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How can your business minimise risk by refreshing a Dynamics 365 Sandbox?

When you are looking to deploy Dynamics 365, you may find at some point that you need to restore the sync between Production and Sandbox environments. This is where you need to proceed with caution as this can be extremely risky. To ensure that you mimimise the risks associated with completing this activity, in our latest blog article, we’ve put together some of our biggest and best tips on how to manage the refresh process and how to ensure that these all stay in sync. 

So before we get started let's take you through the two main types of Dynamics 365 environments 

Sandbox (sometimes known as Non-Production) Environment 

This is the development and test section, where any customisations should be added and thoroughly tested before they go into production. 

As a Microsoft Dynamics customer you will be able to deploy one, non-production environment without any additional cost (as along as you have enough storage space in the Cloud). In certain instances, you can benefit from having multiple Sandboxes that will allow you to keep development and user testing environments separate. 

Production Environment 

Essentially this is your live Microsoft Dynamics system. It is best to not have any customisations or development configured or deployed here until they have been tested in your Non-Production environment to confirm that they work as expected. 

So what is best practice if I need to refresh a Dynamics 365 Sandbox? 

If you are having to refresh a sandbox from the production environment this is usually down to the fact that customisations have been made directly onto the live system. After this has been done, you will find that the production and sandbox environments are no longer in sync, therefore a refresh needs to be completed to get these back into line. 

However, it is important to note that this is NOT the recommended outcome as with it comes a high risk! This is very risky as all the changes and customisations that are in the sandbox will be lost when this is refreshed from the Production site. 

Therefore, before you do a refresh, we would suggest that you discuss this with your system admin as well as your Dynamics Support partner to see if you have any unpublished developments or customisations. You will find that that the work won’t be visible in the Production site so therefore will be lost when the Sandbox is cleared and replaced with a backup of the live system. 

Furthermore, it is crucial to understand that this process will also remove any backups that have been created on the Non-Production environment. 

Consequently, you will need to manage this whole process carefully. If you rush a sandbox refresh without taking into account the above factors, it could cause unpublished changes to be lost forever. 

In order to avoid this, make sure that any customisations or additional development takes place only in the Sandbox environment rather than the Production environment. This will help to safeguard any unpublished changes as well as ensuring that these sites stay in sync. 

If a situation exists where the Sandbox environment is no longer in sync with the live system, before finishing a refresh, any unpublished work that you want to keep will need to be put live to avoid being lost after the refresh is completed. 

At this point it is important to note that this should be a one-off process. By making sure that every change is pushed via the Sandbox environment to the Production site as a managed solution through the Power Platform admin centre, you shouldn’t have to refresh your Sandbox ever again. Furthermore, this will mean that you will not have to manually recreate any solution which has been developed in a non-production site. 

As well as the above point, other ways in which you can mitigate the risk when refreshing a Sandbox can include: 

  • Disabling Dynamics 365 mailboxes to stop emails from being incorrectly sent from the Sandbox environment. 

  • To reduce the impact on documents in Dynamics 365 which are currently managed by SharePoint, it may be worth deactivating the SharePoint integration or simply create a non-production environment within Microsoft SharePoint. 

Next Steps 

Here at Advantage, we are able to offer a whole host of tailored Dynamics 365 support as well as bespoke Dynamics 365 Consultancy to allow administrators to complete a Sandbox refresh. Furthermore, we have a whole range of CRM training courses that can teach you how to maximise your use of Dynamics 365. 

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of CRM experts today, if you need to ask any questions about the sandbox refresh process or how to deploy solutions across your Dynamics environments. 

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