Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, now a rare STAR in the cloud-filled sky

Customers of our cloud services usually want to know how safe their data is. Actually, since xRM.com is a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner, our customers frequently ask us about cloud security. We took it upon ourselves to write about cloud security on our blog in August. You can read the full post here: Is my CRM Online data safe in the “cloud”?

While we mainly discussed the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center in our last security post, today we’ll talk about the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and the Security, Trust & Assurance Registry (STAR). The CSA is a not-for-profit organization that provides security guidelines and education to cloud computing service providers, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as of April of 2012. Even our most well informed readers might be wondering what that exactly means, but don’t worry; we’ll explain it for you!

Essentially, the CSA is a group of industry experts, corporate executives, and financial stakeholders that have a vested interest in keeping “the cloud” secure. These individuals represent companies that rely heavily on the cloud, so they do everything they can to keep it safe, including founding and directing the CSA. You might recognize some of the companies that sit on the board of directors at the CSA, such as Ebay, Coca-Cola, and Zynga.

Now that you understand who and what the CSA is, let’s move on to what we believe is their most important offering, STAR certification. If you want to know who the most secure cloud-service providers are in the world, look no further than the STAR certification registry. To say that STAR certification is difficult to obtain (and expensive, not due to fees, but due to necessary security investments) is an understatement. There are fewer than 15 cloud services with STAR certifications. For our readers who are unaware, there are over 1,000 cloud-services available to consumers. That means that roughly 1% of cloud-services have obtained a STAR certification. Microsoft holds not one, but three of those certifications for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Windows Azure. Here is the full list of STAR registry entries.

Here’s an example of why using a STAR certified cloud-service provider is important; several years ago, the Washington Post reported on an uncomfortable situation for some CRM subscribers. Hackers compromised one of the databases supporting a CRM service, Salesforce.com. They successfully broke into the database and retrieved customer records, which were then used for spamming and phishing attacks (read the full story at The Washington Post, “Should email addresses be considered private data?”). Since then, Salesforce.com has not received a STAR certification. In fact, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online remains as the only STAR certified cloud-based CRM service.

Going with a STAR certified product such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is as close as you can get to an Alcatraz for your data. By launching the Trust Center and registering with STAR, Microsoft has proven that it is deeply committed to the security of the cloud.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Update Rollup 10

Update Rollup 10 is available for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. It can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center as of August 16, 2012 or updated through Windows Update as of September 11, 2012. This update is available for all languages supported by Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and includes several improvements and critical fixes. The following components are affected by this update.

Components:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Server
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 E-mail Router
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Language Pack
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Reporting Extensions
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Report Authoring Extension
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Microsoft Office Outlook

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

Prerequisites: You must have Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Update Rollup 6 installed (build 5.0.9690.1992) to apply this update rollup. This update requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.

Important Notes:  Update Rollup 9 will not be released, for details on why please read our blog post titled Upcoming Changes to CRM Online 2011 Q2 2012 Service Update / Release. You can uninstall Update Rollup 10, however, you should back up your databases before you install this update.

Links:
Microsoft Support: Update Rollup 10 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is available
Microsoft Download Center: Update Rollup 10 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

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Feature Spotlight: Read-optimized Forms

Read-optimized forms were introduced to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2011 when Microsoft released Update Rollup 7 in March of 2012. Read-optimized forms load quicker than standard forms, because they load essential details from the CRM Online database in read-only mode.

Below is an example of a read-optimized form.

Feature Spotlight Read-optimized Forms

Do you notice how the Ribbon is missing? The Ribbon was removed to improve the loading time of read-optimized forms. The other main optimization to these forms is that they are “read-only”. That means that you will be unable to make any changes to any of the fields in a read-optimized form. There’s a button on every read-optimized form (we’ve circled it in the example above) that loads the standard version of that form if you need to make changes.

Notes are displayed at the bottom of read-optimized forms, although they are also read-only. You’ll need to switch to the standard form to add new notes or edit existing ones.

Read-optimized forms support IFrames, although custom client API is unsupported. Activity Feeds and Web resources are also supported, but they won’t display form customizations that include other web resources and custom scripts. If you open a record of an entity that’s been modified by Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2011 customizations or configurations that include custom web resources or scripts, it will load in a standard form instead of a read-optimized form.

Your system administrator determines whether standard forms or read-optimized forms are used by default when opening a record. Users can override this setting in the Set Personal Options dialog.

Feature Spotlight Read-optimized Forms

Although read-optimized forms should be easy for your users to adopt, training in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is always an option to accelerate learning. Knowledge from an expert can go a long way in helping you and your users take advantage of every feature in CRM Online 2011.

Training isn’t the only way you can learn from the experts, we’ve also built a Success Portal for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online that is full of video-walkthroughs aimed at users of all calibers. The videos we host on the Success Portal cover both basic and advanced features of CRM Online 2011.

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Is my CRM Online data safe in the “cloud”?

This is a common question from our customers, and we’ve even been asked about it on this xRM.com blog for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Many Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online subscribers are concerned with only having digital access to their data; they worry about just how safe the “cloud” really is. 

In July of 2012, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center (pictured below) was made available to the public.

Is my CRM Online data safe in the “cloud”?

The Trust Center is a website that is full of illuminating security information for customers or potential customers. It details how your data is protected, where it’s protected, and who it’s protected by. It aims to keep this protection transparent, so you’re sure that your data is in capable and trusted hands. Finally yet importantly, several third-party security audits and certifications are listed on the Trust Center, including the industry standard ISO 27001 and Safe Harbor certifications. Microsoft will even comply with the HIPAA-Business Associate Agreement upon request.

Right before the Trust Center launch, Microsoft also updated White Paper: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Security and Service Continuity. The White Paper describes Microsoft’s security approaches towards several risk areas. 

If you have a question about the security of CRM Online, Microsoft has probably answered it in the Trust Center or in the White Paper. We recommend starting with the Trust Center, and then moving on to the White Paper if you find it necessary. If you’re still unconvinced about the security of CRM Online, maybe on-premise Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the right model for you.

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Could you use free CRM Online training?

We’ve all had some kind of experience in the work environment with “new” and “improved” software. Usually it starts with one of those 8-hour long company meetings where you and all your coworkers are sitting in one big conference room with a “trained representative” from the company. The trained representative attempts to transfer all of his knowledge and expertise to you in one day, and then you never see him again.

There has to be a better way.

As a company that provides hosting and development for a large client base, the traditional classroom-training model just does not work for us. We simply have too many customers to train, even if they all wanted to pay us! So how did we solve this problem? We developed a model of training that doesn’t require a physical classroom. We call our virtual Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online classroom the “Success Portal by xRM.com.”

When you visit the xRM.com Success Portal, you’ll follow a literal “road to knowledge” (see below).

 Could you use free CRM Online training

All you have to do now is click a topic that interests you, and you are presented with a list of guided walkthrough videos related to that topic. This is where the real knowledge is! Each video is narrated by one of our expert instructors and walks you through a specific topic, such as “Adding a Contract Line” (see below).

 Could you use free CRM Online training

We didn’t completely ditch the classroom approach, the videos are organized as “classes” and they guide you up a smooth academic slope towards CRM proficiency. After watching a video on the Success Portal, you’ll receive an e-mail that summarizes the content of the video, and it serves as a handy reference in the future. We also offer an extensive and growing number of quizzes that test what you have learned. You can take them or not; the quizzes are optional.

 Could you use free CRM Online training

Users of all types, from rookies to seasoned veterans, find immediate benefit in training for Microsoft CRM. Investing even a short amount of time into professional CRM Online education can make a world of difference. You’ll learn more than the best practices of simple tasks, you’ll also learn how to use features such as Reporting, Mail Merge, Duplicate Detection, and Workflows.

As “proud parents” of the Success Portal, we could talk about it for hours on end. We’ll save you the bore, but keep this in mind: CRM Online education doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be costly. You and your fellow coworkers can learn free at your own pace using the Success Portal, and you can always return for a quick visit to refresh on important topics!

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