The Doctor is In. In medicine, students learn a concept known as ‘differential diagnosis’ to identify one condition from another, they rule-in and rule-out the possibilities, and what they are left with is their diagnosis. One of the first steps in this process is evaluation of the ‘Chief Complaint’. For example, a patient might complain of ‘Shortness of Breath’, or ‘Abdominal pain’, such are the chief complaints from which the differential diagnostic process is begun.
One user logs out of QuickBooks, or turns off their computer, and everyone else using QuickBooks is forced out of the program.
In reality the chief complaint is probably not as well defined as noted above, it is more likely that a user reports something like, “we will be working, and suddenly we get kicked out of the program.’ Even more likely they may get a QuickBooks Error Message indicating that QuickBooks has lost connection with the Company file.
Evaluating the Chief Complaint:
Physicians use a series of questions to evaluate the chief complaint, this process is referred to as ‘History of the Chief Complaint.’ For example, in the case of the ‘Shortness of Breath’ scenario they might ask the patient questions like:
When did you first notice your shortness of breath?
Does anything worsen or improve your shortness of breath?
Does your shortness of breath come on gradually, or suddenly?
Based upon the various answers to these questions, the physician is ruling-in, or ruling-out, different probable causes to reach a diagnosis.
We can take this same approach in diagnosis our QuickBooks chief complaint. For example, we might ask questions like:
Were you the only one working in QuickBooks, or were other users logged-in?
Did anyone else experience the same error, at the same time as you?
Did anyone not experience the same error, at the same time as you?
Beyond the History of the Chief Complaint:
A physician doesn’t only use the process of ‘taking a history’ to evaluating the Chief Complaint, they also pair that up with a physical exam and perhaps diagnostic testing. In the case of shortness of breath, the physician would obviously auscultate (listen to) the patient’s chest for breath sounds, and maybe even request a chest x-ray to check for evidence of fluid in the lungs (a condition know, as pulmonary edema) or partial/total lung collapse (possible causes: pneumonia or atelectasis).
We don’t necessarily have the convenience of a stethoscope to listen to QuickBooks, or an X-ray to look inside and see what is going on, but we do have other ways of going beyond the simple history process. For example, in our chief complaint we could look at the historical QBWin.log files of each user’s computer in an attempt to verify the ‘terminal event’ and any error message reported at the time of that event. As part of this examination we might find that several of the computers experienced the same ‘loss of connectivity’ error at the exact same moment. But we also find that one of the computers ‘shut QuickBooks down normally’ just seconds prior to the loss of connectivity by the other computers.
We can also check the *.QBW.nd file (by opening the file with a text editor) to examine the content to verify the IP address of the actual computer hosting the QuickBooks file and acting as the QuickBooks Database Server for the networked computers. We might identify several possibilities, but in this case the ‘host computer’ is the same computer that shut down QuickBooks normally prior to the other computers loosing connectivity.
The principles of ‘differential diagnosis’ work as well for QuickBooks as they do for medicine. We have ruled-in and ruled-out a variety of possibilities, and we can now reach an accurate diagnosis.
The first computer that closed QuickBooks, and was then shut-down, was hosting multi-user access for this file. The result was that the Network-version of the QuickBooks Database Server (a windows service) was stopped, and the other users lost their connection to both the database server and the QuickBooks Company file. The computer that is hosting must remain on at all times, and the QuickBooks Database Service be running on that computer, if other users need to access QuickBooks.
In this case QuickBooks has been set-up in a peer-to-peer network where one user’s computer is not only ‘using’ QuickBooks but hosting QuickBooks. While a ‘dedicated server’ model for QuickBooks networking is always preferred, there is nothing wrong with this set-up as long as the computer user is aware that they can-not ‘turn-off’ their computer (or even re-boot it) without first requesting other QuickBooks users shut-down QuickBooks. Similarly, during set-up, it is essential that the ‘hosting features’ of QuickBooks be configured under Windows services to ‘start automatically’, rather than being set to ‘manual’ start-up (and shut-down) mode.
It is also extremely important that this computer have adequate computer resources to permit it to work as both ‘server’ and ‘workstation’ (client) in regard to QuickBooks and all other computer applications that the user may make use of.
The Dr. is off duty. Don’t worry though, in future episodes of this column we will look at other examples of ‘differential diagnosis’ for other QuickBooks issues.