If you’re thinking about hosting your Dynamics ERP in Azure – rather than your on-premise servers – then I hope that you’ve come across Encore’s hosting packages for Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV. These packages offer everything you need to run Dynamics GP or Dynamics NAV in the cloud.
However, ERP systems are complicated beasts, and there are a lot of questions you might have. Here are the top questions we’ve received from customers.
What’s Really Included?
OK, “everything you need” is a little bit vague. In order to run the typical Dynamics ERP in Azure, the following are required:
1. A Server to Host the Application
A remote application server (or a “virtual machine”) is needed to run the actual Dynamics application code. This server is included.
2. SQL Hosting Server
As you probably know, Microsoft SQL powers the database that contains all of your company’s Dynamics data.
- If you have Dynamics NAV 2016 or higher, we use Azure’s SQL “as a service”. This is included.
- If you are using Dynamics GP, we have to spin up another virtual machine and install SQL on that server. This server is included.
If you are on Dynamics GP, then you can’t use Azure SQL as a Service due to limitations in Dynamics GP. You’ll need to own SQL licensing that we can use on your Azure virtual machine. Unfortunately, not too many GP users own SQL licensing that we can use; SQL Runtime cannot be used in Azure according to Microsoft’s restrictions. For those people, there’s an additional SQL licensing cost of $27/user/month up to $500/month. Note that this fee applies to each named “database” user, rather than each concurrent “GP” user.
In order to accommodate databases and their backups, we usually budget about 600GB of storage. This is a separate “line item” within Azure. Fortunately, extra storage isn’t that expensive – so we don’t charge extra for additional storage unless it’s really significant.
Azure backups are included. I’ll talk more about backups in another question.
5. A VPN
A VPN is optional, but we usually include it. This VPN allows you to connect to your onsite servers. You can then use the same credentials you use across the rest of your company to log into your Dynamics, which is no longer on-premise.
6. Windows Remote License
In order to remotely access your Dynamics ERP, you need to pay a monthly per-user fee. This fee is included.
7. Monitoring and Updates
Our environments are set up to notify us of downtime and errors in your environment. We will monitor and respond to these alerts should they ever come up.
We also conduct a health-check your individual environment every week, this includes installing Windows updates on your servers.
8. Unlimited Break-fix Support
If you ever run into an issue we don’t spot in advance, Encore’s team of specialists is at your disposal to fix any Azure-related issues.
9. The Services Needed to Set Up Azure
All of the above pieces take some time to spin up and fit together. An Encore employee will take the time to set up your Azure environment, make some light modifications to suit your needs, and migrate your data. This time is included.
What’s Not Included?
1. Hosting Some ISVs
Some of our customers have extensive needs for their ISV add-on products, such as extra databases or processing power. These are addressed on a case-by-case basis, but the typical customer is covered by our plans. We will let you know if this is the case for your Dynamics.
2. Microsoft Office
Dynamics GP customers need to make sure that Microsoft Office is installed on their application server to handle document exports and things like that. Most companies own some form of Office that can be used, but if not – we need to add Microsoft Office 365 E3, which is about $26/user/month. Again, this only applies to Dynamics GP customers due to a limitation in Dynamics GP.
3. SQL Licensing
As mentioned, GP users without SQL will incur an extra charge.
Why Does The Cost Increase With The Number Of Users?
More users mean that we need to install higher-powered application servers and higher-powered SQL servers. We also need to add more Windows Remote Licenses. These three items make up the bulk of our costs, so the price increases.
How Are Users Counted?
If you license Dynamics perpetually, we count the number of concurrent users. If you license on subscription, we count the number of named users.
Limited users do not count towards your total, but if you have a lot of them – you might have to bump up a tier.
SQL is counted by the individual users accessing the database, as I mentioned above.
I’m Right In Between Tiers. Can I Move To The Lower One?
Maybe. Our packages are structured as follows:
- Medium: Up to 14 users
- Large: 15+ users
Are Version Upgrades Included?
No, upgrading your Dynamics GP or Dynamics NAV is still separate from your hosting costs. If you’re interested in rolling upgrades into a monthly support cost, I suggest checking out our managed services for Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV.
Will My Customizations and Integrations Still Work?
We have lots of customers with heavily-customized systems. You’ve probably come to rely on one or two (or a dozen) custom features and integrations that have been developed for you. Thankfully, these features will continue to work as normal. The truth is, our Azure configuration is quite similar to the setup you already pay to maintain on premise; it’s just in a different location.
If you want to move your integrated systems to the cloud as well, these will have to be hosted on additional servers and so hosting those systems is not included.
What is the Backup Schedule?
One of the biggest benefits of moving to Azure is not only your isolation from disastrous events, but your ability to restore backups. We schedule database backups every morning at 3 AM, and an email is sent to an individual at your company. The following backups are retained:
- Daily backups going back 30 days
- Weekly backups going back 52 weeks
- Monthly backups going back 12 months
- Annual backups going back 2 years
Backups can be recovered using Azure Site Recovery – we will train your IT staff on the proper procedures.
Let’s Talk About Security and Where My ERP Is Hosted?
We use Azure’s Canadian datacentres when required, which are located in Toronto and Quebec City.
Encore’s employees are always bound by NDAs and Local Privacy Laws.
How’s The Performance?
We’ve had clients running on Azure since 2014 and have only experienced 15 minutes of annual downtime during production hours, which was due to infrastructure updates. One thing that might affect performance is the series of steps between you and the data center itself. For instance, there is a hub in Vancouver which then connects with the Azure data centers at lightning speed, but any additional steps that are controlled by you could slow your connection. Also, something that could affect performance is your internet connection, depending on the bandwidth and type of internet you are using.
How Does The Cost Compare?
For some, a $7800, $12600, or $17400 yearly expense feels like it would be way more than $8-15k spent on a server every 3-5 years. There’s more that should factor into your decision, though:
- +$10k: You usually purchase more than one server per deployment!
- + $5k: The human cost of procuring, delivering, and deploying your on-premise server.
- + $15k: The yearly human cost of maintaining your servers.
- + $1.5k: The yearly cost of powering your servers.
- + $3k: The yearly cost of the floor-space in your server room.
However these factors may vary for your organization, we have found that the ability to wash your hands of server maintenance is not only a financial burden lifted, but a mental one as well: it is quite reassuring to know that this isn’t something you’ll ever have to deal with again.
Besides the inherent benefits of transitioning a Capex to an Opex, there are also benefits that Azure provides over your on-premise system – including better backups, better accessibility, no need to upgrade in the future, better up-time, and better flexibility.
There Are Many Cloud Options Out There. Why Azure?
We recommend hosting your Microsoft Dynamics on Microsoft Azure. From a technology perspective, Encore has the experience, the confidence, and the insight with Microsoft necessary for us to feel confident recommending them as a cloud platform. Microsoft is one of the largest cloud networks in the world with 55 security compliance designations and counting. Partnering with Encore also helps keep your support and billing under one roof.
From a cost perspective, we have found that Azure is generally comparable to AWS or Google. We have even moved clients from AWS to Azure with positive results.
If you have any other questions or you want to get started, please reach out to your Account Manager or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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