Microsoft was a latecomer to the customer relationship management (CRM) industry, releasing Microsoft CRM 1.0 in 2003, after Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft,, and SAP had brought their CRM products to market. Although it was not the first company in the CRM space, Microsoft threw significant resources into its effort to catch up to the pioneers in the industry. Initially, the company mainly targeted smaller businesses and relied upon consumer familiarity and trust in the Microsoft brand to help it establish a foothold in the CRM industry. Over the next ten years, Microsoft released increasingly capable CRM software versions, culminating in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Both Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions are similar in terms of features and contain the same five modules, Sales, Marketing, Service, and Settings. Each of the modules contains different functions organized around a central function that is indicated by the name of the module. Microsoft CRM uses Security Roles to determine what kind of access a user has to records within each module.

Both the on-premises and online Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions function essentially identically from an end-user standpoint. The greatest distinction between CRM 2013 and CRM Online is that the former is an on-premise or partner-hosted solution maintained by you or a Microsoft Partner, while the latter is a cloud solution maintained by Microsoft. There are many factors that will dictate which of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions best suit your business.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

CRM 2013, the on-premises version of Microsoft CRM, is the ideal choice for companies with significant IT infrastructure in-house, as well as for those who wish to own the software that they are running. Investing in the hardware and software infrastructure to run an in-house CRM 2013 deployment represents a significant investment. However, for companies in industries that require that they maintain physical custody of their data, an on-premises deployment is the only option. On-premises deployments also make sense for companies that wish to have complete control over their CRM systems, as well as companies that want to leverage the buying power of Microsoft Enterprise licensing deals.

As part of its “Power of Choice” campaign, Microsoft also allows customers to choose to deploy CRM 2013 in a partner-hosted model. Partner-hosted deployments combine some of the key on-premises and cloud benefits. They allow you to deploy CRM 2013 in a monthly service model, leveraging the benefits of low upfront costs, the expertise and infrastructure of leading hosting providers, as well as the ability to deploy on-premises plugins and custom line-of-business software.

CRM 2013 requires Windows Server 2008 (or later) and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (or later) to run, as well as Outlook, Internet Explorer or another web browser, or the dedicated mobile apps on the client side.

CRM 2013 allows customers to use plug-in applications to expand the system’s functionality. You can find hundreds of such applications in the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace. CRM 2013 also allows companies to host unsanctioned code that works with CRM 2013 but that Microsoft does not support directly. This feature enables companies to integrate CRM 2013 with their existing systems and to build their own line-of-business (LOB) applications. CRM 2013 is much more flexible than CRM Online or many competitive CRM products.

Read more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 licensing and pricing.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

CRM Online offers nearly all of the power of CRM 2013 but software-as-a-service (SaaS) form for $65 per-user, per-month for the Professional License. Microsoft requires that CRM Online subscribers sign a one-year contract, but allows monthly payments. The SaaS format leads to considerable short-term cost savings over on-premises CRM deployments.

CRM Online also helps minimize the monthly costs of maintaining a CRM system by allowing companies to scale the number of users up or down depending upon their needs. For companies that need to run lean, that flexibility is great, no more tying up resources in unused software licenses.

CRM Online subscriptions include storage space for 200 Workflows, 300 Custom Entities, and 5 GB of storage shared by all users. For $9.99 per month, companies can secure an additional 1 GB of storage. All CRM Online customers are provisioned with their own separate CRM database, so there is no co-mingling of data.

Another advantage of CRM Online is that you always have access to all of the newest features and updates, and you never have to worry about buying new software licenses or the hardware on which to run them. An added benefit is that Microsoft performs all patch installations and version upgrades.

Microsoft guarantees the uptime for CRM Online and refunds your monthly user fees if uptime drops below 99.9%. CRM Online works offline as well, allowing users to access and store data locally until they can reconnect to their CRM Online database.

Read more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online license and pricing.

30-Day Trial of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

You can try CRM Online risk free by taking advantage of the 30-day CRM Online trial offer. The trial gives you the opportunity to ensure that CRM Online works for you and your company with no risk.

Click here to start your own obligation-free CRM Online trial.

Free Microsoft CRM Training

Combining the 30-day trial with the free Microsoft CRM training resources of the Success Portal provides a great opportunity to learn a great deal about Microsoft Dynamics CRM while you are testing the system, allowing you to test drive the system more thoroughly before you commit. The best part is that both the trial and the Success Portal are free.

Benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM

There are now several very good CRM applications on the market, including offerings from Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. In a crowded marketplace, several features distinguish Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions from their competitors: the availability of several deployment models, native integration with the Microsoft Office and Microsoft Server stacks, usability, and a strong feature-to-value ratio.

Ease of Use

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is one of the easiest-to-use CRM applications on the market. It features a flat and intuitive user interface (UI) that encourages rapid user adoption and faster training of new employees.

Multiple Deployment Models

Most publishers offer their CRM product as either an on-premises application or an online service. However, Microsoft embraces an approach that it calls “the Power of Choice.” The Power of Choice allows you to choose between four different deployment models of Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions: on-premises, partner-hosted, hybrid, and online.

Point-and-Click Configuration and Customization

Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions offer point-and click configuration that allow you to customize your CRM deployment without having to open up Microsoft Visual Studio and code customizations yourself.

Multiple License Types

Microsoft offers three different license options for CRM 2013 and CRM Online:

Professional License ($65) – The Professional license provides access to all features of CRM, including the ability to administer and customize the system. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online subscriptions require a minimum of 5 Professional (or higher) licenses.

Basic License ($30) – The Basic license is a more limited license that still provides access to most core CRM features. The Basic license is usually sufficient for employees in administrative, customer service, or business analyst roles.

Essential License ($15 per-user, per-month) – The Essential license is a very license that provides access to custom applications deployed on the xRM framework of Dynamics CRM. It is typically only used by companies who are developing their own line-of-business application using Microsoft Dynamics CRM as the foundation.

Enterprise License ($200 per-user, per-month) – The Enterprise license adds Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Microsoft Social Listening, Parature, and the Unified Service Desk to the Professional license. The Enterprise license is available for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online customers, but Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and Microsoft Social Listening can also be purchased separately for $125 per user and $100 per user respectively.

Powerful Reporting with SSRS

Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions feature powerful reporting features that provide deep and valuable insight into your data. Both Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions Online and CRM 2013 feature 25 standard reports, but users are also free to make their own FetchXML reports using the Report Wizard. Organizations that deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 on-premises can also use SQL Server Reporting Services to create reports.

Data Import Tools and Duplicate Detection

Microsoft Dynamics CRM makes it easy to import data from a variety of sources and features duplicate detection.

Multi-currency and multilingual

Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes support for dozens of languages and currencies.


There are many good CRM applications and services on the market right now, including, SAP CRM, Siebel CRM, and Oracle CRM on Demand. While all of these applications are good, and all have their respective strengths, none can match Microsoft’s balance of features and price. For $65 per-user, per-month for Professional licenses, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is powerful enough for any mid-size or enterprise corporation, while still being flexible and affordable enough for a small business.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates tightly with Microsoft Office and the Microsoft Server stack, some of the most widely used applications in the business world. Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions also work within Outlook, using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook plugin, so there is no need to open a separate application. CRM users who are accustomed to working within Outlook gain an immediate comfort level that they do not get with other CRM applications and services. Microsoft Dynamics CRM also uses the familiar Office 2010 ribbon, further increasing the comfort level for new CRM users.

Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace and Pinpoint

Microsoft and its partners have created a tremendous number of applications and services that greatly expand the capability of Microsoft CRM. The creators of these applications and services distribute them through the Microsoft Pinpoint and the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, where they are organized by business need, industry focus, and supported products. Pinpoint connects you with hundreds of Microsoft Partners and all of the applications and services that they have created to help make Microsoft Dynamics CRM even more powerful. The Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace is a more exclusive source of products and services that have passed rigorous testing and are certified to work with Microsoft Dynamics products.


The xRM framework of Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions is one of its greatest differentiators. The xRM framework means the Microsoft Dynamics CRM is more than a CRM application. It is a versatile platform for building custom line-of-business (LOB) applications. While other CRM developers have also begun to expand the functionality of their CRM offerings with plugins and accelerators, only Microsoft has fully embraced the concept of using the xRM framework of CRM to build robust LOB applications.