Thursday, September 28, 2017

Back up your Dynamics GP SQL Server databases directly to Azure Storage in minutes!

By Steve Endow

At the GP Tech Conference 2017 in lovely Fargo, ND, Windi Epperson from Advanced Integrators had a great session about Disaster Recovery. One topic she discussed was the ability to use the Dynamics GP Back Up Company feature to save SQL backups directly to Azure.

I think doing SQL backups to Azure is a great idea. There are countless tales of SQL backups not being done properly or being lost or not being retained, and having an option to send an occasional SQL backup to Azure is great.

But this option is a manual process from the Dynamics GP client application, it is not scheduled, and it does not use the "Copy-only backup" option, so the backups will be part of the SQL backup chain if the customer also has a scheduled SQL backup job.  So as Windi explained, it may be a great option for very small customers who can reliably complete the task manually on a regular basis.

But how about setting up a backup job in SQL Server that will occasionally send a backup to Azure?

It turns out that the process is remarkably easy and takes just a few minutes to setup and run your first backup to Azure Storage.

NOTE: From what I can tell, SQL backups to Azure are supported in SQL 2012 SP1 CU2 or later.  And it appears that the backup command syntax may be slightly different for SQL 2012 and 2014, versus a newer syntax for SQL 2016.

The hardest part is setting up your Azure account and creating the appropriate Azure Storage account.  It took me a few tries to find the correct settings.

First, you have to have an Azure account, which I won't cover here, but it should be a pretty simple process.  Here is the sign up page to get started:

Once you have your Azure account setup and have logged in to the Azure Portal (, click on the "More Services" option at the bottom of the services list on the left.  In the search box, type "storage" and a few options should be displayed.

I chose the newer "Storage Accounts" option (not "classic").  To pin this to your services list, click the star to the right.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Free SFTP file transfer and data export tool for Dynamics GP file-based integrations

By Steve Endow

A somewhat common requirement for file-based integrations between Dynamics GP and external services or SaaS solutions involves uploading or downloading files from an SFTP server (SSH File Transfer, completely different than the similarly named FTP or FTPS).  SFTP has some technical quirks, so it is often a hassle for customers to automate SFTP file transfers as part of their Dynamics GP integrations.

Some of those integrations also involve exporting data from Dynamics GP to a CSV file and uploading that data to an SFTP server.

To handle this task, I have developed an application that can export data from GP, save it to a CSV file, and upload it to an SFTP server.  It can also download files from an SFTP server.  The tool is fully automated, can be scheduled using Windows Task Scheduler, and it includes file archiving, logging, and email notification in case of errors.

If you use Blackline, Coupa, IQ BackOffice, or any other provider or service that requires upload or download of files with an SFTP server, this tool may be helpful.  It can be used in place of WinSCP or similar tools that require command line scripting.

I am offering this tool for free to the Dynamics GP community.  It can be downloaded from my web site at:

The download includes a user guide and sample configuration file.  There are quite a few configuration settings, so please make sure to review the documentation to understand how the settings are used.

If you end up using the Precipio SFTP tool, I would be love to hear about which system or service you are using it with and how it ends up working for you.

I started a thread on the GPUG Open Forum if you want to discuss the SFTP tool:

If you have questions or encounter issues, you can contact me through my web site at:

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The 10th and 11th ways you can lose your SQL data...

By Steve Endow

Brent Ozar has an excellent post where he shares 9 stories about how customers lost some or all of their SQL Server data.

What's great about his stories is that as I read each one, I thought "Yep, I can totally see that happening."  A simple oversight, a small mistake, one person making a change without realizing it affected other systems, or simply forgetting to change back a single setting in SQL Server.  The one about invalid SQL SMTP settings preventing error emails from going out reminded me of my recent Synology drive failures, as I also had invalid SMTP settings and hadn't received the hundreds of error emails telling me I had a problem--so I am certain that is a common symptom.

While stories about hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or fires may provide great drama for discussion about disaster recovery, I suspect that there are far more disasters that are caused by a few clicks of a mouse, followed by "Ooops." (or "OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE???")

I have two data loss stories of my own to add to the SQL data loss lore.

Pulling the Wrong Drive

Many years ago, I was a "business systems consultant" for a Big 6 (at the time) consulting firm and somehow ended up helping a customer with their Solomon IV implementation after their sole IT employee quit.  I knew Solomon IV, knew VB, knew SQL, and knew hardware, so I was juggling everything and helping them finish their implementation.

Their Hewlett Packard server that hosted the Solomon IV databases was having some issues with its RAID array.  The server had mirrored drives that hosted the database files, and occasionally that mirror would 'break' for no good reason.  Windows would mark one drive as inactive, and the server would run on one of the drives until we removed the inactivated drive, reinserted it, and repaired the array.  This had happened once or twice before, and I was on site at the customer when it happened again.  I checked Windows, checked the array, confirmed the mirror had broken.  I then pulled the drive, reinserted the drive, and then started the array rebuild.  No problem.

Shortly after that, a user noticed that a transaction they entered that morning was no longer available in Solomon.  Then another user.  Then another.  We eventually discovered that all of the transactions and data that had been entered that day were gone.  What happened?

After pondering for a while, I realized what I had done.  When the RAID mirror broke, Windows would say that one drive had been inactivated, but it wasn't always clear which drive had been inactivated.  You had to poke around to figure out if it was the drive on the left or the drive on the right--I don't remember the process, and it might have even been as high tech as watching to see which blinky light on one of the drives wasn't blinking.

I had either mis-read the drive info or not looked carefully enough, and I had pulled out the wrong drive.  The active drive.  The one that was working and had been saving the transactions and data that day.  After I reinserted the drive, I then chose the 'bad' drive, the one that hadn't been active at all that day, marked it as the primary, and then rebuilt the mirror with the old data from that drive.  Thereby losing the data that had been entered that day.

This was pre-SQL Server, so we didn't have transaction log backups, so even if we had a full back up from the prior evening, it wouldn't have helped, as it was only that day's data that was lost.  Fortunately, I think it was only mid-day, so the users only lost the data from that morning and were able to reconstruct the transactions from paper, email, and memory.

Ever since I made that mistake, I am extremely paranoid about which physical drive is mapped to RAID arrays or Windows drive letters.  If you've built a PC or server in the last several years, you may know that Windows will assign drive letters semi-randomly to SATA drives.  And when I had two bad drives in my Synology, I double and triple checked that the drive numbers provided by the Synology did in fact map to the physical drives in the unit, from left to right.

I'm hoping that I never pull the wrong drive again.

Test vs. Production

In Brent's blog post, he shared a story about someone logging into the wrong server--they thought they had logged into a test environment, but were actually dropping databases in production.

I have a similar story, but it was much more subtle, and fortunately it had a happier ending.

I was testing a Dynamics GP Accounts Payable integration script.  I must have been testing importing AP invoices, and I had a script to delete all AP transactions from the test database and reload sample data.  So I'm running my scripts and doing my integration testing, and a user calls me to tell me that they can't find an AP transaction.  We then start looking, and the user tells me that transactions are disappearing.  What?

As we were talking, all of the posted AP transactions disappeared.  All AP history was gone.

Well, that's weird, I thought.

And then it hit me.  My script.  That deletes AP transactions.  That I ran on the Test database.

But how?

Somehow, I apparently ran that script against the production company database.  I was probably flipping between windows in SQL Management Studio and ended up with the wrong database selected in the UI.  And the customer had so much AP data that it took several minutes to delete it all, as I was talking to the user, and as we watched the data disappear.

You know that gut wrenching feeling of terror when your stomach feels like it's dropped out of your body?  Followed by sweat beading on your brow?  That's pretty much how I felt once I guessed that I had probably accidentally run my Test Delete script on the production database.  Terror.

In a mad scramble that amazes me to this day, I somehow kept my sanity, figured out what happened, and came up with an insane plan to restore the AP data.  Fortunately, the customer had good SQL backups and had SQL transaction logs.  For some reason, I didn't consider a full database restore--I don't recall why--perhaps it was because it would require all users to stop their work and we would have lost some sales data.  So I instead came up with the crazy idea of reading the activity in the SQL log files.  Like I said, insane.

So I found an application called SQL Log Rescue by RedGate Software that allowed me to view the raw activity in SQL Server log files.  I was able to open the latest log file, read all of the activity, see my fateful script that deleted all of the data.  I was also able to view the full data of the records that were deleted and generate SQL scripts that would re-insert the deleted data.  Miraculously, that crazy plan worked, and SQL Log Rescue saved me.  I was able to insert all of the data back into the Accounts Payables tables, and then restart my heart.

Thinking back on it, I suspect that the more proper approach would have been do to a SQL transaction log backup and then perform a proper point in time recovery of the entire database.  Or I could have restored to a new database and then copied the data from the restore into production.  But as Brent's stories also demonstrate, we don't always think clearly when working through a problem.

So when you're planning your backup routines and disaster recovery scenarios, review the stores that Brent shares and see if your backup plans would handle each of them.  And then revisit them again occasionally to make sure the backups are working and you are still able to handle those scenarios.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

eConnect error: The target principal name is incorrect. Cannot generate SSPI context.

By Steve Endow

A customer recently encountered this error with a Dynamics GP eConnect integration:

The target principal name is incorrect. Cannot generate SSPI context.

Just before this error was reported, a new version of a custom Dynamics GP AddIn had been deployed, so I got the support call, as the partner and customer thought the error was released to the new AddIn.

But this error is related to the eConnect user authentication with SQL Server, so deploying a new DLL shouldn't have affected that authentication.

I recommended that the customer's IT team check the status of the eConnect windows service on the terminal server and try restarting it.  The eConnect service was running, but when they restarted the service, they received a login error.

It seems that some other process on the client's network was attempting to use the Active Directory account assigned to the eConnect service on the terminal server.  That other process, whatever it is, apparently has an invalid or old password for the domain account.  So it was failing to login and locking the Active Directory account.

Once the account was locked, the eConnect service on the terminal server would begin receiving the SSPI context errors, as its authentication with SQL Server would fail once the account was locked.

The IT team had previously tried to reset the eConnect account password, but it would just get locked out again by the mystery app or process that was still trying to use the same domain account.  So I recommended that they create a new dedicated domain account for use by the eConnect windows service on the terminal server.

Once they setup the new domain account and updated the eConnect windows service to use the new account, the problem went away.

However, this morning the error seemed to occur again, but restarting the eConnect service appears to have resolved it.  Given this odd recurrence, there may be some other cause or details that may be contributing to the problem.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Friday, September 8, 2017

Multiple hard drive failures on a Synology NAS: Lessons Learned

By Steve Endow

This is a long post, but I think the context and the entire story help paint a picture of how things can fail in unexpected and odd ways, and how storage failures can be more complicated to deal with than you might expect.  I learned several lessons so far, and I'm still in the middle of it, so I may learn more as things unfold.

On Tuesday evening, I received several emails from my backup software telling me that backup jobs had failed.  Some were from Veeam, my absolute favorite backup software, saying that my Hyper-V backups had failed.  Others were from Acronis True Image, saying that my workstation backup had failed.


Based on the errors, it looks like both backup apps were unable to access my Synology NAS, where their backup files are stored.

That's odd.

When I tried to access the UNC path for my Synology on my Windows desktop, I got an error that the device could not be found.  Strange.

I then opened a web browser to login to the Synology.  But the login page wouldn't load.  I then checked to make sure the Synology was turned on.  Yup, the lights were on.

After several refreshes and a long delay, the login page eventually loaded, but I couldn't login.  I then tried connecting over SSH using Putty.  I was able to connect, but it was VERY slow.  Like 30 seconds to get a login prompt, 30 seconds to respond after entering my username, etc.  I was eventually able to login, so I tried these commands to try and reboot the Synology via the SSH terminal.

After issuing the command for a reboot, the power light started blinking, but the unit didn't shutdown.  Strangely, after issuing the shutdown command, I was able to login to the web interface, but it was very slow and wasn't displaying properly.  I eventually had to hold the power button down for 10 seconds to hard reset the Synology, and then turned it back on.

After it rebooted, it seemed fine.  I was able to browse the shares and access the web interface.  Weird.

As a precaution, I submitted a support case with Synology asking them how I should handle this situation in the future and what might be causing it.  I didn't think it was a big deal.

On Wednesday evening, I got the same error emails from my backup software.  The backups had failed.  Again.  Once again, the Synology was unresponsive, so I went through the same process, and eventually had to hard reset it to login and get it working again.

So at this point, it seemed pretty clear there is a real problem.  But it was late and I was tired, so I left it and would look into it in the morning.

On Thursday morning, the Synology was again unresponsive.  Fortunately, I received a response from Synology support and sent them a debug log that they had requested.  Within 30 minutes I received a reply, informing me that the likely issue was a bad disk.

Apparently the bad disk was causing the Synology to deal with read errors, and that was actually causing the Synology OS kernel to become unstable, or "kernel panic".

This news offered me two surprises.  First, I was surprised to learn that I had a bad disk.  Why hadn't I known that or noticed that?

Second, I was surprised to learn that a bad disk can make the Synology unstable.  I had assumed that a drive failure would be detected and the drive would be taken offline, or some equivalent.  I would not have guessed that a drive could fail in a way that would make the NAS effectively unusable.

After reviewing the logs, I found out why I didn't know I had a bad drive.

The log was filled with hundreds of errors, "Failed to send email".  Apparently the SMTP authentication had stopped working months ago, and I never noticed.  I get so much email that I never noticed the lack of email from the Synology.

The drive apparently started to have problems back in July, but up until this week, the Synology seemed to still work, so I had no reason to suspect a problem.

Synology support also informed me that the unit was running a "parity consistency check" to try and verify the data on all of the drives.  This process normally slows the unit down, and the bad drive makes the process painfully slow.

After a day and a half, the process is only 20% complete, so this is apparently going to take 4-5 more days.

So that's great and all, but if I know I have a bad drive, can't I just replace the drive now and get on with the recovery process?  Unfortunately, no.  Synology support said that I should wait for the parity consistency check to complete before pulling the bad drive, as the process is "making certain you are not suffering data/ volume corruption so you can later repair your volume with no issues."

Lovely.  So waiting for this process to complete is preventing me from replacing the bad drive that is causing the process to run so slowly.  And I'm going to have to wait for nearly a week to replace the drive, all the while hoping that the drive doesn't die completely.

I'm sensing that this process is less than ideal.  It's certainly much messier than what I would have expected from a RAID array drive failure.

But that's not all!  Nosiree!

In addition to informing me that I have a bad drive that is causing the Synology to become unusable, it turns out that I have a second drive that is starting to fail in a different manner.

Notice that Disk 6 has a Warning status?  That's actually the second bad drive.  The first bad drive is Disk 2, which shows a nice happy green "Normal" status.

After reviewing my debug log, Synology support warned me that Disk 6 is accumulating bad sectors.

Sure enough, 61 bad sectors.  Not huge, but a sign that there is a problem and it should probably be replaced.


So why did I not know about this problem?  Well, even if SMTP had been working properly on my Synology, it turns out that the bad sector warnings are not enabled by default on the Synology.  So you can have a disk failing and stacking up bad sectors, but you'd never know it.  So that was yet another thing I learned, and I have now enabled that warning.

Correction 1: I remembered that the monthly disk health report shows bad sectors, so if you have that report enabled, and if your SMTP email is working, you will see the bad sector count--assuming you review that email.

Correction 2: A reader noted that new Synology units or new DSM installs apparently do have the Bad Sector Warning notification enabled by default, and set with a default of 50 bad sectors as the threshold.  But if you have an existing / older Synology, it likely does not have the Bad Sector Warning enabled.

So, here's where I'm at.

I've fixed the email settings so that I am now getting email notifications.

I'm 20% into the parity consistency check, and will have to wait 5+ more days for that to finish.

As soon as I learned that I had 2 bad drives on Thursday morning, I ordered two replacement drives.  I paid $50 for overnight express shipment with morning delivery.  Because I wanted to replace the drives right away, right?  But that was before Synology emphasized that I should wait for the parity check to complete.  So those drives are going to sit in the box for a week--unless a drive dies completely in the meantime.

If the parity check does complete successfully, I'll be able to replace Drive 2, which is the one with the serious problems.  I'll then have to wait for the Synology to rebuild the array and populate that drive.

Once that is done, I'll be able to replace Drive 6, and wait for it to rebuild.

Great, all done, right?

Nope.  I'll need to hook up the two bad drives and run the manufacturer diagnostics and hopefully get clear evidence of an issue that allows me to RMA the drives.  Because I will want the extra drives.  If I can't get an RMA, I'll be buying at least 1 new drive.

This experience has made me think differently about NAS units.  My Synology has 8 drive bays, and I have 6 drives in it.  The Synology supports hot spare drives, so I will be using the additional drives to fill the other two bays and have at least one hot spare available, and most likely 2 hot spares.

Previously, I didn't think much of hot spares.  If a drive fails, RAID lets you limp along until you replace the bad drive right?  In concept.  But as I have experienced, a "drive failure" isn't always a nice clean drive death.  And this is the first time I've seen two drives in the same RAID array have issues.

And it's also shown me that when drives have issues, but don't fail outright, they can make the NAS virtually unusable for days.  I had never considered this scenario.  While I'm waiting to fix my main NAS, my local backups won't work.  And this Synology is also backing up its data to Backblaze B2 for my offsite backup.  That backup is also disabled while the parity check runs.  And I then have another on-site backup to a second Synology unit using HyperBackup.  Again, that backup is not working either.  So my second and third level backups are not available until I get my main unit fixed.

Do I redirect my backup software to save to my second Synology?  Will that mess up my backup history and backup chains?  I don't know.  I'll have to see if I can add secondary backup repositories to Veeam and Acronis and perhaps merge them later.

Another change I'll be making is to backup more data to my Backblaze B2 account.  I realized that I was only backing up some of the data from my main Synology to B2.  I'll now be backing up nearly everything to B2.

So this has all been much messier than I would have imagined.  Fortunately it hasn't been catastrophic, at least not yet.  Hopefully I can replace the drives and everything will be fine, but the process has made me realize that it's really difficult to anticipate the complications from storage failures.

Update:  It's now Monday morning (9/11/2017), 5 full days after the Synology was last rebooted and the parity consistency check was started, and it's only at 31%.  I did copy some files off of this unit to my backup Synology, which seems to pause or stop the parity check, but at this speed, it's going to take weeks to finish.  This long parity processing does seem to be a result of the bad Drive 2, as the parity consistency check recently ran on my other Synology in under a day.

Update 2: Tuesday morning, 9/12/2017.  The parity consistency check is at 33.4%.  Painfully slow.  My interpretation is that any task, job, process, or file operation on the Synology seems to pause or delay the parity consistency check.  I have now disabled all HyperBackup jobs, paused CloudSync, and stopped my Veeam backup jobs to minimize activity on the limping Synology.  I may turn off file sharing as well, just to ensure that network file access isn't interfering with the parity check process. 

I also just noticed that the File Services settings on the Synology show that SMB is not enabled. My understanding is that this is required for Windows file sharing, so I'm puzzled how I'm still able to access the Synology shares from my desktop.  I didn't turn it off, so I'm not sure if this is due to the Synology being in a confused state due to the drive issues, or something else.  I find it strange that my backup software is unable to access the Synology shares, but I'm able to eventually access them--although they are very slow to come up.

Update 3:  Monday, 9/18/2017 - The Saga Continues:  After thinking about it, I realized that the parity consistency check was likely triggered because I powered off the Synology before it shut down on its own.  At the time, I thought that the unit was hung or unresponsive, but I now realize that it was the bad disk that was causing the shutdown to take forever.  The parity check is estimated to take 2-4 years due to the bad drive, so I just shut the unit down to replace the bad drive.  It took 30-60 minutes for it to fully power down.  If you encounter an issue with a drive that causes the Synology to be slow or seem unresponsive, avoid doing a hard reset or hard shutdown on the unit.  Try the shutdown command and wait an hour or two to see if the shutdown eventually completes on its own.  This will hopefully allow you to avoid a parity consistency check, which is a major hassle with a bad drive.

Now that I've replaced the drive and powered the Synology on, the parity consistency check is still running, and I'm unable to add the replacement disk to my volume.  I've replied to Synology support on my existing case asking them how to cancel the parity consistency check and just add the replacement drive so that it can get started on the volume repair process.

Update 4:  9/18/2017: After replacing the bad drive, I see that the parity consistency check is running much faster and I may not have to cancel it.  With the bad drive, the process was estimated to take 2-4 years (yes YEARS) to complete, but with the new drive, it is currently estimating about 16 hours.  I'm going to let it run overnight and see how much progress it has made by tomorrow morning.

Update 5:  9/19/2017: The parity consistency check finally completed and the Synology began to beep every few seconds, indicating that the volume was "degraded".

Since the parity check was no longer running, the "Manage" button became active, and I was able to add the new drive to the volume and start the repair process, which was quite simple.

So the repair process is now running and it looks like it will take about 26 hours to complete.

Update 6:  9/20/2017:  The repair process appears to be going well and should complete today.

While the repair is running, I plugged the bad drive into my desktop and ran the HGST "DFT for Windows" diagnostic application to test the drive.  Interestingly, it is not detecting any problems.  On the extended tests, it appears to be hanging, but it isn't identifying a problem.

Final update: 9/22/2017:  I replaced the second bad drive and the Synology has repaired the volume.  Things are back to normal and working well.

I created RMAs for both of the HGST hard drives and mailed them back, so I should get replacements for those drives, which I'll install in the Synology as hot spares.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Friday, August 25, 2017

Bug in Dynamics GP eConnect taCreateSOPTrackingInfo: Error 4628

By Steve Endow

I'm working on an import that will insert shipment tracking numbers for Dynamics GP SOP Sales Orders.  Seems pretty straightforward.

When I attempt to import the tracking number for an order, I get this error from eConnect.

Error Number = 4628  
Stored Procedure= taCreateSOPTrackingInfo  
Error Description = The Tracking Number (Tracking_Number) is empty

Node Identifier Parameters: taCreateSOPTrackingInfo
Tracking_Number = 1Z12345E0205271688
Related Error Code Parameters for Node : taCreateSOPTrackingInfo
Tracking_Number = 1Z12345E0205271688

< taCreateSOPTrackingInfo>
  < Tracking_Number>1Z12345E0205271688< /Tracking_Number>
< /taCreateSOPTrackingInfo>

It seems pretty obvious that something isn't right with this error.  Clearly the tracking number is being supplied.

So off we go to debug eConnect.

When we open the taCreateSOPTrackingInfo stored procedure and search for error 4628, we see this gem:

    IF ( @I_vTracking_Number <> '' )
            SELECT  @O_iErrorState = 4628;
            EXEC @iStatus = taUpdateString @O_iErrorState, @oErrString,
                @oErrString OUTPUT, @iAddCodeErrState OUTPUT;

So.  If the tracking number parameter has a value, the stored procedure returns error 4628, saying that the tracking number is empty.  Genius!

I altered the procedure to fix the if statement so that it uses an equal sign, and that eliminated the error, and the tracking numbers imported fine.

    IF ( @I_vTracking_Number = '' )
            SELECT  @O_iErrorState = 4628;
            EXEC @iStatus = taUpdateString @O_iErrorState, @oErrString,
                @oErrString OUTPUT, @iAddCodeErrState OUTPUT;

What is baffling is that this bug exists in GP 2016, 2015, and 2013, which is where I stopped looking.  I'm assuming that it has existed prior to 2013.

However, I recently worked with another customer who imports tracking numbers for their SOP Orders, but they did not receive this error.  Why?

Looking at their taSopTrackingNum procedure, I see that it is an internal Microsoft version of the procedure that was customized by MBS professional services for the customer.  The stored procedure was was based on the 2005 version from GP 9, and it does not appear to have the validation code.  Because it is customized, it was just carried over with each GP upgrade, always replacing the buggy updated version that is installed with GP.

So some time between 2005 and 2013, someone monkeyed with the procedure, added error 4628, and didn't bother to test their changes.  And the bug has now existed for over 4 years.

I can't possibly be the only person to have run into this.  Can I?  Does nobody else use this eConnect node?

Anyway, the good news is that it's easy to fix.  But just remember that every time you upgrade GP, that buggy proc is going to get reinstalled, and you'll forget to update the buggy proc, and it will cause your tracking number imports to start failing.

Carry on.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Importing SOP Orders with sales taxes using eConnect

By Steve Endow

I don't remember if I've ever had to import Dynamics GP Sales Orders with sales tax amounts before.  If I have, it's been so long that I've completely forgotten about it.

So let's just say that today was a mini adventure.

My customer is importing "multi-channel" web site orders that are coming from major national retailers and online merchants.  Some of them calculate and charge sales tax, while others do not.  The customer is using Avatax with Dynamics GP, so Avatax is ultimately handling the final sales tax calculation.

For a few reasons that I'm not entirely clear on, the customer wanted to import the sales tax amounts for the web sites that calculated and provided sales tax--even though Avatax would be recalculating the taxes.  And thus began the journey of figuring out the quirky and barely documented process of importing Sales Order header level taxes using eConnect.

We first tried sending in the sales tax amount to the taSopHdrIvcInsert TAXAMNT node.  That resulted in this error:

Error Number = 799  
Stored Procedure= taSopHdrIvcInsert  Error Description = Tax table detail does not equal the tax amount

In the famously ironic process of Googling this error, I found my own thoughts on this error in this forum post.

While my response to the post didn't directly address my issue, it gave me some clues.  I used SQL Profiler to trace the activity of my eConnect import and confirmed that the SOP10105 table was not being touched and that taSopLineIvcTaxInsert was not being called.

I checked the eConnect documentation on SOP taxes, but it might as well have been Greek.  I now see that there is one key sentence that is a clue, but without knowing what to look for, it didn't make any sense.

Let me know if you are able to spot the clue.

But it seemed like the taSopLineIvcTaxInsert node may be required even for header level taxes. Which made me concerned that I might have to send it in for each order line item--which would be a hassle.

I updated my eConnect code to add tax lines to my order, leaving out LNITMSEQ because I was only sending in header level taxes, and it resulted in this:

< taSopLineIvcTaxInsert_Items>
< taSopLineIvcTaxInsert>
< /taSopLineIvcTaxInsert>
< /taSopLineIvcTaxInsert_Items>

That did the trick.  The order imported successfully, the sales tax amount came in properly, and the SOP10105 table was populated.

So if you need to import SOP transactions with sales taxes, it appears you have to include taSopLineIvcTaxInsert.

Good times!

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Monday, August 21, 2017

Stop typing passwords...completely

By Steve Endow

Many, many, many years ago I finally got tired of remembering all of my passwords, and started using an Excel file to track them. After a few years of that, I got tired of insecurely tracking passwords in Excel and started using RoboForm to manage my passwords.  It had a few rough edges way back then, but worked well enough and also worked on my BlackBerry (yup, it was a long time ago).  I now manage a few thousand logins and notes in RoboForm, and needless to say, it's pretty essential in my daily life.

So that's great.  But there are still a few passwords I am having to constantly type.  Every time I sit down at my desk, I have to login to Windows.  I've been doing it for so many years that it's second nature.  I don't even think twice about it--it's pure muscle memory.  Except when I mistype my password or don't realize that Caps Lock is on, and it takes me 3-4 tries.  Grrr.

The second password I am constantly typing is my RoboForm master password.  So when a web site needs a login and I tell RoboForm to handle it, RoboForm will sometimes prompt me to enter my master password if I've just unlocked my desktop or have been away for a few hours.  Again, I've been doing it for so many years that I don't even think about it.

Then came the iPhone fingerprint sensor called TouchID.  It has taken a few years to gain traction, but now I can use my fingerprint to unlock my phone, pay for my groceries, login to my banking apps, and...access the RoboForm iOS app.  It is absolutely fantastic.  Typing my long RoboForm master password on my phone was moderately painful, so being able to use TouchID to unlock RoboForm on my phone was a wonderful improvement.  Once you start using Touch ID, it becomes strange to see a password prompt on the iPhone.

Then, a few years ago, I bought a Surface Pro 4 (which I do not recommend, at all, long story).  While shopping for the Surface Pro 4, I didn't know anything about Windows Hello, and I didn't realize that the Surface Pro 4 had an infrared web cam that could be used for face recognition authentication with Windows Hello.  But when I saw that Microsoft offered a keyboard with an integrated fingerprint reader, I knew I wanted one.  I waited a few months until the keyboard with fingerprint reader was in stock before buying the SP4, and I'm glad I waited.

After a few dozen firmware updates and software fixes made the horrible SP4 minimally usable and allowed the keyboard to actually work, the fingerprint reader on the SP4 keyboard was great.  It was surprisingly fast and easy to use.  It was much faster and more reliable than the Windows Hello face recognition, so I ended up using the fingerprint reader quite a bit.

But I still kept typing in my RoboForm password on my laptop...until one day I was poking around in the RoboForm settings and I accidentally discovered that RoboForm supported fingerprint authentication!  Eureka!  I don't know when the support was added, but I wasn't about to complain.

I enabled the fingerprint support and like magic, RoboForm unlocked with a touch of my finger.  Wow.  This was YUGE.

Having suffered for a few years with the SP4, I finally gave up and bought a real laptop, a Lenovo X1 Carbon 2017, and was thrilled that it had an integrated fingerprint reader as a standard feature.  Having experienced how useful the reader was on the SP4, I was just as happy with it on the Lenovo X1.  And after installing RoboForm on the X1 Carbon, I enabled fingerprint support and was on my way.

So life was then grand in mobile-land.  My phone and laptop had seamless fingerprint authentication to login and authenticate with RoboForm.

Which made using my desktop painful.  I actually...had to... type... my... Windows... password... every... single... time...I sat down.  After being spoiled by my iPhone and my laptop, it felt like a complete anachronism to actually have to TYPE (gasp!) my password!  Barbaric!

I apparently started to get rusty and seemed to regularly mistype my password on my desktop.  I then had several cases where it took me 4 or 5 password attempts before realizing Caps Lock was on.  Ugh.  I felt like I was in the stone ages, where Minority Report style authentication didn't actually exist.  It was...unacceptable.

So I searched for desktop fingerprint readers for Windows.  And...I was underwhelmed.  I found one that looked legit, for about $100, but the reviews were very mixed, citing driver issues and reading that the company had apparently been acquired and that they seem to have disappeared.  After seeing the mixed reviews on other models, I gave up.

But after a few more weeks of password typing punishment, I tried again and figured I would reconsider the small mini fingerprint readers that seem to have been designed for laptops.  A few seemed okay, but again, mixed reviews.

After a few more searches, I found one that seemed legit, and seemed designed for Windows 10 Windows Hello authentication.  (there are probably a few others that work well, but caveat emptor and read the reviews)

It was only $32 on Amazon and seemed to have pretty good reviews, so I gladly bought.  I plugged it in to my Windows 10 desktop, Windows automatically detected it and set it up, and then I added a fingerprint in Windows Hello.  I then enabled fingerprint support in RoboForm.

Based on my tests so far, it works great.  I can now unlock my desktop by very briefly touching the sensor with my finger.  And I no longer have to type my RoboForm master password, which is a huge, huge benefit.  Just like my iPhone and my laptop.  No more passwords.

To make it more accessible and easier to use, I plugged the fingerprint sensor into a USB extension cable and then attached that cable to the back of my keyboard with a little hot glue.  Now, whenever I need to login or enter a password, I just move my hand to the left side of my keyboard and give the sensor a quick touch.

It's quite surprising how fast it is, and it's much, much faster than typing my password.  In fact, I don't even have to press a key on my keyboard.  From the Windows lock screen, I can just touch the sensor and login.

Once I'm in Windows, when I need to unlock RoboForm, it's just a quick touch to the sensor. and it's unlocked.

If you aren't using fingerprint sensors on every device you own, I highly recommend it.  I now use fingerprints on my iPhone, iPad, laptop, and desktop and it's a huge convenience.  You don't realize what a hassle passwords are until you start using your fingerprint to authenticate.

It's taken me several years to use fingerprints on all of my devices, but I'm finally there and it's glorious.

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tales of Dynamics GP backups and ransomware

By Steve Endow

At the excellent Dynamics GP Tech 2017 Conference this week, I heard a few interesting stories about ransomware at Dynamics GP customers.

One partner told me a very interesting story about ransomware at a customer that encrypted everything, including the customer's Dynamics GP database backups.  The Dynamics GP partner was called in and he assessed the catastrophe.  Nothing was recoverable.

But he noticed something strange.  Dynamics GP was still working.  He logged into the SQL Server, and he saw that the Dynamics GP databases were still intact and were not encrypted.  He speculated that because SQL Server tenaciously locks the MDF and LDF files, the ransomware was apparently unable to encrypt the live database files.

He was able to stop the SQL Service, quickly copy all of the database files, and attach them on a clean SQL Server.  Luckily, that copy process worked and the ransomware was either inactive at that point, or it didn't have time to encrypt the unlocked database files.  In hindsight, I think I would probably first try doing full backups of all of the databases to ensure the MDF and LDF files remained locked, but saving the backup files to a clean location that can't be accessed by the ransomware would probably still be tricky.

Next, during her "Microsoft Azure: Infrastructure, Disaster Recovery, and Backups", Windi Epperson shared some harrowing stories about tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Some of Windi's customers have had entire buildings vaporized by a tornado, so even the best on-site backup would have been insufficient.  Windi discussed the Azure Backup service, which I didn't even know about, as a flexible and economical way to get all types of backups off site.  She also demonstrated the Dynamics GP backup to Azure feature that she recommends for small customers who don't have the IT staff to handle off site backups.

I currently have a lot of my data backed up on Backblaze S2 storage through my Synology NAS device, but that is only through a connected sync process, and is not a true archive backup.  I've been looking for a more traditional disconnected off site backup storage service that is reasonably priced, so I'm going to look into Azure backup and see if I can setup a process that can automatically backup what I need.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Adding or dropping SQL indexes temporarily on production database tables

By Steve Endow

During one of my presentations on Optimizing SQL Scripting at the GP Tech 2017 Conference this week at the Microsoft campus in Fargo, one of the attendees asked an interesting question:

Suppose you need to run a complex query just a few times, and you find that the query would benefit greatly from adding new indexes to one or more tables.  Rather than adding 'permanent' indexes, would it be prudent to temporarily add the indexes so that you could run the query faster, and then remove the indexes when you no longer need them?

I think it is great question. I immediately thought of one likely real world scenario for this, and coincidentally, I shared a Lyft back to the airport with a consultant who described a second scenario where a slightly different index management process was required.

Scenario 1:  Imagine that at the end of each financial quarter, dozens of large, complex financial and sales analysis reports are run against dozens of Dynamics GP company databases.  If some reports take a minute to run, and a few indexes can be added to reduce the report run times to a few seconds, that time savings could really add up.  I could definitely see the value of adding indexes to speed up this process.

But is it worth adding permanent indexes to tables to support the quarterly reports?  Or is it better to add the indexes once per quarter, run the reports, and then remove the indexes?

I don't currently know how to assess the actual costs vs. benefits of those situations, but given that Dynamics GP is already drowning in SQL indexes, and given that the indexes may be dropped during a GP upgrade (and it's easy to forget to recreate them), I think that creating the indexes temporarily seems like a reasonable solution for this hypothetical example.

The one concern I expressed about the solution was the potential for the CREATE INDEX process to lock the tables as they were being built.

I did some research, and confirmed my concern that a table will be locked and inaccessible during the CREATE INDEX process.

This is mentioned in the "Performance Considerations" section of this Books On Line page:

Most Dynamics GP customers use SQL Server Standard Edition, so indexes are created "offline", and the table is locked until the create index operation completes.

SQL Server Enterprise edition does have an "online" indexing option, but from what I have been able to find, even that feature doesn't provide 100% accessibility of the table during the indexing operation, so there may be some challenges in very high volume environments.

If the temporary indexes make sense, my recommendation would be to add the indexes during a maintenance window, such as late at night, and then run the queries the next day (or next few days), and then remove the index when they are no longer needed.

Scenario 2:  A Dynamics GP consultant told me a story about a prior job where he had to bulk load millions of records into a table on a regular basis.  The bulk load had a very limited time window, so the import had to be completed as quickly as possible.

In order to speed up the import process, they dropped the indexes on the table, imported the millions of additional records into the table, and then added the indexes back to the table.  I hadn't considered that scenario before, but he explained it worked very well.

I was able to find this Books Online article about it and recommendations on when to drop or not drop indexes for bulk load operations.  It provides recommendations depending on whether the table is empty or not, and how much new data is being imported.

So I learned a few interesting things myself during my session.  Hope this was helpful!

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Common GP integration error: Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.Dynamics.GP.eConnect, Version=XX.0.0.0

By Steve Endow

If you have a .NET integration for Dynamics GP that uses the eConnect .NET assemblies, this is a fairly common error:

Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.Dynamics.GP.eConnect, Version=

Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.Dynamics.GP.eConnect, Version=

Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.Dynamics.GP.eConnect, Version=

This usually indicates that the integration was compiled with an older (or different) version of the eConnect .NET assemblies.

Why does this happen?

In my experience, there are two situations where you will usually see this.

1. You upgraded Dynamics GP to a new version, but forgot to update your .NET eConnect integrations.  For instance, if you upgraded from GP 2013 to GP 2016, you would see the "Version 12" error message when you run your integration, as the integration is still trying to find the GP 2013 version of eConnect.

2. You are working with an application or product that is available for multiple versions of GP, and the version you have installed doesn't match your GP version

The good news is that this is simple to resolve.  In the first case, the developer just needs to update the Visual Studio project to point to the proper version of the eConnect DLLs.  Updating the .NET project shouldn't take very long--maybe 1-4 hours to update and test, depending on the complexity of the integration.  Or if you're using product, you just need to get the version of the integration that matches your GP version.

If you have a custom .NET integration, the potential bad news is that you, or your developer, or your GP partner, needs to have the .NET source code to update the integration.  Some customers encounter this error when they upgrade to a new version of GP, and realize that the developer who wrote the code left the company 3 years ago and they don't know where the source code might be.  Some customers change GP partners and didn't get a copy of the source code from their prior partner.

If you can't get a copy of the source code, it is theoretically possible to decompile most .NET applications to get some or most of the source code, but in my limited experience as a novice user of such tools, decompilation just doesn't provide a full .NET project that can be easily updated and recompiled.  Or if it does, the code is often barely readable, and would be very difficult to maintain without a rewrite.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+

Saturday, June 10, 2017

ASP.NET Core and EF Core with Dynamics GP: Trim trailing spaces from char fields

By Steve Endow

UPDATE: A kind soul read this post, nodded his head in commiseration, and then offered a better solution.  See option 5 below for the best approach I've seen so far.

Anyone who has written SQL queries, integrated, or otherwise had to deal with Dynamics GP data certainly has warm feelings about the colonial era use of char data type for all string fields.

This has the lovely side effect of returning string values with trailing spaces that you invariably have to deal with in your query, report, application, XML, JSON, etc.

In the world of SQL queries, you can spot a Dynamics GP consultant a mile away by their prolific use of the RTRIM function in SQL queries.  .NET developers will similarly have Trim() statements thoroughly coating their data access code.

But in this bold new age of Microsoft development tools, where everything you have spent years learning and mastering is thrown out the window, those very simple solutions aren't readily available.

I am developing an ASP.NET Core web API for Dynamics GP, and being a sucker for punishment, I'm also using EF Core for data access.  In one sense, EF Core is like magic--you just create some entities, point it to your database, and presto, you've got data.  Zero SQL.  That's great and all if you have a nice, modern, clean, well designed database that might actually use the space age varchar data type.

But when you're dealing with a relic like a Dynamics GP database, EF Core has some shortcomings.  It isn't really designed to speak to a prehistoric database.  Skipping past the obvious hassles, like exposing the cryptic Dynamics GP field names, one thing you'll notice is that it dutifully spits out the char field values with trailing spaces in all of their glory.

When you convert that to JSON, you get this impolite response:

"itemnmbr": "100XLG                         ",
"itemdesc": "Green Phone                                                                                          ",

"itmshnam": "Phone          "

Yes, they're just spaces, and it's JSON--not a report output, so it's not the end of the world.  But in addition to looking like a mess, the spaces are useless, bloat the response, and may have to be trimmed by the consumer to ensure no issues on the other end.

So I just spent a few hours trying to figure out how to deal with this.  Yes, SpaceX is able to land freaking rockets on a floating barge in the middle of the ocean, while I'm having to figure out how to get rid of trailing spaces.  Sadly, I'm not the only one--this is a common issue for many people.

So how can we potentially deal with this?

1. Tell EF Core to trim the trailing spaces.  As far as I can tell, this isn't possible as of June 2017 (v1.1.1).  EF Core apparently doesn't have a mechanism to call a trim function, or any function, at the field level. It looks like even the full EF 6.1+ framework didn't support this, and you had to write your own code to handle it--and that code doesn't appear to work in EF Core as far as I can tell.

2. Tell ASP.NET Core to trim the trailing spaces, somewhere, somehow.  There may be a way to do this in some JSON formatter option, but I couldn't find any clues as to how.  If someone has a clever way to do this, I'm all ears, and I'll buy you a round at the next GP conference.

3. Use the Trim function in your class properties.  Ugh.  No.  This would involve using the old school method of adding backer fields to your DTO class properties and using the Trim function on every field. This is annoying in any situation, but to even propose this with ASP.NET Core and EF Core seems like sacrilege.  And if you have used scaffolding to build out your classes from an existing database, this is just crazy talk.  I'm not going to add hundreds of backer fields to hundreds of string properties and add hundreds of Trim calls.  Nope.

4. Use an extension method or a helper class.  This is what I ended up doing trying initially.  (see option 5 for a better solution)  This solution may seem somewhat obvious, but in the world of ASP.NET Core and EF Core, this feels like putting wagon wheels on a Tesla.  It's one step up from adding Trim in your classes, but looping through object properties and trimming every field is far from high tech.  Fortunately it was relatively painless, requires very minimal code changes, and is very easy to rip out if a better method comes along.

There are many ways to implement this, but I used the code from this post:

I created a new static class called TrimString, and I added the static method to the class.

    public static class TrimStrings
        public static TSelf TrimStringProperties<TSelf>(this TSelf input)
            var stringProperties = input.GetType().GetProperties()
                .Where(p => p.PropertyType == typeof(string));

            foreach (var stringProperty in stringProperties)
                string currentValue = (string)stringProperty.GetValue(input, null);
                if (currentValue != null)
                    stringProperty.SetValue(input, currentValue.Trim(), null);
            return input;

I then modified my controller to call TrimStringProperties before returning my DTO object.

    var item = _itemRepository.GetItem(Itemnmbr);

    if (item == null)
        return NotFound();
    var itemResult = Mapper.Map<ItemDto>(item);
    itemResult = TrimStrings.TrimStringProperties(itemResult);

    return Ok(itemResult);

And the new JSON output:

  "itemnmbr": "100XLG",
  "itemdesc": "Green Phone",
  "itmshnam": "Phone",
  "itemtype": 1,

  "itmgedsc": "Phone",

Fortunately this works, it's simple, and it's easy.  I guess that's all that I can ask for.

When using ASP.NET Core and EF Core, you end up using a lot of List<> objects, so I created an overload of TrimStringProperties that accepts a List.

    public static List<TSelf> TrimStringProperties<TSelf>(this List<TSelf> input)
        List<TSelf> result = new List<TSelf>();
        TSelf trimmed;

        foreach (var obj in input)
            trimmed = TrimStringProperties(obj);
        return result;


5.  Use AutoMapper!  Less than 24 hours after posting this article, kind reader Daniel Doyle recognized the problem I was trying to solve and keenly observed that I was using AutoMapper.  AutoMapper is a brilliant NuGet package that automates the mapping and transfer of data from one object to another similar object.  I have highlighted the call in green above.

Daniel posted a comment below and suggested using AutoMapper to trim the string values as it performed its mapping operation--something I would have never thought of, as this is the first time I've used it.  After some Googling, it looks like AutoMapper is commonly used for this type of data cleanup, and it seems like it is well suited to the task.  It's processing all of the object data as it maps from one class to another, so it seems like a great time to clean up the trailing spaces on the strings.

Daniel suggested a syntax that uses the C# "null coalescing operator" (double question marks), which makes the statement an extremely compact single line of code.

And with a single line added to my AutoMapper configuration block in Startup.cs, all of my objects will have the trailing spaces trimmed automatically.  No extra looping code, no extra method calls in each of my Controllers every time I want to return data.

    AutoMapper.Mapper.Initialize(cfg =>
        cfg.CreateMapItem, Models.ItemDto>();
        cfg.CreateMapItemSite, Models.ItemSiteDto>();
        cfg.CreateMapSalesOrder, Models.SalesOrderDto>();
        cfg.CreateMapSalesOrderLine, Models.SalesOrderLineDto>();
        cfg.CreateMapSalesOrderResponse, Models.SalesOrderResponseDto>();
        //Trim strings
        cfg.CreateMap<string, string>().ConvertUsing(str => (str ?? string.Empty).Trim());


This is super clean, and very easy.  No more wagon wheels on the Tesla!

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP for Dynamics GP and a Dynamics GP Certified IT Professional in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on Twitter, YouTube, and Google+