Does your unique Dynamics 365 Business Central system qualify for free updates or not?

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Do you know if your Dynamics 365 Business Central system deployment qualifies for free updates? We'll break it down for you.


Since Microsoft introduced Dynamics 365 Business Central as its successor to Microsoft Dynamics NAV in 2017, there have been a few questions about free updates for the online version. Are these free updates now a reality? Yes, depending on your specific deployment and setup. We’ll detail each circumstance below to see if this is the case for you.


What we’ve learned so far

After selling Business Central for two years now, we’ve found that virtually all of the functionality differences between Dynamics NAV and Business Central have been eliminated. Additionally, in some cases, Business Central has implemented some further improvements not found in Dynamics NAV.


Microsoft has also added nearly all of the keyboard shortcuts found in Dynamics NAV to Business Central (download a printable of these shortcuts here). This is especially true with the new fuzzy logic search and personalization capability. Customers can choose among multi-tenant online, on premise, and hosted deployment options in Business Central - unlike Dynamics NAV, which didn’t have a true multi-tenant option. With the new design comes the option for simplified updates as opposed to long, complex, and expensive updates.


So, can Business Central actually offer you free updates, at least for the online version? The answer is a qualified YES in some deployments and circumstances.


Online SaaS (Software as a Service) option with no customizations or third party apps – YES

In this setup, Microsoft will automatically update the online database twice per year in April and October. The database updates without any need for user intervention. The only potential cost is if the software changes in some way that requires additional training for a new user interface or capability. The cost to update will generally be zero or very minimal.


Online SaaS (Software as a Service) option with customizations – POTENTIALLY

In its two updates per year, Microsoft reserves the option to introduce system changes that might break customizations. However, this will not be true for every update or customization and they do provide notification ahead of time to indicate whether any customizations in the database are likely to break. This gives the customer sufficient time to deal with any necessary changes.


Implementing these changes will generally cost less compared to the cost of the original customization. Therefore, there could be a small cost twice per year for partners to check the planned update log for any rare problems and fix them. Overall, this cost and disruption to a customer will be much lower than going through a major upgrade to Dynamics NAV every few years. So, if you decide to take the customization path, you can expect a small cost on some updates.


Online SaaS (Software as a Service) option with third party apps – YES

Apps published by third parties (or Microsoft) on AppSource must be maintained for all major versions.  If a new version is available, Microsoft will un-apply the old version and automatically apply the new version of the app when the update is processed. The app developer is responsible for making all necessary changes. An example would be our equipment rental app which we are responsible for updating and supporting. Customers with customizations will still have the same potential challenges highlighted in the previous section.


On premise or hosted options – NO

Customers with hosted or on premise options are not going to participate in the semi-annual automatic updates from Microsoft by default. Instead they can choose to update their database when it is most convenient. Because of the coordination here and the possibility of having to deal with the effect of several skipped updates, it is quite likely partner assistance will be required. As with Dynamics NAV, if the customer has the internal expertise, they can provide the necessary services. In this situation, it is more likely that some form of training will be required.


Again, this option has a much lower cost than upgrading a Dynamics NAV database. This is especially the case if the customer has skipped major versions, such as when Inventory or Job Cost received major updates in Dynamics NAV.


Special note for databases with newer Dynamics NAV databases (2017 & 2018) with both legacy and new customizations or apps

There is a significant problem with Dynamics NAV databases when there are both legacy customizations or add-on products using the old c/side development toolkit and newer customizations using Visual Studio AL code extensions or third party Business Central add-ons. Having both in the database requires a specific process for applying the customizations, add-ons, and apps.


In addition, code extensions in Dynamics NAV 2017 and NAV 2018 have different capability and are not necessarily backwards compatible with Business Central code versions. This also applies to extensions developed for Business Central, which may or may not be compatible with newer Dynamics NAV versions.


You can find more information on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central here.



*Malcolm Roach is President and CEO of Open Door Technology, a Microsoft partner based in Calgary, Alberta with offices all over the world. He is a professional accountant with a passion for business analysis and integration. He specializes in applying mid-market ERP software to grow organizations and improve business processes. You can contact Malcolm here.

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