We have posted here about attachments, and we’ve posted about documents, and whether you should extract your attachments to Azure or SharePoint. But in these discussions, users can get confused, so in this post, I’m hoping to add some clarity to this topic.
In my opinion, attachments and document management are two different use cases. While they can overlap, they address two distinct scenarios:
Attachments are file artifacts that will accumulate as you use Dynamics 365. Some will come from emails that are tracked; some may be photos that you take while on site at a client location, some may be news clippings related to a customer. These are unstructured data, are infrequently accessed, and only needed by people working inside of Dynamics. They do not require revision controls.
Documents are more important files and typically are related to a specific process, such as a sales process. There may be legal reasons you need to store them, and you need to be able to quickly find a specific document. They may be things like sales proposals, quote documents, or contracts, which may go through multiple revisions, and you need to be able to view the history of the document. Access to these documents is frequently required by people who are not Dynamics users.
Why is this an important distinction?
In the cloud world, discussions around documents and attachments are frequently driven by storage cost. And while that is important, it overlooks the more important factor of user experience. In other words, just because you strip your attachments to Azure in a supported manner doesn’t mean that you don’t still need the SharePoint document integration.
And I’ve had many clients that have SharePoint document integration tell me “we don’t use attachments in CRM,” only to find that they have 10-20 GB of attachments in their database from email attachments. Don’t expect users to put unstructured attachments in the documents area, and don’t try to force users to try to manage documents with attachments. Use the right tool for the job.
The right tool for managing sales proposal documents is SharePoint. The right tool for quickly uploading photos from your phone while on a site visit is attachments (and then extracting them to Azure BLOB).