03-09-2010 12:31 PM
This is a really long message, and for that I apologize, but my intention is as much to start a general discussion about the viability of the Act 2010 Web client as it is to report and discuss specific problems.
I upgraded from Act 6.0 to Act 2010 Premium for the Web in January. That's a lot of versions, I know, but earlier upgrades to Act 2008 and 2009 were not successful due to problems with the newer products that were determined to be showstoppers before turn-on. We got past those problems but are finding a lot of new ones after the turn-on of Act 2010.
Windows Server 2008 Standard SP2 - 64bit
Dual 2.0 Ghz processors
4 GB RAM
SQL Server 2008 ST
Act 2010 Premium for Web, Version 12.0.401.0
Separate application pools for each Act IIS worker process, set up by Act support
Nothing runs on the server except for Windows, SQL Server, IIS, and a BackupExec Remote Agent.
30 Users, all using Windows XP Professional and the Act Web Client (2 using the desktop client as well), 22 from LAN, 8 from remote offices. Using the web is an absolute must, as we do not want to involve synchronization at all - we want everyone using the same database at all times.
~28,000 Act contacts
Outlook 2007 integration - subject, message, and all attachments - again, a must - we need all customer activity and attachments to be visible on the Act contact record. For most of my users, 95+% of their mail is customer-related and we want it in Act, so they are set up to have all messages go through the Outlook integration process by default. A few users are set up to have to link messages individually when customer-related.
Here are my problems:
1. The Outlook service application pool grabs all the memory on the server until the server freezes. This is caused by two separate problems.
First, Act doesn’t drop e-mails for which the e-mail address does not exist on a contact record. We do not have e-mail addresses on our own contact records (the ones linked to our user record) because we don’t want all our internal e-mails to get linked to Act (for confidentiality reasons), and Act does not give you a way to exclude e-mails sent to users. The only way I’ve been able to get around this problem (so far) is to recycle the service application pool when it reaches a certain level of memory. The recycling happens about 4 times a day. We also received an error handler from Act Support that we are hoping will remove the non-attached e-mails after one attempt and one day – if this works, it might be a big help.
Second, if you send a message to an Act contact with an attachment greater than 4 MB, that exceeds an ASP limit on IIS, and Act puts a message on the client’s Event Viewer, but not the client’s screen, and every ten seconds tries to relink the message. Act support has created an error handler for me that moves the message into the Not Attached section of the Outlook service window on the client, but we have not been able to find a way to actually link the message yet, because the Outlook integration process rejects all attempts to increase the maxRequestLength value on the httpruntime property in web.config.
These errors cause hang-ups in Outlook instances, prevent users from logging into Outlook (until I do an iisreset or occasionally, a SQL Server restart or even a system reboot).
2. When trying to setup Outlook integration on a few clients, when I click “Quick Attach to Act! Premium for Web” I get an error “Object reference not set to an instance of an object”. I see that this is a rather common error for Act, but for these clients it prevents the Outlook integration from working – no messages get linked to Act contacts. Based on earlier research, I thought this might have to do with clients running older versions of .NET or XP, but once it happens on a client it doesn’t go away even after I apply all available updates. Act Support has not been able to help with this one.
This error prevents these particular users from using Outlook integration, which eliminates the primary benefit of their using Act.
3. When running a report in the Act web client, it takes 4 minutes to create a label for a single contact. If I run a contact list of a lookup, it usually takes 6 or 7 minutes. Act Support has not been able to help with this. I saw one KB article that said this could happen on a 64-bit server if Act was not running in 32-bit mode, but it is running in 32-bit mode on my server. This particular problem makes no sense to me. It’s like the system needs to download the entire database to the client before it runs a report. There’s a similar problem if you try to save a document when you have a lot of documents in the the Documents folder. It takes the Act web client a minute or more to build an index of the folder contents. Both of these delays occur even if accessing Act through a gigabit LAN using private IP addresses (thereby keeping all the traffic internal).
4. Protexis – the Act licensing service (PSI_Service2.exe) is going haywire on my server. It is constantly throwing “Invalid Device Request” messages on my Process Monitor because of an issue with my disks being in RAID5 array (according to Act Support). I restarted the service yesterday. These are its current stats in Process Explorer:
a. CPU % - Fluctuates, but goes up to 12% regularly
b. CPU Time – 7 HOURS 37 MINUTES!!!! (in less than a 24 hour period)
c. CPU Cycles – 54.6 TRILLION!!!
d. Virtual Memory Page Faults – 2.4 BILLION!!!
e. IO Reads – 90 Million
f. IO Writes – 7 Million
g. IO Other – 89 Million
h. Handles – 753,000!!!
An Act Support engineer tried to apply a patch to fix this, but all it did was make the licensing service not work at all. Now, I don’t think Act really needs a licensing process like this; it could just maintain a count of people that are logged on, but the licensing process should at least work, with little resource use, and if it’s working on a production application server, it needs to be able to work with disks in a RAID array. It certainly shouldn’t be the dominant process on the server. Whether this process is the root cause of all the performance problems I have is unknown at this time.
5. Document conversion – when you use the Act 6.0->Act 2010 document conversion tool to convert documents in bulk, it does not convert the documents in place (i.e. it does not replace the Act 6.0 documents that are linked to contacts with the converted Act 2010 document, it just puts the converted Act 2010 document in a folder under the user’s My Documents, and puts a long hexadecimal tag into the converted document’s filename so you can’t just copy the converted document over to the database’s Documents folder to replace the document linked to the contact. The only way to convert documents and preserve linkage is to convert documents one-by-one by opening the document from the contact record within the Desktop client. One can’t do this conversion from the Web client because if you open an Act 6.0 format WPA document in the Act 2010 Web client, you get a Tx4ole12 “Unknown File Format” error, which Act Support has confirmed and can’t fix. None of this is any fun when you have 6,200 documents to convert.
6. Template conversion – when you use the Act 6.0->Act 2010 document conversion process to convert templates, it does not maintain headers, footers, or text formatting (fonts, colors, tabs, spacing, bold/italic, etc.), nor does it maintain merge fields. This has been confirmed by Act Support. I had about 150 templates to convert. The only way I could do it that worked was to open the template in Act 6, open a base template in Act 2010 that contained my proper header/footer, copy/paste the body text from the old to the new, and then delete/reinsert all the Merge fields and redo all the text formatting.
7. A general comment about Act 2010 - Act is not a real SQL Server application. A real SQL Server application gives system administrators a way to use SQL tools like Transact-SQL to access and manipulate data and to extend the capabilities of the database. Eliminating SQL Administration tools really hamstrings I/T people, especially when it comes to making changes in bulk, creating reports, etc.
If the Web client worked as it’s supposed to, it would be everything we need in a contact and opportunity management tool. But, it doesn’t – it doesn’t come close. Because of issues 1-5 above, which make the Web client more or less unusable, the inability to resolve them, and (as far as I know) the inability for remote users to use the desktop client against a home office database with any sort of acceptable performance, the management here is starting to think we should dump Act. I don’t want to dump it, both because I see its potential if it works properly, and because I think anything else we pick will have its own problems, so….
Does anyone have any experience or ideas about how to resolve those first five issues?
As an aside, does anyone use the Web client as an all-day, every-user production environment for 20+ users?
I am honestly hopeful that these problems are specific to my setup, but I fear they aren’t, and I fear that the Web client is intended more to give Sage the ability to check off the “Do you have a web client” box on RFPs than it is to actually provide practical functionality.
I am going to apply Service Pack 1, but none of the things described as added or fixed within that relate to the issues above, so I’m not sure it’s going to help. But, I’ll hope for the best.
Thanks very much.
07-06-2010 01:43 AM - edited 07-06-2010 01:44 AM
Is Sage going to review the above post and reply? Some issues discussed here are present in our 64bit/IIS7 environment. I'd like to try that error handler becuase Outlook integration "feature" is a nighmare - it renders ACT unusable with its "No connection could be made because the target machine actively refused it 127.0.0.1" error.
07-06-2010 07:04 AM
alexsbor, below is the error handlers file I currently use. The last few entries are the new ones that Act Support provided to me to help with Outlook integration problems.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<error type="System.Xml.Schema.XmlSchemaValidationException" removeafterattempts="5" removeafterdays="2" />
<error type="System.Xml.Schema.XmlSchemaException" removeafterattempts="5" />
<error type="System.IO.FileNotFoundException" removeafterattempts="5" removeafterdays="2" />
<error type="Act.Outlook.Service.Shared.AddressBookEntryNotFoundException" removeafterattempts="10" removeafterdays="2" />
<error type="Act.Outlook.Service.Shared.NoContactsFoundException" removeafterattempts="5" removeafterdays="1" />
<error type="Act.Outlook.Service.Shared.UserRemovedFromQueueException" removeafterattempts="1" removeafterdays="1" />
<error type="System.Web.HttpException" removeafterattempts="1" removeafterdays="1" />
<error type="System.Web.Services.Protocols.SoapException" removeafterattempts="1" removeafterdays="1" />
<error type="System.NullReferenceException" removeafterattempts="1" removeafterdays="1" />
This should go into a file called APFWHistoryErrorHandlers.xml, which you should put onto each user's client machine under C:\Documents and Settings\<UserName>\Application Data\ACT\ACT for Web
It does help with some problems with the Outlook integration, but it is not a cure-all, and I'm not sure if any of these handlers look for the particular error you're having trouble with. Just so you know, though Act Support has worked very hard with me on several of the issues in my original post, only the slow reporting issue has been resolved. The other issues have been reported to development, but no fixes have been provided. Also, when I upgraded to 12.1, the system stopped putting header and footer information into documents generated from WPA templates. This was also confirmed as an product problem and reported to development, but no fix has been provided as yet.
07-09-2010 12:45 AM
Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, I was the lucky one to install hotfix2 to fix Outlook integration crap. Now nobody can use Act Web because it kills iis session every minute or so. Support people have been eyeballing my server for 2 days now without any progress. They are clueless. I'm taken aback by their lack of knowledge. I've tried reaching Edge support but after user ID they route you back to the junk support I've been dealing with. I suggested removing outlook integration - they refused even to try. I'm going to do this myself now since users are in idle and pretty upset about this.
07-09-2010 08:04 AM
Sorry to hear about the troubles - I lived with similar issues for the last few months. It's very discouraging for everyone involved. Good luck with the resolution efforts, I hope everything gets worked out quickly.