Alert: 12/29/2011 .NET security update should be installed by all users of Microsoft Dynamics CRM

A vulnerability in the Microsoft .NET Framework was discovered during a routine security conference on December 28, 2011. The vulnerability allows an attacker to gain unauthorized access to any application using the .NET Framework, including partner-hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM, on-premise Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Microsoft released a security update the next day, fixing this vulnerability and three privately-reported vulnerabilities.

The security update is available for automatic download and installation through Windows Update. We recommend our readers use Windows Update and either search for updates manually or enable automatic updates.

The security update is also available for download on Microsoft security bulletin MS11-100.

Affected Software:
Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 Service Pack 1
Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 2
Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1
Microsoft .NET Framework 4

Affected Operating System:
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2008

Read More

Quick tip: Connect to multiple Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 organizations

One particularly nifty feature included with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and CRM Online 2011 is the ability to connect to multiple organizations using a single Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Microsoft Office Outlook client. Only one organization can be configured as the “synchronizing organization”, the organization you’ll actively track Microsoft Exchange Server items in as CRM Online 2011 records. What you will be able to do is navigate and work in multiple organizations using the client.

We just discovered this and wanted to pass along the tip, as versions of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Microsoft Office Outlook client previous to 2011 required manual reconfiguration every time you wanted to use a different organization. We’ll walk you through the configuration of an additional organization below.

Some of the steps in this guide require elevated computer privileges. If you find yourself stuck during any steps of this guide, we recommend contacting your IT department.

We assume you have already installed the Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Microsoft Office Outlook client and configured it to connect to your synchronizing organization.

Open the Start menu, click All Programs, click Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, and click Configuration Wizard.

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Outlook Configuration Wizard window opens (see below). Your synchronizing organization should already be listed and marked with the green checkmark icon. Click Add.

 Connect to multiple Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 organizations

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook window opens and prompts you to Configure Organization (see below). If you are adding a CRM Online organization, select “CRM Online 2011” from the drop-down menu and click OK.

  Connect multiple Microsoft CRM 2011 organizations

Alternatively, our readers who subscribe to partner-hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM should type the Server URL: provided to them by their system administrator. For example, hosted customers of xRM.com should type “https://example.xrmlive.com” (see below) but with “example” replaced by the special name for their organization. Then click OK.

 Connect multiple Microsoft CRM 2011 organizations

The Connect to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online window opens (see below) and requests your authentication credentials. If you subscribe to CRM Online 2011, enter your Windows Live ID and Password and then click OK. If you subscribe to partner-hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM, enter the username and password provided by your system administrator for authentication.

 Connect to multiple organizations in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

The Connect to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online window closes. If you subscribe to multiple Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online organizations, you will be prompted to make a selection from the Organization drop-down menu (see below). We’ll select “xRMDemo2” in our example. Leave the Synchronize with this Organization checkbox un-checked, unless you prefer to change your synchronizing organization. Then click OK.

 Connect to multiple organizations in Microsoft CRM Online 2011

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook window closes and the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Outlook Configuration Wizard refreshes (see below). You should see the newly added organization (“xRMDemo2” in our example) included in the list. Click Close.

 Connect to multiple organizations in Microsoft CRM 2011

Launch Microsoft Office Outlook, and click the Solutions button circled below to navigate to Microsoft Dynamics CRM or CRM Online 2011. The Solutions button should have replaced any prior organization button, as it contains both your synchronizing organization and any other configured organizations.

 Connect to multiple organizations in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2011

We’ve just configured the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Microsoft Office Outlook client to connect to multiple organizations. If you’re looking for more creative ways to use CRM Online 2011, then you should visit the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online success portal. It contains plenty of helpful videos and walkthroughs aimed at users of all skill levels.

Read More

What is xRM?

So the SEO and Marketing folks finally got me to give in and begin blogging. So first off thank you for reading my first blog post ever. I thought it appropriate to begin with what xRM means to us and how we approach it.

xRM is an acronym coined a few years ago and derived from CRM (Customer Relationship Management). We techie folks borrowed a page from the calculus guys and replaced the C (Customer) with the x meant to represent anything. So now x can represent anything from traditional sales, service, and marketing to other business processes in non-traditional industries like finance, health care, and entertainment. This is the industry understanding of xRM, where now any business process can be modeled and implemented in a sophisticated CRM system.

I look at it being a little deeper than just that. Again, I borrow some ideology from my calculus days where the purpose of the x in the equation was not to simply figure out the arithmetic value of x, but to “solve” the equation. And here is where I see the real value of xRM. It does not merely fix the current business issue. It delivers a solution and strategy empowering the business to solve future unknown problems they may face.

I think the best way to justify this position on xRM is to consider a business requiring a new line-of-business application and weighing the benefits of going with Microsoft Dynamics CRM/xRM or developing the solution internally. When such an evaluation is performed, we always tend to get caught up in the desires of the moment instead of a more strategic approach. In fact, most businesses tend to look for new solutions because they have outgrown their previous one for one reason or another—scalability, functionality, flexibility, access, etc. So here are a few questions I believe are also warranted that more clearly illustrate the difference between providing an answer and providing a solution.

How is security implemented?
Microsoft Dynamics CRM leverages Active Directory. Most businesses already have Active Directory implemented. It is responsible for allowing users to log in to their desktops every morning, access file share, check their work e-mail on their smart phones, etc. This is a tried-and-true technology with additional benefits like single sign on, a familiar administrative interface and providing a single place for a business to control access to all its solutions.

How is the data stored?
The Microsoft solution is to leverage SQL Server Data Services (SSDS). Again, most businesses and their IT folk are already familiar with SQL Server technologies. SQL Server is one of the most reliable, scalable and high-performance database solutions available. It is also fully Active Directory aware, ensuring that the data is always accessed in the context of the user, ensuring sensitive data is protected at the source and not at higher levels as with most other solutions.

How is the data accessed?
The Microsoft solution is Internet Information Services (IIS), part of Windows Server. This technology is responsible for providing a web-based access point to the solution. This is in essence the gateway between the users and the solution. Again, this technology is part of the familiar Microsoft stack and is also fully Active Directory aware.

How do I get analytical information?
Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is the reporting framework for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It allows the business to produce summary dashboard-type reporting but also contextual reporting at the individual record level. However, it does not stop here. The solution also allows you to export the data to Microsoft Excel to allow you to manipulate as you see fit—from producing simple pivot tables and charts to full-blown, multi-dimensional trend analysis with SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).

What is the end user interface?
The end user interfaces for Microsoft Dynamics CRM/xRM is varied yet familiar. A user can access the solution via the Internet Explorer browser, or via Microsoft Office Outlook or via their smart phone. All of these interfaces are used daily by the user in various different scenarios, both in a business or consumer setting. Thus, users are placed in an environment that they are extremely comfortable with, where utilizing and navigating the solution comes instinctively.

Can the solution grow with my business?
I think this is one of the most pivotal questions. The selection of any line-of-business application is critical to the success of the business itself. Not only should it have an immediate positive impact but will also need to deliver on the promise of meeting future business needs. And it is here that I think Microsoft truly delivers. From the flexible and intuitive workflow engine (based on Microsoft .NET Framework technologies) to the customization interface, the Microsoft solution begs to be tailored to the business need—today, next month, next quarter or next year. The solution now allows the business analyst through simple point and click steps to configure the solution, reducing the burden on the development organization. This has a huge impact. Analysts can now interface directly with the business and also be responsible for the delivery. This reduces the communication delays and distortion allowing the solution to be delivered faster without sacrificing accuracy.

What about reliability and scalability?
All of the technologies mentioned above are tried and true and fully scalable. The solution can be scaled out to multiple tiers with each tier having independent clustering and load balancing capabilities. That being said, it can be also scaled down to a single virtualized resource, thus providing a solution for the small, five-user business, or scaled up to the enterprise 70,000-user organization.

What about interoperability?
Another key question: Will this solution integrate with the existing and future systems of my business? Again, Microsoft Dynamics CRM delivers. Interfacing with other Microsoft applications like SharePoint, Exchange, Communications Server, etc. are simple point-and-click configuration options providing a seamless and transparent user experience. Integration to other systems is also much easier by way of the rich web-service layer. This provides an agnostic layer for multiple systems to interface with each other in real time or as a batch process, either pushing or pulling data between systems.

What will it take to support the solution?
The Microsoft solution leverages the core Microsoft stack components that most business already have implemented and are very familiar with. This becomes an incremental change for the IT organization as the components that are being leveraged are almost always already managed by this team. The Microsoft solution already presents a compelling option from a financial perspective. When you consider the total cost of ownership and factor in administrative, maintenance, and support activities, this becomes even more compelling.

At xRM.com, we have embraced this approach for not only our customer deployments but also all our internal systems. From Project and Asset Management to an Intellectual Property Library, these internal systems have been delivered with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and surfaced on a browser, Outlook, and even my Windows Mobile phone.

Thanks for listening.

xRM.com is Microsoft Partner with core competencies in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Hosting. Desigan Reddi is Chief Technology Officer at xRM.com.

Read More

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Update Rollup 20

Update Rollup 20 is available for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. It can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center as of November 10, 2011. This update is available for all languages supported by Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and is a cumulative set of several system improvements and critical fixes. It includes performance enhancements that are packaged together for easy deployment.

Components:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Server
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 E-mail Router
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Language Pack
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Data Connector for Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 for Microsoft Office Outlook

Supported Operating Systems: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Prerequisites:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0
Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1
You must have Update Rollup 7 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 installed to install Update Rollup 20.

Links:
Microsoft Support: Update Rollup 20 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 is available
Microsoft Download Center: Update Rollup 20 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0

Read More

The 411 on Tracking in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

One of the main advantages in using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Microsoft Office Outlook client is the ability to track items in Microsoft Dynamics CRM directly from within Outlook. What is tracking you ask? When an Outlook item is “tracked” using the client, an exact copy is created inside of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM database as a record. To make things even easier, the client updates tracked data bilaterally so that users can modify records in either Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Outlook and the changes will be reflected in both applications. E-mails, Contacts, and Appointments can all be tracked.

Follow along below and we will show you how to track a Contact using the client. The method of tracking remains the same regardless of the type of item you are tracking thanks to the ribbon present at the top of every window in the latest version of Microsoft Office Are you not using Microsoft CRM Online yet? A Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online implementation and integration is all you need to get started.

First, you will need to open the Microsoft Exchange Server item in Outlook that you plan on tracking. In this example, we have opened up the contact for “John Smith” in Outlook. Click Track in the CRM group of the ribbon adorning the top of the Contact in Outlook.

 Tracking in CRM Online 2011

You will notice that once the item is being tracked, the Track button transforms into an Untrack button (see below). Clicking the Untrack button would delete the record from the CRM Online 2011 database (leaving it only in Outlook) and stop tracking future changes.

 Tracking in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2011

Now that we are tracking “John Smith” in Outlook, let’s verify that the record also exists in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. You can do that in Outlook by clicking the name of your CRM Online 2011 organization (in our case, “xRM”), and navigating to Workplace > Customers > Contacts (see below).

Tracking in CRM Online

As you can see above, “John Smith” is now listed in our Microsoft Dynamics CRM Contacts. Let’s open his Contact record in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and see what’s inside (see below).

Tracking in Dynamics CRM Online 2011

You’ll notice right away that the client properly formatted his first and last name, and also inserted his e-mail address and business phone number into the proper fields, keeping the Outlook Contact and the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Contact synchronized.

Are you looking to learn more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2011? Dive into some Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Training and let xRM.com guide you.

Read More

Quick Tip: Get Wild with Your Searches

Search is a handy tool in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2011. You can find the record or records you’re looking for quickly by name.

What if you aren’t sure of the whole name? Fortunately, Microsoft supports a “wildcard”, which allows you to search for unknown parts of names. As part of your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Training, follow along below and we’ll teach you how to use the wildcard.

What’s a wildcard? A wildcard stands in place of any amount of unknown text. In CRM Online, the wildcard character is the asterisk “*”.

CRM Online invisibly adds the wildcard to the end of every search string. That means it will look for anything that starts with whatever you type. For example, searching for “a” actually searches for “a*” and might result in “Aaron“, “Abby”, “Ace”, etc.

That’s pretty handy if you know the beginning of the name, but what if you only know the middle or the end of the name? For example, let’s say you’re looking for a certain Account with “sales” in its name, but due to your working with thousands of Accounts, you can’t quite remember the rest of the name. If you enter “sales” into the search box, you will likely receive no results (see below).

 Quick Tip Get Wild with Your Searches

That‘s because it’s unlikely that any Account names actually start with “sales” even though “sales” might occur in other positions. So how can we find Accounts with “sales” anywhere in their names? We can type the wildcard at the beginning of the search string, effectively surrounding it in wildcards. For example, we type “*sales”, which becomes “*sales*” when CRM Online adds the wildcard at the end, which instructs CRM Online to search for any amount of text followed by “sales” followed by any amount of text. Let’s try it right now, by typing “*sales” into the search box (see below).

Quick tip search tool in crm online 2011

As you can see above, the Microsoft CRM Online 2011 search has returned a list of all Accounts containing the word ”sales”.

Wildcard searches give you flexibility when trying to find records of any type, not just Accounts. You could find a list of all Contacts with the last name of “Smith”. You could also run a search for Opportunities with “big” in the topic, or E-mails with “party” in the subject. None of these are a problem with a wildcard search.

If you’re looking for more quick tips or quick fixes, keep reading the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Blog by xRM.com

Read More