When deciding to use Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud today, the options are increasingly more varied than in 1999 when I started working with cloud services. One thing never changes though. The most successful Dynamics projects I’ve seen over the years have had the right level of preparation by the client.
The basic principles are the same in every winning project. The steps you take to change your system don’t necessarily equate to reinventing the wheel. For some organizations, the answer can be as simple as spinning up a new server in their existing public cloud environment. For most organizations, though, many steps have to be taken to make the move with confidence.
The Most Common Reasons for Using Microsoft Dynamics in the Cloud
Moving to the cloud for a Microsoft Dynamics solution makes perfect sense in so many ways. But there is more than one route to get you there. The one you take depends on why you’ve decided to use Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud in the first place.
- You have minimal to no IT staff, so want to outsource your Dynamics infrastructure to a trusted provider.
- You want to get out of the hardware business and need the flexibility to expand or contract your infrastructure as needed.
- You would like to take advantage of the Dynamics Web Client, and want to have a more secure and reliable platform for your users.
- Your IT staff is too busy managing key operations systems to effectively manage your finance and ERP infrastructure.
- You have multiple sites, or have added new sites, possibly in different time zones, and can’t rely on your internal resources to effectively support all sites.
Each of these reasons determines a shift in certain responsibilities from in-house resources to your new Cloud Service Provider (CSP).
Key Responsibilities and Options for Outsourcing
Below is a grid of key responsibilities and options for outsourcing. There are many items that need to be addressed to have a successful Microsoft Dynamics cloud deployment. Just because a vendor says that they can support Dynamics in the cloud doesn’t mean that they are providing all the services needed for your project.
As you evaluate which responsibilities you want to hand off and which ones you are willing to keep, you will be able to evaluate which CSPs and options make sense for your transition plan.
Three Possible User Experiences
If you’re like many users of Dynamics, you’ve been relying on your traditional laptop or desktop to launch Dynamics or connect to data on your company’s servers. Now that you’ve decided you’re using Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud, your services can be delivered in your choice of many user experiences.
Knowing which user experience you want to deliver to your team will help when communicating with your prospective Microsoft Dynamics Cloud Solution Providers. Here are three types of user experiences to give you a taste of what’s available to you.
1. Traditional Desktop Client
- The look and feel of the desktop client are the same as you’ve used on your personal workstation.
- The desktop client is traditionally deployed using Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and/or Citrix.
2. Dynamics Web Client
- The Web Client is a web-based view of Dynamics. The look and feel are different from the desktop client, but the ability to connect using a tablet, phone or traditional desktop makes this a convenient option for a broad range of users.
- The Web Client relies on a web server as part of the infrastructure and secure SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connections. A Dynamics- focused CSP will understand these requirements and can address them with you.
- Export functions from Dynamics and reporting tools to Microsoft Office will generally need to have Microsoft Office installed on your local workstation or device. Because this is a web-based user experience, it’s possible to integrate with O365 Online.
- Your Office 365 subscription for this client experience will be determined by whether you need online and/or desktop installations of Office.
But a word of caution. ISVs are not universally compatible with the Dynamics Web Client. Most Dynamics Third Party Solutions (ISV), though, are compatible with an RDP Citrix option. Ask ISV vendors to verify compatibility for you.
Finally, there are many scenarios where connecting to your Dynamics data is needed. You may have custom reporting systems or other applications that read from or write to your Dynamics data.
3. Remote Connection to Your Data Through a Secure VPN (Virtual Private Network)
- Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) requires that you have a secure connection to the Cloud Service Provider first, usually using a VPN, then you’ll be able to connect to the remote desktop.
- A VPN can be a piece of software loaded on your user’s workstations, or a more permanent site to site VPN connection between your office’s network and the CSP’s data center.
- Citrix uses a small piece of software loaded on your workstation called a Citrix Connector that allows you to simultaneously connect securely and open the remote desktop.
- Tools such as Management Reporter and Integration Manager need a remote desktop to be able to function.
- Using Microsoft Office on the remote desktop requires server licenses of Office to be installed on the remote desktop server. These licenses are based on a named user requirement. The CSP can normally provide these licenses, or if you have an Office 365 E3 or ProPlus subscription, you can generally use your own licenses for this installation.
Preparation Is Key
Thorough preparation is the key to a smooth transition and using Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud with success. This preparation involves researching Microsoft Dynamics Cloud Solution Providers and clearly communicating with your team about the work you expect them to do on your cloud project.
Several different types of user experiences deliver Microsoft Dynamics cloud solutions. Understanding how these three — the traditional desktop client, the Dynamics web client, and the remote connection through VPN — work will help to complete your preparation.
If you’d like to learn more about Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud, I will be presenting at the GPUG Summit in Nashville this coming October. Don’t miss my presentation UPG03 – Moving to the Cloud? Prepare Like a Pro! on Wednesday, October 11, from 1:45 PM – 2:45 PM — I look forward to seeing you there!
In the meantime, check out our post Microsoft Dynamics Cloud Hosting: 6 Considerations or, if you have any Dynamics questions, contact our team today.