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

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The thing about Dynamics 365 email attachments is that they take up space. Lots of space. And then you have other kinds of attachments, for example in Notes, and those take up space too…

In this article, we will start by looking at the three main reasons you should not keep your attachments inside Microsoft Dynamics. We will then examine possible actions to avoid reaching the available Dynamics storage limit and, finally, consider where to place the attachments – with minimal cost and maximum benefit.

Store attachments in Dynbamics 365

A Real World Request from a Dynamics Admin

Let’s start with an actual request an IT expert got 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.

Dynamics 365 & Attachments Don’t Go Well Together

This D365 admin’s request reflects a typical constraint of the cloud CRM: free storage 10GB provided as part of a Plan 1 subscription run out sooner or later. Dynamics CRM storage feels especially limited if you were previously using an on-premises version (where disk size is the limit) and then go for the cloud version (where subscription size is the limit).

Truth be told, limitations of space are not as tight as they used to be. But they are still limited, and this is Reason 1:

Free storage space on Dynamics 365 Online is limited.

On top of that, pricing and tiers for pricing keep changing, making it difficult to keep track. At the time of this writing, the last update was in Oct 2020. You can check the latest version here.

The D365 admin also mentions another frequent complaint from users: performance. In a system as critical as Dynamics 365, performance is key. Having attachments flooding it, makes the performance decrease.

This is Reason 2:

Increasing storage size can cause a performance decrease.

We come to the final reason. Although you want to have all information about customers and prospects right inside Dynamics, including the documents exchanged with your company, there is an obvious problem with storing documents there: there is no Document Management For Dynamics 365. Things like version control or collaboration on the same document are simply not available.

This is Reason 3:

Attachments are documents. The best place for them is a Document Management System.

These are the three reasons why you should avoid keeping your attachments in Dynamics 365. The question now is: what can you do about it? Let’s start with the problem presented in reason 1. To attack it, you have several possibilities you can explore.

Trying to free up Dynamics storage space

To reduce occupied Dynamics storage space, you can:

  • Delete records you no longer need, such as cases and opportunities
  • Find unnecessary email and note attachments through advanced find and then use bulk deletion to remove them
  • Evaluate all suspended workflows and delete the ones you no longer need
  • Remove bulk duplicate detection jobs, bulk import jobs and bulk deletion jobs – bulk jobs take up space themselves, so delete the ones you no longer use
  • Delete audit logs

Although these recommendations are sensible, the space you will be able to free up using them will vary, depending on your organization and your use of Dynamics. The problem is that, according to various estimates, 70% of storage space in Dynamics 365 is occupied with documents and attachments. If your organization tracks emails in the CRM system like most companies do, free storage shrinks quickly – beyond reversible with traditional measures.

Are Attachments Really Taking up So Much Space in My Dynamics?

Attachments can indeed be almost everywhere, meaning attached to any of the following Dynamics entities (and more):

  • Leads
  • Contacts
  • Accounts
  • Opportunities
  • Competitors
  • Products
  • Price lists
  • Quotes
  • Invoices
  • Goals
  • Appointments
  • Campaign Activities

Attachments stored in Dynamics will increase the storage space that you need. If using Dynamics 365 Online, you can view your database usage at https://admin.powerplatform.microsoft.com/resources/capacity

The Advantages of Document Management Systems

Because Dynamics 365, just like every other cloud CRM system, has been primarily designed to manage customer relations and not store documents, the best-proven practice of avoiding extra costs for document storage is forwarding each attachment to SharePoint.

It has cheaper storage AND document management capabilities. After all, Microsoft SharePoint is Microsoft’s Document Management System (DMS), so it does make sense that it is the top-of-mind solution for this problem.

Storage for Dynamics Attachments

Alternatively, you can have attachments saved to Azure File Storage. The cost advantage definitely applies: it has much more storage available for only a fraction of a cost than Dynamics 365. The Microsoft Dynamics 365 & Azure storage combination does not come with the document management capabilities, however.

Finally, you can have attachments saved to Azure Blob Storage. 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. Using Azure Blob Storage For Storing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Attachments is also a cost-saving option that provides no document management capabilities.

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

Once you have decided to store your attachments elsewhere, the question becomes how to automatically save email attachments to Azure or SharePoint. No one wants to have to handle this task manually, as that would make all the productivity and cost gains go to waste.

What you need is an attachment extractor for Dynamics 365, and, fortunately, the software market currently offers several solutions for getting attachments out of Dynamics 365 with varying features and functionality.

One of these is a free solution from Microsoft Labs. Attachment Management is an add-on for Dynamics 365 CRM. When a user adds a note or email attachment in Dynamics 365, it creates an attachment in Azure and deletes the file in Dynamics after the file has been created in Azure Blob storage.

However, Dynamics 365 experts recommend using this free add-on with caution. The main reason for this caution is that 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.

Tech support for free software is usually limited, so you may have to rely on yourself in case of any trouble. And finally, the solution only works if you want to save email attachments to Azure Blob, so should you want to save email attachments to SharePoint with its document collaboration advantages, you need to look for other synchronization options.

CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor

At Connecting Software, we developed CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor. Given the market results since its release in 2019, we are convinced that we have a best-in-class solution.  But we don’t expect you to take our word for it. Check out the features, watch the demo video, and ask for your free trial to see it for yourself.

attachmentextractor demo video

Like the name states, CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor is an attachment extractor for Dynamics 365. The solution transfers any attachment files from the CRM to other configured storage, but this is transparent for the end-user. It looks as if the attachment is still in Dynamics (hence, the Seamless in the name), the user can still work with them the normal way. As a matter of fact, they are offloaded automatically to another file storage (SharePoint, Azure File Storage, or Azure Blob Storage) as soon as they are created.

With this solution, documents will not occupy storage space in D365 and, at the same time, as our experts point out, documents will be reachable to users who have access to the respective record in Dynamics365 without any modification of their workflows with D365 files. Any additional change of the Dynamics365 files will be passed on to the configured external file storage automatically.

What Is Special About CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor

Its most outstanding feature is security. Unlike some solutions on the market, with CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor, your documents do not go through any external service, just Dynamics and the chosen destination storage. This is important for GDPR compliance and for protecting sensitive data.

Another unique feature, that users find convenient, is the ability to compress/decompress files on-the-fly and also encrypt/decrypt them with AES256 encryption – yes, the encryption standard adopted by the U.S. government and that is now used worldwide.

On top of that, this solution  “First Pass” will automatically go through the attachments that existed prior to installing the app and move them to SharePoint, Azure Blob, or other location to your choice. This makes all the difference if you already short for space when you install the solution. Instead of just fixing it for future attachments, it fixes it for all attachments: Dynamics 365 attachment management at its best!

What Are the Versions that CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor Supports?

CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor runs between Dynamics 365 online and the supported storage options:

  • Office 365
  • SharePoint
    • Online
    • 2019
    • 2016
    • 2013
  • Azure File Storage
  • Azure blob storage

We encourage you to ask our experts for more details and to find out how this can work for you.

Dynamics 365 attachments don’t belong in Dynamics 365. Take advantage of being able to move them out automatically. Save email attachments and other attachments automatically to SharePoint, Azure Blob, or Azure Storage. Allow CB Dynamics 365 Seamless Attachment Extractor to take care of the health of your Dynamics 365 while you focus on more important tasks.

Ana Neto - Connecting Software

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.

We are also a proud “Top Member 2019” at CRMSoftwareBlog. You can read all our articles at CRMSoftwareBlog.

Top Member of CRM Software Blog 2019