Article last updated on: October 20, 2021
All organizations reach the free storage limit in Dynamics 365 sooner or later. In this article, we will examine possible scenarios of dealing with the issue of exhausting the available storage limit in the cloud CRM – at minimal cost and maximum benefit.
A typical issue with D365 storage space
Let’s look at an example of a request to IT experts dealing with Dynamics 365 issues:
"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."
This request from a D365 admin reflects a typical constraint of the cloud CRM: the free 10GB storage that is the default subscription capacity runs out sooner or later. And if you are a mid-size organization, you easily have a 100+ GB database that will eat up the storage in the blink of an eye pushing you to pay for extra storage or look for alternative solutions. This is especially true if you track your emails in Dynamics. The email attachments quickly consume the storage space that is available and this is why attachment management is critical in dynamics 365.
Try reducing the storage space in D365
Monitoring D365 health is essential. By doing that, you ensure the system’s optimal performance and enough space for growth.
When you reach 80% of your total storage capacity, the system should send you an alert so that you can take action.
Here is what one can do to reduce storage space and, therefore reduce storage costs:
- Delete outdated records, such as cases and opportunity
- Remove unnecessary email and note attachments through advanced find and bulk deletion
- Evaluate and delete suspended workflows
- Remove bulk duplicate detection jobs and associated copies of duplicate records
- Delete bulk import instances
- Delete bulk deletion job instances using a bulk deletion job
- Delete audit logs
Although these recommendations are sensible, we can’t guarantee their effectiveness for all organizations. According to various estimates, the problem is that documents and attachments occupy 70% of the storage space in Dynamics 365. If your organization tracks emails in the CRM system as most companies do, free storage shrinks quickly – beyond reversible with traditional measures.
Leveraging document management systems
Dynamics 365, just like every other cloud CRM system, has been primarily designed to manage customer relations and not store documents. Because of this, the best-proven practice of avoiding extra costs for document storage is forwarding them to systems with cheaper storage.
Document storage in Dynamics 365 is something that most companies avoid because of its cost. Of course, if you don't want to store documents and attachments in Dynamics, you must look for alternatives.
Among most popular are such document management systems (DMS) as SharePoint, and other Microsoft options like Azure Blob, and Azure File Storage etc. They have much more storage available for only a fraction of a cost compared to Dynamics 365.
As for SharePoint, with cheaper storage, organisations receive immense collaborating opportunities. A few of which we explore in this SharePoint Structure Creator post.
Dynamics 365 attachment management with Azure Blob Storage
Azure Blob is a cloud-based storage solution provided by Microsoft Azure that can be used to store and retrieve Binary Large Objects (BLOBs). Azure Blob Storage allows users to specify an access tier (Premium, Hot, Cool, or Archive) based on the frequency of access to data in that account. Pricing is then done based on the tier.
Azure Blob Storage allows organizations to expose their unstructured data to customers anywhere through a REST-based object storage. In other words, it makes it easier to share data between applications.
It is a fact that you don't get the document management capabilities of SharePoint, like collaboration on the same document, or version control, but maybe for your specific case you feel you don't need that for attachments. And it is normally even cheaper than SharePoint in terms of storage cost. It can be up to three times cheaper.
All in all, storing attachments in Azure blobs can, not only save you money, but also allow you to share these files with other Azure applications easily.
How to synchronise Dynamics 365 with SharePoint or Azure Blob
For a user to send Dynamics 365 attachments and documents to a DMS storage, the two systems need to be synchronized. Of course, manually transferring the attachments and documents is possible too, but that is the kind of task that no one wants and that reduces productivity dramatically.
Currently, the software market offers several solutions for extracting attachments from Dynamics 365 with various features and functionality.
One of them is a free solution from Microsoft Labs. Attachment Management is an add-on feature to Dynamics 365 CRM.
Note: Microsoft deprecated Attachment Management in June 2021 and you can no longer find it in AppSource. The following paragraphs mention the problems we found when using it in 2020. For a cost-effective alternative to Attachment Extractor, skip to the next section.
It creates an attachment in Azure when a note or email attachment is added to Dynamics 365 and deletion of the file in Dynamics after the file has been created in Azure Blob storage.
However, D365 experts recommend this free add-on with caution. Firstly, because Microsoft does not officially support it. “The purpose is to show the possibility of an alternate storage platform for Dynamics 365 (…) This solution should not be used in a Production instance as this is not officially supported. It should only be used in a Non-Production instance such Dev or a Test”, writes CRMTipoftheday.
Secondly, tech support for free apps is usually limited, so you may have to rely on yourself in the case of friction. And finally, the solution works only for Azure Blob, so should you choose SharePoint with its document collaboration advantages, you need to look for other synchronization options.
CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor to Reduce Dynamics 365 Storage Costs
At Connecting Software, we have been working on synchronization solutions since 2009, and have noticed that the limited storage space is a chronic pain in many cloud CRM systems. We started with the Document Extractor, which solves the super expensive storage space issue for Salesforce.
In 2019, having collected our best expertise, we launched CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor for Dynamics 365
The solution solves the problem with expensive storage space in Dynamics 365. It transfers any attachment files seamlessly from CRM to other configured storage but mimics the presence of the attachment files in CRM.
It means that the actions of the solution are transparent to the end-user. Dynamics 365 attachments still appear as stored in Dynamics as the users expect. Most importantly, the user can still work with these attachments the same way as if they were stored in Dynamics. The truth of the matter is that the attachments are offloaded to another file storage such as SharePoint, Azure File Storage, and Azure Blob Storage, but this is transparent for the user.
As our experts point out, with this solution, you can be sure that each document will not occupy storage space in D365 while, at the same time, it will be reachable to users who have access to the respective record in Dynamics 365 without any modification of their workflows. Any additional modification of the Dynamics365 files will be projected to the configured external file storage automatically.
Why is CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor special?
Its most outstanding feature is security. Unlike with some solutions on the market, with CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor, your documents do not leave your CRM and storage systems. There is no external service in-between. This is important for companies that take care of sensitive data or want to protect themselves against GDPR violations.
Another handy feature unique for the market is that is can compress/decompress files on-the-fly and as encrypt/decrypt them with AES256 encryption, which was adopted by the U.S. government and is now used worldwide.
On top of that, if you have actually reached the 80% of the storage space limit, this solution will automatically go through the attachments which existed prior to installing the app and move them to SharePoint, Azure Blob or other location to your choice.
More on technical characteristics of the CB D365 Attachment Extractor
The software is extracting any activitymimeattachment and annotation entities from D365. It means, you can set it up to extract attachments from any kind of entity:
- Alert Subscription
- Invite Redemption
- Portal Comment
- Quick Campaign
- Campaign Activity
- Campaign Response
- Chat Activity
- Case Resolution
- PointDrive Presentation Created
- PointDrive Presentation Viewed
- Booking Alert
- Survey Activity
- Opportunity Close
- Order Close
- Phone Call
- Quote Close
- Recurring Appointment
- Service Activity
- Social Activity
The solution runs between Dynamics 365 online and:
- SharePoint 2013
- SharePoint 2016
- SharePoint 2019
- SharePoint Online
- Office 365
- Azure File Storage
- Azure Blob Storage
Take advantage of having Dynamics 365 attachments out of Dynamics 365 automatically. Get the attachments to SharePoint, Azure Blob or Azure Storage seamlessly. Allow this software to take care of the health of your Dynamics 365 while you are concentrating on more important tasks.
Article last updated on: October 20, 2021
Ana Neto & Anastasia Mazur
Anastasia Mazur - Expert on business needs for business software integration and synchronization.
Ana Neto - Software engineer since 1997, she is now a technical advisor for Connecting Software.