Microsoft hosts production and non-production instances of Dynamics 365 (formerly called Dynamics CRM). Most organizations using Dynamics 365 will benefit from having at least one sandbox instance for their solutions.
Here are the top reasons you should consider a sandbox:
- When you are developing solutions, the sandbox can be the development environment. This means that you will not disrupt users who will be in the production instance.
- Sandboxes are great for testing before you release a solution to production.
- You can use sandboxes for training. Users can add or delete whatever data the want during the training sessions without fear or harming the production system.
- For evaluating Dynamics solutions, a sandbox is more permanent than signing up for a trial account which will end.
- Sandboxes offer some administrative controls which are not available in production instances, such as the ability to reset a sandbox instance which essentially wipes the solution and restores Dynamics 365 to default settings.
- Microsoft provides Administrative Mode for sandboxes which only allows System Administrator and System customizers to log in and make changes.
Microsoft Dynamics allows you to copy an instance in order to move a solution from production to a sandbox or vice versa. The copy instance feature allows you to determine whether to include all data, users and customizations or exclude the data. Normally you will want to include test data in a sandbox for testing and training.
What about subscriptions or licenses for Dynamics 365 sandboxes? The key thing to remember is that user subscriptions are based on named users and not on instances. If you have 25 users and 3 instances (1 production, 1 development and 1 test) you only need 25 user subscriptions. Microsoft provides a free sandbox instance for customers with 25 or more users and sells additional instances for a monthly fee.
For more technical details, see Understanding Dynamics 365 Online Instance Management.