Ray Richards is founder of Mindspan Consultants and a technology journalist hailing from Ottawa, Canada

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Rogers Rant, QuickBooks Rave

While last month we undertook an examination of the small business accounting software Accpac Simply Accounting, this time around we'll take a good quick look at its chief competitor, Intuit's QuickBooks Pro 6.0 and provide an in depth comparison in the upcoming issue.

First things first

I hope you'll forgive me as I take a little off-topic time to outline a personal situation that has arisen which has made it very difficult to conduct research for this column. As I'm certain that most of you, if not all, have considered or indeed subscribed to a high-speed Internet provider, I thought that I'd relay my recent experiences with Rogers@Home, suppliers of cable modem connectivity to the Net. Since mid September, I have been experiencing major performance problems with both of my Rogers accounts and finally  reported it to them on September 24th.

The telephone support person informed me (after performing some tests) that there were indeed problems with the entire area. He said that it should be fixed within 48 hours. A few days later I called back to check the status of the repair (as things hadn't improved) and was told that someone had to come to my location to fix the problem. I informed him that the last person I had spoken to thought it was not an isolated incident -  but  that didn't seem to dissuade him from this course of action.

I waited for hours for the technician to arrive a few days later and was informed in under 10 minutes that it was an infrastructure problem in the area - really?! - at least the repair man was competent and professional.

Since then I have made numerous calls asking when things should be back to normal... at last telling them that if the service didn't improve in short order, I'd be commenting on it in my column. Later that same day I received a call from them informing me that people were working on the problem right away. The bandwidth went up and I was happy... for a day.

The next day there was a complete service outage and there have been more since. I have been getting speeds of as low as 13 kilobits per second... that's right kilobits. My mobile connection over the 14.4 cellular phone modem is faster - and there are many sites (including my online brokerage) that I often cannot connect to with my cable modem at all.

I was initially concerned about bandwidth availability when I signed up with Rogers, as I was informed  that it is shared by all on your network segment. When querying the sales representative as to the number of people who would be on mine, I was told that Rogers never allocates  more than 4. As this sounded quite reasonable to me - I signed up. You can imagine my surprise when I asked the service representative how many others shared my segment and was told "27". When I expressed my shock at this figure I was told that he has seen some segments with more than 100 users.

So this is where I stand:  over a month with lousy service and I'm continually told upon inquiry that it'll be about a week until it's fixed. The bills keep coming but the bandwidth doesn't. Now that local competitors to Sympatico such as Magma and IGS are offering residential ADSL services, I am seriously considering switching and I would urge those considering high-speed connectivity to thoroughly explore all their options.

First Impressions

Wow... I didn't realise that I would have so much to say on the above - but fortunately the QuickBooks Pro 2000 product is well worth the wait. Upon installation of the software, I noticed a huge difference in ease of setup over Simply Accounting. The innovative format is clearly geared towards those who would rather spend time making money than leaning about its esoteric management terminology.

The setup program is designed to simulate an interview which queries the user on all relevant aspects of their enterprise. It not only asks them easy to understand questions but tells them the significance of them and makes suggestions as to the appropriate choices based on your selected line of work. While this is the easiest setup method, you may also generate your own chart of accounts from scratch. I wouldn't recommend this however, as the pre-generated selections are flexible enough to accommodate all but the most complex of small concerns with little customisation.

The setup application allows you to go back and alter your previous selections should you make a mistake or think of an important item which you would like to include later in the customisation process. Additionally, QuickBooks allows you to activate features at a later date should you not wish to complicate the initial setup unduly by their inclusion or fail to realise their importance to your business at the outset.

Once you are finished with the setup, you are greeted by a graphically appealing interface which exemplifies Intuit's attention to detail. Clearly the company utilises personnel well versed in human factors to design the intuitive and attractive interface, as is evidenced by the ease of navigation and clarity of conception. This area is unfortunately where I found Simply Accounting (whose data QuickBooks imports incidentally) seriously lacking.

QB Pro's functionally is indeed robust with support for all the basic accounting features you'd expect plus time tracking, project costing, estimate generation, payroll, inventory tracking, contact management, a myriad of reports and much more. Stay tuned next month for an in depth review of this powerful administrative tool.

Part 2 of Quickbooks Review

Originally published in Ottawa Computes! magazine, November, 1999, by technology columnist, Ray Richards.


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