Because of this legal ambiguity and lack of licensing enforcement from Intuit, many of us in the consulting and accounting profession just steered clear of using and/or recommending hosted QuickBooks to our clients. Most of us saw the compelling benefits, but we were concerned that without clarification on the licensing from Intuit, we might somehow end up as unwitting participants in the violation of Intuit’s software license agreements. That was a risk many of us just didn’t want to take.
A Clearer Roadmap for the Future
The good news is that now we have a clearer roadmap for using QuickBooks on an ASP. There are two hosting companies I am aware of who have jumped through the technical and legal hoops to be considered worthy of providing the level of service that Intuit requires for their QuickBooks customers. These Intuit-authorized, QuickBooks hosting companies are InsynQ (www.cpaasp.com) and Right Networks (www.rightnetworks.com). Of course there may be other authorized providers in the future.
Ok, so back to the question of why hosted QuickBooks makes sense. Even though I predict that ultimately the SaaS products will be all we talk about, in the short-to-medium term, I think the ASP has some compelling benefits for accounting firms and their clients. There are several reasons why I think the ASP solution is compelling.
Probably the first and most compelling reason is that PEOPLE LOVE QuickBooks. They’ve built their internal procedures around the product; they’ve trained their staff how to use it; they can get top quality support for it from a number of sources; and nearly every accounting firm in the country has someone who can help set it up, troubleshoot problems, and even prescribe workarounds when a particular feature isn’t quite right for the client.
The second reason is that QuickBooks has literally hundreds of add-ons that directly integrate with it. Many of those add-ons are now part of the internal systems of QuickBooks users everywhere, and to switch away from them would be a huge undertaking. So the add-ons are now just about as entrenched as QuickBooks itself. And the good news is that most of the add-ons can also be hosted by a QuickBooks ASP.
The third reason is that ASPs help you go online quickly, without switching software, and you can always switch back if you don’t like it. So your data remains YOUR data. The risk of switching to something new is mitigated by the fact that you can always go back if it doesn’t work out.
It’s worth asking why one would use QuickBooks on an ASP as opposed to switching to a web-native SaaS accounting product such as QuickBooks Online Edition (http://oe.QuickBooks.com), NetSuite (www.Netsuite.com), Intacct (www.Intacct.com), or any of the five or so other options. That’s a great question, and in my opinion, it’s only a question of when that switch will be appropriate for your business.
In the short term, hosted QuickBooks allows the masses to keep what they have while also realizing the benefits of online, anytime, anywhere access, plus the ease of sharing data between accountant and clients.