Tech Industry

Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 2011 hits the cloud

After a few months of beta testing, Microsoft is rolling out the 2011 version of its Dynamics CRM Online service.

The latest offering in Microsoft's Dynamics business, Dynamics CRM 2011 Online, is being released to customers this morning, following a four-month beta program that consisted of more than 11,500 businesses around the world.

The CRM software, which is being released first as a hosted service through Microsoft, hits 40 different markets in 41 languages today, with an on-premises and partner-hosted version of the software to follow on February 28. That delay can be chalked up to extra testing on Microsoft's part to make sure it will work outside of the company's data centers.

"One reason we do that [has to do] with the online environment," Dynamics General Manager Brad Wilson told CNET. "We run our own systems, and we have a lower amount of testing required because we are actually running the service in our data centers so we know exactly what configuration is going in," Wilson said.

Even though it's the same software, the company goes through some extra steps to make sure everything works once it's in the wild. "When we release it out to our customers and to our partner hosts, we do additional testing because of the wide range of configurations that a customer or a partner host might have," Wilson said.

Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 2011.
Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 2011. Microsoft

As part of the initial launch, Microsoft has cut the price on the service from $44 per user per month down to $33 per user per month, as well as put forth its "Cloud CRM For Less" program, which has the company offering cash rebates on a per-user basis for companies that switch over from competing Salesforce or Oracle CRM tools. Wilson said it was too early to share data on how many rebates Microsoft had doled out so far, but said that as part of the launch announcement this morning, the company would have endorsements from companies that had recently made the switch from competitors like Oracle.

Users that are still using Microsoft's beta release should move to the final release product in order to get full support, Wilson said. "Now we're in the process of converting those existing beta customers onto full production trials, and then hopefully [moving] them on to be full, paid subscribers of the system," Wilson said. The company stopped taking beta sign-ups for the online product last month.

Much like Microsoft's Office 365, which is currently undergoing its own beta test leading up to a public release, Wilson painted Dynamics CRM 2011 Online's big benefit as its capability to scale up or down depending on who is using it.

"What's kind of cool about this right now is that this kind of price point and this type of technology lets smaller business take advantage of technology that was before only available to larger organizations," Wilson said. "So to be able to offer it up as an on-demand service at a very affordable price really expands the access of the technology to smaller companies, and I think that's very exciting."