Dynamics 365 – Offline Options

I have recently been working on a project when the customer needed access to CRM whilst offline. We therefore researched a number of options and highlighted strengths and weaknesses of each. The details we considered are shown below, I hope that they may assist anyone planning a similar capability.

The options we considered included;

  1. Outlook Client – Offline Access
  2. RESCO Mobile Application
  3. Dynamics 365 Mobile application

Outlook Client – Offline Access

outlook
How it works:
The Dynamics 365 Outlook client includes an offline capability, which once enabled will create a local database that will contain your CRM data and customizations. To go offline you need to select the “Go Offline” button which will synchronize data with the local database. Once off line you can load your CRM data from within Outlook that will show in the full web client.

Strengths:

  • CRM data is shown in browser, meaning the experience of using the data offline is very familiar.
  • Works with latest and older CRM versions.
  • Will work with CRM online and on premise installations.

Weaknesses:

  • Additional software needs to be installed on your client.
  • Only available on Windows 10 laptop / desktop devices, meaning no mobile option exists.
  • Prior to going offline, a sync process needs to be run. (This can take several minutes.)
  • Computers running the Outlook client will need to be a reasonable specification. (4Gb minimum ram, ideally 8Gb. And a decent processor.) In my experience the Outlook client has tended to run slow at times.

When to use:

When you want a full browser experience off line. (And you don’t need mobile access.) Or if you are an on premise Dynamics user.

RESCO Mobile Application


How it works:

The RESCO mobile application is a 3rd party addition to Dynamics 365. It comes “free” with Field Service. You can also customize to use any system or custom entity. Data is synchronised to the local device as you connect / disconnect from the internet.

Strengths:

  • Strong offline capability with a lot of flexibility around offline sync rules.
  • Customizable.
  • Field Service capabilities.
  • Tailored to using on mobile devices, I have found it especially good on phones!

Weaknesses:

  • Doesn’t leverage your CRM forms, meaning more customization maybe needed.
  • Being a 3rd party add-in license fees may apply. (If using RESCO for anything other than Field Service entities.)

When to use:

If you are using Field Service. Or if you any specific requirements for a customized mobile application.

Dynamics 365 Mobile Client


Note:
Any comments here are about the latest Dynamics 365 mobile client. The mobile client previously available for CRM2016 did contain off line capability. But that was limited to creation of drafts and viewing existing data. In my situation its capabilities were not fit for purpose!

How it works:

Your Dynamics 365 entities can be enabled for offline access in the Dynamics 365 mobile client. Then an offline profile is created to govern what each user will see. Uses Microsoft Azure services to periodically synchronize entities with the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for phones and tablets apps so synchronized records are available when users’ mobile devices are disconnected

Strengths:

  • No additional license fees.
  • Being part of the mobile app means you can run it on ipads, phones etc.
  • Sync process is very intuitive.
  • If required, you can enable a feature to help you resolve sync conflicts.

Weaknesses:

  • You will need to create a mobile offline profile and assign users. So, some admin exists.
  • Can only be used on a production Dynamics 365 environment. (So, no testing in a sandbox!)
  • You must have a minimum of 5 app or plan 1 licenses.
  • Not available for older versions of Dynamics. (You will need CRM 2016 Update 1 or later.)
  • Not available on premise.
  • The sync to Azure seems to happen every 20 to 30 minutes. Meaning very recent changes might not be available offline.

When to use:

If you want to access CRM data offline on a tablet or phone and you are using Dynamics 365 online.

Which did I select???

We went with the offline capability in the Dynamics 365 mobile application. As this proved the best user interface and worked well on iPads. (Which in my case was the device users preferred.) I did “suffer” some initial teething problems. But after these problems were resolved the offline feature in the mobile application worked really well.

I hope this summary of the offline options helps you select the right option for your circumstance. In a future post I will give more details on how I configured the Dynamics 365 client. J

One thought on “Dynamics 365 – Offline Options

  1. Nice blog Neil. Very well laid out and explained. I have a client in exactly the same situation. They are on prem 2016 SP1 and I was considering the Dynamics 365 mobile client, but that seems a non-starter to me now. You’ve made it very clear that they need to go online or use Resco. Cheers mate!

    Like

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