MB2-715 Certification: (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Online Deployment) – Manage Sandboxes

As I revised for the MB2-715 exam (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Online Deployment) I am creating blog posts detailing all aspects of my revision. I hope these posts will aid anyone who is also revising for this exam. In this posts I will review management of sandboxes.

In this post I will cover several points from the skills measured, including;

  • Sandbox Administrative Access
  • Change of instance type
  • Deleting Sandboxes
  • Reset a Sandbox
  • Copy to Sandbox

Sandbox Administrative Access

Admin access is really useful when we want to exclude users from the Dynamics 365 environment on a temporary basis. When a major upgrade is happening and we may want to restrict access until it is complete. Maybe we are freshing a user acceptance test environment and need to exclude users until the updated system is ready.

Admin access can be enabled, for a sandbox, from with the Dynamics 365 admin center. As you can see below on my sandbox instance I have an admin option.

You enable admin mode when you need to perform system-wide / major update tasks. Only user with system administrator or system customizer security roles will be able to sign in. (So you admins and developers would still access Dynamics but not your users.)

Disabling background operations will also suspend asynchronous operations. (Such as workflows and server-side synchronisation with Exchange.)

You can optionally also enter a message that will be shown to any users who try to access the system

Change Instance Type

I have already mentioned that you can only enable admin mode on a sandbox instances. What about production? With a production instance you can switch the production environment to be a sandbox and then enter admin mode if required. You can see beloe that I have changed the instance type of my production environment

Whilst the approach of changing a production to be a sandbox will work it has a limitation that you can only achieve this is you have a sandbox instance license available. If all you sandbox are already in use you will receive a message similar to the one below and be preventing from changing the instance type.

Deleting Sandboxes

As suggested by the change instance above, it might be important to know that sandboxes can be deleted. You might have a sandbox that has been created for a particular purpose that is no longer required. It can then be deleted and its license made available.

Additionally deleting un-used sandboxes will free up storage for other instances. As storage on a subscription is shared across all of the instances, sandbox and production!

You cannot delete a production instance!

Reset a Sandbox

We can also reset a sandbox, this is similar to delete in that all of your target data and customizations will be removed. But instead of simply freeing the license the reset option allows you to configure a new fresh Dynamics 365 instance.

The reset option might be useful when creating a new project or you wish to test a new Dynamics 365 version.

You can only reset sandboxes, production environments cannot be reset.

As with delete the target system will be wiped you cannot reverse the refresh process.

Copy to Sandbox

It maybe that you want to copy production to a sandbox. I commonly do this when I want to refresh a UAT environment! As we can take a full copy of production into a sandbox. This can then be upgraded and used as a “like live” test environment.

Tip: You can copy instances up to 100GB, to copy large instances you must contact Microsoft product support.

A word of warning, if you are using managed and unmanaged solutions think carefully if you want to copy production into a development environment. As the unmanaged solutions in development could be lost and their managed versions from production cannot be exported. Careful planning for a copy should be encouraged! (Not least as the target instance will be deleted, meaning you can’t revert back.)

It is possible to copy any instance to a sandbox. So production to sandbox or sandbox to sandbox. (That is assuming you have multiple sandboxes!) It is however not possible to copy production to production or sandbox to production! (Although don’t forget, that licenses permitting you can change the instance type afterwards!)

Copy types; we have two types of copy. Full and Minimal. The full copy, as the name suggests copies all of the data, users and customizations from the source to the target. A minimal copy includes all users and customizations but does not include any data. A minimal be useful if storage constraints exist!

Whilst the minimal copy does not include any user data a number of system entities are copied. These include business units, Connection roles, currencies, duplicate checking rules, email server profiles, field security permissions, data import maps, mailboxes, organisation, templates etc. (FYI, anyone using USD, for example, should be aware that a minimal copy does not transfer its configuration.)

Below you can see a copy I started to transfer my production instance to my sandbox.

I am logged in a global admin, as only admins can copy all instances. However Dynamics 365 system administrators can copy instances for which they have admin access.

Post copy actions ……

  • Following the copy the target instance will be in administrative mode! Meaning a Dynamics 365 system administrator will need to enable it before users can log on.
  • Additionally background operations such as workflows will have been disabled and will need to be activated.
  • You may also need re-direct some components. (Possibly before you disable admin mode.) For example, the copy maybe be pointing to your production SharePoint and this will need to be redirected. Things to consider might include email, SharePoint, Yammer and any custom extensions.

Hopefully we have covered several options you’ll need to be aware of for your MB2-715 exam, as always licenses permitting please try some of these things out. Although you might want to check with your admins before testing the delete option!!!

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