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ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

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Copper Contributor
Posts: 17
Country: USA

ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

[ Edited ]

I am currently on Act! Premium Version 21.0.295.0, Update 9.  When this issue started, our database was cloud-based, but a while back was moved to our server and the issue is still happening.  Some of the users are on Windows 10, I was on Windows 7 when it started and it's happened again since I recently went to Windows 10.  It seems to have started shortly after they updated our ACT to the current version (not sure what version we were on before, that was over a year ago...)  When they did that update, not long afterward we added a few users and they somehow had two databases for us for a while, so maybe somehow that caused a glitch...

 

Since Feb 2019, every now and then a contact will turn up missing, and if you look in the history, you'll see a group of contacts that were all deleted at the same time by the same user.  We have tried without success to get tech support who supplies our ACT to help us with this issue, as the system is doing it, not any of us, but they keep assuming it's user error since they haven't heard of anyone else having this issue.  Here are the patterns of note:

 

  • It's usually several at once, from anywhere between 2-20 contacts, but a few times just one at a time
  • First time was in Feb 2019, has happened I think 11 times now
  • Each time, all the contacts are deleted on the same date/time by the same user
  • Quite often the person who supposedly deleted it is also showing as the Record Manager even though they aren't the one who created the contact (no big deal, but an interesting aspect that to ME shows there's some glitch)
  • Quite often the person who supposedly deleted it was not even in the office or even in town at the time it happened (and not logged in remotely, and nobody else on their computer like tech support tries to say must be happening.  Were a tiny office, you can't sneeze without people knowing - I would SEE if someone were on the computer of the person out of town!)
  • From what I can tell, most if not all of the contacts have been someone we had a duplicate record of.  We have many clients with different jobsites, so we'll go to one of their existing contacts, duplicate from all fields, and then put the new address in the new contact.
    • Sometimes in these groups of deleted contacts, it's the original record, sometimes the newer one, sometimes we have so many records it's hard to tell if it was even the orig or new one that was deleted or another one that had been created at some other point.
    • It never seems to happen right after we've created a duplicate contact - sometimes days after, sometimes weeks.
    • Many of the deleted contacts are ones that we haven't even opened ANY of their records for quite some time, so very odd that they're included.

This is not a case of user error.  When this first started, it was just me (a long time ACT user) and another person Nick.  He wasn't creating any contacts but it was showing him as the records manager on deleted contacts.  He would be out of town on coast guard duty when he supposedly deleted a group of contacts, yet tech support still insisted it was somehow one of us doing it.

 

After the most recent batch of deleted contacts, I FINALLY got tech support to consider the possibility there could be a glitch n the software or our database.  They conference called ACT to look into it, but ACT is doing the same thing - assuming it's user error.  They made us deactivate the last user that supposedly deleted the contacts, and create a new user for her as a "test" to see if it happens again.  It's been happening for a year now, long before she was even here and a user, so not sure why they think this will prove anything.

 

In trying to be my own detective and advocate since nobody wants to help me despite the HUGE amount of $ we spend on them, I found an article 

on setting your Duplicate Record preferences through Tools > Preferences> Admin> Duplicate Checking.  This option is grayed out on my system and I don’t know how to sign on as an admin to check this, but I’m curious what our settings are.  Is it possible that it’s set to scan for and delete duplicates every so often?  Or maybe there’s some glitch in our database where duplicate records are concerned?  (I just found this and emailed our tech support for their opinion, not sure where that will get me though).

 

Sorry for the very long post but desperate for help.  They wanna charge me $50 per contact to try and retrieve the info even though it's not our fault, so I've been spending a LOT of time trying to recreate records but they are still missing important notes, history and attachments.  BEYOND FRUSTRATED.  Any ideas would be much appreciated!

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Nickel Super Contributor
Posts: 829
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

Sorry that your message was temporarily buried.  For some reason the system thought your message was spam.  I've cleared the message from the abuse box so it should be viewable by all.

 

Act! does have a 'scan for duplicates' option, but it's all very manual.  The 'Duplicate Checking Settings' you referred to don't involved deleting contacts, it simply uses those to warn you that the contact is a duplicate, and to help reduce duplicate contacts by your own criteria during an import.

 

Act! can't automatically delete your data like that.  I'd like some more information from you, if you don't mind.

 

You mentioned that contacts were deleted by a user.  Is it always the same user in the history record?  What user is that?  Are they using any sort of third-party integration?  Are they using our own Outlook or Google synchronization?

 

Can you supply any screenshots of the history?

 

For the sake of being thorough, let me throw in some information:

  • In order for a contact to be deleted, and to leave a history, someone has to actually perform the delete process.  They have to be logged into the Act! database, and be logged in via the Act! Framework.
  • If there was a corruption in your database, it wouldn't have created a history, because those aren't linked actions.  I can delete a contact directly from the SQL database in the back-end and there would be no history created.  The Act! Framework deletion process creates the history, and is analogous to you clicking 'Delete Contact'
  • Any addin that you have installed uses the Framework in order to create, read, update, or delete a contact.
  • Our own functions in the program use the Framework to do the same things.
  • In recent years we've added an Act! Web API, which has the same functionality as the Framework (plus much more)
  • Some addins may use the Web API to create, read, update, or delete contacts.
  • Some functions in Act! are now using the API for the same functions

 

If there is a history record for a user that it shows as deleting a record, ostensibly that user did delete the contact, but maybe they did so unknowingly.

 

Is there a chance a user has integrated Act! with their phone?  Often I see that they're trying to sync contacts to a phone via an addin, or they link these contacts to the phone through Outlook.  There are some issues that can happen when you try to link directly with outlook.

 

Are you linking Act! to any other database software?

 

 

To be clear, if your database was unhealthy or corrupt, it wouldn't have gone back to the program to tell it to make a history of the delete.  That's not how a database works (or breaks)

If your program is corrupt;  It's more likely to throw an error or crash out, than to use the Act! Framework to delete a contact (or multiple) and write history about it.

 

I know I've also written a wall of text, but your answers are important to the solution.

Billy Clark
E: Billy.Clark@kqc.ca
P: 800-857-0558 x334
Act! Certified Consultant
MaaS Certified Consultant
World’s #1 Act! Reseller!
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Copper Contributor
Posts: 17
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

Thanks for your rapid reply.  Please see attached screenshots and notes for details on some of these deletions.

 

To answer some of your questions:

 

  • No, this is not always the same user (but you can see in the attached screenshots and that whoever it says deleted it, also says they're the record manager even though that's often not the case)
  • We don't synch with Google, but have a one-way synch from Outlook.  We just have it set to attach Outlook emails to ACT contacts.  This add-in fails intermittently and ACT often kicks out those synch settings, then sometimes the add-in for ACT disappears in Outlook.  Often having to have tech support put that back into ACT.
  • I know everyone is adamant that we're all * here and unintentionally deleting contacts, but I'm tellin' ya, something else is going on here.  Look at the details on page 2 of the attachment for an example, where Nick was out of town and didn't have anything set up to access ACT while out of the office, and does not use Outlook on his phone or anywhere other than his laptop which was here at work.  I would make a change to a contact on MY system logged in as ME, but then it would delete showing HE deleted it.
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Nickel Super Contributor
Posts: 829
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

[ Edited ]

Based on what I'm seeing the histories appear to be formed correctly, and inline with the thought that these were authenticated deletions.

 

The fact that one of your employees were not actively connected to the database during these deletions makes me think there is another application.  The similar timestamps on those histories means one of two things:  Someone deleted an entire lookup, or there is another program involved here.

 

I did check out your support tickets and it looks as though our support team did give you all of the best ways to combat this, but I'd like to reiterate one that is very powerful.  Change your Act! passwords.  Integrated programs would immediately lose access to the database, which is why we suggest it.

 

 

Act! runs on the SQL database engine.  In that engine it does allow for an action to trigger another, and/or constraints to be placed against the database to stop the creation of duplicate records.  If those were in place you would never have seen a duplicate record in the first place.  One would throw an error immediately that it was duplicate resulting in Act! to throw an error at you, and the other would simply delete it the instant it hit the database.

 

Can you show me what you see under the Tools>Manage Add-ons menu please?  Every computer would be great, but Mandy has the most recent entries it looks like.  Plugins are installed on individual computers, so you can't simply swap users.

Billy Clark
E: Billy.Clark@kqc.ca
P: 800-857-0558 x334
Act! Certified Consultant
MaaS Certified Consultant
World’s #1 Act! Reseller!
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Copper Contributor
Posts: 23
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

[ Edited ]

I don't have a solution, but I just wanted to chime in that we are also experiencing mystery deleted contacts (and it is NOT user error) - usually after hours when no one is in the office!  In some cases I restore them and they get deleted again.  This only started happening after we switched to cloud hosting with RDBs (since the access via web version is terrible).

 

To make matters worse, Act support was unable to restore one of the contacts, claiming that it must have been created and deleted in between backups.  I know the contact was created on the day prior to deletion.  So we lost a ton of notes that could not be recreated, and they basically blamed us.   

 

This is one of about a dozen problems we've been having with Act in the past few months, between crashes, weird error messages, lost notes, lost contacts, etc.  I really wish they would get their act together (or beef up their support staff). 

 

EDIT: It is happening only to contacts that have duplicates or similar other contacts, now that I think of it (e.g. we have a contact, one as a client and one as a CPA - we keep his client record separate...and his CPA contact kept disappearing).  Now tell me THAT's not a coincidence.

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Copper Contributor
Posts: 17
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

Hello!  Gonna copy/paste some of your replies and reply to them...

 

"...histories appear to be formed correctly, and inline with the thought that these were authenticated deletions"  I don't understand how this looks correct.  If you look at the attachment on my other reply, with the records that Nick supposedly deleted:

  1. The contacts affected were all ones that I had created on my system, yet when deleted, showed Nick as the record manager.
  2. The contacts affected were all ones that I had opened on my system, yet when deleted, showed Nick as having deleted them.
  3. These (and several of the other items we've had deleted) were all deleted on the same day/time, yet when the contacts were opened on different days. 

 

"...means one of two things:  Someone deleted an entire lookup..." 

  1. How would "someone" delete an entire lookup from one system when the contacts were looked up on another system? 
  2. If an entire lookup were deleted, wouldn't it include contacts that were looked up in between the ones that were deleted?  In other words, if in the span of a week I opened 32 contacts, why would Nick's system handpick a "random" 4 of all those contacts and delete them all at once?  (I say "random" because all the contacts affected are always ones that there are duplicates of, so it doesn't seem "random", it seems like somehow the duplicate contacts are being targeted.

"Can you show me what you see under the Tools>Manage Add-ons menu please?" - see attached, all 4 current systems.

 

"Plugins are installed on individual computers, so you can't simply swap users."  Not sure what you were referring to with this comment, but maybe that I'd mentioned ACT was having us do a test by deactivating Mandy and creating a new user on her machine called Ocf Ast?  To me this didn't make any sense.  This was happening before Mandy's computer was ever even here.  It was purchased when we got an assistant, username Molly, and it happened to her.  After she left and we hired Mandy, we deactivated Molly's account and started Mandy's on the same system, and it's happened on her user account now too.  Apparently ACT doesn't believe that this has been a year-long ongoing issue despite WHAT user account someone uses, so they had our techs deactivate Mandy's and create a different user account on her system, and waiting for it to happen again before they'll look into it any further.  Smiley Mad

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Copper Contributor
Posts: 17
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

[ Edited ]

I'm sorry to hear someone else is experiencing similar issues.  This has been happening for a year now, and every time I would send our techs detailed screenshots and notes showing that there are patterns in this showing something more complicated is going on than "we're stupid and don't know we're deleting people".  I get it - my ex was in IT and the amount of stupid people who don't even know to check if the computer is plugged in is astounding.  However, not to toot my own horn, but I'm a wee bit more intelligent than that.  When someone is not even here, not connected remotely to ACT in any way, and I'm sitting RIGHT EFFING HERE and can see that nobody else is on their computer, don't try to tell me that person MUST have somehow deleted a group of contacts by accident.  I was even told a few times that it "must be user error because they hadn't heard of this happening to anyone else so it couldn't be a software glitch."  REALLY?!  That's some sound reasoning.  Ever consider we're the first ones to notice it's happening?  We usually don't notice it's happened again until we go to look someone up, it's not there, we check history and see a whole slew of contacts got deleted.  What about people that don't know to check history to see it happened, or perhaps are rarely using whatever function that's triggering this and just haven't noticed it yet?  How many others have reported this and been ignored and accused of user error, so it actually IS an issue but it's not on record as being one?

 

To be honest, it's pretty demeaning and infuriating to be dismissed like this.

 

EDIT: Just saw the edit to your post about it happening to duplicate contacts.  I'm at the point now where I guess every day I need to check history to see who all has gotten deleted, and I would suggest you watch this too.  I just did a search filter to only show the keywords "Contact deleted".  In all my searching for answers I recently found an article about restoring contacts from backup, so am gonna have to learn to do that as I just can't keep trying to reconstruct records all the time from memory...

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Copper Contributor
Posts: 23
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

Agreed - the first time, I thought that someone deleted one by accident.  It happens.  But two more times, both after hours when no one was even in the office or logged in?  AND they all had the fact that they had duplicates in the system in common?  C'mon, there's something fishy here.

 

I now have to check the history log DAILY to make sure nothing was deleted.  I really shouldn't have to do that. And it takes at least 2 days to get a backup of the database - I'm really considering buying a server and moving the database back.  The only problem is that we want to be able to access the database from anywhere and use the mobile app (despite the fact that its functionality is lacking, to say the least).  I think you can put a SSL certificate on the server and have it accessed via web / remote database. 

 

But, I was told that cloud hosting would be a better alternative...alas, now our precious data is at the mercy of a company who I am quickly losing faith in.  Good luck to you - if I figure anything out I'll be sure to share it.

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Nickel Super Contributor
Posts: 829
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

[ Edited ]

I'm gonna copy paste as well, but first let me clear up some of my terminology:

What I mean by Authenticated deletions, were they were actual deletion by a username in Act!.  It doesn't matter what system originated the record, if you are sharing a database with other users they can delete those records.  Since Nick's name is the owner of the history for the delete, his login was used to delete them.  An example of an unauthenticated deletion would be a contact disappearing without a trace from a database.  I've literally never seen this happen before, and I perform most of the database repairs at Swiftpage.

 

I've been specific to say Login here, because I don't want you to think I'm telling you the person deleted the items, as you've stated that person wasn't in the office.  If a person doesn't do it physically, then often there's another program integrated with Act! that is de-duping, or modifying contacts.  Those programs are authenticated using a users Login and password, and all actions performed by another program will be tagged with that login.

 

 

"...histories appear to be formed correctly, and inline with the thought that these were authenticated deletions"  I don't understand how this looks correct.  If you look at the attachment on my other reply, with the records that Nick supposedly deleted:

  1. The contacts affected were all ones that I had created on my system, yet when deleted, showed Nick as the record manager.
    • He's the record manager of the history showing there was a deletion, not the contact that was deleted.  That's how Act! records those histories..  That means his login deleted the record.  What is Nick's security role in Act!?  If he was a standard user I don't believe he would be able to delete a record he isn't manager over.
  2. The contacts affected were all ones that I had opened on my system, yet when deleted, showed Nick as having deleted them.
    • Again, for clarity, even if you opened it on your system, anyone with appropriate permissions can delete a record.
  3. These (and several of the other items we've had deleted) were all deleted on the same day/time, yet when the contacts were opened on different days. 
    • When you have a lookup of contacts opened you can delete all contacts in that lookup.  Since Nick wasn't in the office I'd usually look for an integrated program (you've already sent screenshots for Outlook & gmail integration) that could be causing this.
    • This can include products like Zapier of IFTTT that have been authenticated to make changes on accounts.  

 

"...means one of two things:  Someone deleted an entire lookup..." 

  1. How would "someone" delete an entire lookup from one system when the contacts were looked up on another system? 
    • You sync or share databases.  Things that happen on your connection are reflected on theirs, and vice versa.  If you're synchronizing databases, then those changes will only show after you sync.
  2. If an entire lookup were deleted, wouldn't it include contacts that were looked up in between the ones that were deleted?  In other words, if in the span of a week I opened 32 contacts, why would Nick's system handpick a "random" 4 of all those contacts and delete them all at once?  (I say "random" because all the contacts affected are always ones that there are duplicates of, so it doesn't seem "random", it seems like somehow the duplicate contacts are being targeted.
    • That's pretty much the biggest issues we have.  Random deletions aren't a pattern, and product issues are usually pattern-based.  Given what you've told me these sound like deliberate deletions, though they may not be the action of a human hand.  

"Can you show me what you see under the Tools>Manage Add-ons menu please?" - see attached, all 4 current systems

  Thanks, this shows these computers aren't using plugins specific to those installations.  We've ruled out installed plugins.  Hopefully that means we're a step closer.

 

"Plugins are installed on individual computers, so you can't simply swap users."  Not sure what you were referring to with this comment, but maybe that I'd mentioned ACT was having us do a test by deactivating Mandy and creating a new user on her machine called Ocf Ast?  To me this didn't make any sense.  This was happening before Mandy's computer was ever even here.  It was purchased when we got an assistant, username Molly, and it happened to her.  After she left and we hired Mandy, we deactivated Molly's account and started Mandy's on the same system, and it's happened on her user account now too.  Apparently ACT doesn't believe that this has been a year-long ongoing issue despite WHAT user account someone uses, so they had our techs deactivate Mandy's and create a different user account on her system, and waiting for it to happen again before they'll look into it any further.  Smiley Mad

  • That's actually a really good idea.  They're trying to establish if this is an issue where an external program is authenticated to delete these on behalf users, and by using someone who was newly introduced to the issue they're removing a lot of historical issues and are able to put a tighter focus on the problem.  When finding a problem like this it's sometimes easier to focus on the solution with cleaner data.

 

Here's where we butt heads.  The product has literally labelled the deletion as belonging to one of your logins, but you're adamant that can't be the case.  Years of deliberate development, my own experience with the Act! product, and my time working direction with the relational SQL database that Act! uses tell me that records aren't deleted at random, and they aren't created at random.  You're telling me that both are happening.  I know you've already spoken with technical support on this, and they haven't found evidence to refute that.

 

Here are the assumptions that we're running on when we troubleshoot your issue:

  1. If you delete a contact, history is created.
  2. If someone else deletes a contact, a history is created. (the next two lines also count as 'someone else')
    1. If a program uses the Act! Framework to delete a contact, a history is created.
    2. If a program uses the Act! Web API to delete a contact, a history is created.
  3. Product issues do not create a history record in your database, they throw error messages.  Even if it did cause a contact to become unreadable, it wouldn't create a history.
  4. Database corruption doesn't leave an audit trail of deletions, it makes Act! do nothing, or throw error messages.  Even if it did cause a contact to become unreadable, it wouldn't create a history.

 

The only thing I can offer you is that I'll be happy to look at your database to diagnose if there are any problems. Let me know and I will PM you a Dropbox link for you to send a copy.  I'll keep this in the database repair lab, and monitor contacts and histories.  If the numbers change without intervention, then I can bring this to R&D.

Billy Clark
E: Billy.Clark@kqc.ca
P: 800-857-0558 x334
Act! Certified Consultant
MaaS Certified Consultant
World’s #1 Act! Reseller!
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Nickel Super Contributor
Posts: 829
Country: USA

Re: ACT is deleting groups of contacts, seems to be ones that are duplicate records

@melissa.p 

 

PM me your account information, and an example of lost data if you have some.  Since you're on the cloud many transactions might still be listed in your sync logs, and I can try to correlate what happened and when.  The installed product that you have interacts with the data no differently than the installed product on our end, we just do backups more often that most users.

Billy Clark
E: Billy.Clark@kqc.ca
P: 800-857-0558 x334
Act! Certified Consultant
MaaS Certified Consultant
World’s #1 Act! Reseller!
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