Call us now on +61 2 8212 3480

Navigating the wealth of licencing options available in Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Online and On-Premise 2015

crm   same but different

Introduction to licencing of Microsoft CRM Online and Microsoft CRM On-premise 2015

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is still one of the few true CRM technologies that is available both on premise and in public cloud – CRM Online.  It can also be provided in a private cloud by hosting partners or if you already use a data centre.

The functionality of the two versions: - Online and On-Premise is very similar.  The differences are in the licencing options and a few technical differences caused by how it is hosted.

Contrary to how it sounds, the on-premise version can also be hosted in a data centre, i.e. it can be private cloud.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM can also run in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.  Hosting partners, including Opsis offer Microsoft CRM as a public cloud offering and / or as Private Cloud. 

That you do not have to purchase Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, because you need, or prefer, your Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the cloud, still causes confusion to some of our prospects.

There is a wealth of licensing options for Microsoft Dynamics CRM but it can be challenging to find just the right combination to suit your needs.

This article is an overview of the key differences.  There is fuller information available in the ‘Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 On-Premises Volume Licensing Guide’ from the Microsoft website and https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699677.aspx https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-social-purchase.aspx

Licencing of Microsoft CRM

The Licencing for Microsoft CRM has become more complex now that the range of functionality is growing, and many organisations do not need all the functionality.  From this release, the licence options for Microsoft CRM Online is significantly different to those available for Microsoft CRM On-Premise.  As always, Microsoft CRM is cost effective for smaller businesses with 5+ users and also up to enterprise organisations with several thousand users.  There are now CRM licences for Microsoft CRM Online specifically for sales, marketing and service users.

Microsoft CRM On Premises

The on-premise version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM uses the server and CAL model.  Microsoft CRM requires a Server licence for each CRM server and a CAL for each user or device.  Device CALS and User CALS can be mixed and matched.  A user or a device with a valid CAL may access multiple instances of CRM.  This means that no additional licences are required for development or test environments when used by the same users that use the production CRM environment.

As well as CRM licences you require a SQL Server and the associated licence for your CRM database and your users will require SQL CALS.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SQL Server, like many other Microsoft technologies have optional Software Assurance, or SA.  SA is support and grants you access to hot fixes, upgrades and support for the standard product from Microsoft.  It is highly recommended.

Pricing for all of the licences discussed here will vary depending on the licence agreement that you have with Microsoft and the type of organisation that you are in.  However, across all of these there will be options to include Software Assurance for the first two or three years with the initial purchase.  After this period it is highly recommended to renew your SA.

External users, i.e. people who are not employees, contractors or agents such as customers or suppliers of your organisation do not require a licence.  However, these people can only access CRM via a portal, not using any of the client options.

Microsoft CRM Server Licences

There are two different server licences

  • CRM Server
  • CRM Workgroup Server

The Server licence supports any number of CAL’s but does not include any CALs.  The CRM Workgroup Server includes, but is restricted to 5 user CALs.

Most organisations will require the Server licence.  If you have the CRM Workgroup Server and require more than 5 user licence you have to purchase the step up licence to the CRM server.

Microsoft CRM CAL licences

There are three different level of user CAL:

  • Professional
  • Basic
  • Essential

The different types of CALs can be mixed and matched so each user gets the functionality that they require for their role without paying for additional functionality.

Summary of functionality of the different CALs


üfully includedLlimited functionality – read only ûnot included

Partner Hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Technically, Partner Hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM is on premise and so everything discussed in the section above is still true.  Partners may offer this as private cloud (an instance dedicated to your organisation) or public cloud (an instance shared with other organisations).  Partner hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM may use the on-premise licences discussed above or SPLA licences.

SPLA licencing

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be licences using the SPLA (Service Provider Licence Agreement) model.  This gives you a monthly (or occasionally quarterly or yearly) payment, which includes the software licence and the associated Software Assurance. 

SPLA licencing can only be purchased through a SPLA reseller.

There is full information in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 On-Premises Volume Licensing Guide

Microsoft CRM Online

Microsoft CRM Online uses a complete licence model.  Each user requires one licence, and should have the licence that best fits their role.  There are a range of licences aimed at different roles.  From a purely CRM perspective there is little difference between the various licences.  The differences are with the additional solutions such as Dynamics Marketing, Parature and Office 365 that are included in the licence.  There are no equivalent to the Basic and the Essential Licence for Microsoft CRM Online.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has a minimum purchase of 5 licences and a minimum term of $12 months.

Licence Who it is aimed at What it includes
Professional Sales Professionals and Service Professionals

Social listening

Social media analytics

Workflows and approvals

Sales automation

Customer service automation

Unified Service Desk

Sales campaigns

Reports and personal dashboards

Integration via web services

Mobile access

Access to customizations and extensions

Microsoft Social Engagement Professional

Self-service portal

Entitlements & SLAs

Knowledge read and authoring

Call scripting

Interactive Service Hub

Survey results

Sales Productivity Sales people who also require the Office 365 E5 productivity tools

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional

Office Suite 2016

Online Conferencing

Instant messaging and Skype connectivity

Cloud-based call management

PSTN Conferencing (in select geographies)

Advanced email and calendars

Advanced Security

Analytics tools


Service Productivity Service people who require the additional communication options provided by Microsoft Office 365 E5

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional

Office Suite 2016

Online conferencing

Instant messaging and Skype connectivity

Cloud-based call management

PSTN Conferencing (in select geographies)

Advanced email and calendars

Advanced security

Analytics tools


Enterprise 360 Marketing and Service professionals

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional

Parature Enterprise

Microsoft Dynamics Marketing Enterprise

Microsoft Social Engagement Enterprise

Marketing Marketing Professionals

Marketing resource management

Multichannel campaigns

Lead management and scoring

Sales and marketing collaboration

Social marketing

Marketing intelligence

Social Engagement Professional Social Engagement Professionals

Social listening

Social center (2 streams/user)

Social accounts

Trend alerts

SMS Marketing – only available in selected geographies Organisations who want to do SMS marketing SMS credits per month

There are different price lists for commercial, education government and charity organisations.

For details of pricing of the different licences for your organisation in your location please review https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/pricing-list.aspx .

Key differences between Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 On-premise

Broadly, the functionality of Microsoft CRM Online and Microsoft CRM On Premise is the same.  The differences are at a technical level, mainly associated with reporting, additional environments, for testing and the linkages to Microsoft Office 365.  In the table below, I have highlighted the differences and in green, shown my preference. 

Capability CRM Online CRM On Premises
Exchange Synchronization CRM for Outlook, Email Router, or Server Synchronization (if using Exchange Online/O365) CRM for Outlook, Email Router, or Server Synchronization (both Online and on premise)
Inside View (Insights) Included Additional cost
Social Listening Included Additional cost
Workflows/dialogs Limited to 200 Unlimited
Custom Entities Limited to 300 Unlimited
SSRS Reporting FetchXML, or T-SQL from a locally replicated reporting server FetchXML or T-SQL
Office 365 Groups Yes No, but not relevant
Immersive Excel Online Yes No
Mobile Apps Yes Yes with IFD and Office 365
Offline Mobile Yes No but not relevant
Upgrade/Update process Office 365 admin approves the upgrade before it is installed, update rollups applied automatically Upgrades and update rollups installed my your administrator
Direct server access No Yes
Phone App Yes Yes if environment externally facing via ADFS, otherwise No
Tablet App Yes Yes if environment externally facing via ADFS otherwise No
Storage Limited to the amount of CRM Online storage purchased Limited to the amount of storage available on your server
Release cycle Two releases per year. Spring release functionality exclusive to CRM Online, so new functionality available online first. Fall release released to both CRM Online and On Premises, includes the functionality released in the Spring release.
Migrating to Online Not applicable CRM On Premises customers can migrate to CRM Online and any customization done can be imported.   But, on premises database cannot be moved to the Online data center, so a data migration is required.
Migrating to On Premise CRM Online customers can migrate to On Premises at any time. SQL database provided to client at scheduled time that can be imported to an On Premises deployment. CRM On Premises customers can migrate to another On Premises CRM environment by moving the database.  This enables moving from on-premise to partner hosted, or from one partner hosted environment to another.
Sandbox environments CRM Online provides non production environments as part of your subscription that can be used for dev/test/UAT. The number of organizations received depends on the number of users. Non production environments can be installed, depending on local server availability.
SharePoint Integration Server Side Server Side
CRM for Outlook Yes Yes
CRM Outlook App Yes Yes
OneNote Integration Yes Yes
Power BI Reporting Yes Yes

If you feel that this article would be of use to people in your network, please do share it.  We also love getting likes for our articles.

If you have questions about the best CRM licencing options for you, please contact us or call us on 02 8212 3480



Site Search

Contact us

Opsis is an expert Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting company. Our focus is your Microsoft Dynamics 365 success - not licence sales or billable hours. As Principal Consultant, Gill oversees all business operations and strategic planning and execution, yet she still believes in offering personal attention to each and every client, so as to understand their needs and offer tailored solutions.  We are based in Sydney, with clients in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and across Australia.  We offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 strategy, Microsoft Dynamics 365 scoping, Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation, Microsoft Dynamics 365 technical support, Microsoft Dynamics 365 advice and guidance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 training and mentoring.