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Posts tagged with: ACS Technologies

ACSTech Ideas to Impact Workshop

This year I had the privilege of leading a workshop again at the ACSTechnologies Ideas to Impact Conference.  Its super fun to have these conversations with my peers and I enjoy learning how others are harnessing technology in Ministry.

Again this year we had a awesome IT RoundTable on Tuesday as a pre-convention day.  Dean Lisenby does a great job hosting this event that is for both ACS Customers and anyone involved in church IT.

If you are an ACS Customer, Ideas to Impact is a don’t miss this yearly event… Not to mention that Impact2013 is in Orlando FL @ Disney!  It is invaluable to attended the workshops and learn about the tools we have available, but even more so to interact personally with your peers and the staff at ACS.

I lead a workshop this year on 10 Best Practices for IT in the Church.  While these aren’t the only best practices but 10 important practices in Church IT.

We talked thru multiple technologies and various resources so I have posted the slide deck & links here as requested by the attendees of the workshop.


ACS Livestor and RDS 2008R2

Livestor is a backup product offered by ACS Technologies.  We use this product to backup our ChMS Data to get the data off site.  The off site primary storage is in the ACS Datacenter in Florence and replicated to their DR Datacenter in Charlotte.

While the pricing model doesn’t scale well for large amounts of data backup, it has proven cost effective for our ACS Database backup to be stored in the Florence datacenter.  We have from time to time given ACS authorization to access the backup and test an upgrade specifically on our data. Additionally it has saved time when ACS needs our dataset to troubleshoot an issue and the backup is already local to their support group.

So in the continued process of migrating our ACS server to 2008 R2 there are a couple items to note when installing Livestor on a 2008 R2 server. 

Getting on my soap box for a few seconds, if the Livestor application would run as a service, these notes would be completely a NON-ISSUECome on ACS MAKE LIVESTOR A SERVICE!!!!  Having a server stay logged in for your backup application is CRAZY!  Even ACS Desktop Backup runs as a service!

When Livestor installs it defaults to add the application to the start menu start up for all users, so when you are using ACS in a Remote Desktop Server (formerly Terminal Server) environment Livestor attempts to launch when every user logs in.  In 2003 this was a quick fix to move the application to a single user’s startup but the Path for the all users Start menu has changed in 2008.

To make Livestor work on a 2008R2 RDS server and not start for ever user you will have to:

  • Copy Livestor Service Center shortcut to:
        C:Users%username%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup
  • Delete the Livestor Service Center shortcut from:
        C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup

One other 2008R2 item to be aware of, Disable UAC – Livestor has a built in updater, in order to update UAC has to be turned off for the update to process.  Once the updater is finished you can re-enable UAC and launch Livestor (or leave UAC disabled so it doesn’t fail every time Livestor updates)


Serving & Security Best Practices Web Event

Check out this web event Hosted by ACS Technologies.  Angus Davis has great insight on Volunteer and Children’s security and you should check out the web event. Register by clicking one of the options below. 

ACSWebevent

 

Note: NON-ACS Customers, when registering Enter “CITRT” as your ‘Site Number’.

register1

                                                                                OR

register2


Installing ACS Facility Scheduler on Remote Desktop Server 2008r2

Previously I documented the process for installing ACS’ Facility Scheduler Application on a 2003 Terminal Server as noted [Here].  But now its time to upgrade our ACS Remote Desktop Server to 2008r2 and the process for installing FS is a little different.  So here were our steps, your mileage may vary.

1. Download the latest installer from the ACS Client Portal. 
    (note the version released on 8/28/09 requires the .Net Framework 3.5)

2. .NET3.5 is included in 2008r2 but when you start the ACS FS installer you get the error displayed below. 

RemoteDesktop 2008r2

 

The next logical step would be to install .Net Framework, but remember it comes with Server2008r2, so you can’t just install it as the error below notes.  Rather you have to enable it not install.

RemoteDesktop 2008r2

 

The error notes to use the Roles Management tool, which you might think is Adding or Removing Roles, but what the error message really means is to go to the Server Manager then the Features item in the display tree then and then select add Feature to enable .Net 3.5.1. 
(Note: You can deselect the option to install WCF Activation which then won’t require you to install IIS on this server when you enable .Net 3.5.)

2008ServerManager

 

3.  After you have enabled .NET Framework 3.5.1 you can run the ACS Facility Scheduler installer.
4. Once the installer is complete launch the application and enter your site number
5. You may be prompted to download application updates, if prompted choose yes to update.
6. Once the updates are complete you should be able to login to FS with your login.
7. After updating and successfully launching the software you need to copy the application files to the default user’s folder so all users will be able to run the application on the Remote Desktop Server.  You can do this by the following steps:

  • Enable Hidden Folders by Clicking on Organize>Folder and Search Options> View Tab and then Select Show Hidden Files
  • Browse to C:Users%User%AppDataLoca
    • where %User% is the name of the account that was logged in when you installed FS
  • Copy the ‘ACS Technologies’ Folder
  • Paste the Copied ‘ACS Technologies’ Folder in C:UsersDefaultAppdataLocal
  • To place a shortcut on the Remote Desktop Server desktop for all users, go to c:Users%User%Desktop and Cut the ACS Facility Scheduler shortcut, and paste it in c:usersPublicPublic Desktop

8. Test your work by RDPing into the server (with an account that hasn’t logged into the server or the profile has been deleted) and you should be able to launch Facility Scheduler and access the application.

  • If ACS pushes out updates between the time you do the original install and the first time the user is logging in they may be prompted on the first use to update the application, if so choose yes and let the application update and then launch.

 

Happy Facility Scheduling…


ACS (ChMS) and PCO integration … Dead for now

As I have discussed in previous posts  [1] , [2] and [3] we would love for synchronization or sharing of data between our ChMS and Planning Center Online.  My recent push has been to get the sync to work for ACS and PCO, obviously because that would impact us most because we use ACS. 

In our conversations with PCO Owner Jeff Berg we found out that PCO had plans to synchronize with multiple ChMS products not just ACS, which was great.  In that conversation multiple staff from ACS talked thru how to make the APIs work and for PCO to integrate. It looked like we finally had progress to an integrated solution not just for ACS but all Church Management systems.

Then turn the page a couple months later, and this week I was disappointed to receive the email below, which I totally can understand but disappointed none the less.

Hey Jason,

I just wanted to let you know that we have decided to kill our "SharpSync" project for now. We have been working on it for over a year and just have not seen any fruit from it. The complexities of working with different schemas & APIs are too big of a hurdle for our small team to attack…

 

We have had a long discussion this morning about integration and the difficulties in what we were trying to accomplish. We have found this too large of a task for us to accomplish.  This is not just with ACS but with all of the other ChMSs we were talking to. We have spent over a year and a lot of cash doing this and just haven’t found a reliable way to integrate with all of the ChMS systems out there.  Every time we thought we were clear we would run into a hurdle with an API or data consistency issue.

We have discussed this with some other ChMSs and some have decided to integrate from their end…

I’m really sorry for this, I was very excited for this project but it just didn’t work.

Thanks!

Jeff

So if you who have asked about such a tool, I encourage you to contact your ChMS and see if there is a way to make this project work.  If you are an ACS customer contact Sally Grantham and let her know your needs and interests.

I will stay to the PCO crew, thanks for the effort, and I still hope that we can see this product work.


ACS/AD Sync Conference Call

ACSAs mentioned in this previous post as well as this previous post, we have been Alpha testing a AD Sync tool to synchronize contact information from the ACS database into Outlook contacts.

Over the past 6 months we have been working with Dean Lisenby and the team at ACS thru the concepts as well as logistics of a tool to make contact info from ACS accessible thru Outlook and Exchange.

ACS has established a price-tag for this project and we have commitments to fund about half of the project. (Those committing funding to the project include Henderson Hills Church, Windsor Crossing Community Church, First Baptist Belton, and Northwoods)

Several others have asked questions like:
“Why would we sync ACS to AD?”
“Is this something that I could use?”
“when would we have to pay for it”
“will we have development input?”

We will be discussing this with other ACS Customers who might want to be contributors and collaborators on this project in a conference call Monday July 13th in the Afternoon.

If you want in on this discussion please leave a comment and we’ll get you the bridge info.

To keep the call productive we’ll probably cap the call at no more than 5-6 callers.


ACS Pre-Convention Day (Roundtable & Checkpoint 201)

Today we had a great crowd at the ACS Church IT Roundtable.  As always I got really jazzed and fired up from the peer learning and community that are parts of all CITRT events.  There were a lot of new people to meet, and I also enjoyed getting to know some CITRTers I had talked with but never met…. Like Jeff Suever Great to meet you!

The conversation was great and I even got to shamelessly plug CITRT.org for those who haven’t’ heard of it… thanks Dean.

The afternoon consisted of the Checkpoint 201-Launching Checkpoint Successfully in your Church pre-convention workshop… This was a great group and we had a lot of fun sharing our experience and hearing how others are planning to launch Checkpoint for their ministries.

As I noted in the workshop we are more than happy to share anything we have learned or produced during our Checkpoint launch that you might be able to use for your ministry.  Most of today’s content is now listed below but we’ll continue to add and update items as time goes on (Download Content Updated June 9th to include additional content).

If you have questions about launching Checkpoint or would like to share your story with us we would love to hear from you.

  • Workshop Power Point (PDF)
  • Registration form (PDF)
  • Program Insert (PDF)
  • Website FAQs (Web)
  • Training Documents (PDF) (DOCX)
  • Self Service Kiosk Instruction Pannel (PDF) (JPG)
  • Self Service Kiosk Instruction Pannel – Draft 1 (PDF)
  • Self Service Kiosk Signage (PDF)

ACS Backup during Updates

Dear ACS Technologies,

ACSWhy is your update installer configured only to occasionally run a backup during the updates?  Historically it has been hit or miss if the updater would run a backup as part of the update process, so as a result we run a backup before every update…. Then sometimes your updater runs a backup too.  Suddenly a 30 minute update now takes well over an hour. 

Additionally rumor has it the backup that runs during the update process has proven un-reliable or makes a corrupt backup that is not usable.

So I have a couple requests:

  • In the release notes, please note if the backup is going to run as part of the update sequence so I can plan to waste the extra 30-45 minutes during the update.
  • Give us the option to disable in update sequence backup… I am fine with this being a command line switch but please let me choose when the backups are going to run. 

Thanks,

Jason


New ACS Pre-Convention Workshop!

ACSConventionAs I previously mentioned, I am really excited about the 2009 ACS Convention… Not only will the new product announcements be exciting, but I really enjoy getting to hang out with my peers at other churches to talk tech and dream about how we can help our ministries become better!  I also am really excited to meet many other ACS clients that I have talked with or corresponded with via blogs and twitter but have never met face to face. 

But now for the exciting news!

We have just finalized arrangements for our team to arrive early to the ACS Convention because of an exciting event on Tuesday afternoon.  ACS has asked us to help host a pre-convention workshop, Let’s Go!  Launching Checkpoint Successfully in your Church.  The focus is for those planning to roll out checkpoint to get a first hand look at the 3-6 month process we walked thru partnering with our Children’s Ministry, Communications and Media Teams to smoothly deploy Checkpoint. 

If you are planning to deploy Checkpoint in your church, make plans to attend both Pre-Convention Workshops: Checkpoint 101 and then  join us Launching CheckPoint Successfully Tuesday afternoon.

 

Let’s Go!  Launching Checkpoint Successfully in your Church

  • Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Getting the ACS software solution in place is just one part of the successful launch of a new program.  In this class, we’ll look at all the other elements needed to start up a new check-in system in your church, and help you get started planning for success in your church.

We’ll dig in deep with Northwoods Community Church to explore how they updated their check-in systems with new hardware, new software, and new processes.  You’ll have a chance to examine the fingerprint scanner system now in use at NWCC, and hear first-hand from members of the team who made it happen. Topics covered include IT, Communications, Volunteer Training, and Budgeting.  Real-life examples of emails, videos, training sessions and more will bring ideas and inspiration for a successful launch in your church.

Whether your church is starting a check-in ministry for the first time, or you’re looking at updating your current processes, you’ll benefit from this session.


ACS AD Sync Alpha testing Project

ACSAs mentioned in the previous post, we have been Alpha testing a AD Sync tool to synchronize contact information from the ACS database into Outlook contacts.

Over the past 6 months we have been working with Dean Lisenby and the team at ACS thru the concepts as well as logistics of a tool to make contact info from ACS accessible thru Outlook Contacts.  Dean and his staff have developed a utility that will push the contact list from our AccessACS site into contacts in an Active Directory Container.  Each person is imported with telephone, email and address.  Because the contact information is now in AD, it also makes these contacts available to your Exchange/Outlook users via the Global Address Book.  You can find contact information or email individuals from within the Global Address book in Outlook without any external lookup or .CSV import.

We have been Alpha testing this tool, in our lab environment (read below for the details of the setup), and the proof of concept works, now the question is it something that other ACS customers would use and should ACS put resources into developing it.

The major benefit I see in this tool is being able to to have your users keep contact info in the ACS database not in the local contact lists, where by the nature of a local contact list is not accessible to other users. Updating that information in the ChMS your users have the most up to date information in a common data store (ACS) AND it becomes available to them in Outlook in the Global Address book.

Details of our Lab and Testing:

We have been Alpha testing this product in our test lab which consists of a P2v (Physical to Virtual) of our Exchange server, our first Domain controller and an XP workstation with Outlook installed.  We put this test lab in on its one VLan and routed it to its own private interface on our firewall.

The VLand and private interface allowed us to use VMware server in NATed mode and have two mirror environments (production and testing) that have identical Domain, and Exchange configurations.

Before our testing, Dean had only tested the tool on a Small Business Server and we wanted to confirm that there were no variables in our environment.

Currently the tool will pull all the contact information from the ACS dataset and push them into a AD Container called AccessACS.  If there is anything in the container it overwrites the contents with the new import as this isn’t a Sync tool yet.

From Outlook the user can browse the Global Address book and you can see all your “contacts” from ACS.

Some items we noted in our testing that we would like to see addressed before the product would be publicly available would include:

  • Could this container appear in a sub section of the GAL?  Currently the Items import right into the root of the GAL it would be nice when browsing from Outlook that you have all your Domain Users listed with a “folder of sorts” that houses the ACS list (in our case its over 24k names)
  • The formatting of our AD domain is: lastname, First name it would be helpful if the import could be customized to match the formatting of display names.  This would allow for the GAL to be an alphabetical by last name list.
  • We already have 2-3 dozen of these people in as AD contacts, because they are Board of Directors, Board of Elders etc.. and on global distribution lists… if the sync didn’t overwrite the contacts that were existing in the Access ACS list then those distribution groups could be pointed to the contacts that come from ACS and we wouldn’t have to mange those individually.
  • A flag on each record at import would be needed since when each contact is added they need to be an Exchange contact for Outlook to be able to email them.  This is great, except we don’t want non domain  users to email any contact in our database because they know you could send an email to firstnamelastname@domain.com If the import would flag the recipient as only allowed to receive messages from a Domain security group that problem would be a non issue.
    • The solution needs to be part of the import because you cannot in AD choose multiple contacts and configure the restriction that limits the senders to these contacts.
  • I really like the fact that if a change is made in ACS then those changes would be made in Outlook
  • If this were in production, I won’t get any emails more emails from attendees saying “I have told you to update my email but staff continue to email my old email address”.

I think this could be a great ACS tool, but we need to know if others besides NWCC would use it so we can make a business case to ACS to develop the tool.  If you are interested please leave a comment or email me at jasonlee {at} jasonmlee {dot} net.


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