QuickBooks to Azure SQL Data Warehouse

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from QuickBooks and load it into Azure SQL Data Warehouse. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is QuickBooks?

QuickBooks is Intuit's accounting software, which is available in both Desktop and Online editions. Targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, it manages payroll, inventory, and sales, and includes marketing tools, merchant services, and training resources.

What is Azure SQL Data Warehouse?

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a cloud-based petabyte-scale columnar database service with controls to manage compute and storage resources independently. It offers encryption of data at rest and dynamic data masking to mask sensitive data on the fly, and it integrates with Azure Active Directory. It can replicate to read-only databases in different geographic regions for load balancing and fault tolerance.

Getting data out of QuickBooks

To load QuickBooks data to a data warehouse, first pull the data off of QuickBooks' servers using the QuickBooks Accounting and Payments APIs, which are discussed in the QuickBooks programming guide.

Sample QuickBooks data

QuickBooks' APIs return XML-formatted data, as in this example.

<IntuitResponse xmlns="http://schema.intuit.com/finance/v3" time="2017-04-03T10:22:55.766Z">
 <QueryResponse startPosition="10" maxResults="2">
 <Customer>
 <Id>2123</Id>
 <SyncToken>0</SyncToken>
 ...
 <GivenName>Srini</GivenName>
 </Customer>
 <Customer>
 <Id>2124</Id>
 <SyncToken>0</SyncToken>
 ...
 <GivenName>Peter</GivenName>
 </Customer>
 </QueryResponse>
</IntuitResponse>

Loading data into Azure SQL Data Warehouse

SQL Data Warehouse provides a multi-step process for loading data. After extracting the data from its source, you can move it to Azure Blob storage or Azure Data Lake Store. You can then use one of three utilities to load the data:

  • AZCopy uses the public internet.
  • Azure ExpressRoute routes the data through a dedicated private connection to Azure, bypassing the public internet by using a VPN or point-to-point Ethernet network.
  • The Azure Data Factory (ADF) cloud service has a gateway that you can install on your local server, then use to create a pipeline to move data to Azure Storage.

From Azure Storage you can load the data into SQL Data Warehouse staging tables by using Microsoft's PolyBase technology. You can run any transformations you need while the data is in staging, then insert it into production tables. Microsoft offers documentation for the whole process.

Keeping QuickBooks data up to date

It's great that you've developed a script that pulls data from QuickBooks and loads it into a data warehouse, but what happens when you have new transactions, invoices, and payments?

The key is to build your script in such a way that it can identify incremental updates to your data. Use fields like CreateTime and LastUpdatedTime to identify records that are new since your last update, or since the most recent record you copied. Once you've taken new data into account, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to keep pulling down new data as it appears.

Other data warehouse options

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, PostgreSQL, Snowflake, or Panoply, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax. Others choose a data lake, like Amazon S3. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To BigQuery, To Postgres, To Snowflake, To Panoply, and To S3.

Easier and faster alternatives

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.

Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to move data from QuickBooks to Azure SQL Data Warehouse automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your QuickBooks data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Azure SQL Data Warehouse data warehouse.