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How to manage Business Central Version Control and Upgrades Strategy

Microsoft regularly updates Business Central SaaS to new versions to ensure uninterrupted business continuity. They also include new features and sometimes retire old pages and tables that become obsolete. How do you manage upgrades if you have customisations or extensions? Will your data be affected? What if an update fails? These are the most common questions clients ask me when I work on new Business Central implementations. In this post, I explain how to manage Business Central versions and how to plan upgrades to ensure you stay up to date.


Upgrades types

Business Central environments are updated according to the Business Central roadmap, with two major updates each year: in April and October. Microsoft also rolls out minor updates monthly.


Typically, there is no need to plan for a minor upgrade unless you have published extensions without following Microsoft best practices. People sometimes message me on LinkedIn asking me to troubleshoot a piece of development that suddenly stops working after an upgrade, and the reason for that is always an error in the code and never a bug in the base application.


Major updates are different and sometimes require a set of actions to avoid disruptions. However, planning for a major upgrade does not mean you need to involve a Microsoft partner or pay for a consultant. If your version of Business Central is out of the box, I.E., no custom development, you are unlikely to require any support during an upgrade because Microsoft will manage that for you. You shouldn't require support even if you have installed applications from AppSource because Microsoft and Independent Software Vendors (ISV) have systems in place to ensure upgrades happen without disrupting clients' operations.


Minor Upgrades

The monthly minor updates for Microsoft Business Central include critical service improvements and application and platform changes. These updates address regulatory requirements and are rolled out across Azure regions over several days and weeks. Administrators can manually apply the update from the Business Central administration centre. If an environment hasn’t received the update by the specified last update date, Microsoft will automatically apply it, considering its update window.


Minor updates release schedule

Minor updates typically become available on the first Friday of each month, except during months when a major update is released.

  • Rollout Timeline: The updates are rolled out across Azure regions over several days and weeks.

  • Manual Application: Administrators can manually apply the update from the Business Central administration centre.

  • Automatic Application: If an environment hasn’t received the update by the specified last update date, Microsoft will auto-apply it, considering the environment’s update window.

Major upgrades

Major updates are available twice a year, in April and October. These updates typically include changes to the core applications, new features and extensions. On the release day, for any update, all new sign-ups and newly created environments (sandbox and production) are directed to the new version.


For existing environments running on the previous version, updates are gradually made available across supported regions over the coming days and weeks, while previews are available two months before general availability

The following figure illustrates the suggested steps for getting a preview of a major update with example dates for the two release waves in any given calendar year.

How to Prepare for an Upgrade

The following figure illustrates the suggested steps for getting a preview of a major update with example dates for the two release waves in any given calendar year.

Your upgrade strategy should be based on milestones and actions. The following list describes a typical upgrade plan:

Milestone

Example date

Action required

Owner

Previews are available

March 1

Creation of a new sandbox environment based on the new preview for test purposes. Compatibility of existing extensions is tested using a Cronus database.

Extension developer, ISVs, client’s system admin if it’s the client’s development

A few days before the update is announced

March 31

Copy the client’s production environment into a sandbox and wait for it to be updated to the new version.

Client’s system admin or partner (depending on support plan)

Update available in the client’s region

April 6

Set the update date for the new sandbox environment to the current date. The sandbox will be updated within the closest available update time window set for it. You should test existing extensions and production data against the new version. You should set up the update date for the production environment a few days or weeks in advance to help ensure that it doesn't get updated automatically before extensions and ISVs have been fully tested in the sandbox environment.

Client’s system admin or partner (depending on support plan)

Preview sandboxes are deleted

May 1

The preview sandboxes are deleted 30 days after the new major update is announced. There will be no option to keep these sandboxes or export data once deleted.

N/A

Roles and Responsibilities

Microsoft Partner

The partner’s role is to test extensions created by the dev team when the new version is in preview. You should check the terms and conditions with your Microsoft Partner to understand how and if they are involved in the upgrade process.


Some clients train system administrators during a Business Central implementation, but that rarely covers upgrades and version control. In my experience, this is a common issue with Microsoft partners who should invest more time teaching their clients how to manage upgrades of a SaaS application like Business Central.


Client

The client system admin should closely monitor updates and set up update windows in the Business Central admin portal. Your team administrator should also be responsible for planning the upgrade of any customisation and/ or per-tenant extension developed by the team or third-party extensions not procured by the MS partner.


Another crucial responsibility of the client's team is to monitor new features that will make other features obsolete. For example, the new sales price experience announced for Q2 2024 will replace the old sales price lists. Even though Microsoft will convert your existing price lists into new ones, you should plan for the conversion. That includes testing the new functionality in a dedicated sandbox and agreeing with the team to address any gaps or capitalise on new opportunities that the new features offer.


Likewise, the introduction of new features on major upgrades requires planning for any custom development rolled out on or related to pages and tables that will become obsolete. Microsoft partners don't typically help introduce new features unless they are included in the support plan.


ISV

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) are responsible for upgrading their extensions and don’t typically require additional steps. Microsoft will not force an update in the client’s tenant if AppSource apps installed in the client’s tenants aren’t yet available for the next major version. While most AppSource apps are kept up to date by the app providers, a particular app might need more time to prepare for the next major update and may not be available for the upgrade window.


Upgrades During a New Implementation

Microsoft partners typically manage major upgrades if these are scheduled during a new implementation; the details should be part of the Statement Of Work (SOW).


Upgrades during implementations include Per-Tenant-Extensions (PTE) and AppSource apps procured by the Microsoft partner as part of the project. Microsoft partners could also provide additional support for extensions created by the client or third parties, but such support is typically billed on a T&M basis.


In Summary

Business Centra SaaS is regularly upgraded to the newest versions, so you will always get the newest features and improvements. The upgrade process is seamless, and you don't typically need to manage the upgrades unless there are extensions or custom development in your environment. With some planning and the support of a Microsoft partner, you can get on the newest version of Business Central without interruptions.


Regards

Alfredo

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