If you manage your business with Dynamics 365 Business Central Online, you probably know that twice a year in April and October, Microsoft releases updates to the application as part of the Dynamics 365 product roadmap.
There is no right way to manage these updates - that's entirely up to you and the way your business decides. But we thought it was about time we put together some recommendations to ensure our customers get the best update experience.
The areas we will cover off in this guide are:
- The release cycle
- The Business Central admin centre
- Working with sandbox environments
- Updating environments
- Testing updates
- Updating production environment
Microsoft updates Business Central Online with major release waves twice a year. These waves are from April to September and October to March. The major update of these waves occurs in the first month, with minor releases generally released monthly to maintain constant improvement of the platform and application.
Currently, the time limits for an environment to have the latest updates applied are 60 days for major updates and 21 days for minor updates. These limits apply from the date the update is made available1.
To ensure you receive the appropriate notifications for both major and minor releases, and that we are well placed to support you to take the recommended stems within the above time limits, we strongly recommend that you configure the notification recipients in your Admin Centre.
The admin centre
The Business Central Admin Centre2 is the portal that allows management of a Business Central tenant and its environments. Here we outline key setups to be considered to help support the recommended update release process.
To be able to perform any of the management requirements for Business Central, the user must have access to either Global Admin or Dynamics 365 Administrator permissions in the Microsoft 365 Admin portal.
Access to the admin centre
To access the Business Central Admin Centre, perform the following steps:
- Log in to Business Central, select the Settings gear icon on the top-right of the page and select Admin Center.
- If you have the correct permissions, you will see the following screen that will show information about your tenant and environments.
- Take note of the URL of your Admin Centre and bookmark for future quick access.
Certain settings for Business Central are set at the environment level.
To see the properties for an environment:
- Login to the Business Central Admin Centre, select Environments and the environment name that you need to see properties for.
- The specific environment details are then shown.
It is important to ensure the correct people in your organisation are notified of adminstrative events occurring in your Business Central environments. Some notifications include when updates are available, and if updates have been successful. These notifications are sent to your nominated notification recipients3.
We recommend that you have at least three notification recipients:
- Your IT department - we recommend a monitored mailbox;
- A key or super user of Business Central; and
- The DXC support desk.
Additionally, we recommend you add your lead contact at DXC should you be engaged with any projects.
To maintain the list of notification recipients in the Business Central Admin Centre, select Notification Recipients and then Add recipient or Remove Recipient as required.
Note, the Notification Recipients functionality will eventually be deprecated by Microsoft in favour of the Microsoft 365 Message Centre, which will include most environment event notifications. We recommend that all notification recipients sign up to receive email notifications from the Message Centre. For more details, see Microsoft 365 Message Centre.
Set update window
Every environment must have a six-hour window in which Microsoft will apply updates. It is recommended that this be a time that is not usual working hours.
To set the update window, in the Business Central Admin Centre, navigate to the environment you wish to configure, select Update Settings and then Set update window.
Then adjust the time of the update window to suit your requirements.
Set up telemetry
Telemetry is information about performance or errors in a Business Central environment.
This information is essential for DXC to assist our customers. To do this, we maintain an Application Insights instance that receives this information from our customer environments to enable troubleshooting and support when required.
It is important to note that the information provided to DXC is sanitised and does not contain customer, financial or any other personally identifiable information.
Every Business Central environment should have the connection strung for the DXC application insights instance.
To set the DXC Application Insights string in your environments, follow these steps.
Note: When the Application Insights Connection String is added, the environment will restart and all active user sessions will be terminated.
- Log in to the Business Central Admin Centre
- Click on the environment you wish to configure
- Under Application Insights Connection String click Define
- In the view that is presented, toggle Enable Application Insights
- Enter the DXC Connection String listed below.
Working with sandbox environments
Sandbox environments are test or non-production environments for Business Central.
If your current sandbox does not have enough data to test an update, or contains extensions that have not yet been promoted to the production environment, a new sandbox can be created as a copy of the production environment. This action can be taken at any time and does not impact production environment performance.
At the time of writing each tenant is entitled to a maximum of three sandboxes per production environment. Each tenant starts with 80GB of database capacity which is then increased with each user license (2GB for essential, 3GB for premium and 1GB for device) and each additional production environment (4GB)4.
Creating a sandbox
To create a new sandbox as a copy of the production environment:
- Navigate to the Business Central Admin Centre, navigate to the detail page of the environment you wish to copy and select Copy.
- Enter an Environment name, set the New environment type to Sandbox and click the Copy button.
- Click Create and the copy process will begin. When the environment is ready, it will appear in the Environments tab.
Note: When creating a new sandbox environment, all outbound communication is disabled. If you need to test integrations in the sandbox, you must specifically allow HTTP client requests for the extensions that communicate with the outside world.
To configure this, navigate to the Extension Management page in Business Central and select the Configure option of the relevant extension and toggle Allow HTTPClient Requests.
Deleting a sandbox
Deleting environments must be done with caution and is irreversible.
To delete a sandbox:
- Navigate to the Business Central Admin Centre, select the Environments tab and click on the environment you wish to delete. In the environment details page, select the Delete option from the options at the top of the page.
- Note the warning message presented. Once deleted the environment can not be retrieved. Select Yes to delete the sandbox.
When an update is available for your environment, each notification recipient will receive an email from Microsoft with details about the update.
If you log in to the Business Central Admin Centre when an update is available you will see the Available Update Version listed next to the applicable environments in the Environments list.
Note: If there is a potential issue with an extension in your environment, Microsoft will send an email to the notification recipients outlining the key information. If you receive this email, contact DXC Support to ensure that the correct process to resolve this is taken.
Set update date
When an update is available and you would like to update an environment, you can set the update date. Once this is set, the environment will be updated on that date in the update window that has been configured.
When an environment is being updated, the Status of the environment will change from Active to Updating.
Confirmation of update
When an update is scheduled, Microsoft will send all notification recipients an email confirming the date it is scheduled for. Once the update has been completed, all notification recipients will receive an email confirming this. These emails include a link to see what's new in the current release wave. We recommend you carefully review this information.
Although it is unlikely, if an update fails the notification recipients will receive an email confirming this. Please contact DXC Support in this instance.
Once you have a sandbox that is updated, we encourage our customers to test key functional areas in the updated environment. Although there is no hard-and-fast rule of what you need to test, the more detailed the testing, the less risk of any surprises during or after the update of your production environment. Of course you need to be practical as to how much time and effort can be devoted to this process.
We believe a good compromise is not to do full end-to-end regression testing but instead test your key processes. An example of a key process could be the procure to pay process:
- Raise a PO
- Email PO to a vendor
- Receive the goods
- Process a purchase invoice
- Suggest vendor payments
- Create an EFT file
- Email remittance advice to the vendor
It would be a great idea to document these processes so every time there is a major update, you can follow the same steps to complete the testing process as quickly as possible.
Updating production environment
Once you have completed testing in your sandbox environment and confirm it is working as expected, you can then set your Update Date for your production environment. Sit back and relax, you've just updated your Dynamics 365 Business Central Online environment like a pro!
We have created a reference checklist to help with this process. This can be downloaded here.
- Major Updates and Minor Updates for Business Central Online
- The Business Central Admin Center
- Managing Tenant-Specific Notifications
- Managing Capacity
Images included in this article are courtesy of Microsoft.