

Here are some questions that come to mind, which I haven’t see answers to…

  1. What exactly happened?
  2. Were my accounts hacked? (the most likely answer is “no” but I want to be sure).
  3. Was my data lost? (the most likely answer is “no” for pretty much everything, but we need to know for sure).
  4. Why wasn’t there a “mirror site” at another location (preferably FAR away from the main one in a city I know of but I’m not supposed to mention) that would kick in automatically?
  5. What is being done to prevent this from happening again?
  6. What security measures have you taken to protect my data?

There are many more questions than this, but these are a good starting point.

In my opinion, Intuit is as good a shepherd for our online data and services as any other company in the US (or in the world for that matter). This kind of outage is very distressing, but as we move towards greater reliance on online systems, we are going to have to expect this kind of thing from MANY sources as time goes on. The “cloud computing” initiative is, in many ways, relatively young, and there are going to be growing pains.

Having said that, it is imperative that Intuit rebuilds our confidence in their ability to provide these services. We rely on them, they are mission critical to us. That is why I’m asking those questions outlined above, and many others that I’m not listing here that go into more technical detail.

And, to be honest, many (if not most) small businesses that use these kinds of services need to change their business practices so that outages like this won’t freeze their business operations. I hope to have an article, perhaps a series of articles, in conjunction with a well know QuickBooks expert and author, that will give you some ideas as to how to minimize the effects of these outages.

For more information see Running QuickBooks During Intuit Server Outages.

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Category: General Tips

About the Author (Author Profile)

Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He’s been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70’s, focusing on inventory and accounting software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Look for Charlie’s articles in the Accountex Report blog, as well as his California Wildflower Hikes blog.

Comments (10)

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  1. Rich Walker says:

    June 20, 2010, 4:00am PDT – All of Intuit services are back online. I know that this has been a frustrating experience for you, and we apologize for the downtime that these service interruptions have caused.

    The Intuit team continues to monitor our systems closely. We are still looking into these outages to fully understand the root cause and what we can do to get better. Thank you for your patience.

    Rich Walker, CPA
    Intuit Inc.

  2. Rustler says:

    The only way to minimize, as you put it, this kind of problem when it happens in the future, is to not rely on it to start with. On-line services should be a back up, not an operational necessity in my opinion.

  3. This is good confirmation of my decision to not utilize their Document Management application. I want to store and access my documents locally, and not be without my documents in the case of an outage.

    INTUIT: I’d still be willing to pay an appropriate monthly fee for a required “backup” service that you may require in order to activate locally hosted document management! Then we all win — you get a fee for backing up my valuable data, plus I get to store data locally while knowing it is backed up securely at a remote location.

    • Charlie says:

      Rustler, I won’t argue with you on this one, as I am a supporter of desktop computing. However, for some organizations, and for some kinds of businesses, online services are a necessity. So we have to be concerned with the reliability of these things. Merchant Services is a very basic and simple example – in some of the outages people weren’t able to process their credit card payments. There are ways of dealing with that in for a short while, but it is hard to not totally rely on that kind of thing.

      Chris, there are desktop/LAN oriented document management solutions available. See my article on one of them at http://qbblog.ccrsoftware.info/2009/08/review-papersave-plus-documentation-management-for-quickbooks/

  4. Rustler says:

    Charlie – I understand the aspect of merchant services, etc as being necessary. It the rest of the cloud computing concept that is the problem.

    Chris – if you have a web site that is hosted off your property, just back up to that web site, you are already paying for the storage anyway. There are open source ftp/backup programs that will do it for you on a schedule at night or whenever.

    And desktop document management programs have one inherent problem in my opinion, they rely on proprietary file/dba systems. That basically means if you don’t have that management program running then you can’t access the documents. I scan and save to pdf, every computer reads pdf. And it means that during an audit I control what documents are provided rather than opening the whole dba document system to the auditor.

    • Charlie says:

      Rustler, again, I can’t really argue with you much on this, as I’m a firm supporter of desktop and local computing. But there are situations where some businesses need online access in some fashion, and cloud computing may be the answer. If you have a widespread business with multiple offices, and you want them to access the same data, you need the Internet in some fashion. Using remote tools like LogMeIn only works if you are doing a low volume of data. So some sort of tool to access your data via the Internet is very useful, and there are multiple approaches. The key in my mind is to craft a method by which you are not crippled if you lose the cloud server. If services aren’t available, have a means to get around the problem. Or, only use services that you can live without if the server is down. Don’t make them mission critical AND not have an alternate plan.

      Local desktop management programs don’t have to work with proprietary data formats. Some store just links to the documents and move the documents to a special folder. Some, like PaperSave Plus, store the data in a SQL Server database that you can access with other tools, I believe. And, using a DMS product doesn’t mean that you have to file the only copy in that system, you can also keep a parallel copy of the document in a special folder. DMS systems shine in retrieval – if you call up a customer in QB you can easily find the documents associated with that customer, rather than having to search on multiple individual’s computers scattered about, or in a very full central filing server. Again, the point is to not blindly rely on the product. Have an alternate plan in place so that if the DMS product goes away for some reason, you still have access to your data. It takes a bit of planning.

  5. Rustler says:

    Charlie I will be the first to admit that you know more about networking and QB than I do, or should. Maybe I am just defining things wrong, but to me online access is different than cloud computing.

    Online access needs the net, no doubt about it, but that is a connection issue the way I see it, not a data or application issue as I understand cloud computing to be.

    On a different note, did you see that there is a bill in congress to give the white house an internet off switch? If approved the white house will be able to shut down all out side access to the net, and in theory the US net itself if a wide spread cyber attack is thought to be happening.

  6. The Intuit “downtime” gives Cloud Computing a bad rep in my opinion. 99.9% uptime is the standard with scheduled outages and customers informed in advance. Let us hope Intuit figures this out so it will not happen again.

  7. Charlie & Rustler,

    Thanks for the replies. Through this blog, I am aware of some desktop solutions and the one I’m leaning toward is Personable’s SourceLink. It seems to be a nicely designed solution. I’d still prefer Intuit’s 100% integrated DM, but am not willing to have my PRIMARY storage on their servers.

    I have off site backup of my local data through a nightly backup service, so I have that covered.

    However, since it appears the reason Intuit offered Document Management was simply to collect monthly fees for data storage, I was pointing out to Intuit again that (despite already paying for backup elsewhere) I’d use their DM and be willing to give them a few bucks a month to needlessly backup my documents — IF they would allow me to primarily scan and store my documents locally.

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