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Implementing Intuit Statement Writer on a Secure Network

The Intuit Statement Writer is a custom reporting and financial statement tool for use with QuickBooks Premier Accountant and Microsoft Excel. The solution has a few peculiarities that must be addressed in order to make it function properly (or at all!) in a networked or hosted environment.

The issues center primarily around the fact that the application was designed for use on a standalone PC, and doesn’t take into consideration the potential for redirected or restricted data folders. Further, the method of integration with Microsoft Excel requires specific support from the Excel application, so care must be taken in selecting the version of Excel (or Microsoft Office) to be used.

In computing environments where the QuickBooks and Office applications are installed directly on each PC, and where data is stored locally on the PC, most of these issues become irrelevant. When the applications are utilized within a strictly controlled domain, however, a variety of issues may arise. If the applications are to be utilized in a terminal server environment, then many issues will certainly come into play.

The Intuit Statement Writer solution requires QuickBooks Premier Accountant v2010, and Microsoft Office 2003 or greater. The version of Office or Excel used must be at least version 2003, and it must be either the full standalone version of Excel, or Excel as part of MS Office Standard, Professional, or Enterprise. Excel as part of MS Office Small Business, Basic, or Student/Teacher editions is not compatible. All editions of Excel 2007 are compatible.

By default, the Intuit Statement Writer (ISW) stores its files on the local PC where the application is installed. The application utilizes the local “My Documents” folder as the location for ISW files. In an environment where the My Documents folder is redirected to a network folder or share, the program fails to install or run properly. The specific error messages encountered may vary, but are essentially indicating the same issue: you are attempting to use an unsupported file folder location.

Intuit Statement Writer (ISW) requires full trusts and permissions to the My Documents folder, which is automatically granted when the folder is local to the PC. When My Documents folder is pointed to a shared network drive, the trusts and permissions are no longer granted and the error message will appear. According to Intuit, “Intuit Statement Writer files and appearance files (.gsm and .gss) can be stored on a server or network drive, but it is not possible to open and work with the files while they are located on the server without modifying security policies on the machine. Because we don't recommend this, the files must be local when working with them." It is necessary to copy the ISW file you wish to work with to your local drive, and, when finished working with the file, copy it back to the server.

In addition to having difficulties using server or network drives, ISW also will not function as a multi-user application, due to the architecture and reliance upon the MyDocuments folder. While ISW may be used without issue while QuickBooks is in multi-user mode, only one user at any time is able to work with the Intuit Statement Writer files.

Relating to the policy and permissions issue, there is a Microsoft Support article which describes a potential resolution (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/9w6bd8f1.aspx How to: Grant Permissions to Documents and Workbooks in Shared Locations (2003 System)) This article addresses this issue and provides information on modifying security policies around the Office Document Membership Condition on the computer(s) where ISW will run.

Two methods are provided: using Visual Studio command line tools, or using the Microsoft .NET Framework configuration tool.

In an effort to simplify making these changes on your systems, Intuit has provided a batch file which can be run on the system where ISW is installed, and where the My Documents folder is redirected for the user.

Obtain the batch file here: https://www.quickbase.com/db/bewwfafti?a=GenNewRecord

This batch file (actually 2 batch files) grant full trust to the ISW dll files, checks to see if and where the My Documents folder is redirected, and attempts to grant full trust to the specific network location of the My Documents folder through the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 assemblies. Care must be taken any time .NET security policies or configurations are adjusted, especially when working within a secure domain. The .NET Framework Configuration tool (Mscorcfg.msc) enables users and administrators to modify security policies for the machine policy level, the user policy level, and the enterprise policy level.

From Microsoft: "Prior to the .NET Framework, most Windows applications had free access to all of the local computer resources, including the registry, file system, event logs, environment variables or available printers. Due to the limitations of role-based security, administrators were conditioned to accept that nothing was off limits to a running application as long as the user (or the user context under which the application is running) was authorized to use the resource.With the proliferation of distributed component-centric systems, it's not uncommon for applications to download and execute components from Internet/intranet sites or network shares. The possible negative consequences of such applications are obvious. Malicious code, whether by design or not, could be loaded from an external entity and wreak havoc on a local computer or the network on which it resides. There is also the threat of security breaches that could jeopardize the privacy of sensitive data."

Because the Intuit Statement Writer utilizes features of Microsoft Excel, it relies heavily on the behavior of the Office applications and document permissions on the computer and network. These permissions are often controlled by establishing security profiles or policies via the .NET framework. If the location of a Microsoft Office 2003 document is not secure (for example, a SharePoint site or file share that users—possibly including malicious users—can write to), or if you are not sure who has permission to upload content, you can grant permissions only to documents and workbooks in the location, rather than to all content. You do this by using the Office Document Membership Condition, and modifying the security policy to check for this condition on the computers on which your solution will run.

When you use the Office Document Membership Condition, only Office documents are trusted; assemblies and executables are not granted permissions to be run from the share.This permission or trust is often assigned to a “code group”. Code groups can provide information on how the system determines the allowed permissions. The allowed permission set for the policy level is the permission set associated with the code group that has this attribute.

When all policy levels are considered, the runtime never grants the code more permissions than those associated with the Exclusive code group. Within a given policy level, code can be a member of no more than one code group that has the Exclusive attribute. This may be problematic for some administrators who wish to implement the Intuit “fix”, which creates a policy group and then establishes that group with the Exclusive attribute. Network administrators with pre-existing security policies may well find that the Intuit fix will not work as delivered, due to the fact that Exclusive policy groups may already exist to govern the permissions of Office or other documents.

Intuit KB Article: http://support.quickbooks.intuit.com/support/Pages/KnowledgeBaseArticle/1011230

1. After the zip file is downloaded, you will need to extract it to the desktop...

2. After the file as been unzipped, open up the ISWFix1 folder and double-click on the ISWFix1.bat file.

3. These steps will need to be performed for each computer or user account that needs access to ISW.

4. Terminal Services/Citrix: Ensure the ISWprefs.ini file is set to not delete itself when the user logs out.


Microsoft .NET Framework configuration tool

Turning to IT When Times are Tough

Turning to IT When Times are Tough
When budgets get tight and the economic outlook is bleak, business owners and executives tend to turn to information technology departments and projects as a potential area for cost cutting. The reason for this is that many businesses view IT purely as a cost center, making it a prime target when driving to reduce operating costs. A recent survey by McKinsey & Company, however, indicates that the current trend is a bit different.
The new research indicates that many non-IT executives "seemed to have a developed a healthier appreciation for their information technology functions" according to Joe McKendrick in a recent ZD Net article on the subject. McKendrick mentions that business executives generally seem pleased with the way the information technology is helping organizations get through these difficult economic times, "navigating the rough seas" as he puts it.

"The survey also suggests that organizations that took the most advantage of information technology going into the recent downturn may have come out the strongest" observes McKendrick.

The McKinsey & Co Study, authored by Roger Roberts and Johnson Sikes, reported that the recent economic downturn actually increased awareness of the role information technology can play in improving business processes and reducing costs. As for the quality of services delivered? The study revealed that non-IT executives largely believe their IT functions responded effectively to the economic crisis. A majority said current performance in providing basic IT services is very or extremely effective. In contrast, IT executives had a dimmer view of their performance, with only a minority being satisfied with service delivery levels.
There have always been questions about the alignment of information technology to the business need, and IT is often perceived as being out of touch with the business. In this new research, McKinsey & Co indicate that IT executives are very aware of the issues of keeping up with the business and are finding innovative ways of addressing them.

Equine Accounting: Bartering- It’s not really income, is it?

You may trade services from your farrier for lessons for his daughter. Your favorite restaurant may provide goodies for your barn's Christmas party in exchange for the owner's occasional use of your indoor arena. But that's not actually income for you (and for the fellow barterer), is it?
There are two aspects of that question. Is it income to you for tax purposes and is it income to you for "business" purposes? First, the tax aspect: To quote the IRS: "Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Usually there is no exchange of cash. Barter may take place on an informal one-on-one basis between individuals and businesses, or it can take place on a third party basis through a modern barter exchange company. Income from bartering is taxable in the year it is performed."

An example of an even swap would be two hours of riding lessons (regularly priced at $50/hr) in exchange for having 5 horses clipped for winter (regularly priced at $20/horse). For tax purposes, you have $100 of income from your lessons and the person doing the clipping has $100 of income for clipping your horses. Cash might be included in a barter situation if you provided one hour of riding lessons but only had one horse to be clipped. The person doing the clipping might also pay you $30 in cash.
Income from bartering should be tracked separately from regular income. Any business expenses incurred in performance of the bartered transaction are deductible - e.g. the cost of ring fees for the lessons for your farrier's daughter if they are not held at your facility. The IRS offers guidelines on record keeping for barter transactions at the IRS Website.
Be sure to use a reasonable value for the property or services received in a barter transaction to include in your income. If you exchange a $2000 filly for 6 months board (in a barn where board is usually $500/month), there is a $1000 gross profit on the transaction because goods worth $2000 were exchanged for services worth $3000.
An especially tricky barter situation occurs if you are bartering and giving and/or receiving services that could be construed as employment. For example, you exchange barn help for a reduction in the cost of board. The IRS may consider this relationship to be employment on your part. In addition to reporting the barter income, you would also be responsible for the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Depending on the nature of the work, at the very least, the person doing the work might be considered an independent contractor by the IRS. If you provided $600 or more of some form of compensation to the worker, you would be responsible for providing them and the IRS with a Form 1099 at year end.
There can also be sales tax issues if the product/service that you barter is considered taxable in your state.
Second, the business aspect: if you are receiving vet services in trade for lessons for your vet's daughter and the daughter loses interest in horses, you now have to pay for your veterinary services. For future planning, you need to know how much you "spent" on vet services previously.
For some services, such as lessons, the cost is easy to quantify. You may charge $50/hr for a lesson. Your vet bill is $200 so you owe your vet four lessons. But what about something like exchanging handyman services for rough board? What may seem like a good deal when you have several stalls available and plenty of work to be done, might not be economically advantageous when you have someone willing to pay top dollar to rent your last stall.
If cash is in short supply or you are giving/receiving a commodity that is scarce, bartering can be a wonderful opportunity. But be aware that it is not as simple a transaction as it may seem.
See the IRS Bartering Center for more information.