When to Move to Dynamics 365 Online (Part 2)

This is second in a series of posts about migrating from Dynamics 365 on-premise to Dynamics 365 Online.  The content and topics are from my recent sessions at D365UG Summit and Extreme365.

In Part 1, I blogged about the various reasons of why to move from an on-premise version of Dynamics 365 to Online.  This posting I will provide some consideration of when to make the move.

Part 3 I will provide information and experiences on the “how” to move from on-premise to online.

When to Move to Dynamics 365

When it comes down to it, there may never be the “best” time from a business perspective to migrate to Dynamics 365 Online as it will be a disruptive change.  The following are ideas to consider when it may either be beneficial time, less disruptive time or during a time of other changes that incorporating a migration to Dynamics 365 may make sense.

Availability of Features

Dynamics CRM Online was originally released in 2008.  At that time, it did not have a number of what could be considered “critical” features.  There was no ability to create custom SSRS reports and also no ability to load server side plug-ins.  Over time, the online version reached a functional parity (for the most part) of its on-premise sibling and the most recent versions have added features that are not available on-premise.

Click here for a feature comparison of online vs on-premise.

From a business perspective, there now might be features that would make it attractive and enable cost savings to move online.  Examples such as Field Service, Project Service and potentially the portal would be reasons to move.  Staying on-premise would mean using alternative 3rd parties or even expensive development of comparable features, or even continuing to do certain business processes in inefficient ways.

Integrating to Office 365 or other applications using Microsoft Flow may make the business case to move as opposed to expensive integration solutions.

Larger Cloud Initiative


Along with Dynamics 365, an organization may be considering moving other services to the cloud, such as moving to Office 365 and moving on-premise Exchange and SharePoint servers to equivalent cloud offerings.  It may be well worth a consideration to move Dynamics 365 at the same time or part of the larger plan.   This process may also be phased at the appropriate time and the sequence of events (Office 365 before or after Dynamics 365?) depending on the requirements of the business.

I have worked with IT departments who’s mandate it was to completely eliminate all existing server assets instead of replacing them.  Dynamics 365 being already a web based application makes the case for moving to a cloud based solution easier.

Corporate Change

Blog is over 1 year old and the first time I throw up a Dilbert Cartoon?

There are times when an organization is going through changes such as a merger, acquisition or a pivot where the technology tools need to change to adapt to the new reality.  This may actually be a good time to consider migrating or even re-implementing to Dynamics 365 Online.  If there is needs to be a project to “merge” various CRM systems, then merging the various systems to a single Dynamics 365 Online solution may be the best approach than extending an existing on-premise system.

Outdated and Unsupported Technology

Fred and Tom generate a Dynamics CRM 1.2 report

If the organization is still running Dynamics CRM 3.0 or CRM 4.0 (or older?), then the support options from Microsoft are limited not only for CRM but there is also a danger with operating system and database support for the versions for which older versions of CRM run on.  If these systems are business critical, the sooner they move to a supported version the better.  It may be a great time to migrate to Dynamics 365 Online, not only to move to a supported state, but better position to organization to stay within a supported window and not end up in the same position in the future.

Wait For Microsoft Solution


Microsoft currently has a solution as part of the FastTrack program where they will take an existing Dynamics 365 database and migrate to Dynamics 365 Online.

However the solution is limited to clients with certain user counts (250 or more) and other considerations (versions, database, etc).  Eventually, this service may be extended further and if an organization can wait, it may be worth some consideration to hold off.  However, there are still a number of steps and processes that need to be done.  For example, you will still need to convert your old JavaScript and re-write your SSRS reports.  I will write more about this process in part 3 (The “How”)

Downtime Considerations


If the plan is to move online, then planning the potential downtime early in the process is imperative.  Even using the Microsoft FastTrack program will involve at least a few hours of downtime.  If the business requires a 365x24x7 system, then planning the switch-over becomes more tricky, but not impossible.  The issue will be a matter of availability of historical data on the new system if there is to be an automatic switch over.  There are other methods to keep data in the new and old systems in sync (more on this in Part 3).

Obviously a technology migration project in the middle of an organizations “busy” season is usually not a great idea.  Keep in mind that doing a migration during “quiet” seasons may also have impacts around staff and consultant’s vacation schedules.  There may never be that “perfect” time, but there should be a least objectionable time.

Plan Ahead


If an organization decides to hold off for a few versions or years from moving online and decides to stay on-premise, there is nothing wrong with that decision as it may make total sense.  However, there are things that can be done on an on-premise system now to make it more “migration ready” when the time comes.  SSRS Reports should be developed using FetchXML.  Plug-in code ideally should be developed to run in sandbox mode and JavaScript should follow the latest methods.  If some of these tasks are completed early, even for on-premise systems, when the move to online occurs it will be one less thing to worry about.

Next – “How”

My next post will begin to cover the various steps and process to actually plan and perform an on-premise to online migration.  Note that each migration project has its own unique set of challenges and requirements.  My hope is that the information provided will make it a smooth process.

Nick Doelman is Microsoft Business Solutions MVP.  This blog post would have been out sooner except that Nick got sucked into playing The Legend Of Zelda.

The creatures protect the sacred document of how to Migrate Adxstudio v7 Portals to Dynamics 365 Online Portals… 

2 thoughts on “When to Move to Dynamics 365 Online (Part 2)

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