One of the more significant changes transitioning from Dynamics NAV to Dynamics 365 Business Central relates to managing environments and debugging in Business Central.Change is the only constant. In the world of technology, that is a fact you cannot deny. Change often occurs for good reason, and usually with the intent to increase efficiency or create ease. Here's another fact: The people who are most impacted by (major) change to a process, product or system are usually those who are the most knowledgeable in that area.
If you've been a longtime Microsoft Dynamics NAV administrator or consultant who's adjusting to life with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in the cloud, then I'm sure the first paragraph resonates strongly with you.
Many things have changed in recent years as we transitioned from Dynamics NAV to Dynamics 365 Business Central. While the UI/UX refresh in the Web Client and the new development platform get the most attention, one of the more significant changes relates to managing environments and debugging in Business Central.
Meet the Business Central Admin Center. You may not have known it, but it's existed for quite some time. A big reason why it's been a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma is because it doesn't appear in Business Central's setup menus nor can you search for it.
|Important: This topic is only relevant to Business Central Cloud. If you are using Business Central On-Premises, you do not have an Admin Center portal. All management activities can be done using the traditional tools that have existed for Dynamics NAV.|
If you are a Microsoft Partner, you can access it by going to the Customers menu in Partner Center, expanding the record for the desired customer account, and then clicking on Dynamics 365 Business Central. But you don't have to be a partner to get to the Admin Center. You can also get to it by bookmarking the unique link for your Business Central tenant.
|Note: Only members of the Internal Admin group in Business Central, or Partner users assigned Admin Agent or Helpdesk agent roles by your Business Central partner can access the Admin Center.|
Every Business Central tenant has a unique tenant ID, also known as the Azure AD tenant ID or the Microsoft ID for the tenant. Once you know your tenant ID, you can easily construct and bookmark the URL to get to the Admin Center. The default structure to construct the URL to the Admin Center is:
In the URL above, simply replace <TenantID> with the actual tenant ID and copy and paste it into your favorite browser (note: do not use < and > characters). If you are not already logged into Business Central, you will be prompted to do so.
So, here's the million-dollar question: How do you find out your Business Central tenant ID?
There are a few different ways, but the simplest route is from the Help menu which can be accessed by clicking the ? icon located at the top-right of the Business Central browser window. Here, you will see a link titled Help & Support. Clicking it will open an information window. Scroll all the way to the bottom of that window to the section titled Report a problem. In this section, you will find a caption titled Azure AD tenant followed by a long alphanumeric string with some hyphens in it, ending in a comma. That entire string (without the final comma) is your unique tenant ID for Business Central.
In the Wave 2 Release of Dynamics 365 Business Central coming this fall, you will have a direct link to the Admin Center visible right from the Help menu.
Your tenant ID can also be used to quickly access a Sandbox environment in your tenant or your production environment (Did you know that Wave 2 will allow you to have more than one Production environment of Business Central within your tenant?).
Here's how: https://businesscentral.dynamics.com/<TenantID>/<EnvironmentName>
Once you are in the Admin Center, you will land on the Environments page. Here, you should see at least one environment listed, with "Production" as its name. If you have a cloud Sandbox, you will also see it listed here.
So, what can you do from the Admin Center?
- Manage Environments
- Set Notification Recipients
- Track Telemetry
- Track Reported Outages
- New Support Request
Let's examine each of these one by one.
This area is the most valuable one in the Admin Center.
In this area, you can create a new environment or delete an existing environment. Today, you can only create and delete Sandbox environments; Production environments cannot be deleted, nor can a new one be created at this time. It's possible that when creation of additional Production environments is supported in Wave 2, you may also have the option to delete them.
You will also see the environment Type (Production or Sandbox), environment state, the Country/Region it is tied to (and consequently, the localization of Business Central applied to that environment), the Scheduled update date (when applicable), and a URL to quickly launch the desired environment.
Note: You can create a sandbox from inside Business Central, but when you do it that way, you lose the ability to assign a specific name to the sandbox environment. Its name will automatically be set to ‘Sandbox.’
Clicking the +New menu item allows you to select a Type for the new environment (today, only Sandbox is supported). You can either create a clean Sandbox environment or copy a Production environment.
When creating a clean Sandbox environment, you may be presented with the option to choose from two versions: the current version or a preview (or next) version. The preview or next version choice is only presented shortly before a major update is about to be released or when you are eligible to update to a new version.
Note: Each Business Central tenant can have up to three (3) Sandbox environments.
On the Environments page, you will find that each environment name is hyperlinked. When you click one, it will take you to a detail page where you can learn more about the selected environment (what data center the environment is located in, the database size, and the platform and application version/build of Business Central it is running on).
Further, you can report an outage, but it is only supported for Production environments. In the future, you will also be able to manage support contacts from here.
Another useful feature/function here is the ability to manage updates and upgrades. This can be done by clicking the Update menu, which gives you the option to Set Update Window. This option lets you choose a 6-hour window during which monthly updates/hotfixes can be applied automatically by Microsoft without interrupting your work.
Also, if the Version Management table on the detail page shows that there is an Update version and Update scheduling is available, the Update menu will also let you Schedule Update. This only applies to major updates, i.e. Wave 1 and Wave 2 half-yearly updates (what we traditionally refer to as an upgrade) and will allow you to choose a date within a one-month period. This is the longest you can defer a major update for. The date you select will be treated as a "do not update before" date, and can allow you to prepare for the upcoming changes by testing the new version in a sandbox environment, or to fix compatibility issues that your current extensions may have with the newly released version.
This nicely leads us into the next area of the Admin Center…
In this area, you can assign one or more recipients (from your organization, or consultants from your partner organization, etc.) to receive administrative event updates from Microsoft about Business Central. An example of an administrative event is when a new version is available, when an automated attempt to update your tenant succeeds or fails, or compatibility issues with existing extensions that have been identified with regards to an upcoming version update.
In this area, you can set a date and time filter, a relative window of time and the instance name and retrieve all relevant system telemetry. You can also filter or sort this list by Failure Message.
While the failure message is not as in-depth as traditional debugging in Dynamics NAV using the Sessions function or from the Development Environment, it can still be helpful in identifying which Object, Extension and Function is causing a problem. It also provides a Timestamp to narrow down specifically when an error took place.
This is a fairly new area in the Admin Center, and the value here is that you can track Production Outages that you have reported in the past.
You have the ability to filter down to a window of time such as 7 Days, 14 Days, 30 Days, or All. Each reported outage is identified with a Ticket ID, when it was created, the environment name, and type of Outage.
New Support Request:
This is also a recent addition to the Admin Center. Unlike the other menu items on the Admin Center, the New Support Request menu does not appear in the main window. Instead, you access it by clicking the ? icon (help menu) in the top right of the Admin Center window.
Clicking it will pop up a new window (or tab) in your browser from where you can create a support ticket for an issue within the Business Central application.
Note: This area is reserved for end-customers to open a Support ticket. Microsoft Partners and delegated administrators who wish to open a Support ticket can do so from the Microsoft Partner Center.
Last, but not least, under the ? icon (help menu), you will also find a menu item called Learn. This link takes you to the documentation associated with the Admin Center.