A Free Portal is Good, Right?

Is a Free Portal Really Free?

A prudent business person looks to get the most value for dollar spent and the idea of getting something for FREE is often a relief – one less dollar spent to get our needs met!  Or so we hope.

For every FREE offer, you need to determine if the solution is actually meeting your business needs.

Take for example the Free portal provided by Dynamics 365.

Is it really free and will it really meet my needs?  The answer to that depends on your business.

Follow a typical scenario where the path to a web portal is paved.  Where do you fit on the road to a web portal, and will free meet your business needs?

With Dynamics 365 you can choose 1 of 5 portal templates for free.  For this example, let’s choose the Customer Self-Service Portal.

Phase 1 – Basic Template

You now have a Customer Service template, that provides basic customer service functions from CRM in a pre-configured website.  Which will look very similar to this:

Basic Template

If this is the customer service experience you are wanting for your business then great!  Your Portal is:


Phase 2 – Customize to Business Processes

You may find your free Customer Service Template does not match the processes you have in your business, or the additional experiences you want to provide to your customers.  For example, you identify that you want your customers to be able to generate, view and cancel orders.

No problem, with your CRM Configuration, Advanced CSS coding and scripting or Liquid Forms Skills you can make the changes required.  Without those skills you are looking at significant development costs.

If you want to customize your portal, your free portal is:


Phase 3 – Design to reflect Business Brand

Your free customer service portal is in a pre-configured web template.  If you want your customer service web portal to look and feel like your website, this is where things get tricky.  Since Dynamics CRM / 365 was never meant to be a Website Content Management System, you are restricted in design options and you may find that your portal never reflects your brand properly.  If the design changes are possible, you will once again need the development skills or incur development costs to get the changes you need.

If you want to design your portal, your free portal is:


Phase 4 – Development Portal

Your Free portal provides one Live Production Portal, which is great when you launch your portal for the first time.  But any changes you want to make to your portal content or forms, are being published in real time.  That can be stressful for any experienced developer.

No problem, you can purchase a Development Portal which allows you to make changes offline and before they go live.  This additional portal will cost $500/month or $6,000/year. In most organizations, at minimum, you would want a development portal, a staging portal as well as a production portal. With the addition of a staging portal you can expect another $500/month.

If you want the security of a development portal to make changes, your free portal is:


Phase 5 – Adding Portals

Your Free portal provides you with one portal template, in this case we chose the Customer Self-Service Portal.  You are using the portal and think it’s great!  So great that you want to expand your portal capabilities into a new category.  You can choose the Community Template or start from scratch with a custom portal.  Let’s say you want to add a blog to your portal.

No problem, you can purchase the Community Portal template for $500/month, blogs are included with that portal.  If you want to build a customized Customer Service portal and add the blog functionality from the Community Portal, then use your development skills again, or incur the hefty costs to build the custom portal from scratch. And don’t forget the extra development and staging portal costs for this new portal.

If you want to increase the portal engagements for your business, your free portal is:


Phase 6 – Future Proofing

Take out your crystal ball and look into the future.  Have your customer service needs changed?  Have your processes evolved and customers become more engaged?  If you see your business growing and evolving into the future, then you need to expect your web portal needs will change as well.  With your free portal, do you have the skills required to maintain the future needs of your business?  If not, then once again you will incur more development costs to keep your portal current with your business.

Into the future, your portal is:


If you found your business needs were in the NOT FREE and NOT MEETING MY NEEDS category, then The Portal Connector is the solution for you and here’s why!

While you do have to pay for The Portal Connector Solution, the configuration, design and ongoing maintenance can all be managed by YOU!  Here is a summary of the benefits:

  • Implement, configure and maintain the solution on your own with drag and drop tools
  • You get all of the functionality of a full Content Management System
  • Visually build your forms, pages and templates so you can see what the end result will be
  • Build as many service portals as you want with no additional costs
  • Enhanced Flexibility – customize with any data in your CRM, Host anywhere, use with any version of CRM (on-premise or in the cloud)
  • Access to videos, training and support

Additional Resources:

View a Comparison Chart for The Portal Connector and Power Apps Portals (the next generation of Dynamics 365 Portals)


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