3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Keeping Your Attachments in Dynamics 365

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3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Keeping Your Attachments in Dynamics 365If you have been using Dynamics for a while, you are likely aware that Dynamics 365 email attachments can quickly eat up your storage space. This becomes especially relevant when considering the Dynamics 365 storage capacity and the cost of additional storage for that CRM. It's not just email attachments – even other types of attachments, like the notes you create for contacts and accounts, can consume large portions of your available storage. As such, it is important to efficiently manage space availability and optimize attachment management within Dynamics 365.
Towards the end of this article, we look at alternative locations to store these attachments - at a minimal cost and maximum benefit. But before getting there, we will tell you about the three main reasons why you should not keep your attachments inside Microsoft Dynamics, and the best practices to help you avoid maxing out your storage.

Store attachments in Dynamics 365?

An Insight from a Real Dynamics Admin

Here is an actual request received by an IT expert about Dynamics 365:

One of our clients is having a problem with increasing database size very quickly. The huge database size is also becoming a performance issue. Besides, the client is looking for decreasing the storage costs. Current database size is 530GB.

We have checked the free add-on from Microsoft but we are reluctant about bringing it in our org full scale. Besides, looking for more functionality like extracting old and new documents.

Here’s a kicker: we have sensitive documents so we would prefer them not to run through any external service.

We also cannot employ anything outside the constraints of what we currently have in our Azure tenancy, that being: Dynamics 365 with the option of uploading custom plugins and/or custom workflow tasks or currently paid-for PaaS facilities, notably Flow. This eliminates the option of having a console-based application, or even a web app.

Problems with Storing Attachments in Dynamics 365

This D365 Admin was faced with a very common problem in the cloud CRM world: the free 10GB of storage provided as part of a Plan 1 subscription will eventually run out. This can feel even more limiting when coming from an on-premises version, since storage is determined by the disk size, as opposed to the cloud, where the subscription dictates the amount of storage you are entitled to.
That said, let’s look at the reasons why this request was submitted in the first place:

Reason #1

Having less storage available can decrease performance

Besides the issue with exceeded storage capacity, slow performance is also mentioned in the query received by the D365 Admin. As you may have experienced already, running low on storage can make your Microsoft Dynamics performance drop significantly. Think of it as the system becoming overwhelmed by the volume of stored files it holds.

Reason #2

Free storage space in Dynamics 365 Online is limited

Yes, complimentary storage limits are not as restrictive as they once were, but they are still quite limited by today’s standards. The average file size has generally increased over the years due to factors like higher-resolution media and complex document formats. Thus, it’s important to consider this potentially deceptive increase to get a clearer understanding of the cloud D365 storage issue.
Filtering no-longer-needed documents for deletion is an option to increase available storage, but this is only a temporary fix that will not be of much help in the long run.
As for paid storage upgrades, it is also important to note that pricing and pricing tiers are constantly updated, so you should always refer to the latest version for the most up-to-date information.

Reason #3

Attachments are documents: the best place for them is a Document Management System (DMS)

We are blunt about this: Microsoft Dynamics is not a DMS. Wanting to centralize all attachments related to customers and prospects in D365 is completely valid, but the truth is that Dynamics is simply not the place to do it. Besides its low storage optimization, it lacks important features like version control or the ability to collaborate on a document with a colleague at the same time.
So, what comes next? These reasons have their logic, but there must be something that can be done to solve this entire storage ordeal.

Freeing up Dynamics Storage Space

Circling back to Reason #2, here are contents you can delete once you have reached the max capacity of your D365 storage allowance:

  • Emails and note attachments you will not need in the future (Tip: use advanced find and bulk deletion to remove them)
  • Bulk jobs themselves occupy space, so delete the ones you no longer require (this includes bulk duplicate detection jobs, bulk import jobs and bulk deletion jobs)
  • Audit logs
  • Unrequired workflows
  • Contacts, accounts, and opportunities that are no longer relevant
  • Unused queues.

Deleting these contents can help your Dynamics instance “breathe” a little bit, though, as we mentioned, this is not a realistic fix in the long run. Chances are most of your storage allowance is taken up by files and attachments spread throughout your CRM. This is especially true for companies that track their emails to D365, because this brings all attached files into the system.

 

In fact, in Dynamics, attachments spread across several entities: Leads, Contacts, Accounts, Opportunities, Competitors, Products, Price lists, Quotes, Invoices, Goals, Appointments, Campaign Activities, and much more. The good news is that, if you are using Dynamics 365 Online, you can keep track of your overall database usage in a a single location.

The Advantages of Document Management Systems

As we mentioned, and just like every other cloud CRM system, Dynamics 365 is not a DMS. Since it was designed to manage customer relations and not to store documents, the logical thing to do is forward all attachments to a DMS.

Microsoft SharePoint is the best option for storing Dynamics documents and having document management capabilities. This is because SharePoint is the DMS that is most compatible with D365, as both systems are developed by Microsoft. Not only does it have document management capabilities, it has cheaper storage – win-win!

There are many advantages to using a DMS like SharePoint to store Dynamics 365 attachments. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Improved functionality: SharePoint provides a more robust set of document management features than Dynamics 365, such as version control, metadata tagging, and search capabilities. This can help you to better organize, track, and find your documents.
  • Greater scalability: As storage is cheaper, SharePoint can more easily accommodate the growing volume of your storage needs, making it a more scalable solution.
  • Better collaboration: SharePoint makes it easy to collaborate on documents with others, which can help to improve efficiency and productivity.
  • Reduced costs: SharePoint is a cost-effective solution, especially if you already have a Microsoft 365 subscription.

In addition to these benefits, SharePoint is also a familiar and easy-to-use platform for many users.

Other Storage Alternatives for your Attachments in Dynamics

Alternative Storage Options for Attachments in Dynamics 365

Using Azure Blob Storage to store Microsoft Dynamics 365 Attachments is another cost-saving option, though it provides no document management capabilities. Azure Blob is a Microsoft Azure cloud-based storage solution that you can use to store and retrieve Binary Large Objects (BLOBs). It allows users/organizations to expose their unstructured data to customers anywhere through REST-based object storage.

Similarly, Azure File Storage is also a sound alternative because it has much more storage available at only a fraction of the cost compared to Dynamics 365. Though, do note the Microsoft Dynamics 365 & Azure storage combination also does not come with any document management capabilities. Azure options are most suitable if you are only looking for a cheaper storage alternative for D365 attachments, without any additional features.

How to Synchronize Attachments in Dynamics 365 with SharePoint, Azure Storage, or Azure Blob

Once you have chosen which of these options best fits your needs, the next step is to create a plan to answer this question: how to automatically save email attachments to Azure or SharePoint?

Regardless of which system is right for you, integrating it with Dynamics manually is not an option. All that effort would significantly harm productivity and increase costs exponentially – what you need is a Dynamics 365 integration to extract your attachments. Fortunately, the software market offers several solutions for getting files out of this CRM together with plenty of added features.

Attachment Manager by Microsoft Labs was a free add-on for Dynamics 365, but Microsoft discontinued it back in June 2021. Dynamics 365 Online Admins used it mainly to save on storage costs. However, it was only a viable solution for those looking to save email attachments to Azure Blob. For users looking to use SharePoint as their repository, Attachment Manager alone did not make the cut.

More on this at: https://www.crmsoftwareblog.com/2021/11/microsoft-labs-attachment-management-deprecation-and-alternatives/ 

 

CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor for your Attachments in Dynamics

A more flexible and overall better option is CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor – a Dynamics 365 integration tool by Connecting Software. Have a look at this demo and see for yourself:

Extracting Attachments in Dynamics to other storage alternatives with CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor - demo video

 

As you can tell from the video, this solution transfers any attachments from Microsoft Dynamics to other configured storage. It makes it look as if the attachments are still in Dynamics to allow users to interact with them as usual, making the behind-the-scenes process completely transparent (hence, “Seamless” in the name). In reality, attachments are automatically offloaded to either SharePoint, Azure File Storage, or Azure Blob Storage as soon as they are created in Dynamics.

Using this innovative attachment extractor ensures documents no longer consume storage within your D365 org. Our experts highlight that attachments remain accessible to users who have access to the respective record in Dynamics 365, without any modification of their workflows with D365 files. Any updates made to the files are also synchronized with the designated external file storage system.

Sounds enticing? Our solution has been excelling since 2019, but don’t take our word for it! Ask for your free trial to see it for yourself.

 

What Is Special About CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor

Unlike other solutions, CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor prioritizes security. Your documents remain within the Dynamics environment and the chosen destination storage, without passing through any external services. This approach not only safeguards sensitive data but also ensures compliance with privacy policies like GDPR.

Another standout feature is the "First Pass" service. Upon installation, it can automatically transfer attachments to SharePoint or Azure storage that existed prior to the installation of the attachment extractor. This feature is invaluable if you already have limited space at installation. It doesn't just work for future attachments – it works for all attachments. That’s top-tier Dynamics 365 attachment management for you!

Moreover, this solution excels in file compression/decompression, and can easily encrypt/decrypt them using AES256 encryption. This is the encryption standard that the U.S. government adopted and it is also used worldwide. A true favorite among customers!

 

This solution was updated to v.3.0. earlier this year! Have a look at all its new features: https://www.connecting-software.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-cb-dynamics-365-seamless-attachment-extractor-3/

What Versions Does CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor Support?

The version used by CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor on the CRM side is Dynamics 365 Online. As for external file storage options, here is a full list of the ones you can consider:

  • SharePoint
    • Online
    • 2019
    • 2016
    • 2013
  • Azure File Storage
  • Azure Blob storage

If you have an Office 365 subscription, then you can use the SharePoint Online license that is included for this.

If you are seeking features like collaborative file editing, Microsoft SharePoint is a no-brainer. On the other hand, you might find the Azure Blob and Azure File Storage options the optimal choice if your focus is on sending attachments elsewhere to free up space in Dynamics 365.

No matter the option you choose, rest assured that CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor will move your files and free up your D365 storage without any effort. Allow yourself to focus on more important tasks while our service runs in the background.

For questions, a free 15-day trial, or a demo, feel free to reach out to our experts. We would love to hear from you!

Talk to our experts

 

 

Ana Neto - Connecting Software - author of the article

By Ana Neto, Connecting Software. Connecting Software creates integration and synchronization software. Connecting Software is a 15-year-old company, with 40 employees spread in 4 different countries.

Collaboration: Diogo Gouveia

We operate globally, and we are also a proud “Top Member” and "Top Blogger" at CRMSoftwareBlog.

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Originally published on Oct 13, 2020 at https://www.crmsoftwareblog.com/

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