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Review: Does Intuit QuickBooks Add Up For Midmarket?

Intuit's SMB accounting software runs fine in Windows, but how does it work in the Linux world?

For the past six years, Intuit has set its sights on the high end of the SMB market, applying its ease-of-use and low-cost strategy as leverage against competitors.

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions Version 8.0 is Intuit's latest SMB product, revamped to include a host of additional features.

One of the latest features is the ability to install the QuickBooks database server on a Linux box. The product has been tested by the vendor on Fedora, OpenSUSE and Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition.

QuickBooks on Linux should be the kind of deployment where the low total cost of ownership would make any CFO do backflips. We decided to take a look and install it on a Linux platform.

Reviewers installed this version of QuickBooks on a virtualized Fedora 8 machine running on Microsoft's Server 2008 Hyper-V. Hyper-V is still in beta but is expected to launch this summer.

There were a number of issues with this low-cost scenario. One was time consumption. Fedora had to be prepped in order to run as a QuickBooks' back-end database server. Intuit, Mountain View, Calif., tries to ease the process by providing a Linux package and public key as downloads to run the database server.

Using Linux as the back end still requires using Windows-based clients to connect. The Fedora server had to be configured with a share to the QuickBooks company files. This required configuring Samba to allow the clients to browse the share and then setting up users with permissions to access.

After the hour-plus configuration time, QuickBooks was up and running and a test XP client was able to browse to the Linux QuickBooks share. Connectivity to the company files on the virtual Fedora box was painstakingly slow through the QuickBooks client on XP.

While cost considerations for running a QuickBooks server on a virtual Linux machine may seem attractive, for most shops it just doesn't seem like the most practical route to take in terms of deployment, performance and support.

QuickBooks server running on a Wintel platform took about 20 minutes to install. It was in this second test environment where reviewers got a chance to look at the new features, including a user-friendly "coach" to guide users through tasks such as creating purchase orders, sales orders or managing payroll; and business intelligence enhancements that include Intuit's Business Connect portal, where company information is automatically uploaded to the portal after logging into the site.

QuickBooks 8.0 now integrates with Microsoft Outlook.

Underneath the welcoming interface is quite a hearty financial system with a lot of the same Electronic Data Interchange capability and features that larger competitors have.

With a starting price of $1,199 for a three-user pack, QuickBooks Enterprise is cost-effective. Although it's questionable if this edition is ready to deploy on Linux, as a Windows client/server application QuickBooks Enterprise 8.0 is a good alternative for small and midsize business looking for a low-cost, relatively low-maintenance financial platform.

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