Originally published on MSDynamicsWorld.com September 30, 2015.
Is an apartment the best choice for everyone? Or is a single-family house the best fit? Many debates have ensued over the differences between these two very different housing options. Similar conversations occur around the differences between public cloud solutions (like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online & SalesForce.com) and private cloud (dedicated virtual instances in the cloud). A good way to think about the public cloud is like an apartment building - multiple residences all within one real-estate footprint. A private cloud deployment of CRM is similar to a single-family house - one family on one plot of land. Neither option is a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are three common misconceptions that I hear from customers all the time that might surprise even the most experienced CRM user.
Customizations may not carry over.
One of the great benefits of the public cloud is the automatic upgrades. For a customer with a plain-vanilla deployment of CRM, this provides a great advantage. When Microsoft releases Dynamics CRM 2013, and then 2015, and the next version after, the customer will always have immediate access to the latest version. However, for those customers that have done customizations and add-ons for the environment, this auto-upgrade feature can backfire and cause more damage than intended when data is lost, workflows fail, or applications are no longer able to integrate. The more customizations, the larger the problem and associated risk.
Think about it this way: if an apartment is suitable for you, then when the apartment complex paints the entire building one color - you are good to go! However, if you intended on heavily customizing the look of your apartment: painting, changing windows, knocking down walls, etc., well you get the idea: it is not a good fit - you would be better off with your own house.
Access to data is optional.
They are your contacts, leads, and files - but do they stay yours? Not necessarily. Many public & private cloud companies make it very difficult to access the core data behind your CRM system. If you want to keep the option open to have root access to your data anytime, including access to the SQL database, make sure to ask your cloud company before signing up about how they treat ownership of data - and if necessary clarify this point in your service agreements. Some companies will freely allow access for you at any time during your use of CRM, so just ask the question and choose according to your needs.
Apartments are great if you are ok with the location. You can technically pick-up and move a single-family house for a fee, but it would be absurd to think of moving one apartment out of a complex. While this may be a silly example, hopefully you get the point: the A/C, water, location, power, and the entire building is fixed and ultimately shared in an apartment complex - great for some purposes, not great for others.
You get what you pay for.
This may be obvious for other avenues in life, but when it comes to recurring subscriptions and monthly payments, it's all too easy to go for a bargain price, assuming that all "clouds" are the same. Au contraire - when you're entrusting your data to a cloud provider, ask the tough questions - Is my data backed up? Truly? Can I test it? What happens if you lose your primary datacenter? What is the likelihood you'll go out of business? Can I try the speed? Believe it or not, there are hosting companies out there with server-in-the-basement infrastructure with terrific marketing. Buyers-beware!
With real-estate you quickly learn the rule of "location, location, location." An apartment or house may show beautifully in an ad but you'll quickly learn the power of location when you start running comparisons on the neighborhood and see where the home is located. With the cloud, the "behind-the-scenes" stuff is critical: be sure to pick a good company with a good "location" for your data.
I've seen a lot of customers switch from CRM Online and other cloud providers to offerings that provide the uptime, flexibility, and access to data that their organizations need. They did not understand the risks of choosing the wrong cloud until they encountered the issues for themselves. The extra effort and pain involved to make a switch isn't an experience anyone desires.
For more information about making the right choice for your Microsoft CRM solution, view the on-demand webcast here, "Which Cloud is Right for Microsoft CRM." And if you are preparing for a move from one environment to another, download this practical checklist for your migration to the cloud.