What are the Portal Options for Dynamics 365?

In the past year there has been a lot of movement and activity in Dynamics 365 (CRM) community in regards to portal options so it sometimes can be confusing when starting a new project.

I am hoping this posting provides a bit of insight of the Dynamics 365 portal options and provide some unbiased insight what is available (or not available) to help you during the evaluation of your platform for a portal project.

I won’t necessarily list the pros and cons of each option or tell you what portal platform to choose for your project.  Each portal project (that I have been involved with) is unique and has its own set of requirements, challenges and goals.

Dynamics 365 Online Portals

crm online portals

This is the portal platform provided as part of a Dynamics 365 subscription and is essentially and extension of Dynamics 365 (CRM) Online.  The portal is hosted by Microsoft.  The platform and structure are what has evolved from the Microsoft aquisition of Adxstudio Portals and essentially is a more modern version of the Adxstudio Portal product.  This platform is *only* available for Dynamics 365 (CRM) Online and NOT on-premise.  One portal is provided as part of a Dynamics 365 Enterprise Plan 1 subscription.

The backend Portal is not available for custom development like the Adxstudio Portal, but has a lot of flexible in terms of web templates, javascript and integration to custom Azure web apps.

Support is provided via regular Partnersource/Office 365 channels.

Adxstudio Portals (aka “legacy”)

adxstudio

I listed this option because there is a perception in the community that this is still either readily available or completely not available.  The reality actually falls somewhere in between.

As of January 2017, this portal platform is only available from Microsoft on an exception basis.  I have seen recently a few questions on the Microsoft community and Yammer groups about how to go about buying a license or renewing enhancement.

To apply for an exception, you will need to complete an approval request form on the Service Partner Portal.  Note that you will need to prove that the requirement is strategic, the customer will need to have a current Enterprise agreement and either has or about to invest significantly in Microsoft technologies (at least $250K US).  Personally, I have not yet had to go through this process and for onprem projects we have been investigating other options.  I would be interested in hearing experiences if anyone has gone through this process.

The Adxstudio Portals can be installed and is supported on both on-premise and online Dynamics CRM 2015 or higher.  You will need to provide a server to host the “Portal” application (IIS or Azure Web App).

The Adxstudio Portals has more starter templates available than the online portals and has the ability to customize the backend portal code using Visual Studio.  There is no active feature upgrades beyond bug fixes.

Support is provided by Microsoft on a paid incident or via MPN Gold Partner benefits. Support is not provided via Partnersource or Office 365.

The Portal Connector

portalhero

While there are a number of 3rd party connectors available, the “Portal Hero” has been pretty active the last couple of years providing a very compelling 3rd party option.  From a simple perspective The Portal Connector is a bridge between the Sitefinity content management system and Dynamics 365/CRM, however the solution definitely is greater than the sum of its parts.  The Portal Connector is available for Dynamics CRM 2011/2013/2015/2016/365 onpremise as well as Dynamics 365 Online.  While I haven’t had direct experience in a Portal project using this technology (yet), some new members to the team demonstrated some recent projects they built using the Portal connector and I was impressed at the capabilities and features of this platform.

Portal Connector Website

Other 3rd Parties

goodiebag

There are other 3rd party Portal options available, these options might be good fit for certain projects depending on needs and platforms.

Alexa CRM – WordPress plug-in for Dynamics 365 (CRM)

Peak Portals – Another 3rd Party Option

Click Dimensions – While not a portal solution, Click Dimensions provides web landing pages for things like Lead forms.

Cobalt – Portal that powers CRMUG.

Update – June 25, 2017: I was made aware today via @D365Guy of a Portal integration to Sitecore, the link is here

There are likely some I missed… if you find a good Dynamics 365 Portal solution, please let me know and I will add it to the list!

Integration Approach

integration

Tools such as Kingswaysoft, Scribe or even Microsoft Flow (Logic Apps) could be used to move data back and forth between an established CMS/Portal and Dynamics 365 (CRM). This a good approach if a lot of work has gone into the existing web/portal platform that might not have an established link to Dynamics 365.  I am investigating using Azure Logic Apps to tie a low-cost web form application to Dynamics 365.  I will post the results of the project at a later time.

Building From Scratch

buildfromscratch

At the end of the day, the Dynamics 365 SDK provides all the necessary tools for a web developer to use their favourite tools and platforms to build a Dynamics 365 (CRM) integrated Portal.

Having been down this road before, I found that for medium to larger portal projects it involves a lot of foundational work that comes readily available with other Portal packages.  This option should be consideration if the “portal” turns out to me a single page application or simple data collection.

Summary

When engaging on building a web site or portal that needs to interact with Dynamics 365, there is no shortage of options.  I hope this post provides a good list of options to consider as you evaluate your strategy and approach.

plancomestogether

Happy Portaling!

Cheers
Nick

 

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