Multiple User Options

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Multiple User Options

There are several ways to allow users on multiple computers to run ACCOUNTS for the same organization (i.e. on the same database). These same considerations apply whether you need different users on the different computers, or just one user who needs to use the program on multiple computers.

 

Warning: There is a major danger of having the program on only one computer, and not at least sharing backups with another user. The computer can die, and no good backups might be able to be found, or various other situations can occur where the data just cannot be passed on to another user. So we do recommend choosing a method of regularly sharing at least a database backup, if not the program itself, with at least one other person in your organization.

 

Each section below lists pros and cons of one of the options for how to do that, after describing the option.

 

Another helpful resource for selecting your version is the Selecting the Best Version of ACCOUNTS Software for your Needs web page.

 

1. Multiple Standard Version Installs, Copy the Database Around

Prior to the release of the Cloud Storage Service, which builds on this way, and the OnDemand Version (both described below), the most common way was for each user to install the normal Standard version, and to pass around copies of the database, via backup and restore. (Email or Internet backups can also be used.) That way, each user has a local copy of the database, and everything runs at full speed. However, only one user can be modifying the database in any way (data entry, receipting etc.) at a time, and you have to have a clear agreement who that is. There is no way to merge changes made by two or more users on their own copies of the database if they do not keep track of who has control of the database at any one time. Full details about this are in the topic Transfer your Data between Computers.

Because of the danger of not coordinating the users correctly and having users make independent changes to different copies of the database, this is the most dangerous of the options to use! It is only really recommended for users who do not have Internet access on their computers, because it is the only method that we recommend that is available that does not require Internet access.

There is no additional charge for installing the Standard version on multiple computers and using it in this way.

Pros:

No extra cost, even for users with multiple databases for multiple organizations (up to 5)

Runs extremely quickly.

 

Cons:

Significant danger of two users making changes on their own copies of the database, which can't be merged.

Some delays when you switch to using the program on one computer (have to restore a backup from somewhere) and when you prepare to switch to another computer (have to make a backup).

 
2. Cloud Storage Service

This method is similar to the previous method, but it ensures that only one user can use the database at a time. It is only advised to use this if you have consistently reliable reasonably high-speed Internet on all of the computers that you want to use ACCOUNTS on.

This option completely eliminates the danger of not coordinating the users correctly and having users make independent changes to different copies of the database.

A quick explanation of this service is that the official copy of the database is always an Internet Backup. When any user starts ACCOUNTS, the program takes control of the database, and downloads it to their computer. The user does the work on their computer, then when they exit ACCOUNTS, the program uploads the database back to the Internet storage, and releases control. When any one user has control, no other user can get control. (Other users can still access the database read-only, for lookups and reporting.) This prevents the sort of problems that can come up with the previous solution, if the users don't keep track of who has control of the database.

See Cloud Storage Service for full details.

There is no additional charge for installing the Standard version on multiple computers and using it with the Cloud Storage Service.

If all of the computers that you want to share the same ACCOUNTS database on are on the same local network (connected to the same modem or router via direct cables or WiFi) we would strongly recommend that you consider the Local Network Version of ACCOUNTS instead. Another very good alternative, if your users are not on the same local network, is the OnDemand Version. (See below for details of that option.)

Pros:

No extra cost, even for users with multiple databases for multiple organizations (up to 5)

Runs quickly

No danger of two users making changes on their own copies of the database, which can't be merged.

Additional users can access an up-to-date copy of the same database read-only, while one user who has control of it is editing data. (They will not yet see any changes made by the user who is editing.)

 

Cons:

Problems can occur if your Internet goes down when you want to run ACCOUNTS, or particularly while you are running ACCOUNTS. Although this is very rare in our experience, in the latter case you could lose your work during that session.

Short delays starting and exiting ACCOUNTS, as it downloads and uploads the backup at those points. However, if your computer was the last user, no download on startup is required, and if you don't make any changes, no upload on exit is required.

While this version is very reliable, it does have more "moving parts" than other sharing methods so occasionally users have problems, such as if one user changed the password and didn't tell the other users.

 
3. Local Network Version

The Local Network Version of ACCOUNTS is designed to be used on a local-area network (several computers within your office, connected to the same modem or router via direct cables or the same WiFi source). In this case, there is only one copy of the database, on the computer running the Local Network Server Version of ACCOUNTS, and all of the other computers run the Local Network Client Version of ACCOUNTS and access the database that is on the Local Network Server Version's computer.

Multiple users can access the program simultaneously with the Local Network Versions, though there are a few limitations as to what they can do when there are simultaneous users, explained in its Help topic.

The advantage of using the Local Network Versions over multiple Standard versions using the very first option above is that there is only one copy of the database. Thus there is no chance of having problems with multiple people making changes on multiple copies at once, and being unable to merge those changes.

On a local area network, the program should run very quickly regardless of whether you are on a computer running the Local Network Server Version of ACCOUNTS, or the Local Network Client Version.

Although the Help on the Local Network Version describes a couple of ways to have additional occasional users access it over the Internet, it is not really designed for that. The Cloud Storage Service described above, and the OnDemand Version described below, are generally better alternatives, if your computers are not on the same local network.

Pros:

There is really only one copy of the database file, so there are no real dangers.

Multiple users can use the program simultaneously, all making changes to the data.

Works very quickly when used on a local network, with no delays on startup or exit.

 

Cons:

More expensive than Standard (same price as the OnDemand Version)

Somewhat more complex initial setup and maintenance

Much slower if run over the Internet instead of a local network (though we do not recommend doing that with this version)

The computer running the Local Network Server Version has to always be turned on (though not necessarily logged in) for the Local Network Client Versions to work.

 
4. Remote Access to One Computer running ACCOUNTS

Another way to do this is with a remote access solution, such as Windows Remote Desktop connections, or 3rd-party program such as LogMeIn, TeamViewer or AnyDesk. With this setup, there would only be one installation of the Standard version of ACCOUNTS. With remote access, a user on another computer can view and work on the desktop (screen) of another computer, so if you can set this up, remote users can access the computer running ACCOUNTS and run it remotely. Of course, this would only be one user at a time, and that computer has to be left on at all times during which other users might need to access it remotely. Also, this is exposing everything on that computer running ACCOUNTS to the remote user, not just the ACCOUNTS program itself.

This solution could also be used for occasional remote access to one of the computers running the Local Network Versions of ACCOUNTS.
 
Setting up Windows Remote Desktop for use over the Internet can be tricky - like the solution for using the Local Network Version of ACCOUNTS over the Internet, it requires that the computer running ACCOUNTS have an Internet-accessible static IP address or hostname. Also, the port it uses (3389) must be opened up on your firewall, and for port forwarding in any router. (See the instructions under Local Network Versions for how to set that up, for its port number, and then you can use the same basic idea for this port number.)
 
However, there are a number of other remote access products out there, such as LogMeIn, TeamViewer and AnyDesk, that are much easier to set up, and do not require the computer running ACCOUNTS to have an Internet-accessible static IP address or hostname, or for you to open any ports on your router or firewall.

A similar solution that will often be better than this, and require less setup, is the OnDemand Version described below. Unlike this option, it allows for multiple simultaneous users, and also runs on Apple Mac computers!
 
What remote access solutions do is transfer your keystrokes and mouse actions to the remote computer, and its screen to your computer. While they are usable over the Internet for limited amounts of work, they are always slower than having everything running on your computer, so you would have to test this and see whether it really seemed suitable for regular use.
 

Pros:

There is only one copy of the program and its database file, so there are no real dangers.

Most remote access solutions only allow a single user to be accessing the computer, so there are no dangers related to multiple users.

 

Cons:

Depending on the speed of your Internet connection and the quality of your remote access software, will generally be noticeably slower that running on your own computer.

Requires reliable high-speed Internet.

Somewhat complex to set up initially.

WARNING: Do not try to use ACCOUNTS with a remote access solution (other than our OnDemand version described below) that allows multiple users to access the program on the same computer at the same time - this could cause serious problems!

5. OnDemand Version

With this version, both the program and its data are installed on an Internet server ("in the cloud"), and you only have to install a small OnDemand Client program. That Client program securely accesses the program over the Internet, and transmits its screens, and your keyboard actions and mouse movements, back and forth. This is like an enhanced version of the Remote Access to One Computer Running ACCOUNTS method listed above.

Each user of this version for a given organization will have their own login user name and password required to access the program.

Pros:

You never have to install or upgrade the ACCOUNTS program itself - we will keep the program regularly updated for you.

Up to 5 users can access the same database at the same time.

There is only one copy of the database file, so there are no dangers of users making independent changes to independent copies of it, that cannot then be merged.

The database is accessible from any computer on which you have installed the OnDemand Client program, including Apple Mac computers and Android and iPad tablets. (Tablet use is only recommended for very limited lookups and reporting.)

Your existing database from other versions of ACCOUNTS can become an OnDemand Version database, or brought back down if you decide to go back to another version, using the normal database backup and restore mechanism.

You can assign each user their own login user name and password, and permissions.

Almost as fast as the Standard or Local Network versions, as long as you have reasonable fast Internet.

No extra charge for additional databases.

Fewer "moving parts" than the Standard version's Cloud Storage Service.

 

Cons:

More expensive:

oSame price as Local Network Version

oBecause this is a service (not just software installed on your computer), annual renewals are required to keep using it, unlike other versions.

Even with a very fast Internet connection, this version is always a little bit slower than regular installed versions.

Requires reliable high-speed Internet.

 

Full details on this version are in the Help topic The OnDemand Version of ACCOUNTS.

 

6. Remote Database Version (Previously called the Web Network Version)

This version was discontinued on August 1, 2021, and is no longer available for sale or use.

More details on this version are in the Help topic The Remote Database Version of ACCOUNTS.

7. Using the Database on a USB Memory Key

This is quite similar to the first option above, but you have each computer use the database on a USB memory key, and bring your single USB memory key containing the database around to each computer that needs to use it. That way there is only one copy of the database, and as with the Cloud Storage Service, there is no danger of modifying different copies of the database on different computers.

We really do not recommend this option, because it has too many disadvantages and dangers. Please see the "Cons" listed below for details.

This is probably most appropriate for the situation where there is really only one user, who needs to use the program on more than one computer (perhaps at home and at the organization's offices), you are quite computer literate, and you do not have reasonably fast Internet service on all of your computers running ACCOUNTS, or perhaps don't have Internet access at all on at least one of the computers.

There is no additional charge for installing the Standard version on multiple computers and using it in this way.

Pros:

Fairly simple to set up

No extra cost

Runs quickly

No danger of two users making changes on their own copies of the database, which can't be merged.

No delays starting or exiting ACCOUNTS, except for having to first put in the USB memory key, and safely remove it afterwards.

 

Cons:

This should only be used by people who consider themselves to be quite computer literate, because a number of problems can go wrong that require manually navigating to and editing the program's INI file. In particular, problems can occur if your computer gets confused and the key shows up with a different drive letter from where it normally shows up.

You always have to have that USB memory key with you to run ACCOUNTS.

You need to be sure you have additional backups elsewhere, in case that USB drive dies.

 
8. Sharing the Database with Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive etc.

This is just listed here as something you absolutely should not do! Do not try to move the database file itself to a 3rd-party cloud storage location such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Sync.com etc. It is just a recipe for disaster, because there is no way to prevent multiple users from accessing it at the same time, and there is a real potential for damaging your database because of the way those services work.

There is nothing wrong with using a shared cloud storage location as a place to save your database backups, though, and you could use those backups with the techniques in option (1) above, Transfer your Data between Computers. However, since that option is only recommended for users without Internet access on their computers, and this requires Internet access, it may not really be a choice.

Multiple Users with Multiple Databases

The program allows you to have multiple databases for multiple organizations, through the File ⇒ New Database and File ⇒ Open Database menu options, at no extra charge. If you have multiple people using the program (which we call "users"), all of whom regularly use the multiple databases, that is fine.

However, if there really is just one main person using each database, who is different from the main person using each other database, and other users never (or only rarely) access that database, that is not the intention of our allowing this to be done at no extra charge. In that case, we would expect that the main user for each organization / database would register and pay for the program separately.

For instance, if one user uses ACCOUNTS for two organizations, but occasionally another user needs to look at both of those databases, or take over while the first user is away on vacation, that's fine.

But suppose you have one primary user using ACCOUNTS for one organization, and a different primary user using ACCOUNTS for another organization, with perhaps occasional switching places while one or the other is on vacation. If they have only one registration and payment, and they are using multiple databases through Database ⇒ Switch Databases and using one of the multiple user options discussed above, that would not be considered to be a reasonable application of our pricing structure. They should register and pay separately.


This topic was last edited on Aug 16, 2021