Recently we noticed a several contacts and their contributions were missing from our database. These contacts and contributions were not manually deleted. The contacts are not in trash (I believe civi does not allow contacts with contributions to be permanently deleted. The contributions would need to be deleted first).

I suspect that the data was overwritten. Can anyone advise:

(1) What change to the server or database could allow data to be overwritten? I am the site admin, not the sys admin (we are on shared server). Would an upgrade be a likely cause? Or would I need to ask the sysadmin about an actual move from one server to another?

(2) Is there a best practices for recovering data? I think the best approach would be to pinpoint the date the data was lost, export contacts and contributions that are in the backup but not the current version, and import to current version. But I am open to suggestions.

(3) Does anyone have suggestions on how to catch this kind of issue?


1/ unlikely to be upgrade related

2/ assuming you have access to 'log' tables you can write an sql query to identify records where the first/last names have changed from the previous log record

3/ if you mean how to find and prevent in future, use the logs to try and identify who/when and figure out what the person was trying to do and train them otherwise (assuming user error at backend) OR if problem occured by front-end process then perhaps check your Matching rules

  • thanks this is very helpful. Nov 26 '19 at 22:57

A common cause of that experience is when administrators are doing backend work on contacts but using "front-end" forms - in those cases, the administrators will sometimes inadvertendly overwrite contact information in confusing ways.

Using "front-end" forms as an administrator is possible, but you have to be aware of the automation that sometimes is lurking in the back.

  • seconded, in some cases we've found records with changed names
    – Zachary
    Dec 5 '19 at 20:00

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