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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Review

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Microsoft offers customer choice when it comes to software deployment models, supporting on-premise, cloud (aka SaaS) and partner hosted software delivery. This flexibility is further enhanced by permitting customers to switch between delivery models at their desire. Additionally, it's possible some customers may choose a hybrid approach. For example, it may make sense to implement the on premise version for a centrally located call center while using the online version for regionally or globally distributed sales staff.

The company offers a flexible and financially backed Service Level Agreement (SLA) for its cloud CRM delivery. The SLA is measured monthly and guarantees 99.9% uptime. The remedy for failed uptime is as follows:

For downtime resulting in 99% to 99.9% availability, the customer receives a 25% fee reduction.
For downtime resulting in 95% to 99% availability, the customer receives a 50% fee reduction.
For downtime resulting in less than 95% availability, the customer receives a 100% fee reduction.

Because Microsoft normally bills in arrears, SLA credits are applied in the month of downtime occurrence. Planned downtime is normally preceded with a five day notice. The only caveat to an otherwise impressive SLA is that any service interruption must last at least 15 minutes before counting as downtime.

Microsoft indicates that 2 out of every 3 new customers are opting for the cloud CRM. However, it appears that allocation shifts heavily based on the size and sophistication of the customer market. Small and midsize businesses are selecting the the cloud CRM Online product in droves, while my anecdotal observations suggest that the allocation between on-premise and online CRM is closer to 50/50 for enterprise customers.

Microsoft is also pushing CRM trials using the SaaS CRM product and it is clear that many of those evaluations simply continue their transition to a production environment in the cloud.

Since the Dynamics CRM 2011 release Microsoft has achieved (near) code parity and leverages the same code base for both on premise and online CRM, however, upgrades and new versions are not released at the same time for both software delivery options. The Dynamics online CRM version is almost always released first. Similarly, new product additions (Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (previously MarketingPilot), Microsoft Social Listening (previously NetBreeze), etc.) are typically staged by region, beginning in North America and then extended globally over several quarters. Therefore, CRM buyers seeking specific new functionality should verify those feature sets are within their desired deployment approach and available in their region.

The Dynamics CRM 2016 release was the seventh version since Microsoft's entry to CRM with version 1 in January 2003, resulting in a new version release about every two years. Microsoft has accelerated the pace of new interim or point releases from twice annually (delivered in the Spring and Fall) to quarterly for the Online CRM product. The On-Premise product is upgraded about annually. New releases are divided into 'updates' and 'upgrades'. Updates offer customers more control as they can be un-installed or rolled-back. They effectively let the customer choose to move forward or not. However, with Upgrades there's no going back (except for restoring from a backup). The release of Dynamics 2016 is an example of a Upgrade.

Microsoft further divides the Service Updates into the two types of Automatic and Scheduled. The Scheduled updates are somewhat unique in the cloud CRM industry as they possess the deeper functionality enhancements and generally permit customers a one year window to schedule and deploy the upgrade. This atypical advance notice and customer control is helpful in testing items that may have upgrade implications (such as system integration or software customization) as well as preparing users for changes in their CRM system.

On a grander scale, the company is readying a strategic push to the cloud which may facilitate significant global market share gains. Microsoft has built out data centers in Boydton, Virginia; Chicago; Dublin, Ireland; Quincy, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. Each data center cost approximately $500 million although costs decrease with each new facility based on efficiencies and economies of scale. To facilitate cloud adoption where culture or government compliance requires data remain in country, Microsoft is expanding global data centers and has introduced the Windows Azure Appliance—a turnkey cloud platform consisting of hundreds or thousands of servers that customers can deploy in their own data centers while still achieving certain cloud benefits such as regularly receiving Windows Azure software updates.

An on-premise Dynamics CRM installation requires a Windows Server (Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter, as well as Small Business Server) and SQL Server (Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter). The CRM system can run in a virtual server mode on Hyper-V or another hypervisor on the Microsoft Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program. Microsoft recommends at least a quad-processor server.

CRM buyers have a choice between two on-premise alternatives. The first is Dynamics CRM Workgroup Server, which is limited to one server for one organization and supports a maximum of five users. Or Dynamics CRM Server, which has no user limits, permits multiple organizations and can federate processing across multiple servers.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Review






Microsoft leverages the same code base for both on-demand and on-premise CRM. However, upgrades and new versions are generally not released at the same time for both delivery options. Therefore, CRM buyers seeking specific new functionality should verify those feature sets within their chosen deployment approach.


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