Thinking about hosting Dynamics NAV on Azure? After reviewing the benefits of moving NAV to Azure, here are some of our very own insights from recent NAV Azure migrations that you should keep in mind before making the move:
1. Consider the way your users should access NAV on Azure.
Azure enables a broader range of accessibility for NAV, more easily than on-premise deployments with options including:
- Windows Client > For example, using the thin client will provide the same Windows user experience as if you were using an on-premise deployment over the local network. Just fire up the desktop application and it communicates over the wide area network with Azure and exchanges data between the server and client just like you are running NAV locally.
- Remote Desktop Session (RDP) > In a remote desktop session, users launch NAV within an isolated desktop experience. RDP sessions can be especially useful in cases where you have other corporate applications that may run alongside NAV in the same session, such as other line of business systems. The main benefit of running NAV in an RDP session is performance.
- Web Client > Accessing NAV in a browser can really useful in certain cases particularly where remote or offsite access is a consideration, or where the operating system of the client device may not be within the control of corporate IT – for example on tablet computers or users’ home computers.
2. Azure easily enables single sign-on with hybrid deployment configurations. Single sign-on save users’ time, increases security and eliminates the need to manage multiple user IDs and passwords.
Companies that use Active Directory for domain authentication and want single sign-on for NAV require a hybrid deployment. This involves integrating your on-premise Active Directory with the Cloud by establishing a VPN tunnel between your company and the Azure virtual machine.
Also Windows Azure Active Directory is a cloud service that provides identity and access capabilities, such as for applications on Windows Azure, Microsoft Office 365, and for applications that install on-premises. You can associate the Microsoft Dynamics NAV user accounts with Windows Azure AD accounts that users use to access the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Web client, Office 365, and SharePoint.
3. Uploading the NAV database takes time – Plan for downtime.
Uploading a large NAV database to Azure can take a bit of time so it’s important to plan ahead. Since there will be a window of time when NAV is offline, it is a good idea to communicate clearly with your end users to set expectations and avoid unnecessary support calls. While your NAV database is uploading to Azure, you should not continue to run the system locally as data will quickly get out of sync. Once NAV is running properly in Azure with the latest database, users can safely resume access.
4. Accessing NAV from mobile devices and other locations is easier.
With Azure, it’s much easier to access NAV from mobile devices and other locations (such as using the web client). With local infrastructure, you typically have one public IP address. This is in contrast to Azure where you have one public IP per Virtual Machine.
5. Integrating NAV on Azure with Office 365 is easy and opens up many new user scenarios to get more value from NAV.
Above, we mentioned the Azure Active Directory Service for managing identities across applications in Azure, including Office 365. You can also use the Windows Azure AD service to associate your existing Microsoft account with your Microsoft Dynamics NAV user account and achieve single sign-on between the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Web client and Office 365.
Also, if you use Microsoft Dynamics NAV in an app for SharePoint Online, you can use Windows Azure AD to achieve single sign-on between the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Web client and SharePoint. If you have an Office 365 subscription that is based on a domain such as solutions.onmicrosoft.com, you are already using Windows Azure AD because the user accounts are based on Windows Azure AD. Then, if you add the email addresses for those user accounts to the user accounts in Microsoft Dynamics NAV, the users will experience seamless integration between your SharePoint site and the Dynamics NAV Web client.
6. It’s easy to transfer entire server images from on-premise or hosted deployments to Azure
NAV Azure migrations are made easy by transferring a local server image to the cloud. There are few, if any, configuration changes required in NAV itself. All you need is an Azure subscription, Microsoft Azure PowerShell, and your NAV server stored in a .vhd file –
Multiple tools exist to create .vhd files. You can use a virtualization solution such as Hyper-V to create the .vhd file and install the operating system. Uploading the image is a simple 4-step process:
Step 1: Prepare the image to be uploaded
Step 2: Create a storage account in Azure
Step 3: Prepare the connection to Azure
Step 4: Upload the .vhd file
Detailed instructions are available here.
7. To maintain business continuity from a data perspective, you still need to do regular NAV backups and system maintenance.
Having geo-redundant storage on Azure offers peace of mind for your NAV solution. Although Azure provides a lot of opportunities for you to reduce the amount of things you need to manage, your typical NAV system maintenance tasks are still important and do not go away when you are running NAV on hosted infrastructure. Ensure that you continue to have a plan for:
- Daily backups (SQL backups, VHD backups)
- Image backups exist, however, if there are data corruption issues, these need to be addressed.
- You can store backups locally or in the cloud (depending on your preference)
- Server patches, updates, hotfixes
- These can be automated using PowerShell script
8. Make sure to take advantage of online training and documentation from Microsoft’s Azure management portal
We’ve found these educational resources very valuable, including:
This post was based on content originally contained in a webinar in NAVUG’s upgrade series. NAVUG Premium Members can view the slides or download the recording here.