Advice for using Dropbox, SugarSync or Box.net with QuickBooks (or Quicken) files

File sharing services like Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net (or others) allow you to access the files from any PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry or Android and share files with others.  Some frequent questions I hear include “Can I use Dropbox (or SugarSync, Box.net, et al) to share the QuickBooks file with someone else?  What if I am the only one using QuickBooks — can I use Dropbox for the QuickBooks company file so I can access QuickBooks from work, home or anywhere?” 

File sharing services are like a USB or flash drive in the cloud (i.e. a server) that you can access from anywhere and share specific files or folders with others.  Most of these services provide some storage space free and allow you to earn more free space by referring others who register to use the service.  Using Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net, etc. can be a great method of offsite storage for QuickBooks backup or portable files (QBB or QBM).  However, you should NOT use Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net or other file sharing service with financial application data files like QuickBooks (QBW file) or Quicken.  This is from SugarSync’s website:Sugarsync logo

If you do want to sync data files to another computer, bear in mind that database driven applications use file locking to protect their data files whenever the application services are running. This file locking can cause SugarSync to create duplicate files when it tries to update a file on another computer.

The following file types are not currently supported for syncing: Outlook .pst, Quicken, and Quickbooks. In addition, please note that system folders cannot be synced.

Here’s an example of the problems from a recent question posted on the Intuit Community Forum:

Having a problem using Dropbox with QuickBooks. When I open QuickBooks it says another user created the file and will not let me open the data file.

I am the only person using QuickBooks. How do I get this problem to go away?

When asked about using Dropbox for the QuickBooks company file (QBW), Doug Sleeter, Founder and President of The Sleeter Group and one of the nation’s leading small business accounting software experts replied:

I would stay away from using Dropbox for QuickBooks company files (QBW files). There is simply too much that can go wrong, and the risk of file corruption is too great.

My opinion is that it is absolutely NOT good practice to do that. I love Dropbox for synching data, but specifically NOT the QuickBooks data file (QBW). The reason is that the QuickBooks company file is always being written to by the database server and it is completely unpredictable as to what state the file is in at any given moment. So if two computers have a “synced” version of the QuickBooks file, how will either know whether the other guy has it “open”, and then how will they be sure that all the syncing is complete even if the user says they’re not “in the QuickBooks” file?

It’s just too much to manage and the risks of file corruption are too great.

So use Dropbox all you want, but NOT with the QuickBooks company file (QBW).

It is important to note that these recommendations apply even if you are the only one using the QuickBooks file.  Mario Nowogrodzki, CPA, CITP, Founder and Principal of Mendelson Consulting (which specializes in QuickBooks and Information Technology consulting services) comments:

I’m one of the biggest Dropbox fans you’ll find. But I do not recommend using Dropbox for a live QuickBooks file. There is constant read-write going on a live QuickBooks file (QBW); you don’t want a QuickBooks file that’s open and being worked on to be sync’d onto the Dropbox cloud folder. I do recommend Dropbox for use as a QuickBooks backup folder, for example.

You can use Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net or other file sharing services to share a QuickBooks backup or portable file with clients or others.  However, please do not put the QuickBooks working company file (QBW) or Quicken file in these folders.  In case you’re tempted to try it, read this and here’s another person’s experience posted in the Intuit Community Forum:

I have this just setup and have run into an issue right away. The short answer is, you can use SugarSync to sync QuickBooks BACKUP files, but not actual, active QuickBooks (or Quicken) files or any database file, or .pst files (from the SugarSync support team). It causes errors.

I was planning to use SugarSync to be able to work at home, at night when all work computers are shut off so there would be no conflicted files, but no go, I now have a file that says it was last modified 1970.

Please do not try to use Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net or other file sharing services for the QuickBooks company file (QBW) and help spread the word to clients or others so they do not corrupt their QuickBooks company file.  QuickBooks SharedBooks is a new concept from Intuit that would allow you to share the QuickBooks working company file with others without the risk of data file corruption or conflicted files.

You can get some free storage space with both Dropbox (2 GB) and SugarSync (5 GB) and if you click the links here (my referral links), we will both get bonus storage space free.

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About Michelle Long

Michelle L. Long, CPA is the owner of Long for Success, LLC specializing in QuickBooks consulting & training, coaching small business owners, speaking and writing. She was named one of '10 Women who Inspire a Profession' by Accounting Today and a Financial Services Champion of the Year by the SBA. She has been mentioned in the New York Times, Inc.com, Business Week, Investor's Business Daily, WebCPA and more. Michelle is the author of Successful QuickBooks Consulting and How to Start a Home Based Bookkeeping Business.

53 thoughts on “Advice for using Dropbox, SugarSync or Box.net with QuickBooks (or Quicken) files”

  1. The issues with using Dropbox and other similar products aren’t the result of these services. These issues (conflicted files, etc.) are the result of Quickbooks not recognizing when a file is already open or locked. From a programming standpoint it is very easy for them to add the code to test if a file is locked or already open and put up an alert notifying the user that the file is already in use, and then exiting. Too bad they don’t add this simple fix to allow their users the convenience of always having their latest data available on office, laptop and home computers without the ongoing subscription costs of a dedicated ‘cloud’ version of QB.

  2. Please take a look at https://qbox.coraltreetech.com.

    Qbox can be used to share QuickBooks files with any number of users. The file has to be locked by a user before changes can be synced. Only one user can lock the file at a time. Other users can view the file on their desktops simultaneously, but any changes they make will not be synced. Also Qbox syncs only the required QuickBooks files, so syncing is efficient.

    TS

  3. “You don’t want a QuickBooks file that’s open and being worked on to be sync’d onto the Dropbox cloud folder” — that sounds like exactly what I want, isn’t it? I am a single user, two computers (one desktop and one for travel or for whenever I don’t feel like being cooped up inside) and think the perfect way to sync QB files is to save the live file in my Google Drive Folder — which syncs it to Google Drive so that I can open it there from any computer. So I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly the problem is — is it just a dropbox thing and maybe this article hasn’t been updates somewhere to discuss the new Google Drive formats? Let me know if there is another link — thank you!! :)

  4. I have used Dropbox successfully with QB for years — but recently, with the latest upgrade to QB2013 Mac, it takes maybe 10 seconds for windows to open. Everything seems to be running VERY SLOWLY.

    I have QB2013 STORED in DB — it is loaded on each of my computers as well. I start the program FROM MY COMPUTER’s SAVED and it seems to go to DB (I am assuming) to load the latest data saved. I keep my backups in DB. I do not get duplicated or conflicted files unless I try to open in from 1 computer while the company is already open on another computer – (single user mode).

  5. Is there any hope for recovery if we had multiple users accessing the QB file on dropbox at the same time? We use QB server and had the multiuser mode enabled, but it appears that the file only recorded the first user’s entries.

    So much for using Dropbox w/ QB — I found this thread when searching for solution.

    1. Jack — As you discovered, that won’t work. Now, you need to identify which file is the most current and which transactions are missing and you will need to re-enter them.

  6. Hi MIchelle. We stopped accessing our qb files from dropbox but just realized through reading above that I am not backing up the files then as we still use dropbox as our back up service. How can I have the files back up in dropbox with out it being the location for the file to open in quickbooks. Thanks.

  7. We use DropBox and QB2012 successfully, On a MAC.

    As software developers we are aware of the pitfalls and potential issues but we only use it for Single User Access, and take plenty of backups (as has always been required of QB).

    To get rid of the Conflict copies remove the quickbooks startup shortcut. This starts quickbooks with a /silent command line argument when windows starts, and causes files to be opened, unknown to the user.

    Deselect the “Keep Quickbooks Running for quick startups” option in Preferences/General.

    Anyone wanting to dig deeper could look at the .ND file which is updated with a “FileConnectionGUID” when the database file is opened, this file is synced with dropbox while the database is opened as it is not locked or left open by QB. This would allow other users to check the ND file content and NOT open QB if a GUID was present. If you automate this feature (allow for DBox update lag), let me know, afraid I don’t have the time.

  8. We have been using Dropbox for Quickbooks for a few years now and continually experience the error messages and conflicted copies, even when we try to communicate amongst multiple users so that we are not in the same file at the same time. As such. I am now looking in to other options for where to store these Quickbooks files so they can be accessed by multiple users simultaneously and from a variety of locations (PC, tablet, phone, etc.).

    There has been a lot written about not using Dropbox for the Quickbooks working files (QBW), but are there now any other file sharing services (Wuala?) that can avoid these problems?

    If not, what other solutions are there besides putting this information on a server? I think QB Online sounds like an option, but we just recently purchased QB Enterprise as we want the consolidation capabilities that package has, so I’m not sure QB Online will work for us. And from what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like Quickbooks will have any sort of cloud solution (ShareBooks) any time soon, if ever at all.

    1. Amy — you may want to have QuickBooks hosted so users can login and access it from anywhere. There are several Intuit authorized hosting companies — here’s the list:

      Intuit-Authorized Commercial Hosting companies

      Right Networks. Telephone: (888) 417 4448
      InsynQ, Inc. Telephone: (866) 206 1781
      Uni-Data & Communications, Inc. Telephone: (718) 445-5600 x3180
      Xcentric Telephone: (678) 297-0190
      Cloud9 Real Time Telephone: (888) 869-0076
      Coaxis International, Inc. Telephone: (850) 391-1022
      myownasp. Telephone: (800) 521-7322
      NovelAspect.com. Telephone: (888) 228-0143
      Swizznet. Telephone: (888) 794-9948
      Qutera. Telephone: (800) 969-9524
      Real Time Data Services. Telephone: (888) 408-6044
      nGenx. Telephone: (888)-696-4369 x4
      Harborcloud. Telephone: (877)-294-2909
      Proxios. Telephone: (804)-342-1200
      WY Technology. Telephone: (858)-748-1600, ext 333
      Infinity Virtual. Telephone: (866) 257-8455

  9. Great information. Exactly what I was looking for regarding QB and DropBox. Thanks for saving me from a potentially big headache. My QB files are being backed up via conventional methods, including off-site storage through Amazon S3. I’m just gonna leave things the way they are.

  10. Some of the paid-for versions of DropBox are secure in that they encrypt the transmission of data and passwords between computers and their servers. Also, they claim that the data is encrypted *on* their servers too. However, there have been reports implying that the in-storage encryption is more in theory than in practice: http://www.tuaw.com/2011/04/19/dropbox-under-fire-for-security-concerns/.

    On the QuickBooks issue, we tried several times to get it working but gave up. The problem is QB is such a badly behaved program when it comes to touching its files. It creates network related files even when the application is closed, and merely opening a file to look at it causes the file to appear to be changed from the point of view of DropBox. So we reverted to the less intuitive but safer TortoiseSVN (for which non-geeks will probably need some help).

    1. That’s a good question Christi. I haven’t investigated the security of Dropbox in detail. If there are SSNs, bank account #s, etc. in a file, I’m not sure I’d use Dropbox. Plus, there are some states with laws regarding the security and protection of sensitive financial data of client records. ShareFile and LeapFile are affordable, secure client portals. I’m a member of The Sleeter Group so we get a ShareFile subscription with our membership.

  11. Drop box works great. I use it often. However, a word of caution: only save QBB files in drop box its the safest, surest way form getting a damaged QB file. The way I do it is save the QBB file in DBox and download it to my lab top when I am going to use it. After I am done I back it up both to drop box and another off site location just to be safe. Great article will link to it and share with the Portland bookkeeping community.

  12. Here’s a question – I have been able to work successfully with a QBW in DropBox for a week or so. Now that I have “seen the light” of the dangers of the DropBox/QBW combination, should I scrap the roughly 20 hours of work I put into the file and revert to the pre-Dropbox QuickBooks Backup (.QBB) file?

    How do I verify if that file is still good, and not damaged by being in DropBox? Is that even possible?

    1. I’d suggest you move the QBW file out of the Dropbox folder. Open it in QuickBooks and review the work you entered this week. It should be ok. Usually you will see Conflicted by the file name in the Dropbox folder if there are problems.

      It’s a good idea to backup QuickBooks to the Dropbox folder. Then, you have an offsite backup for free. :)

  13. This seems like a simple solution to get around using lock files. Just write a batch file that will check for a lockfile, and if it finds one then it throws a message and exits. If it doesn’t then it creates a lock file in the dropbox folder when you open quickbooks. When you close quickbooks the lock file will be deleted. No new instances of quickbooks.

    Also you may want to have a timer when program exits that waits for 10 minutes before clearing the lock file. That way there is time for the new file to propogate to the shared folder.

    My only concern would be that the QBW service would keep the file open for some reason and it woudln’t get uploaded.

    It’s not like these problems haven’t been encountered and overcome before, you just have to use your noodle.

  14. I’ve been using QB with Dropbox for about 6 months. We were concerned about a few of the glitches we were having and my CPA looked it up. Anyway, I can verify it’s glitchy in terms of making duplicate files. I once had to go find which file had saved all of the checks I had last wrote, and it was named “Company File (Conflicted Copy from 12-01-11)”. Sometimes we have permission errors trying to open files. Nothing catastrophic, but we’re going to stop using it now.

  15. I’m using SugarSync since a few month and can only recommend it to you
    guys. It’s fast and supports multiple OS like Windows, Mac, iOS and
    android.

    You get 5 gb for free and when you use the b.m. Link you will get 5,5
    Gb for free. If you go for a premium membership (starts at 30 Gb) each
    of you will get additional 10 Gb for free.

    Check this out and get a 5,5 Gb account for free.

    https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=fgtgw30dr45gt&utm_source=txemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=referral

  16. I’m using SugarSync since a few month and can only recommend it to you
    guys. It’s fast and supports multiple OS like Windows, Mac, iOS and
    android.

    You get 5 gb for free and when you use the b.m. Link you will get 5,5
    Gb for free. If you go for a premium membership (starts at 30 Gb) each
    of you will get additional 10 Gb for free.

    Check this out and get a 5,5 Gb account for free.

    https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=fc0dmqb8y4oz&utm_source=txemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=referral

  17. Interesting tips. I use Dropbox to store backups of my clients files which allows my clients and I have access to the backups outside of their offices plus giving my clients an offsite backup of their data. My clients and I also utilize TeamView or LogMeIn to remotely access their systems at their office for any real-time data requirements.

  18. Thanks for this tip on Dropbox. I use it to keep track of my hours for clients at their location. Then I can access it on my computer in my office to invoice them. I had not thought of using it with QB and now I’m glad I didn’t.

  19. Hi Michelle,

    I was wondering if you’ve ever heard of error code 80070057? I keep getting this error when I try to open quickbooks no.I installed Dropbox on my computer (not realizing that it was going to import all my files) and now when I go to my Quickbooks, it’s like Im starting out a new company. I thought that the files would stay on my computer, not get completely transferred to Dropbox. Do you know of a way to revert my Quickbooks Payroll back from DropBox to my computer?

    Thanks, I’d really appreciate any help, as Payroll is due & I can’t access anything!

  20. Good review – there are a few recent changes as of June 2011: (for SugarSync)
    You get 5GB of space with the FREE version, but now there is no restriction to the number of computers you can sync/backup (up from 2).
    It gives you the ability to upload and sync any folder on your computer.
    It is the only service that offers such a broad device and OS support with apps for BlackBerry, Android, iPhone/iPad, Symbian, not to mention your computer!

    Also if you use the below referral code you get a bonus 500MB extra on top of your Free 5GB!

    https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=tbtp0asbw9pt

    Hope it helps someone.

  21. @ Michelle

    After skimming through all of these posts, I understand the reasons as to why it is not recommended to share live quickbook files between users/computers via Dropbox.

    I work for a landscape contracting company and type up estimates on quickbooks every day on my computer, and need a way to transfer the estimate to our accountant’s computer. The estimate has no linked files or finances associated. Is it safe to upload the estimate to Dropbox and have my accountant pull up the estimate and save it to her records to add it into the financial database?

    1. Mike — You can’t just upload the estimate for the accountant to save into her file. If you are using QuickBooks 2011, I would suggest you check into QuickBooks Connect. It would allow you to enter Estimates remotely (via a computer, iPhone or iPad) and they would sync with the accountant’s data file. You can learn more here: http://workplace.intuit.com/quickbooksconnect Otherwise, there are 3rd party tools to import transactions — check out http://www.q2q.us or others

  22. @- Michelle.

    Thanks for these tips Michelle. Few of the resources I found on the web helped me alot and so is your information in this blog. I was able to provide better solution to clients who were using the sugarsyn and other apps in their working environment.

  23. Thank you Brad,

    My only concern with using Dropbox to sync the company file is not knowing how & when Intuit will undermine it in the future. Once their own $ync tool is ready, future QB releases will surely be coded to sabotage any competition to QB$hared. Such has always been Intuit’s MO.

    Michelle,
    As you say on the other page:
    “I’m working with the Product Manager Howard Shen and the development team as part of the ‘Accountant Posse’ on QuickBooks SharedBooks”….
    “I cannot provide many details (I’m under NDA).”

    it is dishonest not disclose your conflict of interest on this topic here & on the other sites where you have been using scare tactics to discourage people from using the services of potential Intuit competitors.

    1. Joe –

      I’m not an Intuit employee and the post clearly indicated that I’m working with Intuit as a consultant. I do not tell people not to use Dropbox, et al but just not with the working company file (QBW).

      I’m not using ‘scare tactics’ but I’m sharing information that I have learned from a variety of sources — including 2 consultants whom I consider to be experts in working with QuickBook data files and they are NOT Intuit employees.

      I have seen clients and other people having problems with conflicted files, etc. and SugarSync even says do NOT use the QBW (QuickBooks working company) file, so I’m trying to help people learn more so they can avoid problems with their data files.

      You can use Dropbox et al for the backup or portable files, but it is not recommended for the working company file — as acknowledged by Sugarsync on their website.

      I’m trying to provide accurate information from a variety of sources so people can make an informed decision.

  24. Michelle.
    We stopped using 3rd party Dropbox, Smartvault, Savefile etc.
    We have our own upload and download section on our own website for client files. back end FTP server etc.
    (client logs in user /password – to their own portal) .
    Lucky you. In Canada we do not have a cost effective solution by Quickbooks.
    Plus what they said was disturbing.. As Proadvisors we would have to pay for each Company file we open.
    So the math looks like this.
    Quickbooks fee for virtual server multiple user access on quickbooks system.
    1- file. 85.00
    100 files 100×85 = 8500.00

    On my system swizznet I pay one fee. (cloud FTP Server technology)
    Annual amount of 75.00 x 12 = 900.00 Limit of 10 concurrent users. Meaning only 10 people could be logged in at the same time.
    I can open all 100 files (of course 1 at a time in a month)
    100 clients can open their file.. No extra fees.
    I told quick books that their pricing model is NOT Condusive in the Open Market .
    The price difference was too much.
    8500.00 vs 900.00

    So in my mind, even though I am a Quickbooks ProAdvisor here in Canada, My response to the quickbooks pricing for the service at this point …. NOT ACCEPTABLE, & Unrealistic.
    To be clear the QBW file is online, and has 100 GIG of storage for client supporting documents. Extra storage if needed is 10.00 per extra 100 GB of storage.

  25. I’m glad that is working for you Cynthia! Just remember when you restore the QuickBooks company file (QBW) to save it somewhere other than the Dropbox folder.

  26. Glad to see this article Michelle. I’ve just installed Drop Box and am using it with my assistant. However, I was concerned about having the actual “live” file and suggested only putting the backup files and any necessary documents there. I didn’t give thought to the sync part…. my concern was someone hacking into the data file…. even though it is password protected.

    When she works on the data file, she makes a back up and then puts it in Drop Box for me to restore review and do what I need. I then remove the backup and have an empty drop box for the next time I need to do a backup and send to her.

    Works like a charm, and I have no fear about “mucking up” the live data file.

  27. Brad – you are right that Dropbox does not create the backup file. You need to be in QuickBooks to create the backup or portable file and save it to the Dropbox folder. Then,, Dropbox would sync the file.

    You’re correct that Doug, Mario, etc. indicate that it should not be used for the QuickBooks company file for multiple users or even a single user. The QuickBooks company file (QBW) shouldn’t be used with Dropbox (or the others) at all.

    Thanks for your comments!

  28. i have not found this articles ideas to be accurate, at least in the case of dropbox. the simple fact is, dropbox CANNOT and does not copy or backup open files. If you have a QuickBooks or Quicken file open, it will wait until you close it to make a backup copy of it to the server and any additional machines you have shared the folder with. the simple proof is in the tray area – hover over dropbox status icon when you have a QuickBooks file open – it will show you that it is waiting for you to close the file before it can make a backup copy of it. i presume sugarsync and box.net have similar features or at least options, but have not used those. i would not suggest dropbox for multiple users however, unless it is a one way share, where one person uses it and the others only view the file or make copies of it, because conflicts can arise, and perhaps this is what doug and the others are concerned about, and i agree with that.

    brad

  29. Michelle,

    I have followed these discussions before about not using Drop Box for a live QuickBooks file. And if QuickBooks Shared Books is not available yet, is there a file sharing program that is safe to use with a live QuickBooks file?

    1. Thanks Sandy!

      Jo Ellen — I’m not aware of any safe file sharing sevice for the QuickBooks Company file (QBW) at this point. The other option would be to have QuickBooks hosted or login remotely using TeamViewer (free for personal use), Logmein Free or another remote access service.

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