Spring is in the air and that makes me sneeze, which makes me easily irritated. So I’m going to take it out on Intuit today, to complain about the way that QuickBooks handles backups, particularly how backups are restored. Making backups of your critical data is an essential business process, one that I find that most businesses don’t do properly. A backup is only good if you can easily restore it when you need to, so why does QuickBooks make restoring such a pain?
I’m talking about the Restore a backup copy function that works with a “QBB” file, a backup file that you create from within QuickBooks itself.
When I tell people that they should be using the QuickBooks backup feature regularly, many of them look at me blankly and say “why?”. They may be making a full system backup of their server, or they may be using one of those automatic backup products that save your updated files to a cloud server behind the scenes without your having to do anything yourself. Well, those are all good procedures, but they aren’t enough in my opinion. You still need to make a QuickBooks backup, a QBB file, on a regular basis.
Why Make a QuickBooks Backup?
There are a lot of reasons, depending on how your computer system is set up and how you are making backups. You are making backups, right?
- Some automatic backup systems can’t make backups of a file that is open at backup time. The QuickBooks database manager can often hold the file open, interfering with these kinds of backup systems. File open, no backup!
- In some cases, some data may be “buffered” or still in the database manager’s memory, not flushed out to the hard drive. Worse yet, some of the data may be in a transitional state or partially recorded, with half of the data written and half not. A full system backup may take a snapshot of the database as it exists on your hard drive at the time, but that might not be a useable snapshot. The database can be in an intermediate state that when restored, is not useful. Restoring that gives you a corrupted database!
- Some backup systems are set up to focus on particular files. I’ll often see systems set up to focus on the QBW file, your company file. Well, that may be MOST of your QuickBooks data, but it might not be ALL of your QuickBooks data!
Have you checked your backup system to see if it is backing up a useable set of data? Have you checked your backup system to see if you can restore the data, and that the data you restore is complete? Lots of people set up backup systems but don’t test if they are working, until that first time that you need to restore data because of some disaster. That is way too late to be testing your backup system.
Another reason for a QuickBooks backup is that if you create a QBB file, with “complete verification”, then QuickBooks does some housekeeping. As time goes on, if you aren’t doing this, little gremlins are creeping into your QuickBooks data and messing things up (that is a technical description…). Errors start accumulating, which you may not notice at first and may not create problems. However, over time, these accumulated small errors can lead to data corruption and a big, big problem. A properly managed QuickBooks company file should have a full backup using the QuickBooks backup feature once a month in my opinion.
In addition, QuickBooks is keeping a transaction log as you use it, and this transaction log continues to grow. As it grows, it takes up space, and a big log file can slow things down. Making a QBB file clears out the transaction log properly. Sure, you can just erase the log every once in awhile, but then you have lost one of your disaster recovery features, and that isn’t good. For more on this see my article What is the QuickBooks TLG File.
What is in the QuickBooks Backup File?
If you make a QBB backup file, using the File/Create Backup menu option and selecting a local backup, it will include the following:
- QuickBooks Company File: The QBW file. That makes sense – this is all of your transactions and lists from QuickBooks.
- Business Planner: the BPW file is included if you use it.
- Cash Flow Projector: The CFP file is included if you use it.
- Letter Templates: If you use the the Invoice Letter feature, your letters and templates are included.
- Loan Manger: The LMR file for the Loan Manager is included if you use it.
- Logo’s and Images: If you add your logo to any order templates, or any other graphic images, these are included. This includes images that you add to the item list in the Inventory Center in Enterprise 12.
- Printer Settings: If you modify any of your printer settings in QuickBooks this information is stored in the QBPrint.QBP file. This is included in the backup. Also the PrintEng.ini and wpr.ini files.
- Dictionary: Personally, I turn off the spell checking feature in QuickBooks, because I have too many technical abbreviations. However, if you are adding works to the dictionary, it is good to know that the user dictionary.tlx file is backed up. The spell.ini file is included as well.
- Transaction Log: This is included as well, and it can make the backup very large.
- QuickBooks Network Data File: The “.ND” file is a configuration file for network access.
- Little Green Box: Ah, the “.lgb” file. This contains encrypted information about user names and passwords, and is used by SDK based add-on programs to connect in unattended mode.
What is NOT in the QuickBooks Backup File?
That is a key question! Intuit does a fair job of catching all of the different files that are a part of QuickBooks, but there are (at the time I’m writing this) a few omissions. It is important to know what they are so that you don’t lose key information!
The biggest omission that I’m aware of is your attached documents if you are using the Doc Center in QuickBooks 2012 or later. All of your attachments are stored in a series of folders under the “Attach” folder that is found where your QuickBooks company file is stored. I can see why they aren’t included in the QBB file – the documents could take up a LOT of space, making the backup file unmanageable. However, it is important to know that these aren’t backed up, so that you can be sure to make your own backup. Personally, I don’t think that any business larger than a one-person company should rely on the Doc Center feature for key storage anyways.
Are there other files that are missing? If you know of one, please leave a comment here.
Restoring Isn’t All That Simple!
Making the backup is the first step, obviously, but if you can’t restore the backup then it doesn’t do you any good. That is what makes me tear my hair out sometimes, the QuickBooks menu function for restoring backups doesn’t restore everything to the right place.
If you restore from that QBB file a new folder is created in the restore location, Restored_xxx_Files, where the “xxx” is your company file name. You can see that there are a number of sub folders here, and a text file.
Many of the files are not restored to the proper place, instead they are placed here. You have to manually move the files to their proper place.
I can see some situations where you might need to do this – if I’m trying to restore some portions of the data and not others. However, that should be an option in the restore process. You shouldn’t have to manually move things around. I hear this very often – “QuickBooks didn’t restore all of my data”. People don’t’ realize that you have to manually move things around, and that is bad. Arrghh!
If you open that txt file you see instructions that tell you what is included in the backup, and what is not restored to the right place. You can tell that they haven’t been paying attention to this for awhile, if you look at the date they refer to. That URL for additional help is no longer valid (same with the other “get help” URL’s in this file).
The contents of each of the folders that are found here must be manually moved back to the proper location if you are making a complete restore. The files that don’t go back to the right place are:
- Your image files (logos, item list images, etc.)
- Printer settings.
- Word templates and letters
- Cash Flow Projector
- Loan Manager
- Business Planner
- Spell checker
If you depend on any of this to operate your business it can be very frustrating to not have access to the data, such as when you are moving your files to a new computer system or file server.
So, Intuit, please make a full restore an option in the restore process so that all of these files can be placed in their proper location, or at least add a utility that will resolve this problem.