Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Private Cloud

We applaud what has to be described as a major level of commitment on the part of Microsoft to use the accumulated 30 or so years of clout to embrace, inform, and lead the multitude that is their customer base to the concept of “Cloud Computing.”  Between Azure and Office365 it would seem that they have just about all the bases covered.

Well, almost. For those of us who are on the front lines every day, providing solutions for organization of all sizes, we run into compelling reasons for alternative architectures.  I’m referring to the concept of “Private Cloud,” and being a Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner, the context of this discussion will be that product.

Deployment Models and the Power of Choice

But we should back up a couple of steps here and explain some things. With all of the press and discussion these days about the success of the Office365 family, which includes Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, we notice that we don’t hear about the “Power of Choice” much anymore, when it comes to deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and when it comes to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online vs. Microsoft Dynamics On-Premise.  The intention of this next section is to explain fully the various choices of deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online – this is the cloud-based version, hosted by Microsoft, and if you didn’t dig a little, you might walk away thinking this is the ONLY version out there.  But it’s not.  This version, incidentally, is a perfectly fine, and perhaps even the best choice for a certain set of needs:

  • Data stored in a secure cloud hosted by Microsoft.
  • The latest and greatest in terms of updates and new functionality.
  • No requirements for complex home-grown solutions built on top of CRM, or tricky integrations with other systems.
  • A company that needs 5 or more CRM users. (Five users at $65/month, at the time of this writing, is the minimum monthly investment, unless you have Office365 E3+, then it’s $50/user.)

It’s no wonder why this (relatively speaking) “turn-key solution” is wildly popular with most of the companies who require little in terms of complexity and who have just the right number of users.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Premises – this means that your company will purchase the licenses to run Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server, plus the Client Access Licenses required for each user. This is a one-time fee, and you can optionally purchase Software Assurance to ensure that you would get the inevitable updates and new versions as they are released from Microsoft. You would also need to supply the hardware to run the CRM Server software, one way or another, though a lease option, or through outright purchase. You would also need to install the software, and also install software ancillary and supporting software if you don’t already have it, such as SQL Server, Windows Server, etc.

Needless to say, this could potentially be a daunting task, and it can be expensive (you must get official pricing from a “Large Account Reseller”, but roughly figure about $7,500 or more for the server license plus about $1,500 or more for each client (CRM User) license, plus somewhat less expensive licenses for SQL Server, etc.  And finally the hardware to make it run.  Figure about $15,000 in hardware costs for a relatively small company that has to buy all hardware. So as you can see this only really makes sense if at least most of the following is true about your company:

  • You like to “own” software – that is, you are adverse to “leasing” or paying indefinitely on a per-user basis.
  • Your company has the budget.
  • Your company either has the knowledge or doesn’t mind hiring the knowledge to install and configure the initial deployment.
  • You are committed to the software, such that you will receive the full ROI over time.
  • You have special needs, such as the ability to directly access the SQL database.
  • You need to deploy code that is not “sandboxed.” (This is because Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online only supports plugins that run in “Sandbox” mode, which prevents certain types of programmatic calls to the API.)

Trust us, there are many, many On-Premises instances of Microsoft Dynamics CRM out there – it’s just that because of the barriers to entry, we tend to see this for larger organizations. This is especially true because of the unique method of deployment shown below.

The Sweet Spot – Private Cloud, Dedicated Hosting

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Private Cloud Hosting – this is a rather interesting deployment model in that it allows for all of the benefits of the On-Premise model, such as:

  • Direct SQL Access and control over the CRM SQL Database
  • Full administrative management (RDP Access) of the Windows CRM application server
  • Complete control over the ability to run code in Sandbox mode or not.

The reason for this is that at a technical level, this is an On-Premises deployment.

And yet – and here is the very interesting part – there are none of the On-Premise costs for server software or hardware! In fact, this licensing model, if provided by a certain type of Microsoft Partner, can in some cases match the $65/user/month that CRM Online provides.

How is this possible?  Because of a relatively little-known Microsoft type of Partnership called “Service Provider Licensing Agreement.”  This allows companies like ours to offer monthly licensing on on-premise deployments of software like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SQL Server, etc.

The level of this type of service depends largely on the attitude of the service provider.  In our case, we take a very customized and service-oriented approach.  Every one of our Private Cloud customers are special, and we treat them that way. Thus, we are able to assist companies with just a few users who have interesting needs, as well as large enterprise companies that would rather farm out the server and application management because they have enough going on already. And of course, the large number of companies that lie between those extremes. Wherever you go next, please take the time to investigate thoroughly plans like the ones we offer, so you have a full picture of what is available.

The key to determining whether you are one of those companies that requires this level of service is to ask yourself some of the questions represented by those bullet points above, and then educate yourself as to what is available by reading articles like this one, and visiting sites like ours.

 

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Two Weeks Left to Earn Funds with Microsoft SMB Advantage

Microsoft SMB Advantage

SMB Advantage, a new incentive program from Microsoft targeted to small and midsized companies, expires on November 30, 2013. This program allows you to earn subsidy funds that you can apply towards future purchases of Microsoft software licenses, subscriptions, or associated services from eligible Microsoft partners such as xRM.

There is no better time to buy additional Microsoft licenses than during the SMB Advantage program. The program represents an excellent opportunity to defray the costs of implementing a new Microsoft solution or to lower the upfront cost of upgrading to the latest versions of Microsoft software.

SMB Advantage provides four ways for Microsoft customers to earn funds:

1. Purchase Open Licenses
2. Subscribe to Online Services
3. Buy Windows Server and Office 365 Online Services
4. Buy Windows Server and Deploy with Hyper-V

There are numerous products that are eligible including the latest on-premises software and cloud-based services. You can download a list of all products eligible for SMB Advantage.

Payout Structure

The total payout amount will be determined according to the rate structure below and the calculation details described in the terms and conditions.

The Microsoft SMB Advantage Payout Schedule

Whether you are looking to make the move to the cloud, upgrade your server, or purchase new software, this subsidy check can be used to enrich your Microsoft solution. To earn with SMB Advantage, you need to purchase an eligible product or products, claim your rebate, and then receive a subsidy check made payable to a Microsoft partner of your choice. You then have 90 days from the issue date to spend the subsidy funds on additional Microsoft licenses, subscriptions, or services (such as consulting) from a Microsoft partner. Take advantage of SMB Advantage today by contacting xRM at sales@xrm.com. For additional information check out the SMB Advantage FAQ.

xRM (www.xrm.com) is a Microsoft Partner and Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle invitee providing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, application hosting, software development, and consulting. We offer our customers unparalleled choice and flexibility when it comes to deployment models (on-premise, hosted, or hybrid) and professional services.

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Should You Switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Too?

You might be considering your CRM options right about now. If your company has a demand for automated workflows across sales, service, and marketing; a desire to cut expenses without sacrificing quality; or the need for greater flexibility, Microsoft Dynamics CRM could be the answer. Numerous companies are making the switch from CRM providers like Salesforce.com or Oracle, to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and they are seeing positive results.

Century Payments switched. Century Payments Inc. has reported great savings since making the switch from Salesforce.com to Microsoft Dynamics CRM in 2009. Recently ranked 11th on the Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Companies list, Century Payments announced that as of March 2011 it has saved over $300,000 thanks to MSCRM. Scott Harlow, vice president of information technologies and security at Century Payments said, “…We alleviated significant costs by leveraging existing resources to rapidly design and develop our new core platform.” Thanks to a rise in end-user adoption, and overall productivity, Century Payments now has a solid foundation that will scale and adapt accordingly as they continue to expand.

Smead switched. Smead, a solutions provider for document management, announced in November 2010, that one month after making the change from Salesforce.com to Dynamics CRM Online they recorded a 75 percent reduction in annual subscription costs. Smead also noted an increase in user adoption by 20 percent, improved collaboration among employees, and a higher level of business intelligence to its managers. Daniel Hart, Smead systems development manager said, “In addition to offering a seamless experience across our systems, features such as customizable dashboards give our managers insight into accounts, sales, and opportunities, which helps them make more informed  decisions.”

Microsoft is offering incentives to make the switch more attractive. Customers that switch by June 30, 2011, receive $200 cash per user to switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (minimum 15 seats, maximum 250 seats). Companies can use the cash for any purpose, but xRM suggests that the cash would be well spent on deployment services from xRM such as data migration, training, and customizations, making switching a smoother and more effective process.

Microsoft sets Dynamics CRM Online apart from its competitors through seamless integration with other Microsoft software, such as Microsoft Office. By leveraging other Microsoft products like Windows Azure, Microsoft SharePoint, and the new Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, customers receive more than just CRM software, they receive a holistic business solution to fill their technical needs. Unlike Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has the ability to serve as a cog in a greater machine.

Your business needs every edge it can get to gain a leg up on the competition. When comparing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online vs. Salesforce.com, there are a dozen reasons to choose the former. A familiar interface for end users who have worked with Microsoft products increases user adoption rates. Real-time dashboards and in-line business intelligence foster better decision making. By making the switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, your business will be in the company of a plethora of others who cut user costs by 50% and reached 100% user adoption. Take advantage of the rebate, and xRM can deliver a smooth transition, and a highly efficient solution. Give your business the chance to thrive by switching to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 – Partner Hosted Model

The Partner Hosted Model of Microsoft CRM 4.0

Partner Hosted Model imageMicrosoft CRM is available in two slightly different hosted models. One is served up and hosted by Microsoft. Microsoft calls this product CRMLive. The other is served up by Microsoft hosting partners and is called the Partner Hosted Model. Although both offerings are essentially the same product, there are key differences between them.

Without getting into too much detail, the primary difference between the offerings is FLEXIBILITY. CRMLive is what it is and you don’t have too many options. With the partner hosted model you have maybe too many options. Unlike the rigid CRMLive offering, the partner hosted model allows the customer to pretty much do anything they want. From dedicated hardware, to a place for custom code or plug-ins, anything is possible. Additionally, Microsoft does not control the partner hosted model and partners are allowed to get creative and create value for their hosted offering anyway they see fit. Obviously the reporting of the license usage is a must for all partners but apart from that, they are free to provide value anyway they see fit.

Similar to CRMLive having a Pro and ProPlus offering, many partners have the same or similar product offerings. In addition to the Pro and ProPlus offerings, many partners offer hosted vs. host only models, dedicated environment options, and month to month commitments are available. Setup fees and hosting rates vary depending on many variables.

Pricing ranges from $35.95 to $55.95 per user per month in the shared hosted model with limited setup fees for 12 month commitments. For a month to month commitment the recurring costs are still between $35.95 and $55.95, but the setup fees are higher.

In the host only dedicated environment the customer must purchase the CRM licenses and provide them to the hosting company. This will allow the hosting company NOT TO charge them for the CRM subscriber access licenses. This translates to approximately $14/user less per month. It is important to note that the host only model does indeed require a dedicated server.

The other nice thing about the hosted model is that you can leverage it to mitigate your CRM risk and pain. CRM can be a risky proposition. Hosting allows you to ease into the product then make informed and better decisions down the line. Typically there is no cost to move from one model to another. And, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the product never changes, regardless of what model you select. Whether you host or install on-premise, the product operates exactly the same. The users have the same two interfaces which are Outlook and Internet Explorer and the CRM administrators are also presented with the same tools to customize/configure the product.

Last but not least most hosting partners hosting Microsoft CRM also host the other core Microsoft services such as Exchange, SharePoint, Unified Communications, etc. The important thing here is to understand how to leverage the licensing, which in the hosted world is referred to has subscriber access licenses.

Would be happy to answer any questions and provide more information on any of the above.

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