Five Hours with Sage

Chris stumbled across a common problem with traditional accounting software yesterday and has a wee (but very polite) rant about it:

I’m a huge fan of online accounting systems, such as FreeAgent and Xero. I would not normally admit this but I am also respectful of Sage Line 50 for its robustness, audit trail and also because it speaks the language that I learned in college (debit, credit, trial balance, nominal ledger etc).

One of the biggest advantages of going online is that every single user throughout the world is always using the same version of the software. No need for the user (or more specifically their accountant) to worry about updates, discs sent in the post, slow download speeds, kicking all of the staff off of the server, or being incapable of pressing the right buttons to install the upgrades.

For us as a firm, one of the biggest disadvantages of using an on premise software solution (such as Sage, there are others) is that it really is anyone’s guess which particular version your client is using and whether fixes and updates have been installed by your client prior to sending you a backup.

Here’s an extract from my working day yesterday of how that works in practice.

10:00 – 10:15 Client emails Sage backup so that we can start on the VAT return. I restore this to Sage V17.00 but cannot access the data using the username and password we have on file. I ask the client to change the password on their copy of Sage, run a backup and resend this file to me

10:30 – 10:45 Still cannot open the file using the new password. Sage V17 client manager now telling me to set up a new company. Call to Sage. Speak to support within 2 minutes – an excellent response. They check a few things and advise that the problem is that the client data is on V18, and I am trying to open the file using V17.

11:00 – 11:15 We don’t have V18 installed on our server! I look around the office and on our (neat and tidy) software shelf find FOUR identical unopened disks of V18 client manager which were sent to us in October. Blank looks from the staff as to why we did not think about installing the V18 software.

11:15 – 11:45 I attempt to install the V18 software on our server myself. Normally delegated to the IT support company but the update looks complicated so I want to do it myself. Sage has also introduced a neat Accountants Dataset Manager so we can view all of our clients and see the version of Sage that they are using. Email our IT support company for administrator password and after a couple of goes, I access the server.

11:45 – 12:15 This is getting silly. Sage V18 has been sent on a DVD but the server only has a CD drive! Our very logical IT support chap suggests that I copy the software onto a network drive from a PC that has a DVD drive, and attempt to install the V18 software from there.

12:15 – 12:30 Software copied to network drive and installation of the Accountants Dataset Manager (ADM) commences.

12:30 – 13:00 One part of the installation fails so I have to uninstall the ADM, install Sage V18 separately and then reinstall the ADM. Bingo! I get a message saying that the installation has been successful.

13:00 – 13:30  Pause for coffee. Try to open the clients data using the ADM but this does not work. I load up Sage V18 (looks like there are some nice new features) and try to open the client file. A message pops up saying the equivalent of “Data being restored is on version 18.1.0, program is on version 18.0.6 – you need to install some updates”

13:30 – 14:45 A call to Sage lasting one hour and thirteen minutes. Through to support in around 6 minutes (OK considering it is the first day back after the holidays) and speak to Peter. Install three upgrades which are required to take our V18 up to the required level to read the client data. Open up Sage V18 and am able to read the client data at last! However the ADM is still not working properly so Peter and I attempt to fix that. We try a few things and establish that the problem is caused by us having a Hyphen in the server folder name where we save all of the Sage program data (it is called ‘Sage Accounts – Licences’). I am not making this up, as Sage have it recorded as a known problem! Peter tells me that if I can amend the folder name and remove the hyphen, everything should be OK. Unfortunately the network permissions don’t allow me to do this. I thank Peter for his patience and leave this job for another day.

14:45 – 15:00 Five hours after starting, I can review the client data and we can get on with the job of preparing the VAT return.

To be fair to Sage, this is probably a once a year occurrence and the new Accountants Dataset Manager is going to be a real benefit to us so that we can see exactly which version the client data has been provided in (including which updates the client has or has not installed).

Have you had similar issues? Do you think the added benefits of a tradition system like Sage outweigh the convenience of user-friendly online software? Please leave a comment and join in on the discussion. 

4 responses to “Five Hours with Sage

  1. Great post Chris, and one that I am all too familiar with I’m afraid. Here’s an alternative possibility for your working day yesterday:

    10:00 – 10:15 Client emails Sage backup so that we can start on the VAT return. I upload this to Ledgerscope.

    10:15 – 10:30 I login to Ledgerscope and review the client’s Sage data online 🙂

    Don’t throw away those 5 hours ever again!

    • Thanks for your comment, Adrian! Neil signed up for Ledgerscope to do a test run with one of our other clients just before Christmas but I think we ran into some issues doing the file upload. We’re really keen to check it out now that the holidays are over though.

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