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Customize share name

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Copper Contributor
Posts: 53
Country: USA
Accepted Solution

Customize share name

[ Edited ]

Note to the reader: this post is almost entirely in Geek. Apologies in advanceSmiley Happy

 

The short version of the question is this: how do I customize the share name for the auto-created [MyActDBName]-database files? I cannot find anything in the Act setup instructions, Act KB, or this forum, and it seems that the setup process fails to give me any option to custimze the auto-created share name. There is actually a sound (at least to me!) reason for this question; however, that is in the longer, Geek version of the question below. So continue reading at your own risk...

 

When installing Act Premium 18.2, with the DB hosted on one of our Windows 2012 R2 servers, I see that Act automatically created an unhidden share to the [database name]-database files inside the Act folder where the DB resides. I know most folks really do not care about this, and they probably assume that the fact that the Act developers did this proves it is a good idea. But one thing I do not allow in my networks is unhidden shares, so I want to know how to customize the share name. And besides that, any application is taking a lot for granted to automatically create something as substantial as a network share without giving the administrator so much as a choice as to the name or path. To me, this is a clear case of convenience over thoughtfulness.

 

For those who want to know and can tolerate Geek, here is how it works: any unhidden share can be seen by any user (or malware!) that browses the network. If I share the D:\Apps\MyFolder folder on computer MyPC using share name MyShare, the share folder is visible to anyone browsing the network simply by browsing to MyPC, where they can see the MyShare folder. Yes, I can, and do, implement file security over and above the share permissions that ensures that only those users that should have access to the share have folder/file-level access.

 

However, meticulous attention to network security in my environment adds one more very simple level: sharing it instead as MyShare$. The "$" at the end means that the share is not discoverable by curious or malicious users or software poking around my network. That is, when a user browses to MyPC (or malware queries MyPC), the user cannot see a share called MyShare or MyShare$; instead, the user must explicitly enter \\MyPC\MyShare$ to get into that share.

 

The day of peer-to-peer spider's-web-of-inter-computer-sharing should be long past; that generally spells risk and confusion more than convenience, and it is something I have had to untangle in a number of cases when taking on new clients. In well-managed corporate networks, the only shares are on servers, and it is arguable that they should be hidden shares only that are accessed only via either 1) login script mapping that includes the hidden share name in the net use command or 2) administratively-created shortcuts deployed to workstations. Accordingly, in my Act implementation, I use the latter. I have a share on MyServer thus: D:\Apps is shared as Apps$ so that it is accessible only as \\MyServer\Apps$. Act is one level downline from there, so my DB is locally accessible here: D:\Apps\Act\MyActDBName.pad. (As far as security, the Act folder is accessible only to an ActiveDirectory group that includes Act users). And the shortcut I deploy to the stations where Act Premium is installed points here: \\MyServer\Apps$\Act\MyActDBName.pad. This all prevents snoopy users, including Act users, from poking around the network, finding the \\MyServer\MyActDBName-database files share and, inadvertently or not, moving, renaming, or deleting some critical file manually. This is not an Excel sheet; it is Act, which is a server-hosted database application and should be treated with enough care to reflect that fact.

 

Perfect!...well, almost. In reality, Act auto-creates the folder for non-database Act-related data here: D:\Apps\Act\MyActDBName-database files. Still, so far, so good, since this can still be accessed only downline from my hidden share. But now I find that Act auto-shares that folder as \\MyServer\MyActDBName-database files--and then proceeds to build core Act functions to use this share with no instruction on how to customize the share name.

So my question is this: where do I find the setting to customize the share name, or does such as setting simply not exist? I am certainly willing to go even as far as a registry hack or config file if necessary. I already checked the .pad file and registry to see if I could find any indication there, but my chance of finding the required string in a config file is about null with Windows's limited in-file search options. There are two issues:

 

  1. I am perfectly capable of planning a secure and logical share layout on my own, so I always minimize the number of network shares and work downline from those. I do not want some program, including Act, inserting additional share layers for me. That is, I would strongly prefer that users access those files here under my existing share: \\MyServer\Apps$\Act\MyActDBName-database; that is, where the share is Apps$, and the adjunct Act files are properly two levelsdownline from that share. But Act defaults to introducing an unnecessary additional share directly here: "\\MyServer\MyActDBName-database files" and does not seem to allow me any option to customize that UNC path.
  2. Even if Act insists on having a share directly to the folder where the adjunct files reside, I at least want the choice of at least making it a hidden share, not the fully-exposed share created by the setup process.

 

I understand the benefit to small-office implementations of having the developers do most of the thinking, since these are, almost without exception, environments where nobody is really paying attention to centralized backups and risk management. However, in my opinion, it seems that in the Act developers' haste to make it easy to install and manage by non-technical folks, they have made (faulty, in my opinion) assumptions that may not be friendly toward respecting a previously-defined security structure that is more thoroughly thought out and/or goes beyond their generic concept of sharing. For the record, Act is not alone in this; other small-office-focused applications such as QuickBooks and PCMiler have the same limited implementation mindset. And I do understand that I may be in a small minority here. But then, my primary concerns are security and manageability in the context of the overall network, and, although it may sound naive, I do not think there ever needs to be a conflict between that and robust program functionality. I fear that there may be such a conflict in this case if the developers have provided no way to customize the share name.

 

Any program's strength should lie in its abilities to be a superior application. I have no doubt that Act qualifies when it comes to CRM systems. But why do this at the expense of taking over the network administrator's thinking for him without providing recourse. Yes, in the end, I will live with this limitation if it is truly one that has no provision for customization. After all, end users often have such a case of developer-worship that carefully-planned configurations extending beyond developers' limited concept of network are often met with, "How come I never had that problem when I installed it on our [Celeron-based, Windows XP Home] computers in my last job?" coming from the guy who just moved from some four-computer peer-to-peer small office network to my 50-computer Active-Directory-based corporate network.

 

With my luck, someone will probably answer this by either saying it is impossible or pointing to some readily-available KB article that I could not seem to find in my searches. If so, thank you in advance, and either way, apologies in advance for all the extra detail here. And maybe someone else can translate this from Geek to English for us.


Accepted Solutions
Solution
Accepted by topic author Brain
‎10-19-2016 07:26 AM
Silver Contributor
Posts: 1,813
Country: USA

Re: Customize share name

Go and share the database normally within ACT (tools, Databases maintenance, Share Database)  we will change this in a minute.

Then going through the Windows explorer to the the location of the supplemental files folder. Create a windows share manually.

You will need to have installed the ACT7 SQL instance in Mixed mode so you can make the change. Also, you will need SQL management Studio

with SQL management Studio, connect to the ACT7 Instance and look for your database.

There is a table called DBCONFIG

Look in DBCONFIG for a field called DATASTORE

Replace the CONFIGVALUE in DATASTORE to your share name

Test Drive Act! and Quickbooks over Citrix http://GoTryAct.com

Jon Klubnik| ActTrainer.com
(866)710 4228

ACT! Certified Consultant / ACT! Premier Trainer / ACT! Hosting Provider

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Administrator
Posts: 4,024
Country: United_Kingdom

Re: Customize share name

[ Edited ]

Hi Brian,

 

The extent of the customisation of the database files location is what is configurable though the Personal Files Locations options shown below:

Act!_2016-10-18_11-21-24.png

The name of the folder itself cannot be changed.

 

I'm no expert on Windows network administration, but hopefully this is useful in some way.

Copper Contributor
Posts: 53
Country: USA

Re: Customize share name

Thank you, Gary.

This option is focused on personal files. But I am looking for a way to customize the shared files location. This is what is set when one goes through File → Open/Share Database and then clicks the Share button. That does not give any options to use an existing UNC path but simply creates the share with default settings that, in my opinion, are so simplistic in concept as to be questionable from a sound network management & security perspective.

In my trek toward trying to fit Act into my properly-secured corporate network, this is one of several things that makes me feel as though the developers did a great job making a CRM product but a rather poor job understanding network security. Or perhaps it was just a business decision that went like this: "Our market is small business where nobody knows anything about networking anyway, so we are going to set defaults that we know will work and not allow any customization." With few network managers truly looking to keep things finely-tuned, there is probably little incentive for them to provide flexibility, even when it is at the core of sound network management for many of us out here. I just wish sometimes that developers would have to work with a larger well-conceived, well-secured, and well-managed network when writing their setup routines. Just as they allow customization of the installation path for the program, it would take so little for them to allow the end user to customize the UNC path when sharing the DB.

As noted, in the end, I will have to acquiesce to the existing default settings if there is no workaround; otherwise, the end users, knowing even less about networking than the developers, will naturally conclude that their IT manager could not possibly have thought of something the developers did not. But it is always worth checking to see if there is some workaround, no matter how arcane it may be.
Administrator
Posts: 4,024
Country: United_Kingdom

Re: Customize share name

Hi Brain,

I am not aware of any workarounds for this usage case. I'll keep an eye out for anything that might come in useful though.
Your feedback on this has been noted. Thanks for the detail you've provided.
Solution
Accepted by topic author Brain
‎10-19-2016 07:26 AM
Silver Contributor
Posts: 1,813
Country: USA

Re: Customize share name

Go and share the database normally within ACT (tools, Databases maintenance, Share Database)  we will change this in a minute.

Then going through the Windows explorer to the the location of the supplemental files folder. Create a windows share manually.

You will need to have installed the ACT7 SQL instance in Mixed mode so you can make the change. Also, you will need SQL management Studio

with SQL management Studio, connect to the ACT7 Instance and look for your database.

There is a table called DBCONFIG

Look in DBCONFIG for a field called DATASTORE

Replace the CONFIGVALUE in DATASTORE to your share name

Test Drive Act! and Quickbooks over Citrix http://GoTryAct.com

Jon Klubnik| ActTrainer.com
(866)710 4228

ACT! Certified Consultant / ACT! Premier Trainer / ACT! Hosting Provider

Copper Contributor
Posts: 53
Country: USA

Re: Customize share name

[ Edited ]

Jon:

 

Bingo!

 

Yes. That is, indeed, an arcane solution and, while I am mystified as to why the developers would not have seen fit to expose this somewhere in the GUI, and all is well that ends well. In fact, I actually approached it slightly differently. Without having SQL Management Studio on the server in question, I simply created a SQL Server ODBC DSN on another computer that had MS Access installed, connected to the DB in Access across the network, went to the dbo_CTL_DBCONFIG table, then to the single record having SECTION field value DATASTORE and changed the CONFIGVALUE from this:

 

\\[MyServerName]\[MyDBName]-database files

 

to this

 

\\[MyServerName]\Apps$\Act!\[MyDBName]-database files

 

...where Apps$ is my pre-configured hidden share. The Act client is happy now.

 

Thank you!

Copper Contributor
Posts: 53
Country: USA

Re: Customize share name

jonmklug: I upgraded from Act 18 to 19, and this reverted. I de-shared the default and updated the record in DBCONFIG. This setting sticks when I open the shared Act DB from a workstation, but as soon as I open Act on the server hosting Act, it re-creates the default, exposed share and changes the DBCONFIG record back to that path.

 

For all I know, this may have happened with Act 18 also. I was so buried in all the major issues presented when Act broke my backup system, etc, etc, that I may have never returned to ensure that the setting correctly persisted, and it is possible this is not new with 19. At any rate, it leaves an exposed share hanging out there on the network for any Act user to simply browse to it and monkey with files via Windows Explorer if so inclined, outside the auspices of the Act application itself. This is exactly why we have a company system management policy that requires all server-side shares to be hidden, and it seems that Act alone is now responsible for creating a situation in violation of this.

 

Why does Act insist on wiping out my carefully-considered configuration by imposing its hard-coded unhidden relative-path share on me? Is there a way to get my configuration to stick? Logging on from a workstation does not force the system to a default setting.

 

One of my complaints, as an admittedly detailed and security-conscious information systems infrastructure manager and systems integrator, is that less-than-thoughtful developers simply 1) do not understand network architecture enough to even be aware of the issue and options, 2) do not recognize or admit the security issues and/or 3) fail to provide the simple flexibility required to accomplish this level of security. Software that allows the actual software manager the flexibility to make decisions such as this tend to be less error-prone at the local technical setup/support level and certainly look more professional. I just wish the Act underlying technology were as sound for me as a system manager as the application itself is for the users.

Administrator
Posts: 4,024
Country: United_Kingdom

Re: Customize share name

Hi Brain,

 

Could you rephrase your post as a suggestion, and post it on the Share Your Ideas board? This will then get your request in front of the product management team for review in the future.

 

This is the suggested way for submitting improvement ideas.

Copper Contributor
Posts: 53
Country: USA

Re: Customize share name

Will do. I was just hoping someone already had a workaround, arcane or not.