Document Management has been an optional feature in QuickBooks since the 2010 release. The product has evolved over the past two years, and with QuickBooks 2012 we see not only some improvements, but also a dramatic change in how the product is offered. Local storage of documents is free. In addition, the ability to store your documents in the Cloud with Quickbooks Attached Documents is being phased out.
Document Management in its simplest form is the ability to store a document electronically in a way that is easy to retrieve. In the QuickBooks environment this usually revolves around “attaching” the document to a QuickBooks transaction or list record. For example, you may want to attach a scanned copy of a receipt to a QuickBooks check, drawings and specifications to an estimate, or a contract signature page to an invoice. There are many features that can be added, but that is the basic task.
There are two general ways that the storage of these documents can be implemented. You could store the attachments “in the cloud” on the servers of the company providing you with this service, or you could store the documents locally on your own computer or computer network.
The Evolving History of QuickBooks Document Management
Not many people will remember this, but back in 2008 there was the Intuit DMS product for QuickBooks, a desktop document management system, available for a one time fee of $299.00. I was pretty excited about this one, as it was my first exposure to this kind of document management. Unfortunately (or, maybe, fortunately?) Intuit dropped that product a few months after introduction, and gave me my money back.
Then with QuickBooks 2010 Intuit released QuickBooks Document Management as an integrated tool with QuickBooks (see this article). This was a subscription based online product through the Intuit App Center, storing your documents in the Intuit cloud servers. There was a fee for storing documents (unless you had a very low volume). People complained that you couldn’t store documents locally, and that there was a fee for a feature that they thought should be a part of their QuickBooks purchase price (as it was then in Quicken).
With the release of Quickbooks 2011 this evolved to QuickBooks Attached Documents (see this article). There was an option to store your documents locally (great!), but you still had to pay a fee even if you didn’t use the online storage (not great!). The free option for a small amount of online document storage went away. There were still lots of complaints from users.
So, here we are in the 2012 release, and we now have the Doc Center. What has changed this year?
- Local storage of your documents is free, everyone gets this feature as a part of QuickBooks.
- A drag and drop interface is added that is very convenient. Just drag a document from your Windows desktop, file system or an Outlook document and drop it on the product, the document will be imported.
- Additional information about the properties of the stored document is available.
- No more online document storage!
What is the Future of QuickBooks Attached Documents?
Things are a bit confusing, because this is a complicated situation. There were mixed messages prior to the official release of QuickBooks 2012. I’ve been working with Intuit staff to pin down all the details, and here is what I’ve found.
The short answer is that the QuickBooks Doc Center provides free local storage for QuickBooks 2012 and later, but no online storage option. For QuickBooks 2010 and 2011 users, online storage will continue if you have it, but you are eventually going to have to move away from that. Please note that I think that many of these changes won’t take place until September 26th.
So, digging in a bit deeper:
- local document storage is free
- You cannot sign up for the online version of document storage through Intuit directly.
- Existing customers with a paid QuickBooks Attached Documents service can continue to use the feature until your QuickBooks product is “retired” (see this article for details). That means that if you don’t upgrade to QuickBooks 2012 (or later), you will no longer be able to use QuickBooks Attached Documents after May 2014.
- QuickBooks 2011 users cannot sign up for a new QuickBooks Attached Documents subscription (after 9/26/2011). Not even for local storage! Your only option if you don’t have a subscription already is to upgrade to QuickBooks 2012. However, if you already have a subscription the pricing has changed. There will be a free online version limited to 100 MB of storage, a 500 MB storage option for $4.95 a month, and an unlimited storage option for $9.95 a month. They have removed the limits on the number of documents that you can attach (by count) and have lowered the pricing. If you are already subscribed you should have received an email notification about this.
- Existing customers of a paid QuickBooks Document Management service can continue to use the feature until your QuickBooks product is “retired” (see this article for details). That means that if you don’t upgrade to QuickBooks 2012 (or later), you will no longer be able to use QuickBooks Document Management after May 2013.
- QuickBooks 2010 users can still sign up for a free subscription to QuickBooks Document Management at the free level, which limits you to 100 MB of online storage (there is no local storage option). However, you can no longer sign up for one of the larger, paid subscriptions. Very limiting!
Why is this being done? According to Alex Blakey of Intuit: “We received feedback from our QuickBooks customers that they overwhelmingly preferred to have local storage versus online storage of documents. In response, we introduced free document storage right on the PC for QuickBooks 2012 users. We are committed to supporting QuickBooks Attached Docs for existing customers and are evaluating the best course of action for ongoing support based on customer demand.”
For many people, local storage of their documents is a good choice. However, I still have the same complaint about local storage with the Doc Center that I had for QuickBooks Attached Documents in 2011 – the documents are stored “in the clear” in a folder, so anyone can see and access them. Don’t use this feature to store documents that have sensitive information like Social Security Numbers or credit card numbers!
Online storage of documents is a good choice for many businesses. If you have been using QuickBooks Attached Documents for online storage I highly recommend looking at SmartVault, an excellent document management system that integrates very well with QuickBooks and provides many features that go beyond what Intuit offered. I would hope that Intuit will talk to SmartVault about collaborating, now that they have dropped QuickBooks Attached Documents!
Note that if you are using the online service and upgrade your older copy of QuickBooks to the 2012 release there should be an option to download your online documents to your local system, preserving the links in your QuickBooks file. I couldn’t test this as I haven’t been using QuickBooks Attached Documents myself.
Improved Features for QuickBooks 2012 – Doc Center
I’m happy that there are some improvements to the feature for QuickBooks 2012. If you only need a simple document management system, this could be very useful. Note that I’m assuming that you are familiar with the older version, I’m just going to point out the changes.
Drag and Drop Interface: You can drag a document from the your file system OR from Outlook, and drop it in the “drop zone” in the Doc Center. This is very cool. This will add the document to the general document area, where you can attach it to a particular transaction later. In the shot below I’m showing the Doc Center.
The same drag and drop capability is available if you click the paper clip icon to attach a document to a transaction or list item.
Scanning Improvements: If you want to scan a stack of documents at one time (stack them in the document feeder) but have them entered as separate documents, just place a blank page between each one. QuickBooks will load them as separate documents. I’m not sure how much of a time saver this is, as you have to do that collation.
Column sorting: You can click on any column heading in the Doc Center to sort by that column.
Document Details are available by selecting a document and clicking the “view details” button.
Search using the integrated QuickBooks Search Bar lets you locate documents by the document name and any of the fields in the Details window as shown above. Keep in mind that the Search feature only updates the index periodically, so you might not find documents that you have just added.
Switching to Free Local Storage
If you have a QuickBooks Attached Documents (or QuickBooks Document Management) account, when you open the Doc Center you will see a message, with a link, that asks you if you want to switch to local storage or keep your online storage. If you click that link you see this information.
I haven’t gone through this process past this screen, yet. If you select free local storage, your online documents should be downloaded to your computer. If I select to stay with online storage, will I have that option in the future? I believe so, although I can’t say for sure. I doubt that Intuit would prevent you from getting your documents at a later date, as long as you don’t wait until the online service is retired.
I Have Some Concerns With Doc Center and Local Storage…
The local storage in the Doc Center just keeps a copy of the document in a folder named Attach that is found in the location where your QuickBooks company file is stored. The file is stored “in the clear” – no security or encryption, so be careful about using this to store sensitive documents. If you have personal information, social security numbers or credit card information in the documents, there is NO security. Anyone can see this information.
This folder is not included in a backup, so you must be sure to make your own backup copy of the folder! This also means that if you transfer the file to your accountant that your accountant will NOT be able to see the attachments.
If a document is lost (erased by another user, or you restored a company file and didn’t restore your own backup copy of the folder) then it still shows in the Doc Center, but there is no way to retrieve the document. In addition, you cannot delete the reference to the document. It will always show in the Doc Center. There is a “remove” button, but if you try to remove the document you are told that the program is “Unable to download attachments” and the listing remains in the Doc Center. I’m hoping that they will fix this soon! Update 9/20/2011 – if the document is deleted from the folder on the computer, you CAN remove the reference from the Doc Center with the “remove” button. If the entire folder is missing, then you get the error – this is what you would run into if you restore a backup of your company file and didn’t have a copy of the document folder.
The Doc Center is “document management lite”, and it may be suitable for smaller businesses. You do have to be concerned about the backup issue – it isn’t taken care of for you. However, if you are serious about document management, if you have a larger firm, if security is a serious issue, if you are an accounting firm working with client files, I do NOT recommend that you use this. Instead, consider SmartVault, which is an excellent and very sophisticated product that has great interface with QuickBooks.
About the Author (Author Profile)Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He's been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had a one-floppy disk drive system, loading the program from one floppy and then replacing that with the other floppy to hold the data. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise. He also is a Xero Certified Partner. Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. Charlie can be reached at email@example.com He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog and a regular blog contributor to the Intuit Inner Circle. Connect with Charlie at Google
Sites That Link to this Post
- QuickBooks 2011 – QuickBooks Attached Documents (Document Management) : Practical QuickBooks | September 20, 2011
- QuickBooks 2010 Document Management : Practical QuickBooks | September 20, 2011
- QuickBooks 2012 Doc Center Problem Workaround : Practical QuickBooks | September 26, 2011