What can you do with all those attachments that end up in Dynamics?
Our experts share their ideas.
You can use Dynamics 365 for many things, and tracking communication with customers is one of them. Unfortunately, this will most likely lead to plenty of Dynamics 365 attachments taking up a substantial amount of your Dynamics storage space.
We sat down with experts that deal with this on a regular basis to better understand what you can do about this.
Why Are Attachments a Problem in Dynamics?
Sherif Kenawy, Solution Architect at Connecting Software, explains the different ways attachments get into Microsoft Dynamics: “Attachments could be added to the timelines of entities like accounts, contacts, opportunities, etc. Attachments could also be added to activities, especially emails. Not to mention that if you are using the Dynamics CE Outlook app and you track your emails, every attachment, including email signatures, will end up being saved in your Dynamics CE.”
Vítor Baptista, Senior Developer at Connecting Software, tells us about the size of the problem: “It is not uncommon for a customer to have literally millions of attachments. Let’s say your company has 10 million attachments, like one of our recent customers. Then, if the average size of attachments is 150 KB, you are talking of 1.4 TB of storage space”.
Mesfin Gebretsadik from XcelHR, a leader company in Human Resources Services in the United States, was dealing with precisely that. Mesfin wanted to “reduce storage usage caused because of email attachments stored in Dynamics CRM itself”. He explained that having those attachments in Dynamics creates two problems, as it “eats up a lot of space and causes longer backup time”.
The Microsoft Side of It
Microsoft has increased the entitlements for storage capacity, but even so, many admins keep getting notifications like “Storage is over capacity”. Thomas Berndorfer, CEO of Connecting Software, warns that “With the capacity model that has been in use since 2019, when you have a capacity deficit in terms of file storage, you cannot make up for it with the space that you still have in database or log capacity. You really need to free up file storage and, as attachments take up so much space, taking them out of Dynamics is the way to go”, Thomas Berndorfer concludes.
As of October 2021, Microsoft split notifications into types: storage, database, and log. For example, a notification will be triggered when less than 15% of the file storage space is available, and then another one at 5%. As Thomas Berndorfer points out, “A final notification will trigger when the tenant’s file storage usage exceeds file storage capacity entitlements. This is called overage, and, in this case, several operations become unavailable until the lack of space is resolved.”
What Can Dynamics Admins Do about It?
Many Dynamics admins try manual fixes as an initial step. You can, for instance, delete unnecessary environments, but you cannot fix the lack of file storage space for long if you try to do it manually.
“Once you activate email tracking, emails get into Dynamics automatically, and that is why you need an automatic way to get the attachments out of Dynamics.”, Thomas Berndorfer remarks.
Microsoft Labs had an Attachment Management solution that moved attachments automatically to Azure Blob. Thomas Berndorfer explains what was good and bad about it “Azure Blob is meant for unstructured data, so you can’t think of it for organizing attachments into logical folder structures or anything like that. But it is reliable and cost-effective.”. “The thing is that Attachment Management is no longer an option.”, he warns.
Klaus Thyri, Technology Solutions Professional, Dynamics 365 at Microsoft confirms that “Attachment Management was deprecated in June 2021. An alternative solution on the market today is
Azure Blob vs. Azure Files vs. SharePoint
The CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor solution runs between Dynamics 365 online and:
- SharePoint 2013 / 2016 / 2019 / Online
- Azure File Storage
- Azure Blob Storage
“When our customers need help deciding which storage option is best for their Dynamics attachments, the first thing I ask them is if they already use Microsoft SharePoint or Office 365.”, Thomas Berndorfer reveals. “If they do, then we figure out the available space they have included in their existing subscription. When they have enough space or nearly enough space, then I always recommend SharePoint because it has features the others don’t, like the collaboration options, version control, and knowing who accessed what and when”, he goes on to explain. Sherif Kenawy shares his technical point of view “SharePoint is a document management system, so it’s an excellent choice for storing your documents. Easy to locate your documents, better folder structure and customized access based on permissions.”
What about Storage Costs?
The SharePoint storage pricing only varies based on the volume of data but is (potentially) the most expensive of the three, currently costing $0.20 per GB per month.
“When considering Azure Files vs. SharePoint or Azure Blob vs. SharePoint, I normally recommend using Microsoft Pricing Calculator to get a rough estimate. This is because both Azure Files and Azure Blob use multiple criteria, and it is a bit more difficult to do the math. For example, Blob storage pricing varies based on the volume of data, the number of operations performed, your region, and your data redundancy needs. It is not that obvious!” he admits.
“Both alternatives are excellent choices to Dynamics CE storage,” Sherif Kenawy agrees. “Regardless of the approach chosen, the entire process is transparent to the end-user. The end-user doesn’t know that his document was immediately transferred to external storage. He will continue to access and use his attachment from Dynamics CE the same way he did before. In fact, no end-user should have access to this backend storage, but you could need that access. Therefore, the deciding factor is your preference and your business needs outside Dynamics CE.”
He goes on to explain the criteria for choosing between Azure and SharePoint Storage, “If you need easy direct structured access to the attachments transferred from Dynamics CE, then go for SharePoint. If you already have SharePoint and your users are familiar with SharePoint, then it makes sense to use SharePoint instead of adding another system to your list of systems. Less is More!”
Moreover, he gives a special recommendation for those customers who are using or planning to use
Nonetheless, there are also cases in which he recommends Azure: “If you just need backend storage for your Dynamics CE attachments, and there is no need for users to access those documents or if the access is minimal, then go for Azure. Or, if you are already using Azure Blob/File storage for other purposes, go for Azure as well.”
By Ana Neto
Software engineer since 1997, she is now a technical advisor for Connecting Software.