Since Microsoft introduced Dynamics 365
What we’ve learned so far
After selling Business Central for two years now, we’ve found that virtually all of the functionality differences between Dynamics NAV and Business Central have been eliminated. Additionally, in some cases, Business Central has implemented some further improvements not found in Dynamics NAV.
Microsoft has also added nearly all of the keyboard shortcuts found in Dynamics NAV to Business Central (download a printable of these
So, can Business Central actually offer you free updates, at least for the online version? The answer is a qualified YES in some deployments and circumstances.
Online SaaS (Software as a Service) option with no customizations or third party apps – YES
In this setup, Microsoft will automatically update the online database twice per year in April and October. The database updates without any need for user intervention. The only potential cost is if the software changes in some way that requires additional training for a new user interface or capability. The cost to update will generally be zero or very minimal.
Online SaaS (Software as a Service) option with customizations – POTENTIALLY
In its two updates per year, Microsoft reserves the option to introduce system changes that might break customizations. However, this will not be true for every update or customization and they do provide notification ahead of time to indicate whether any customizations in the database are likely to break. This gives the customer sufficient time to deal with any necessary changes.
Implementing these changes will generally cost less compared to the cost of the original customization. Therefore, there could be a small cost twice per year for partners to check the planned update log for any rare problems and fix them. Overall, this cost and disruption to a customer will be much lower than going through a major upgrade to Dynamics NAV every few years. So, if you decide to take the customization path, you can expect a small cost on some updates.
Online SaaS (Software as a Service) option with third party apps – YES
Apps published by third parties (or Microsoft) on
On premise or hosted options – NO
Customers with hosted or on premise options are not going to participate in the semi-annual automatic updates from Microsoft by default. Instead they can choose to update their database when it is most convenient. Because of the coordination here and the possibility of having to deal with the effect of several skipped updates, it is quite likely partner assistance will be required. As with Dynamics NAV, if the customer has the internal expertise, they can provide the necessary services. In this situation, it is more likely that some form of training will be required.
Again, this option has a much lower cost than upgrading a Dynamics NAV database. This is especially the case if the customer has skipped major versions, such as when Inventory or Job Cost received major updates in Dynamics NAV.
Special note for databases with newer Dynamics NAV databases (2017 & 2018) with both legacy and new customizations or apps
There is a significant problem with Dynamics NAV databases when there are both legacy customizations or add-on products using the old c/side development toolkit and newer customizations using Visual Studio AL code extensions or third party Business Central add-ons. Having both in the database requires a specific process for applying the customizations, add-ons, and apps.
In addition, code extensions in Dynamics NAV 2017 and NAV 2018 have different capability and are not necessarily backwards compatible with Business Central code versions. This also applies to extensions developed for Business Central, which may or may not be compatible with newer Dynamics NAV versions.
You can find more information on Microsoft Dynamics 365
*Malcolm Roach is President and CEO of