Don’t be a victim of Act! data loss

February 14th, 2018 • By: Wendy Cummins ACT CRM, Computer Security, Data management, Data Security, Management, Sage ACT

Recently, we have had several frantic calls from customers needing to restore contacts in Act! after a user has unwittingly deleted them. Unfortunately, in some cases, these clients haven’t had a recent backup of their Act! Database to pull the deleted contacts from. Don’t let this happen to you.

Follow these guidelines to protect your Act! data:

  • Limit user security to ONLY what the user NEEDS to do their job. It is a misconception that users need to be “administrators” in Act!. The administrator security level allows the user to do some scary things such as: delete a database, copy a database, delete all records in a database. There is a need for only 1 or maybe 2 users to have this “god-like” ability in Act!. The rest of the users can be assigned manager or standard security (or less). Consider removing the “delete records” permission from all standard users, and set up a system where records are “flagged” by users for review and deletion by an administrator or manager. Search Act! Help for “security roles” or check this Act! KB article for more information on security roles and custom permissions.


  • Train your staff. If you can’t remove the “delete records” option from the user’s profile, make sure they know the dangers of deleting – and the hassle of restoring.


  • Protect your hardware. Make sure your workstations and server have UPS units with surge protection to protect against power outages and lightning strikes. If your Act! database is open and the power goes down, it’s likely that you will experience data loss. Take the most basic precaution of having an uninterruptible power supply and surge protection on your server and workstations. UPS units have a shelf-life – make sure that yours is working properly by testing it periodically (unplug from the wall outlet) and especially before storm season when power outages can frequently occur.


  • Your “nightly server backup” is NOT enough. Just because your IT team is backing up files on your server nightly does not mean that Act! Is protected. The Act! Database cannot be backed up properly by most backup software (or cloud backup) because it is in a SQL database. You may be able to recover “some” data from one of these sources, but it will cost time and money and will likely not be a complete restore. The correct answer is to use the Act! Scheduler to automatically create a nightly backup (in the form of a ZIP file) AND then backup the ZIP file that is created by this process. See this article for more information, or this Act! knowledgebase article.


  • The Act! Scheduler tasks you create require Act! administrator-level credentials. IF THE USER NAME OR PASSWORD CHANGES, THE TASKS WILL NOT RUN. They will fail, and you will not have a backup when you need it. The Act! Scheduler only runs on the server where the database resides. Check the status of the tasks (or create or edit them) by logging into your Act! Server and then look in the notification area (bottom right corner of Windows by the clock) for a golden circle icon. Right-click that icon and choose “open Act! Scheduler.” The Act! Scheduler is a service that is set to start automatically on any machine with Act! and SQL server installed.


  • The Act! Scheduler is NOT infallible. Someone must still check regularly to make sure the tasks are running as scheduled. Luckily, there is an alert system built into the Act! Scheduler. You can configure an e-mail account (SMTP only) to be used by the Scheduler and then set each task to send an email to an address you specify whenever the task runs. The result is that someone in your organization will receive either confirmation that the task ran successfully or failed. Another caveat here…if your SMTP settings require a user name and password, this is another possible point of failure. Make sure you update the settings if the account credentials change. More information on the email notification setup can be found here.


  • Test your Act! Backup. It is a good idea to regularly restore your Act! data from backup just to make sure your backups are viable. The term “regularly” is arbitrary – you never know when a problem will arise. How devastating would it be to your business if you lost 1 week of Act! Input? What about 1 month or 6? Use the “restore as” function to make sure you don’t overwrite your current database.

Don’t be a victim of Act! data loss. Use the tools within Act! to protect your data and verify the system regularly. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need help to restore data – or if you’d like help taking with these security measures, our team of Act! experts can help. Reach out to us at

Maximizing your strengths and Strategizing your weaknesses

September 12th, 2017 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Business growth, Management, Sales management, Swiftpage ACT, Time Management

Today’s blog post is the first “official” entry for my Reese’s Southern Wisdom series.  During my conversations with Reese he kept referring to maximizing his strengths and “strategizing” his weaknesses.  This phrasing is a bit different than you will typically see when you research this concept. And that is on purpose for Reese. It’s classic “Reese Speak.”

Reese spent many years studying sales and personal improvement techniques. He is particularly fond of Stephen Covey and his 7 habits of Successful People.  Much of what he read and learned formed who he is today.

These studies along with helpful managers showed Reese the way to realize his strengths and capitalize on them. And at the same time, he learned about his weaknesses and he felt he needed to be able to come up with strategies to help with his weaknesses.

He chose Act as a vital tool for both keeping on top of client needs (one of his strengths) and keeping on top of when appointments were and making sure his information was organized.  Organization was one of his weaknesses and he used Act to keep him focused with easy access to critical information.

This methodology works for anyone. Find out your strengths and write them down. If you manage people, find out and document theirs. The same goes for weaknesses. What are those and how can you improve them. Look for people you trust who will give you advice. If you identify weaknesses where a tool like Act can help, use it. Several personality assessment tools (Myers Briggs or DISC) can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.

We all typically know what our strengths are but often don’t want to admit our weaknesses. Doing so, though, is a sign of strength and figuring out a way to handle them is very powerful.  No one is perfect. But we can all strive to be the best we can. It shows in our dealings with customers, staff, fellow employees and family.  It’s a win-win for ourselves and who we deal with.

Years ago I, working with a DISC assessment expert, developed a webinar called Time to Act. The idea was find out areas of weaknesses (time management, delegation, etc) and then use Act to help resolve those issues. It may be time to revisit that again. Stay tuned.

So, your mission for the week is to maximize your strengths and “strategize” your weaknesses. Good advice from a sage southerner.  For additional reading, here’s a link to an article I wrote about the Time to Act methodology.

Reese’s Southern Wisdom

August 7th, 2017 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Business growth, Productivity, Sales, Sales management, Time Management


Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a new client who has also become a friend. His name is Reese Griffin. He is now retired, and was lastly a SVP at Boston Mutual Life. He’s a born and bred southerner from Tennessee.

Reese came to us looking for Act consulting. He is a devotee of the product and has been for years. It runs his world and he’s almost lost without it. I was impressed with how well he used it and how he made it a vital part of his every day actions. Often, when we were working together on various projects, Reese would share stories and ideas about a variety of topics. His down home, southern common sense style impressed me. He understands how to deal with customers and prospects and has great experience knowing how to be profitable and rewarded in daily interactions with people. His genuine love for dealing with people is infectious. His ideas and approach work not only for the sales process but for all dealings with people. I’ve learned so much from him reliving his journey with wonderful stories and anecdotal comments.

One day while we were working on a project, I told him now he was retired he should share his wisdom with others. His ideas are great fodder for blogs, podcasts, sales training and seminars. That germ of an idea grew into ongoing discussions and I’m now ready to start off this next venture with a blog series I’m calling Reese’s Southern Wisdom. 

The topics are concepts and tips Reese has learned over the course of his career that influenced him and led to his success. The ideas work whether you are a sales person trying to keep ahead of the game, or a small business owner dealing with every day challenges. All the ideas are either good old-fashioned common sense or topics taught in sophisticated sales training, but now morphed into Reese’s way of thinking. I will interject some of my own thoughts into the posts as well – this will be a melding of a variety of ideas and how to implement them. 

This first post is the introduction to what is coming over the next several months. To peak your interest, here’s some of the topics, many in “Reese speak” which will be explained in each post. There will be interjections on how these ideas can be enhanced or implemented using Act to tie it all together.

1. Strategies to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
2. Tangiblize the intangibles (true Reese speak)
3. Lombardi time
4. The power of warm calls
5. Columbo Style
6. What you wear and how you wear it makes a difference
7. What to do when you first walk into an office – (the Power of observation)
8. “How do you mean” – or finding out what the customer really wants  (The power of listening)
10. “To be honest” – why you shouldn’t be saying that
11. Understanding the type of customer based on personality
12. Using open-ended questions to get the right answer
13. Do it now

This series is going to be fun. I really look forward to people asking questions or responding with comments. There are all kinds of fancy, expensive sales training and people management courses on the market today. To me, though, many of them take it too far or become too impersonal. Dealing with people should be simple. Good old common sense works the majority of the time. We just need to be reminded of it periodically.

Duplicate Contacts – The Never Ending Battle

July 10th, 2017 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Data management, Swiftpage ACT

We have a great tool that I had my programmer write years ago. It’s called Duplicate Remover Expert for Act. We sell a lot of this nifty product. I had a client call me recently, told me they loved the program, but were very frustrated that they always seemed to have duplicates. He also wanted some tips on finding those duplicates that the normal internal process didn’t detect.

After giving him my answers, I realized they needed to be in a blog post and this is that article.

First off, there will always be duplicates. Always. This is for a variety of reasons. Number one reason – human. People will not search the database first, and even if there are rules to detect a possible duplicate, people tend to not ask how to correctly spell a name, so they enter it with a slightly different spelling. Or, they add a suffix, like Jr. You get the idea.

Another reason for duplicates is machine-created. Like Act, there are lots of CRMs that interface with Google or Outlook. Again, if a name is slightly misspelled or duplicate management is turned off, as soon as you set up the integration between the two systems, you get duplicates. Lots of them.

Importing data will often lead to duplicates when duplicate checking is turned off, or again, there are slight differences in the names or other fields.

The reasons stated above are why I say there will always be duplicates, even if only one person uses the database.

Now that we have that resolved, this is where my duplicate remover tool comes into play. It allows you to search on up to 6 fields (I’ll explain where that helps a bit later), search for names that “sound” the same (ie Bob, Bobby, Pat, Patricia), and leave out fields that are blank (like Company in a financial planner database).

The reason we set up the app to search on up to 6 fields is because data is different. Some databases, like mentioned earlier, have no company fields. Some may have fields like counties. There may be account number fields brought in from external systems. The idea is to try to narrow down as many duplicates as possible. The more fields you search, the deeper you dig down into the data to identify duplicates.

Now I’ll show you some tips on finding as many duplicates as possible. People’s names can be a variety of things, including middle initials, suffixes, etc. One trick is to search for First Name and Last Name instead of Contact. Many systems, like Act, are very anal in what they consider a duplicate. John Smith and John Smith, III are not a duplicate. Nor is Patricia Egen and Patricia R. Egen. That’s why the First Name, Last Name gets around that particular situation.

Another trick is to search by email only. This will not find all the possible dups because many organizations will use the same email for every person in that company, but it is a way to isolate potential duplicates.

The next trick is to search by Last name, Email and Phone. This one catches the situation where the first name is different and causes the program to think it’s not a duplicate. An example of this is Robert and Bob. Our program uses something called Soundex which only looks at the first letter so it misses the Robert and Bob situation. Searching on Last Name with other fields gets around that.

The biggest trick, though, is to run multiple passes against the data using all the tricks noted above. You are trying to find as many duplicates as possible that are “hiding in plain sight.”

One of the things I like about our tool is I can run a search using examples noted above and save them to a group in Act. Then, you can go back into the Group, look for obvious non-duplicates, remove them from the group (while keeping our tool open), go back to the duplicate remover program and then dedup that group. I find this very useful.

I hope you find these tips helpful. In summary, make sure you check the database first before entering a new contact – do searches by last name, email or phone, not just the contact name. When integrating with external contact systems, try to make sure they are current and don’t have duplicates themselves. Otherwise, your contacts start replicating like rabbits.

Happy deduping.

Want to learn more about our duplicate remover for Act? Check it out here: Duplicate Remover Wizard Expert

Windows Restart – More than you think

June 5th, 2017 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Microsoft, Swiftpage, Swiftpage ACT, Windows

Patricia Egen Consulting Fast TipsEvery week I try to have a social media “theme” and this week it’s Tips and Tricks.

Last week we helped a client who couldn’t get Act to open after Windows did an update without him asking. Nothing appeared to be wrong. I asked him if he had rebooted and he said yes, multiple times.

Then, I did my normal “call in the guru” (that being my husband) and he said have him do a RESTART and not a reboot. I’ve been working with PC’s forever and I “thought” reboot and restart were the same thing. Shame on me for believing that.

What I learned made me think it would be a good blog article because I believe other people had the same idea as I.

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft came up with something called Fast Start/Boot. Basically, people were complaining about how long it would take Windows to start up after being shut down – especially those who saw that Mac’s came up so quickly.  Their response was the Fast Start. If this is enabled on your computer (which it is by default) then Windows basically does a hibernation.  The machine only saves a snap shot of the operating system but not applications (or in this case, Act).

A restart, however, reloads the operating system intact, sort of a like a clean refresh.

When we told the machine to restart, Act opened up just fine. Confusing. Indeed. Grateful customer, indeed. New lesson learned, you bet.

If you are curious and want to see where this option is set, go to Power Options in the control panel.  Click on Power Options.  Then click on Choose what the power buttons do.   When you click on the Change settings that are currently available, it will make the checkboxes active where you can change them. You will probably notice the Fast Start is checked.

After doing some research on my own, I didn’t see the boot time taking any longer – and if anything I saw some of my apps load faster by unchecking Fast Start.

Strange things once again in Microsoft land. And once again, it’s so true you learn something new every day.


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