With the Dynamics 2016 Spring Release for CRM Online, a much anticipated feature for CRM Online has finally been rolled out. This is the ability for the end user to be able to manage database backups, and restore a backup to your Online instance whenever you want. Previously customers had to engage Microsoft support to do this for them, but now they’ll be able to manage this process on their own.
There are no size limitations to the backups that can be taken (in case you have a large CRM database) but just know that the size does affect how long the backup and restore will take.
In the O365 Admin center, when looking at your CRM instances table, you’ll see a new “Backup & Restore” link/tab that will take you to the area where the backups are taken, and where you would restore a backup to an instance. From here you can also see when the last backup was performed for each instance.
Clicking on the “BACKUP & RESTORE” tab will bring you to the backup and restore home of the CRM Admin center where you can see a list of all the backups per instance you select in the drop down. This is also where you can take different actions: create a new user backup, edit an existing user backup, delete an existing user backup, and restoring a backup to a sandbox instance.
Creating a Backup
When you go to create a backup, you have the ability to provide a label and description for your backup. This is the same dialog that will appear when you go to edit an existing backup allowing you to modify the name and description after you initially create it.
With this new feature, users will only be able to backup to the CRM Online Server. They’re currently not able to backup to any local location or anywhere in Azure.
The backups to the CRM Online Servers (Microsoft Data Centers) will be kept for 3 days. Backups that are stored in CRM Online can be full backups (system backups) or incremental backups (user backups). These are explained more below.
The backups themselves (system or on-demand user backups) do not count against your CRM Online storage space even though they’re backed up to the CRM Online Servers.
The two following backup types are available for the CRM Online database:
- System Backups
- User Backups
System backups happen daily and are full backups. What time of the day that they occur on cannot be confirmed and may vary, but they will happen at least once a day. These will live on the CRM Online Servers, and will persist 3 days.
User Backups are incremental backups and therefore should backup and restore quicker. These will also persist for 3 days. There currently isn’t a limit to how many on-demand user backups you can take.
The backups themselves are encrypted, and you’re only able to restore back into a Sandbox instance. If you want to restore to a Production instance, you’ll first need to convert the Production instance to a Sandbox instance, and then perform the restore. The restore button will be grayed out for Production instances.
However, if you have to restore into a production instance, you can edit that instance to change it’s type to Sandbox, and after you do so, you’ll see the restore button in blue as in the screenshot in the Details section above. Clicking on the restore button will pop the dialog that allows you to change the target to restore into. Again this will only list sandbox instances.
During a restore, the instance you’re restoring into cannot be used. Users will not be able to access the instance. A good practice that’s supported would be to take a backup just before your CRM Online org is to be upgraded, and then if the upgrade fails for some reason (breaks some functionality), you can restore back to the backup taken which will restore you back to the previous version of CRM Online.
Another action you can take on a backup in the backup and restore area is deletion of a user created backup. Remember that after 3 days, the backups will be deleted automatically (this is shown in the “Expires On” column in the list of backups). However a user may want to manually delete backups to clean up their list of user initiated backups.
With this new feature like all new features, come some limitations:
- This is only available for CRM Online 2016 Update 1
- You cannot take an On Premise backup, and restore it into your Online instance
- Cannot backup your Online instance, and restore it to an On Premise org for reporting purposes
- There is no API support
- There is currently no ability to schedule backups (other than the daily system backup that’s taken automatically once a day)
Even with these limitations it’s great to see some more power coming to the CRM Online customers hands. I’m sure Microsoft will continue to enhance this already powerful tool and maybe eliminate some of the current limitations in future versions.