Archive for April, 2016


What appears to be a clear question on the surface quickly clouds in the face of reality.  Your data is not only important, it’s vital to the life of your business.  There are several reasons that I will cover below.

Database upgrades complete with no errors.

This is the first reason clients think of when testing upgrades, and this is the one we are concerned least about.  If this were a data migration from one system to another, then yes, the figures must be checked closely.  Barring damaged data, database upgrades simply add columns and procedures to accommodate new processes and features in Dynamics GP.  Your data actually remains relatively untouched during this process.  While you may think initially that all you need to be concerned about is your ‘bottom line’, that’s actually the one thing you don’t need to worry about.  Check, yes.  Concern, no.  What is more likely to have changed is the way to access that data and how it gets reported.  Bottom line on your bottom line, I cannot recall one upgrade in thousands where the figures did not tie out.

Vital business processes are not hampered.

This brings us to the second and most crucial step, yet one passed over by most clients – testing processes.  Data doesn’t do us much good if we can’t act or report on it.  Each new version of Dynamics GP brings new features, and those ‘features’ occasionally change location of an action button or drop-down from the bottom of a window to the top, or even to another window.  You need to know where changes have been made so you aren’t trying to learn while the UPS driver is waiting for a check.

Speaking of checks, the formatting, along with that of many other reports (yes, a check is a ‘report’ to the software) is also modified during upgrade processes to accommodate the changes to the tables noted above.  Some of the more frequently customer-modified reports include GL Trial Balances, SOP Invoices, Check layouts, and Purchase Orders.  With the upgrading of the formats, sometimes sort orders are changed, or other changes which may affect the looks of your invoices, checks, etc.

It is imperative that you devote time during a test upgrade to run through:

  • Daily Processes in Finance, Payables, Receivables, Payroll, Inventory
  • Weekly Procedures
  • Monthly Procedures
  • Quarterly and Year-end Procedures

That includes printing checks – to blank paper, then hold up the printed check to blank computer check stock to verify alignment.  Don’t forget to shred the printed check forms, particularly if GP is printing the signature.

Third-party and integration tasks should be checked as well.  Stand-alone programs and web interfaces should be checked for proper operation, functionality, and security.

Little or no testing can jeopardize your upgrade and result in not only lost productivity for you, but additional costs for an emergency situation that would have been uncovered and corrected in test.  Will we do an upgrade without a test?  Certainly, if you can afford the down time and loss of productivity.  The no-test scenario is usually reserved for 1-2 user systems running Payables and GL only.

Frequently an upgrade also means a new server.  This gives you a perfect chance to test the capacity and capability of the new server by loading the server as you would on a daily basis to make sure the application is as responsive as you need it to be before you’re in production and it’s too late to fix a problem without lost production time.  So don’t just have one person test the system – plan a time when everyone can test together.  If there are problems, we can diagnose and correct them before it becomes a critical issue.

CAL’s ‘What’s New’ training can be beneficial if done during in the test upgrade phase.  This will eliminate many of the navigation questions that may arise when first encountering the upgraded interface.  This training can be reinforced with additional assistance when the live upgrade is performed.

There are several reasons for backing up your Dynamics GP SQL Data and shared files, among them:

  • Business Continuity
  • Human or Computer Error Recovery
  • Historical Preservation
  • Data Health and Maintenance

 

Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery is the most comprehensive and usually requires the most planning.  You must consider how much data loss is acceptable and how long your accounting system can afford to be down.

Let’s first consider the types of SQL Recovery Modes available.  It is important to understand these simply because of the types and granularity of restores depend on them.  For our purposes we will focus on the 2 most common recovery models, Simple and Full.

Simple Recovery Model is just that – simple; the backup job creates the backup file and clears committed transactions from the log file, then truncates the log.  It cannot be restored to a point in time other than when it was created.  These can be done as often as needed, but remember, you’re backing up the entire database, so keep a close eye on drive space.

Full Recovery Model (the one we recommend) has many more options, but comes with a bit more overhead.  In full recovery mode, the full database is backed up, including data and log file.  It does not, however, truncate the log file.  There is a secondary, and more frequent, backup called the Transaction Log Backup (never could have guessed that one, right?) that does the actual truncation of the log file.  In a restore situation, you restore the full backup and any log files to get you to the point of error.  This type of backup is your best bet in the event that someone accidentally clears data or other human error situation.

For Business Continuity purposes, you ideally should have a balance of on-disk and external media on- and off-site.  Two or three days should be sufficient for on-disk backups, as you would rarely want to take your accounting system back that many days.  External media retention is up to you, but a week’s worth of backups with at least one day offsite works well for most.

Many companies want or require a year-end backup archived.  Back up the database to external media, and archive as desired.  You may want to burn these to disk as shelf life is longer and would not be affected by EMP, media deterioration or accidental erasure.  Include a copy of the current DYNAMICS database for ease of data access.  Your company may have moved on, but this data if locked in time.

Don’t let your IT tell you that they are snapshotting the server and you don’t need SQL backups.  With full recovery model, you must have both Full and Transaction Log backups to keep the database healthy and keep size and performance in check.

One additional word on Server Snapshots, particularly virtual server snapshots.  If you are running them for Disaster Recovery, DO NOT run them during the work day.  SQL interprets the snapshot scan of the live databases as a disk freeze and any transaction which may be taking place during the few seconds of snapshot scans will likely be corrupted and could require extensive repair of the database if not caught quickly.

One other common error is to have the database set to Full Recovery Model, then let other backup software do the database backups.  This is fine AS LONG AS it also is capable of running Transaction Log backups.  If you only back up the database and not the log, it never truncates and will both cause serious performance issues and finally fill up the disk at which point the database (and GP) shut down.  Know your recovery model, backup type, and frequency.  We can work with you IT staff to develop a plan that works for you.

Test your backups!  Even the best of us can fall into that trap.  The backup looks good, but if you can’t restore it, you might as well not have one.  That’s why my comment on on-disk backups above.  If you need to restore to a point-in-time, have your transaction logs backed up to disk, but your full backup is on some tape somewhere, you’ll be down for as long as it takes to recover the backup media and get it mounted.  Keep several recent backups and relevant log backups on disk for speedy recovery.

There are some non-SQL files that should be backed up regularly as well.  That includes modified reports and forms dictionaries, FRx SysData folder (if you’re still using FRx, and if you are, why?  …but that’s another topic), Integration Manager database, signature files, Mekorma Stub Library, etc..  CAL usually has these under a server ‘GPShare’ folder, so include that in your backups.

Several final notes and frequently misunderstood items:

  1. Backing up your DYNAMICS database does not back up your data. The DYNAMICS database is the GP system database, but only contains system-level information – users, registration, security, etc.  The actual transactions are in your company database.
  2. When you add a company to Dynamics GP, make sure the company database is included in the backup. I usually set the backups for ‘all user databases’ – that way, if a new company is added, it’s automatically included in the backup.  If you use ‘all user databases’, you’re also covered for Management Reporter and SQL Server Report Server backups.
  3. Check your SQL System backups – Master, Model, and MSDB. With those you can recover your GP SQL users in the event of a rare, but possible, SQL application crash.  Without them, you will have to create new users in SQL to tie back to the GP users.