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File Storage Options for Dynamics 365 Portal

Microsoft offers Dynamics Portal as a way for external users to access information in Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics CRM). Portals are included in some Dynamics 365 subscriptions, and are used in scenarios such as customer service, employee self-service, online communities, and supplier portals. Dynamics Portal is also applicable for xRM solutions such as grant management, eligibility determination and other forms of case management.

In portal scenarios, you may have a requirement to allow users to submit or view file attachments such as grant or credit applications, presentations, photographs and other files.  This blog post introduces some options for where and how these file attachments are stored and accessed.

Microsoft supports two methods for storing file attachments in the Dynamics Portal.  They are as file attachments in the Dynamics entities and Azure Blob Storage.

Store File Attachments in Dynamics

Storing file attachments in the Dynamics Notes entity or other entities is the default option in Dynamics 365, and is familiar to Dynamics 365 users.  These files may be accessed through the Dynamics Portal.  When files are attached in Dynamics Portal, they look something like this:

Source: https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b/crminogic/archive/2017/10/04/attach-documents-from-microsoft-dynamics-365-portal


Azure Blob Storage

Microsoft recently introduced support for Azure Blob Storage in Dynamics Portal.  You can choose Azure storage in Dynamics Portal when you configure the page to which the files are associated, such as web forms and entity forms. Here are step-by-step instructions for enabling Azure storage in the portal.  You can also configure Dynamics 365 forms to use Azure storage:



Note that the paper-clip icon has been replaced with a cloud icon which denotes that this file is stored in Azure Storage. You can continue to store attachments in Dynamics 365 which will be indicated with the paperclip icon.

SharePoint File Storage

Microsoft no longer supports SharePoint storage for attachments in Dynamics Portal.  Adoxio offers an add-in called Connect 365 that essentially restores this capability as well as connecting to ESRI, Payment Services and PowerBI Modules. This is the high level architecture of Connect 365:

Source: https://www.adoxio.com/Connect-365/


Adoxio provides a cloud service which acts as in intermediary between your Dynamics Portal and Azure.  It may be extended and customized to connect to other services in addition to SharePoint.

Microsoft continues to support SharePoint storage of Dynamics 365 for users of the application rather than the portal.  This means that you can store files related to Dynamics 365 records in three repositories: in Dynamics 365, Azure Blob Storage and SharePoint.

The Microsoft SharePoint integration for file attachments creates folders which correspond to the associated entities in Dynamics.  Connect 365 does not follow this pattern.

Tradeoffs

With all these choices, what are the factors that will drive your decision?  Here are some considerations and tradeoffs:


Dynamics Notes Attachments
Azure Blob Storage
SharePoint
Supported by Microsoft
Yes
Yes
No
Requires third party add-in
No
No
Yes
Performance

Highest

Storage cost
Higher
Lower
Depends on SharePoint cost
Full Text File Search
Not supported but metadata searchable
Requires additional service
Included

The cost and performance tradeoffs are most relevant for customers with large volumes of file attachments.

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