Within the past 10 days, at least four clients have asked my why they keep having situations where QuickBooks says that someone is logged in, but that the user isn’t logged into QuickBooks. In fact, in some cases, the user who's supposedly logged in to QuickBooks doesn’t even have his computer on.
Nine times out of 10, this happens when a user either has left QuickBooks running on his computer and gotten preoccupied by other work, or he left for the day (or lunch) with QuickBooks still open.
In either of these cases, there really is only one reason why QuickBooks thinks he's logged in – "because he's still logged in.”
Yes, that's what I said, he's still logged in.
The user may not have QuickBooks open on his computer or he may not have his computer running, but he's still logged in to the Company file he was working in. As far as the QuickBooks Database Server is concerned, he's still logged in to the Company file, and in a network configuration the QuickBooks Database Server is "king."
In this two-part miniseries, we'll examine why and how this happens, as well as some of the things you can do when your QuickBooks loses connection to your Company-file across your network.
Why It Happens
There are three parts to QuickBooks – the QuickBooks Application (what most of us think about when we hear the term "QuickBooks"); your QuickBooks Company file; and the QuickBooks Database Server. QuickBooks is reliant upon all three components to work properly.
3 Components of QuickBooks
The Database Server actually is the component in this "trio" that unites the other two parts, because it takes the data in your Company file and makes it available to the Application, while at the same time taking commands from the application and writing them to your Company file.
In a networked multi-user configuration, the Database Server acts like a "street cop" by controlling the flow of traffic (streams of data) between each user’s QuickBooks application and the Company file.
Dedicated QB Server Network
Anything that causes a loss or diminishes the connectivity between QuickBooks running on your computer(s) and the QuickBooks Database Server running on the computer that is "hosting" your Company file(s) will create issues with performance. It also may result in an error message telling users that their "Connection has been lost."
But that's not always the case. Sometimes, they may not be able to log-in to their Company file because QuickBooks thinks they are still logged in.
How It Happens
There are probably as many different how causes as there are components in the computers and network where QuickBooks is installed. We're going to look at several of the most common.
Power Goes Out – If the power goes out on your computer, but the host computer is left running, the connection between your copy of QuickBooks and the Database Server has just been broken. The vast majority of the time Database Server thinks you're still working in the Company file.
But you say, “I have a UPS on my computer, and it didn’t stop running.” So is your Network Switch/Hub/Router also protected by a UPS? If they're not, even though your computer and the server were both left running, the network infrastructure that connects you lost power and so connectivity was broken.
This is one reason you need an Uninterruptible Power Supply on every computer and every piece of network infrastructure that QuickBooks operates on.
Computer Goes to Sleep – “QuickBooks isn’t Green." Any power settings that causes or permits almost any portion of your computer to sleep or hibernate may result in a loss of the connection between the QuickBooks application and the QuickBooks Database server.
The newer your computer and the operating system it uses, the more likely the manufacture has done its best to reduce the power consumption of its hardware in an attempt to be as politically correct as possible.
All of these "power saver" functions may result in disconnections when running QuickBooks unless you set out to eliminate every green setting.
For power settings such as “Put the computer to sleep,” the answer should always be never. But just making this change isn’t enough, you must alter many of the "advanced power settings" to turn off all the energy conservation features that most modern computers come pre-configured with.
One such advanced setting will cause your hard drive to either enter sleep mode, hibernation or hybrid sleep, all of which are contrary to maintaining your QuickBooks connection. USB and PCI power management should be disabled or turned off to ensure the power to these components is on at all times.
Believe it or not, even your Network Interface Card (NIC) may have a power setting within the card configuration properties that allows your computer to turn off the card when it isn’t active in order to save power.
There is no "down time" setting. If the computer sees you are idle, it will power off your network card, and with it take your QuickBooks connection.
NIC Power Saver setting
Bad Habits – We spent years teaching everyone not to simply "throw the power switch" at the end of the day to turn off their computers with all their programs still running.
Unfortunately, we haven’t given them the same degree of instruction when it comes to heading home at the end of the day and leaving their computer and all their programs running, rather than logging-out of each application. Perhaps it isn’t the "end of the day" either. It might just be a smoke break or lunch hour.
Even with the power settings eliminated and a good UPS connected to your computer, there still are things that can happen to break the connection between QuickBooks on the computer and the Database server.
One of the big culprits is "Windows." I like to blame Microsoft for a lot of operating system related hardships, and this is one of them. Windows may decide to do a little "clean-up" on your hard drive while your computer seems idle or overnight if it decides you really do need those 13 updates installed.
In some cases, the activities or updates may cause QuickBooks to lose connectivity. But as if that wasn’t enough, Windows may very well decide that the computer must be rebooted in order to complete the tasks. It then proceeds to do just that, and restarts your computer.
In the process, QuickBooks is forced to close without the proper shutdown taking place. You come in the next morning to find nothing open on your desktop. And when you attempt to open QuickBooks, it says that you are already logged-in.
If you had only closed QuickBooks properly (even if you don’t remember leaving it running before you headed away from your desk). If you're not going to be using QuickBooks, either close it completely or at least logout of the Company file you've been using.
QuickBooks Freezes – You're working in QuickBooks performing some intensive task like generating a 300-page Audit Trail report and QuickBooks displays the message "Not Responding" above the menu bar. You click your space bar and the QuickBooks user interface grays out. Now you decide you must Control-Alternate-Delete to force QuickBooks to shutdown using Windows Task Manager.
When you attempt to restart QuickBooks, you can’t get logged-in to the Company file you were using because it tells you you're already logged-in. Yes, you broke the connection by forcing the logoff improperly, and you also may have corrupted your Company file in the process.
What's even worse, QuickBooks really wasn’t broken, it simply was ignoring Windows. That's why the "Not Responding" message appeared. When QuickBooks gets so busy doing the work that users (even if there is only one) have it doing, it's sometimes just too busy to respond to a "ping" request from the Windows Operating System.
When it does, Windows freaks out and reports that QuickBooks isn’t responding. But if you were to check the various processes associated with QuickBooks within Task Manager you would see that the I/O, CPU and Memory counters are just clicking.
Never close QuickBooks using Task Manager unless you're 1,000% (yes, 1,000 percent) certain it's not working, no matter how long it takes for the program to finally produce the work you requested.
Hardware Failures – Although rare, hardware failures can result in connectivity losses. Most such hardware failures are associated with the components of your network, including computer network cards, the network switch/hub/router used to connect the various computers or even the network cabling.
Because electricity is the means of conveying signals across a "copper" network, the network hardware gets hot. Heat means breakdowns and, in some cases, component failure.
Network cards can simply "go bad" over time. This is especially true if you're one of those people who never cleans out your computer. As the dust, filth, cobwebs and dead bugs build up inside, they contribute to the heat inside your computer. Some components, like network cards that do not have their own cooling fans, just fry.
This emphasizes the need to regularly clean your computer’s interior components, as well as all cooling fans. If you're too afraid to do it, pay an IT professional to clean up your mess.
Switches/hubs/routers also are subject to breakdown. Most cheap equipment, like the kind you buy at "big box" stores has a life expectancy of two years. Professional equipment typically will last two to three times longer.
Since most of this network infrastructure is kept in an attic, closet, hidden behind the file cabinet or under a desk, it's all subject to attack by the dirt devils as well as environmental extremes.
How would you like to have your work space in the closet or behind the file cabinet?
Network wiring and connections can be the culprit, as you pull, yank, trip over and do your best to damage the network cables. You might cause a single wire in a cable to break just a small number of strands of wire. This might result in enough signal degradation to produce transient losses in connectivity. The same could be true for any of the cable plugs.
We once identified a situation where a single strand of wire was so badly damaged from having had the desk leg sitting on top of the cable that whenever someone would lean over the desk and apply downward pressure, QuickBooks would disconnect.
As the doctor would tell you, “Just don’t lean on the desk anymore.”
No, replace the cable is the correct answer.
While we have discussed some "fixes" as we have gone along, next time we will look at several other issues and resolutions for situations where QuickBooks loses connectivity.