Tip #198: Understanding Upgrade Options

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with some of my MVP friends on a new book called CRM 2013 Quickstart. This book is a follow up to the CRM Field Guide and is designed for someone who is familiar with earlier versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and wants to get familiar with the new features of CRM 2013. See the table of contents here.

You can buy the book at http://www.crm2013quickstart.com. Enter code JoelLindstromQuickStartBook for a discount at purchase.

The following is an excerpt from chapter 8 — upgrading to CRM 2013.


If you use Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 On Premise, you choose when you upgrade, and the upgrade methodology that you will use. There are three different options that you can choose:

In-place Upgrade

In this option you will install CRM 2013 on an existing CRM 2011 server. During the installation, your CRM environment and database will be upgraded to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013.

Benefits of in-place upgrade

  • Re-use existing CRM server architecture and SQL Server
  • Preserve the existing URL and IP address for CRM
  • Outlook clients do not need to be reconfigured.

Risks of in place upgrade

  • Destroys CRM 2011 environment during installation
  • No roll-back option
  • Cannot be tried effectively prior to upgrade
  • May leave artifacts of CRM 2011 application on the CRM servers

Point to existing database upgrade.

In this option you will install CRM 2013 on a new CRM Application server, but you point it to the existing CRM SQL Server. A clean copy of the application is installed, and during the installation the MSCRM SQL database will be upgraded to CRM 2013.

Benefits of “point to existing database” upgrade

  • Re-uses SQL Server
  • Fresh application server with no artifacts from previous version
  • Can be rolled back by restoring a backup of MSCRM_Config and *_MSCRM databases

Risks of “point to existing database” upgrade

  • While this option is less risky that an in-place upgrade, it still destroys the CRM 2011 environment during the installation, requiring more user down-time than an import upgrade.
  • Given that the installation upgrades the CRM 2011 database during installation, this option cannot be effectively tried multiple times prior to upgrading.
  • Since CRM 2013 is installed on a different application server than CRM 2011, the URL and IP address of CRM 2013 will be different than CRM 2011, which will require that Outlook Clients be reconfigured to the new URL, or existing URL DNS entries will need to be remapped, which will make CRM 2011 no longer available. Given that DNS entry changes can sometimes take several hours to take effect, this can result in multiple hours of CRM being unavailable.

Import upgrade

With this option, CRM 2013 is installed on a fresh set of CRM and SQL servers. A clean (empty) CRM installation is performed, then a backup of the CRM 2011 database is restored to the new CRM 2013 SQL Server, and the organization is imported via the deployment manager MMC console snapin.

Benefits of Import upgrade:

  • Cleanest, least destructive upgrade option
  • No artifacts from previous version on CRM or SQL Servers
  • Since this option is nondestructive to your CRM 2011 environment, this upgrade option can easily be redone multiple times prior to your production environment. After installing CRM 2013, the database from CRM 2011 is imported and upgraded. If the import upgrade fails, you can drop the imported organization, resolve the issue, take another production backup, and try it again. At no point does the CRM 2011 production environment get disrupted, until the upgrade is complete and verified, and CRM 2011 is turned off.
  • Less downtime for CRM users, as you can complete the CRM installation on the new CRM 2013 servers well in advance of the actual upgrade. This allows you to test and upgrade your customizations prior to the production upgrade, then when ready to go-live on CRM 2013 in production, import the final upgrade into your environment. This results in the users being out of the CRM application for a significantly shorter period of time.

Risks of import upgrade

  • Added expense from having to provision new servers or virtuals for CRM 2013.
  • CRM is installed on a different server, so Outlook clients will need to be reconfigured, or DNS entries will need to be remapped.

The import/upgrade option is Microsoft’s recommended approach for upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013.

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