First off - a bit of a background/introduction. I've recently been thrown into a CRM (Dynamics 2011) implementation project even though I have no CRM experience. I do have SharePoint experience and a technical background so that's likely why, but I digress...
Now that I'm involved with the CRM stuff, I'm trying to come up to speed as quickly as possible. While I'm waiting for my books to come in from Amazon, I've been doing some reading online to find out all I can about the product. One of the requirements for this project is for users to have offline access. As I understand it this is OOB functionality, but that's about all I've really found and I'm looking for a bit more.
A couple of questions:
1) From reading, is the only offline access done through the outlook client? I was led to believe there was an actual interface (outside of outlook) that could also be used?
2) Regardless of what client is used, what does the architecture for this look like? I have read (on a blog) that it would involve having a SQL database (express I believe) installed on the users machine. If that is indeed the case, does that mean that prior to this user going offline he/she would get an entire copy of the live systems database copied locally?
I'll leave it at that for now, as I am sure that once I receive my literature and reading these forums that I will be able to answer a lot of my own questions.
Offline access for CRM is created through the outlook client. This is basically a web application hosted on the client machine accessing and SQL express database. Access to this application is provided through outlook only, there is no stand alone interface you can use. It is not possible to install the offline access without having outlook on the machine.
As you state the offline store has to be synchronized with the central database. Before the user leaves the local network he/she must "Go offline" which effectively updates the local copy of the database with the latest changes and "Go Online" when returning to send all the changes made offline back to the server. Important to understand is that the data in the local database is not a full copy of the central database but only contains the data the user has access to.
Thanks for this reply. I appreciate it.
You mention only the data that the user has access to - I'll take this to imply "read access". Meaning if they have access to view quotes/orders then that data would get placed in their Express database. This gives me an idea now though of the types of permissions that we should be enabling our users to have, in particular if they travel frequently and whether or not we want sensitive information travelling with them.
Yes any record with read access will be included in the snapshot that is taken offline. So if they have access to sensitive data this will be synchronized to the local database. You do have the option of setting filters in the outlook client to limit what data is taken offline within this set. If you have sensitive data you do not want to be available offline, what you can do is save this in seperate entity and not take this entity offline.
Besides limiting what data is taken offline what is always a good idea is to encrypt the data stored (e.g. using a tool like True Crypt) this will make it difficult to gain access to data stored on the system.