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Looking for advanced suggestions!

By PC Girl ·
So here is the situation... My client is the corporate head quarters for a quickly growing, large volume restaurant chain that currently consist of three large restaurants, four locations in all (three restaurants plus corporate headquarters). Each of the 3 restaurants are located in different states. Currently, each location has their own accountant who uses QuickBooks on a daily basis to record local accounting/sales/profit ect... I deal directly with corporate headquarters. The finance person has requested the following network setup.... Each restaurant location is to retain their current accountant who is responsible for daily finances at that location. QuickBooks database's for all restaurants need to be accessible (and manageable) to the corporate finance guy at corporate head quarters, 24/7. Having evaluating the current IT level at each location I would like to be able to have control of backing up all these databases so not to depend on someone I've never met in another state. Head quarters agrees with me. My first thought was a Naz Server that would be located at the corporate office under my, somewhat, supervision. I am not a full time on-site employee. I am an independent consultant, always on call and have over 50 clients in my local area. I've heard enough to think this might be the perfect solution. Anyone with thoughts on this or any other options that would satisfy these needs, I'd appreciate your input. I will follow through with what the outcome is and more than happy to give points to anyone whose input guides or helps the outcome. THANK YOU!

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by Joseph Moore In reply to Looking for advanced sugg ...

Well, I agree that you need to get this data off of the individual workstations in the different offices. That is just a disaster waiting to happen. Are the local accountants at least backing up their computers with Quickbooks installed? I hope so.

Now, here are my thoughs. I do not know the replication abilities of Quickbooks database, so I can't say for sure, but you could enable database replication.
The idea is that the primary database still resides in each remote office. And all 3 of them are replicated daily to the corporate headquarters, onto either a clustered DB server, or a NAS, or some other device that is itself backed up to tape, and the tapes sent offsite for storage.
You didn't mention connectivity between the corporate office and the 3 sites. Let's assume that there is no direct connections between corporate and the remote offices. You could set up a VPN server at corporate, and establish VPN connections from each remote office. Then, the Quickbooks db can be replicated over the VPN to the corporate office every day at a set time (or multiple times per day).
So, the local office has a full copy of the Quickbooks db, and it is that copy that they enter in their daily changes.
Then every day, the full Quickbooks db is sent to the corporate office, onto the machine.
After that, the machine is backed up to tape, and the tapes are labeled for offsite storage.

This way, if the remote office Quickbooks db burns up in a kitchen fire, then you would just need to recall the tapes from offsite storage, pull the previous day's DB from them, and have that copy sent over the VPN to the remote office.

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by Joseph Moore In reply to

Anyway, there are other ways to do this. But I am not a big fan of the db being only at the corporate office, due to transmission delays (using Quickbooks over a VPN with the data being at corporate will be slower for the local accountant then if the db is local), or if a VPN connection is not possible due to a fiber cut or some other disruption of connectivity.
So, a local db copy and a copy at the corporate office that is as updated as possible is the best solution. then your corporate copy is backed up and stored offsite.

hope this helps

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by PC Girl In reply to

Joseph,
Thanks and it's not that your answer is rejected, it's pending I suppose you could say. Anyway, I was discussing this with an associate and he mentioned the issue of very slow performance if the working databases were to be run across the internet being located at corporate. Exactly what you said. This isn't acceptable and therefore each location must have their working database located at their location. All locations are on DSL, some faster than others with the highest at 1 meg download, unsure about upload.

One option is now to have a NAS server at each location. Then corporate could access any data at any location from anywhere. If corporate also has a NAS server then automated replication could occur with all databases being replicated to corporate. Then I get control of the tape backup, off site issue. It is NOT necessary that corporate be able to access the databases at the same time as the accountants.

A much simpler approached is to use PC Anywhere. However, this eliminates the highly efficient method of backup as described above. It also eliminates the ability to easily access data files from anywhere on any PC.

The above two options I am pretty comfortable with. Could you maybe explain the pro?s and con?s of setting up a VPN in this situation. I have zero experience with it. All I know is roughly the cost of hardware and software which seems to be all over the price charts. Some VPN?s you don?t need to purchase third party software, some you do (if I remember correctly).

A decrease in performance when corporate is accessing local databases at each restaurant would probably be acceptable as long as the local performance within each restaurant was not diminished. The need for corporate to have access to other locations is more for a monitoring and/or analysis need, not hours of actually data entry.

By the way, corporate is running in a Server 2000 mixed environment domain. Mixed being 98, 2000 pro and XP pro.

Thank You!

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by Mark In reply to Looking for advanced sugg ...

I suggest you setup a Windows Terminal Server. Establish a VPN for your connections to it. I would recommend a hardware VPN like sonic.

The VPN is only necessary if you want the data secure. If you are not worried about someone sniffing your data, then VPN is not necessary.

If you only want to backup the data, just have them encrypt and email the Quickbooks data file on a routine basis. Or setup a secure FTP server to upload it to.

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by Joseph Moore In reply to Looking for advanced sugg ...

Hello again.
Ok, first off, a NAS appliance at each location is so much overkill, I can't even describe it! I mean, that is gonna **** your budget right out of the water! Sure, it would be great if your company had that option, then have the NAS boxes all replicate to the corporate NAS over VPN.
But I really don't think you are gonna get that past the financial folks there.
So, options. PCAnywhere is not an option, so just forget about that!
Again, I do not know what kind of database replication functionality QuickBooks has. I have never worked with it or been anywhere that had it. I have Quicken 2002 Deluxe, so I am basing my approach over how Quicken works.
Here is what you could do. Set up a VPN server at corporate. Windows 2000 has a built-in VPN server now. No additional software necessary. You could throw a Win2K Server with the VPN installed and configured. Give the server a static IP.
Then have each remote office set up a VPN connection to your VPN server. The remote office would connect to the VPN, then have them map a drive to your corporate NAS device drive space.
Then when the remote office accountant works in QuickBooks, when done, they can have it always make a Backup copy across the mapped drive, through the VPN connection, onto your NAS server.
This way, the local accountants all work on their local QuickBooks database. It is just when the are done with QuickBooks, it kicks off a backup to the corporate NAS.
You see, every 3 times you close Quicken, it askes you to make a backup copy.
And that is what I am thinking here. Just have QuickBooks make a backup copy of its entire db across the VPN to your corporate office every time the local accountants finish with Quickbooks.

Now, if QuickBooks has a transactional replication feature, then use that over the VPN. Again, I don't know the functionality of QuickBooks, so I can't say for sure.

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by Joseph Moore In reply to

So, you could do that.
Now, DSL is usually the same speeds upstream and downstream.

Also, Answer2 mentions using TS. That could be an option. You would set up QuickBooks on a server at corporate. Each remote office accountant would connect over the VPN to the corporate TS server, and launch QuickBooks. They would open their own office info, and enter in their data.
But all of the data is in the corporate office, and the only thing passing through the VPN tunnel is the screen display and the keyboard strokes. Terminal Services is a light way of distributing applications to remote offices, because you really AREN'T distributing apps. Only a light emulation instead.
You would just need to see if QuickBooks works in Windows 2000 Terminal Services, or if you would need Citrix Metaframe to do the TS properly. Anyway, it is a valid option to think about.
But you are gonna need a VPN anyway.

Good luck

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