Sage released the official upgrade to version 20 for Sage 100 Contractor in May 2016. This release and the information that has been provided about it have created a lot of confusion with our clients. Here is the real story about this upgrade and our recommendations for clients using or moving to Sage 100 Contractor.
Why is version 20 so different than prior versions? Version 20 is the much anticipated release that uses Microsoft SQL Server instead of the older format “xBase” or “flat” files to store all of your company data. This is a very important and a much needed improvement. We are excited about what this means long-term for our clients!
Why did Sage make this change to a program that works so well? Microsoft SQL Server is a very efficient method to store data on a computer. By moving to this type of data storage, Sage 100 Contractor will be more robust while running multiple users on a network and will be able to handle larger companies with greater ease. In addition, there will be speed improvements. For example, any long-time user of Sage 100 Contractor knows that pulling up a list of AR invoices from the client (3-6) screen can take a relatively long time. With a modest sized single-user dataset, the time to pull up about 708 client invoices was reduced by 50% when upgrading from version 19 to version 20, and this will be even more dramatic for a large company or multi-user environment.
What does this mean to you as the user? The user interface is almost exactly like the current version 19, so you will have no trouble getting your work done after the upgrade. The login process is a little different, but the menus are the same. The data entry screens are the same and the workflow is the same. With few exceptions, any custom reports written in the Sage 100 report writer will upgrade with no changes.
The administration of the program is a little more complex. Most of these additional complexities are to manage the Microsoft SQL Server – the database engine. As you might guess, a more sophisticated way of storing all your company data requires more management. The good news is that the average user is not going to be involved in this part of the program. If you are currently hosting your Sage 100 Contractor with Syscon, we will take care of the administration of the SQL Server for you. Otherwise, you will need to get your IT support involved in the installation, setup, and maintenance of the SQL Server. Most importantly, you may need to consider different data backup options that have special features and properly support Microsoft SQL Server.
This sounds too good to be true! Are there some “gotcha’s” involved? YES – Although the user experience for version 20 is almost identical to the version 19, there were a lot of significant changes behind the scenes. This brings up two major issues. First, any large scale change to a complex program like Sage 100 Contractor is going to have some hidden problems that will not be apparent for some time. As an example, after the initial release of Windows Vista, think of the time and service patches it took Microsoft to create a version of Windows 7 that was really robust and stable – over two years!
Secondly, any third-party add-on programs or reports, including Crystal Reports, are going to need to be modified to be compatible with version 20 of Sage 100 Contractor. If you have a mission critical tool that was written by a third-party, including Syscon, you will need to confirm compatibility with version 20 before you can even consider an upgrade. As the very first third-party developer for Sage 100 Contractor and winner of the 2012 Sage Third Party Developer of the Year, [see our video series 20 years with Master Builder/Sage 100 Contractor], we have hundreds of reports and programs that have been working with Sage 100 Contractor – some since 1995. These all have to be modified to work with version 20. We have been working on these upgrades since the first developer-only releases came out, but we have more to go!
What about installing the new version on my server? Sage has an update that lists the server requirements for the new version 20 software. These are available in recent updates from Sage and we’ll post them on our website, as well. Be sure to have your IT person take a look. One of the significant requirements is that the server on which the program is installed cannot be the Domain Controller. We’re doing some testing on this and we’ll have an update in the coming months.
How should you move forward with this upgrade? In a word, carefully (i.e., full of care and caution). If you have used Sage 100 Contractor for multiple years or use many of the different modules (Document Control, Estimating, Service and Inventory, etc.), you should have a careful and methodical approach to the upgrade process.
So, how much time do I actually have to upgrade? If you run payroll through Sage 100 Contractor, you are limited by how long Sage will continue to release payroll tax upgrades for version 19. Right now, the most recent tax release was in July 2016 and included an update for both version 19 and version 20. This means you can continue to run version 19 and be assured your payroll taxes are being computed properly. We don’t know how long Sage will continue the policy of upgrading tax tables for both versions. We think it is quite likely that there will be at least one version 19 update in January 2017 that would address year-end payroll reporting for 2016 (such as W2 forms), but there is no guarantee of this. We are recommending that you complete your 2016 year with version 19. If there is a tax release for version 19 in January of 2017, prepare your year-end with version 19, and then upgrade to version 20 sometime in the first quarter of 2017. However, you should be prepared to upgrade in January of 2017 in case Sage does not release an update of version 19 in time for the year-end reporting and New Year’s tax tables.
If you do not use payroll in Sage 100 Contractor, you have a little more flexibility. In this case, we recommend you wait until there has been at least one major service pack released for version 20 before you upgrade, most likely before the end of 2016.
Finally, if you just purchased Sage 100 Contractor, or you have a very small database with no add-on tools or custom reports, upgrading to and using version 20 of the program is recommended right now.
Summary… Watch for regular email blasts and postings on our web site for more information about version 20 as it becomes available and as we continue our testing and roll-out to our customers.