Auto Data Recovery is a new feature that was introduced in QuickBooks 2011 R6 and QuickBooks 2010 R12 (US editions), but only in the Pro and Premier versions. It wasn’t something that I was familiar with, but now I’m starting to see questions from clients about this feature. What is it doing?
If you have one of those versions of QuickBooks you may see an additional folder show up on your computer, with a few new files. This is the QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery folder, and it will show up on it’s own.
The QBW.ADR file will be the same size as your regular QBW company file, the QBW.TLG.ADR file should be much smaller but will grow. The two “old” files won’t show up until later.
Essentially, this is a backup copy of your QuickBooks company file, and a matching transaction log, that QuickBooks makes for you automatically. You cannot turn this feature off.
Why is Intuit Doing This?
I was able to interview the Intuit product manager for this feature and gain some insight.
Intuit technical support gets many calls from clients who “cannot open their QuickBooks file”. Over the past two years they have been working on improving methods of diagnosing, fixing and preventing these kinds of issues. Several tools have been developed by them to help:
- Many of the problems were networking issues – improper permissions or other configuration errors. Intuit developed the QuickBooks Network Diagnostic Tool to help gather information about the user’s network setup, and hopefully diagnose the problem.
- Later, the QuickBooks Company File Diagnostic Tool was introduced. If you couldn’t open your company file due to file corruption, this tool would help detect the error, diagnose the problem, AND hopefully repair the error.
These tools resolved many of the problems, but they can’t always fix everything. If they don’t work, and the user still cannot open the company file, the next step would be to send your company file to be repaired by the Intuit Data Services team. There also are third party repair services such as www.qbornotqb.com that can be used (I highly recommend this company).
This isn’t a great situation – there are fees involved, and you are going to be without access to your QuickBooks company file for several days.
One alternative to sending your file out for repair is to have a good, relatively current backup copy of your QuickBooks file. Restore that file and pick up from the time it was created. That works very well in many situations. But, unfortunately, experience tells us that many QuickBooks users just don’t do a good job of making backups. Either they don’t have backups at all, or they have a poorly implemented backup plan so that the backups are not useable.
Any good accounting professional should be able to set up a proper backup plan to minimize problems. There are many good backup products available, and a proper backup procedure will include multiple kinds of backups (I like Gillware Online Backup as one element of a good backup plan). However, Intuit can’t assume that a user has implemented a good backup plan, so they have implemented the QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery feature.
How Does QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery Work?
Roughly one hour after you open a QuickBooks company file the QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery feature will perform some internal diagnostics on the file. If the file has been opened, and passes the test, the program assumes that this is a good file and a backup copy is made into the ADR folder.
After the initial copy is made the ADR transaction log will contain all transactions added to the file from that point on.
Every 12 hours after the first copy QuickBooks will make another copy of the file. This won’t happen if you don’t have QuickBooks open – it occurs the next time you start the desktop program. Since you can open your company file the program knows that it is accessible, and it will again run some short internal diagnostics. Note that the TLG file undergoes some diagnostic tests also, because a corrupted TLG file could also prevent you from opening your QuickBooks company file. If everything passes, the first ADR copy is renamed to “old” and a new ADR set is created. Only one “old” copy is kept around.
So now you have two copies, one that is up to 12 hours old, and one that is up to 24 hours old.
How Do I Use This Feature?
You don’t have to do a thing to make the backups. That is the purpose of this – to provide a good, clean backup file without any operator interaction.
How do you restore using this backup? The original intent was for this to be used by Intuit technical support staff. It wasn’t a feature that was being presented to end users (or ProAdvisors). However, Intuit has published details on how to restore files in Intuit Support Article #HOW13772.
To summarize, you will replace the original QBW with the ADR copy, and match it with the ADR TLG file. The TLG file contains all transactions that have been entered since the copy was made (see this article on the standard TLG file for more info on TLG files). When you open the ADR copy, QuickBooks will recognize that this is a special copy and it will apply the TLG transactions automatically. IF for some reason the TLG file itself is compromised, it won’t be applied and you will have your restored backup without the last 12 (or 24) hours of activity.
Intuit does not expect customers to do this on their own. The intent is that the backup files are there for Intuit technical support staff to work with as a last resort, short of sending the file to Intuit Data Services for repair.
Is it Good, or Bad?
This is always the tough call. My usual answer for that question, in relation to anything about QuickBooks, is “Yes”.
This is NOT A FULL BACKUP SOLUTION – keep in mind that this is just one more cog in a well oiled machine. You should not rely on just this feature to provide all of your backup needs!
There are some downsides. You can’t turn this off. I’ve already seen complaints about that, as people don’t want to see something taking up more space on their hard drive. Yes, I know that hard drive space is really cheap and available now, but people still complain and some businesses still have space constraints.
There are several reasons why this is set up this way.
- First, it only works if it is on. If someone can turn it off, then the user has squashed an important part of the technical support process for Intuit, and they don’t want that. Remember how we used to be able to turn off the Audit Trail? Now it is always on, and users cannot turn it off.
- Second, this is (in my words) a pilot project. It is hard to beta test something like this because you only see if it works if you have someone who gets a corrupted file. Beta tests aren’t likely to run into that kind of problem often enough to be a good test. So they have not provided a way to turn it off. I understand this, but I’m not sure I like it.
All of these files are in one particular folder (which was one of their design goals), so you can decide to not include the folder in any system backup processes you have, if that is a consideration. That is a point on the “good” side.
This feature is only available in the Pro and Premier versions of QuickBooks (starting with QuickBooks 2011 R6 and 2010 R12). That was one of my key questions for Intuit – why just these versions? For Enterprise, they didn’t want to roll this out as a pilot project (again, my term for it) because Enterprise files tend to be much larger, and they wanted to test this in smaller environments first. For the Accountant’s edition – Accountants usually are working with multiple files from multiple clients. This feature doubles up the space that you need to store your company files, and if you have a lot of company files that could be a problem.
So, I have mixed feelings. In general, I like the idea. I wish there was a way to make it optional, for those cases where we really don’t want it, but I understand their approach. I would like to see it expanded to Enterprise (perhaps making it an option there, but not optional in Pro/Premier?). I also would like to have it as an optional feature in the Accountants Edition, since I do have multiple clients who run their business with that edition, who aren’t accountants (so they can get all the features they need). Optional, because an accountant might not want it.
I’ve not come across any real technical issues yet, other than complaints about the space it takes, but then it has only been out there a short while. I would have liked it better if Intuit had informed ProAdvisors of what this was, rather than sneaking it out. Yes, it was a feature listed in the update pages, but they never really did explain what it was in detail.
Many thanks to Carlos Rodriquez and Kim Amsbaugh at Intuit for providing information for this article.