How to Create a Copy of a Production Instance in Dynamics CRM Online

Many of our clients have recently expressed the need to update their Sandbox instance to match the data in their Production instance.  Having the same data represented in both environments and in sync is crucial to consultants, developers, and clients alike.  Working in our client’s production instances is typically not a best practice, so we often design and test in sandbox before moving into production.  When the sandbox environment contains the same data sets and processes as production, it provides us with a better and more accurate testing environment of the future production state.

Depending on the complexity of your production instance, copying over all your data used to be an arduous and daunting task.  With the latest update release of CRM Dynamics 2015 online, Microsoft has now provided a copy function to sync your sandbox environment to match your production instance, all with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Before you get started, just a little word of caution.  When you perform the copy function from production to your sandbox instance, you will be pulling all the data included in your production instance over, this includes your accounts and contacts names, addresses, and other personally identifiable information.  You will want to ensure that your security settings in sandbox match that of your production instance to prevent any breach of sensitive information.  You might even consider scrubbing certain records that contain sensitive data.

In this blog posting I will cover the necessary steps to complete this process as well as highlight some items to be aware of during this process.

Log into CRM

  1. Navigate to Microsoft Office 365: 
  2. Log in with your credentials.                                  
  3. Click on the CRM icon to launch Dynamics CRM: 

Copy the Production Instance to Sandbox Instance

  1. Click on “Production Instance” 
  2. Click on the “copy” icon to open the CRM Dynamic copy page.
  3. Select “CRM Sandbox” from the dropdown menu in the target instance.  Doing so will auto-populate the fields under the general settings and security settings.
  4. Select either “full copy” or “minimal copy”. 
  5. Click the “copy” button to run the copy process.




Note: Full copy includes data and customizations.  Minimal copy includes only customizations without data.

In addition, if the security group is not specified, all users with a Microsoft Dynamics CRM license will be added to the copied instance this includes; disabled, read-only, and admin users. To set the security group, you must first create a security group or chose from the groups currently listed.

 Disable Administration Mode and Verify Completion

Once the copy process is complete you will see a message that the sandbox instance is ready.  The copy process usually takes several hours to complete but depending on how much data, custom entities, workflows, etc., you have will determine how long the copy process will take.   The sandbox instance will be set to administrative access only.  This will allow administrators the opportunity to resolve any issues or disable background operations i.e. workflows, processes, and email notifications, prior to bringing the instance online.



To disable the administration mode, click on the admin icon to open up the CRM Online Administration Center page for editing. Click Save when complete.   

To verify that the copy process has completed successfully, navigate back to the sandbox instance to perform spot checks of your data and compare with your production instance.



Having an up-to-date sandbox instance is crucial to development and testing before making changes in production.  West Monroe Partners recommends refreshing your sandbox instance data with live data and processes from your production instance between development cycles or at least once a quarter.  Using realistic data for development and testing helps identify bugs/issues quickly and provides stakeholders with a more realistic view of the new features implemented during testing and demonstration sessions. 

Considering implementing or upgrading your current Dynamics CRM system to take advantage of features like these? Let’s talk.

1 Comment

  • Glady October 23, 2017 3:46 pm

    Will this process slow down production if I’m copying production to sandbox?

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