Over the next few weeks I will be breaking out my CRMUG session on Portals into a set of blog articles. I hope these postings will help anyone who has been tasked with setting up and configuring a Portal some good information to get started.
Today’s blog is a bit more “theoretical” but I think it is important to get a better understanding of how Portals work.
I found that there is confusion when comparing Portals to other Dynamics CRM addons or ISV solutions.
There are essentially 3 distinct parts to the Portal solution. Note that these components are the same for both CRM Online Portals and Adxstudio portals, but may be deployed differently.
The 3 components are:
- Dynamics CRM Solution(s)
- Portal Metadata and Content
- Master Portal Application
Dynamics CRM Solutions
The main component are the Dynamics CRM Portal solution(s). If you don’t know about Dynamics CRM solutions, you might want to get caught up here, and then come back later.
For the Portals, these solutions are the foundation of the portal application and contain the entities, views, forms, web resources, plug-ins, etc. that will store the information about how the portal is structured, the static content and how the portal will surface CRM data.
Depending on what Portal type or Portal features selected, you will notice a series of managed solutions in your CRM after the installation or setup.
The beauty of the portal is that this structure resides 100% within Dynamics CRM.
Portal Data and Content
In order for there to be a “Portal”, you need to define actual Portal metadata that defines the structure and layout of your portal. This information resides as data in the specific entities defined as part of the portal solutions. There is a “website” entity that holds the main information about a particular portal. Weblinks and Weblink sets contain information about the menuing and navigation of the Portal application. Web templates, Site Settings, Web Bindings and other data stored within Portal entities contain the framework and structure of the portal.
Along with the portal metadata, the Web Page, Web Files and Content Snippet entities contain much of the static content that will be displayed on the portal pages.
Of course the true power of the portals is displaying and transacting CRM data. The Entity Lists, Entity forms, Web Forms as well as custom Liquid Web Templates entities abstract Dynamics CRM forms and views to the portal in order to create, read and update CRM data.
Specialized entities are part of various portal solutions for specific portal applications, Blogs, Ads, Forums and Polls are examples of specific portal app entities.
The Master Portal is a .NET web application made up of compiled DLLs, aspx page templates, asmx user controls and C# code. The Master Portal is the one component that sits “outside” of CRM. Via the CRM SDK, the Master Portal reads the metadata and data from the portal records in Dynamics CRM and renders them to an actual portal. For CRM Online portals, this .NET web application is deployed automatically as part of the setup process to Azure as a Web App.
For Adxstudio (on premise) the Master portal can opened and customized in Visual Studio and then be deployed to an IIS (Internet Information Services) server as well as Azure. Developers have the option to create their own custom page templates and user controls for the legacy Adxstudio solution. I look forward to the option of extending the CRM Online portal solution as well.
You should now have a better understanding of the various Portal components, how they are structured and how they work within the context of Dynamics CRM.
I hope you found this information useful and in future posts I hope to provide some more information on how to further configure and setup CRM and Adxstudio Portals!