There are many reasons to consider putting your Microsoft Dynamics CRM online and into the cloud: potential cost savings from hardware, ease of maintenance, and low initial investment are just a few of the headlines that has made the cloud revolution so popular. However, when looking at the cloud there are quite a few considerations that are often overlooked, causing headaches that could be easily avoided.
For clarity’s sake, in this article “Microsoft CRM Online” will refer to Microsoft’s direct offering for hosted CRM. This is managed through the Office 365 portal. “Partner hosted CRM Online” will refer to a third party hosting the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product.
Depending on if you are using Microsoft’s CRM Online or a partner hosted CRM Online, licensing can differ greatly. Microsoft’s own offering has multiple tiers and changes quite often, however there are often many inclusives that are built into their plan, including free extensions and additional database space for professional licenses.
Partner hosted CRM environments differ greatly in price based on SLAs and inclusions, however, almost all are sold on a per-user bases making the upfront cost very affordable compared to an on-premise configuration.
Extensions & ISVs
When looking for extended functionality from your CRM, sometimes the best pricing can be found through Microsoft’s Office 365 CRM Online offering. Extensions such as FieldOne Sky, Social Listening, and Insights are available for no extra charge with a minimum number of professional licenses and can easily be added to an existing CRM Organization through the Office 365 portal.
Other extensions built by third party ISVs generally work without any issues in a CRM Online environment, however it is best to investigate this thoroughly. There are certain extensions that may need direct access to the SQL database, which will be an issue in some situations.
Depending on the location or locations of your office there are various options on where to put your CRM. The closer your office is to the data center the faster the response time for end users is going to be. For Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online there are multiple choices around the world with new options being added often (these can be viewed here)
For partner hosted CRMs they are most often using the back-bone architecture of either Amazon’s EC2 or Microsoft’s Azure. Both of these services have multiple datacenters around the world. Be sure that your partner understands the proper needs of your organization’s needs in relation to data location.
Data sovereignty has become a hot topic over the last few years with various government regulations. Often times we find not-for-profit and government organizations being in the position to not have their data stored in certain countries. Make sure your organization is in compliance and that your CRM hosting provider can support this request. Microsoft has recently announced that Azure datacenters will be available in two Canadian locations soon with CRM Online support coming by end of the year.
If you have an existing CRM one of the main points of focus is accessing data that previously existed. In CRM Online through Office 365, one cannot simply upload the database as end users do not have access to the database servers. Instead a data migration tool such as Scribe needs to be used, and custom mappings built in order to get the data where it belongs.
For CRMs in a partner hosted/Azure environment, copying the database is more feasible (pending compatibility with ISVs), however the database will most likely need to be upgraded to a different version of CRM and go through user acceptance testing.
Speaking of mappings, in order for those mappings to exist, the solutions from an old CRM need to be brought over and tested. For new environments solutions need to be built and controlled through a solution movement process between various instances (DEV, TEST, Sandbox, and/or Production).
Depending on your organization/size you may need multiple organizations to properly develop and test customizations/integrations. Common instances could include:
DEV – An organization where all new customizations and development take place in a raw unmanaged state, solutions are packaged and exported from here.
TEST – Organization where solutions that are exported from DEV in an unmanaged/managed state are brought into for testing with ISVs, compatibility with existing customizations.
Sandbox – Often a clone of PROD with outdated data. Used for user acceptance testing so end users can see new solutions interacting with existing processes that they are familiar with.
For Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, at time of writing, one non-production organization is provided free of charge for every paid production organization that holds 25 or more active professional licenses with additional organizations easily purchasable.
Most partner hosted CRM Online providers can easily provide additional organizations and cloning of existing organizations.
Come back next week for six more items to consider before moving your Dynamics CRM to the cloud.