Updating existing contacts with Epicenter
Posted by Jim Beveridge, Last modified by Jim Beveridge on 01 November 2011 01:25 PM
(Applies to: Epicenter Server)
Problem: You are distributing your Exchange GAL to users, but your users already have many contacts from the GAL in their address book.
Solution: This article describes the issues and the tradeoffs for solutions to this problem.
Most administrators describe what they want as something like, "Epicenter Server should take over the contacts and merge the user's data into the data from Epicenter."
The problem is that this would require Epicenter Server to "know" what data a user cares about, what data is outdates in each user's local contact, and to independently manage this as data in the GAL changes. It isn't possible for Epicenter to do this.
Here's what really happens.
First, if you distribute an address book to an existing folder, then Epicenter will "take over" any contacts in that folder that appear to match an entry in the GAL. However, Epicenter does not search all folders for matches, Epicenter only looks in the target folder. So if you are distribute to a folder named "Global Address List" then Epicenter will not search for contacts in the default Contacts folder.
By default, Epicenter, completely overwrites any contacts that it "takes over." As described above, Epicenter has no way to reconcile differences in field values, so it doesn't even try. However, administrators can reserve certain fields for end-users. For example, the Notes field could be reserved so that users could keep notes about each contact. When Epicenter takes over a contact, Reserved Properties are preserved and will not be overwritten.
The problem comes when you want to distribute contacts to a separate folder, but you don't want end-users to see duplicates on their phone. This is particularly an issue with BlackBerry devices, which merge all of the folders into one address book.
One solution is to have Epicenter distribute the contacts to Outlook's default contacts folder, in which case Epicenter will take over matches contacts. However, this is often an unpleasant experience for end-users because they can lose any data that they've entered (such as home phone number, children, birthday, etc.) and they suddenly get hundreds or thousands of contacts added to their Contacts folder in Outlook.
An alternative solution is to distribute the contacts to their own folder and tell end-users that they will need to take a few minutes and manually remove duplicates. Reconciling the contacts is not recommended because Epicenter Server overwrites everything except the Reserved Properties.
In cases where there are a large number of duplicates, there are several 3rd party "de-dupe" solutions that are available to assist with finding and removing the duplicates.