How Are Upgrades Different in Dynamics 365?

What exactly is an upgrade, and what makes a cloud upgrade in Dynamics 365 different than one with on-premise servers? Microsoft Dynamics 365 is known as software as a service (SaaS), and it means that you get billed on a monthly basis. As you consume it, you’re billed. This will be familiar to anyone using Microsoft 365 (Office 365) or other services or utilities where you are billed monthly. What you previously knew as an “upgrade” for an on-premise solution, will be referred to here as an “update” in the cloud.

In the past, organizations had to adapt their business processes to the way the software worked. Solutions were rigid, had a huge footprint, and in many cases were too expensive to upgrade. In businesses today we need solutions that are agile, flexible, scalable, and accessible.

The similarities between on-premise upgrades and cloud updates are the new features, new functionality, and scheduling. Some big differences between on-premise upgrades and cloud updates are the minimal downtime, flexible scheduling, and ownership of updates by the organization.

Some previously common things for upgrades that disappear with a cloud update are having to purchase a new server and update the surrounding software.

How Do Cloud Updates Work?

With Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, no discussion is needed on which build or version to upgrade to anymore. The updates can be done automatically, but our team’s recommendation is to schedule the major updates, rather than having them applied at random.

When the updates become available in your environment, a notification email is sent to all notification recipients that you’ve registered in administration center or Lifecycle Services, depending on which application you’re using. A notification about the update availability is also shown in the administration center or Lifecycle Services portal itself. When the notification arrives, you can schedule the update and time it for when you prefer it to happen.

Dynamics 365 Business Central Admin Center:

Screenshot of the admin center

Fields like Available Update Version on the environment page can help you plan the update. The Update Scheduling Available field specifies whether it’s possible for you to change the update date. You might have planned to do the update on December 15th, but now you’ve decided that you need to really do it on December 20th, and that can easily be changed to fit your business’ schedule.

Microsoft can sometimes postpone the updates for various reasons. The Update Rollout State field provides information that can help you track the current state of the rollout.

When it comes to scheduling an on-premise upgrade, it’s not such a fluid process. You work with a third party, planning out both of your schedules, and you choose a good timeframe to do the upgrade, but what if something in your schedule changes? That third party might not be available to do the upgrade when you need it done at the new time. So, a lot of planning has been done to schedule the upgrade, but now it all needs to be reorganized.

How Does the Cloud Eliminate Upgrade Costs?

Sometimes when we do an on-premise upgrade, we need to buy new equipment like servers. Different applications to run the hardware may also need to be updated for an on-premise upgrade. Luckily when we’re doing a SaaS update, no new server is required.

Furthermore, a SaaS update reduces that business downtime that comes with an on-premise upgrade. With upgrades there’s the business interruption that happens while you’re getting the hardware and the software prepared for the upgrade, actually doing the upgrade itself, and the third-party upgrade services needed.

Lifecycle Services/Administration Center

The Dynamics 365 family provides a portal for administrators to do administrative tasks for the tenant. Here, administrators can view and work with production and sandbox environments for the tenant, set update notifications, and view telemetry for events on the tenant. This enables troubleshooting and support for the tenant.

For Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations release plans, you can check the online portal to see when those releases are coming up.

On the release day for the update, all new signups, and all newly created environments, sandbox and production, are directed to the new version. For existing environments that run on the previous version, updates are made available gradually across the supported regions over the coming days and weeks.

The users that are authorized to access the administration center are typically system administrators, IT professionals, or super users at the customer’s company.

The Admin Agent and Help Desk Agent roles are assigned through Microsoft Partner Center. These roles can access the tenant as delegated administrators, so you’ve got complete control over who’s accessing your systems.

How Long Do Dynamics 365 Updates Take?

In the past you might have been used to an on-premise upgrade that took days or even a week to complete. It takes only minutes to do an update in Dynamics 365!

Update release cycle:

Update Release Cycle chart

There are both major and minor updates:

Major Updates

  • Released twice a year – usually April and October
  • Notification email sent to applicable recipients
  • Prepare for major updates with preview environments
  • Schedule your update

Minor Updates

  • Released monthly
  • Most are automatically applied

Critical fixes roll out as soon as possible, after they pass tests and have been verified by a Microsoft-protected staging environment.

The Release Planner can be found online to see what’s new and planned in upcoming releases. The yellow highlighted area let’s you know when something has been updated in the solution:

Screenshot of the Release Planner webpage

It’s easy to remain current on your solution when you’re in the cloud. You no longer have to schedule large on-premise upgrades with software as a service. There are considerable cost savings, control over updates, improved security, and flexibility.

Cloud Benefits Beyond Updates

In addition to the differences in cloud updates as compared to on-premise upgrades, there are other benefits of Dynamics 365 in the cloud, which you should also consider.

Security in the Cloud

Compared to on-premise solutions, there’s no possibility of malware or ransomware in Dynamics 365, since it is designed with security in mind. Microsoft invests more than a billion dollars a year into Microsoft Azure to ensure unmatched security and governance. It also employs more than 3,500 security experts to protect your information. These solutions give you control over your company’s data, while also helping to safeguard it from unauthorized access, thanks to Microsoft’s automatic datacenter encryption.

Moving to the cloud is a safer option to protect your company’s confidential and sensitive data. Your data is stored in one of Microsoft’s several datacenters, in the same country in which you’re located. Cyber attacks are becoming more and more common these days, so necessary precautions with your business solutions must be taken.

Accessibility in the Cloud

Accessibility is another advantage of moving to the cloud. Microsoft gives you the flexibility to work from a desktop, tablet, or a mobile device, on Windows, Android, or iOS. Enhance teamwork and boost productivity by accessing information from anywhere, at any time, from any device.

Other Cloud Benefits

  • Another cost saving comes from not needing the infrastructure that was once needed for rooms of hardware in a building being kept cool with air conditioning. Also, natural disasters do happen, and a cloud update gives you assurance that your data is safe even if a catastrophic event like a fire occurs in your business location.
  • Get peace of mind knowing your sensitive business data is stored in highly secure state-of-the-art datacenters owned and managed by Microsoft. Your data will be secure, thanks to the 99.9% uptime service level agreement (SLA).
  • IT staff are freed up to focus on strategic planning and other high-priority work items instead of software maintenance tasks such as backups, upgrades, and patches.
  • Give your team the tools and information they need to compete, succeed, and excel, by providing access to innovations like AI and predictive analysis.
  • Enhance your Dynamics 365 experience with pre-built business applications developed by Microsoft and select partners, available through the Microsoft AppSource marketplace. There is a whole library of add-on applications to fulfill needs that might not come out of the box. If your business has a unique need, build apps using the Microsoft Power Platform, and customize and extend them.
  • Typically, customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) data has been maintained separately. Dynamics 365 lets you connect this data for a 360-degree view of your business, and access it from familiar solutions, like Microsoft 365 (Office) and Microsoft Power BI. When you’re in Outlook, you can actually process work right inside there that goes to the ERP system!
  • Finally, a cloud solution allows you to scale your business up or down and remain flexible. It supports your business growth without enduring costly changes to IT infrastructure.

Please contact us to find out about moving your business solution to the cloud.

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