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Five Ways to Access Microsoft Dynamics CRM When You’re Out of the Office

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Over the past couple of years, one of the most common things we’ve found people specify when talking about their CRM software requirements is that they need to be able to access the system when they’re out of the office.

Being able to access your CRM system at almost any time and from almost anywhere has certainly changed from the ‘nice to have’ requirement it seemed to be a few years ago. Now it’s a fundamental requirement of the majority of CRM projects we come across. Looking at the notes from some of the most recent discussions between our CRM Consultants and people contacting us for the first time, the snippets include:

- “I have five users in different locations across the country, they all need to use the system”

- “All of us need to be able to get into the system when we’re out of the office”.

- “Our Marketing team are office based but most of our sales team will need to use the new CRM system when they’re out visiting customers”.

There are a wide range of considerations to take into account when you’re choosing a CRM solution. However, if remote access to your system and data is important, then that’s certainly a tick in the box for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. And because different organisations have different requirements, there are a number of ways to set the product up to provide remote access. Here are five ways to do it:

1) Internet facing deployment (IFD) of Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premise (or partner hosted)

Traditionally, on-premise CRM software could only be accessed from an organisation’s internal network. Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s Internet Facing Deployment feature means your business partner or IT staff can set up the software so you can securely access it across the internet. It’s just like using the system from your office. Choosing on-premise with IFD is often the preferred choice for businesses that have a dedicated CRM server, a complex or highly customised system, or need a lot of memory (for example, they need to store a lot of multi-page documents, or larger scanned files or graphics). It can be set up so that it can be accessed internally only, internally and via the IFD, or just via IFD.

2) Use Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is the cloud-based version of the product. You can access the software from just about anywhere you can get an internet connection. This is a popular choice for many businesses, because accessing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online remotely is a fundamental feature of the product. It’s easy, straightforward and part of its design. It also delivers just about identical functionality to the on-premise version.

3) Access Microsoft Dynamics CRM using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) basically allows your individual users to securely connect to your company network (and therefore your Microsoft Dynamics CRM system) via the internet. Although internet facing deployment is generally the preferred option (using VPN can increase complexity and may limit bandwidth) there are times when you may want to use VPN. Note that VPN’s usually need to be set up by trained IT staff, so tend to be used within organisations that have their own IT department or are particularly IT savvy.

4) Set up Microsoft Dynamics CRM on Mobile devices

Microsoft has a mobile friendly version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM which means you can access it using a smartphone, tablet or similar device. It’s specially designed for mobile products so, like mobile web pages, offers ease of use and viewing. What’s more, in the next product update, due in the second quarter of 2012, there will be a new cloud based mobile CRM service called Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile. This will include a new range of CRM applications (apps) for the most popular smartphones and tablets. A licensed mobile user will be able to access Microsoft Dynamics CRM from up to three different mobile devices.

5) Access Data Offline

Occasionally we’re asked the question “I work in remote areas where there’s not always an internet connection. Can I still access CRM?” The answer is again yes. It is possible to set up Microsoft Dynamics CRM to enable you to work with your data ‘offline’ and synchronise it later. So, even if you can’t get an internet connection, you can still work and use the features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, wherever you are. In the next release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile will also have an offline mode for most devices.

Of the five options, using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online or using Internet Facing Deployment to access the system when out of the office are the most common. Mobile is also a popular choice (and is increasingly popular in line with the rise of smartphones), but VPN and offline data access are less common.

Every business is different, and there are various technical and other considerations you need to take into account before choosing how best to access your system remotely. We strongly recommend you talk to your Microsoft Dynamics CRM business partner (and if you have an IT department, talk to them as well) before deciding on which options are best for you.

For more information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM software, its features, functions and deployment options, please contact Concentrix TSG.

By Concentrix TSG, independent UK CRM Specialists

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