What are the limitations of Dynamics 365 Attachments (Attachments or Notes)?
Unfortunately, it's not a good idea to use Dynamics 365 attachments. The reasons for this are:
- Power Automate Integration: You can use Power Automate to start approval workflows for your documents. The approval workflows for the Dynamics 365 attachments are not supported by default.
- Power Platform Integration: Dynamics 365 attachments offer limited/no integration with the Power Platform. If you have strategically relied on Power Platform, it is questionable to use the Dynamics 365 attachments.
- Not searchable: The Dynamics 365 attachments cannot be found via global search. As a result, your employees lose time during the document search. There are numerous studies on how much time you can lose on document searching.
- No extended permissions: No individual permissions can be assigned for the Dynamics 365 attachments. As a result, the employees who have access to the record have access to all documents of the Dynamics 365 record.
- No sharing options: You can't share the Dynamics 365 attachments with other users. Each user must have a Dynamics 365 license to access the attachments. This slows down cooperation with other employees.
- Limited collaboration features: The Dynamics 365 attachments cannot be edited by several employees in parallel. In addition, Dynamics 365 Attachments does not provide versioning of the documents.
How to bypass Dynamics 365 attachments to not store them in Dynamics 365
By default, the attachments are stored in the Dynamics 365 database and are provided for your subscription. Many organizations choose the way to store attachments in Azure Blobstorage to optimize storage costs. Dynamics 365 does not support extracting attachments to Azure Blob Storage by default. To do this, you need to implement it that allows you to store your documents in Azure Blob Storage.
Disadvantages of extracting Dynamics 365 attachments to Azure Blob Storage
On the one hand, by extracting the documents to Azure Blob Storage, you can optimize storage costs. On the other hand, not all challenges are mastered. For example, challenges they face when using attachments, such as Power Platform Integration, Limited Search, and Limited Collaboration Features, remain.
Advantages of storing Dynamics 365 attachments in SharePoint
Microsoft SharePoint is the most powerful document storage and collaboration product on the market. The storage of the Dynamics 365 Attachment sin SharePoint offers you the following advantages:
Advantage 1 – Low/No additional costs:
Usually, companies have Microsoft 365 licenses if they use Dynamics 365. As a result, companies do not incur any additional costs due to document storage in SharePoint. Unless large amounts of large files such as videos are used in document management for dynamics 365 attachments, there is no need to purchase additional Microsoft 365 storage. In the case of intensive use of SharePoint as Dynamics 365 document storage, you can buy additional storage from Microsoft. This case occurs very rarely.
Advantage 2 – Higher productivity:
Compared to storage in Azure Blob Storage or Dynamics 365 Database, SharePoint offers much more elegant storage options. The documents can be provided with metadata in SharePoint (metadata are the attributes of a document). The metadata helps to improve the discoverability of documents that are stored from Dynamics 365. This allows employees to filter the documents according to certain criteria. The advanced filter function, which can be made possible by the metadata, reduces the times lost with the document search.
Advantage 3 – Secure storage of documents:
The storage options for the documents are unfortunately very limited within Dynamics 365. Compared to the Dynamics 365 features, SharePoint offers significantly more options for information security and document retention through numerous security features of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, which is why storing documents in SharePoint is the preferred solution for many companies.
Advantage 4 – Better collaboration:
Unfortunately, the Dynamics 365 attachments cannot be edited by several employees in parallel. As a result, employees must wait for each other to process the documents. This is often blamed on the IT department because employees lose time while waiting. In addition, the Dynamics 365 attachments do not offer versioning. This makes it unclear who made what changes to a document. By storing the documents in Dynamics 365, you have limited options for collaboration. On the other hand, SharePoint is designed for distribution and digital collaboration and offers numerous features for editing documents such as parallel editing of documents, versioning of documents or approval processes.
Does Dynamics 365 support the storage of attachments in SharePoint by default?
The answer is both yes and no. There are two ways to work with documents in Dynamics 365:
Option 1 – Attachments (Notes or Attachments):
Dynamics 365 attachments cannot be extracted and stored in SharePoint by default. By default, the attachments are stored in the Dynamics 365 database provided to you by Microsoft. If you want to store the Dynamics 365 attachments in SharePoint, then you need to read the attachments with an individual extension of Dynamics and store them in SharePoint at the desired location. Finally, you need to replace the document that has been saved as attachments with the link to SharePoint. The extension requires expertise in the areas of SharePoint and Dynamics 365. Due to the complexity of this extension, companies prefer 3rd-party solutions such as Dynamics Integrator for outsourcing documents.
Option 2 – Document Management Feature of Dynamics 365:
Instead of attachments, you can activate the Document Management feature of Dynamics 365 and use the feature to store the documents in SharePoint. The setup of the document management feature is done within a few minutes. In addition, a scalability analysis is required to consider scalability. The Document Management feature does not support metadata and permission synchronization. If metadata and permission synchronization is important to you, you can use 3rd-party solutions to complete the standard document management feature of Dynamics 365.
When does a 3rd party Dynamics and SharePoint integration solution make sense?
By default, Dynamics offers the two solution options "Attachments" and "Document Management" feature.
A 3rd-party solution makes sense in the following cases:
- If you want to store Dynamics 365 attachments in SharePoint
- If you want to synchronize the permissions and metadata of the Dynamics 365 structures to SharePoint or to the documents in SharePoint
- When scaling is important to you. (In case of filing many documents or synchronizing permissions)
The Ultimate Microsoft Dynamics 365 & SharePoint Integration Guide 2022
- 4 reasons why integration is inevitable
- Why Dynamics 365 is not a good platform for document management
- Why Microsoft's off-the-shelf solution is detrimental to Dynamics 365 and SharePoint integration
- Everything you absolutely need to know about Microsoft Dynamics 365 document management
BONUS: Checklist for using the standard Dynamics 365 document management feature.
Once you start using Dynamics 365 Attachments, you need to address the issue of cost and document integration with Power Platform. You should also be aware that productivity, digital collaboration and information security will suffer. You can improve Platform with the Document Management feature of Dynamics 365. If the standard document management feature of Dynamics 365 is not sufficient for you, you can enhance the platform investment with 3rd party solutions.