This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from QuickBooks and load it into PostgreSQL. (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 PostgreSQL?
PostgreSQL, or Postgres, is a popular object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) that calls itself "the world's most advanced open source database." It offers enterprise-grade features, maintains a strong emphasis on extensibility, and is licensed as open source software.
PostgreSQL runs on all major operating systems, including Linux, Unix, and Windows. It's ACID-compliant and supports foreign keys, joins, views, triggers, and stored procedures in multiple languages. PostgreSQL is frequently used as a back-end database for web systems, and is available in cloud-based deployments from most major cloud vendors. PostgreSQL's syntax forms the basis for querying Amazon Redshift, which makes migration between the two systems relatively painless and makes Postgres a good platform for developers who may eventually work on Amazon's data warehouse platform.
Getting data out of QuickBooks
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 Postgres
Once you have identified all of the columns you will want to insert, you can use the
CREATE TABLE statement in Postgres to create a table that can receive all of this data. Then, Postgres offers a number of methods for loading in data, and the best method varies depending on the quantity of data you have and the regularity with which you plan to load it.
For simple, day-to-day data insertion, running
INSERT queries against the database directly are the standard SQL method for getting data added. Documentation on INSERT queries and their bretheren can be found in the Postgres documentation here.
For bulk insertions of data, which you will likely want to conduct if you have a high volume of data to load, other tools exist as well. This is where the
COPY command becomes quite useful, as it allows you to load large sets of data into Postgres without needing to run a series of INSERT statements. Documentation can be found here.
The Postgres documentation also provides a helpful overall guide for conducting fast data inserts, populating your database, and avoiding common pitfalls in the process. You can find it here.
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
PostgreSQL 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, Snowflake, or Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. 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 Snowflake, To Panoply, To Azure SQL Data Warehouse, 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 PostgreSQL automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your QuickBooks data via the API, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your PostgreSQL data warehouse.