3 best practices for managing Cumulative Updates in Microsoft Dynamics NAV

November 1 2016

Microsoft Dynamics NAV has evolved rapidly in the last four years. For customers and partners both, NAV has become much easier to work with, maintain, and evolve as business needs change.

Sure there are heaps of new functionality, and Microsoft is continuously improving the product in response to user needs. There has been a subtle but important shift away from new business-oriented features and towards more platform-centric improvements. They range from tighter integration with Microsoft cloud services like Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, to more robust analytics through Power BI, web and mobile client improvements, and new tools for building customizations. Quietly in the background, with much less fanfare, Microsoft introduced a powerful change in the way NAV is updated in-between major releases - Cumulative Updates.

Introducing Cumulative Updates

In the past, NAV was updated and patched and maintained through updates and hotfixes and service packs. Updates and hotfixes plug individual holes in the product. As a partner, the typical approach was to apply a hotfix or update in response to a specific issue or problem the customer was experiencing. And that usually meant a lot of troubleshooting and research. To keep the system fully patched meant applying each and every hotfix and update. Service packs would bring the entire solution up-to-date with all the relevant fixes, but they were like major versions unto themselves and the process to apply a service pack wasn't too different from upgrading.

Enter Cumulative Updates (CUs). CUs are bundles of updates packaged together, and they include all of the previously released changes as well. Thus CU 11 will include the contents of CU 10, 9, 8, 7, etc. Therefore, a key benefit is that customers do not need to install every single CU, only the latest one. And of course there is no longer a need for extensive research to find the correct update to fix the problem you are having.

Cumulative updates deliver far more than just bug fixes. You can think of them like incremental "mini-upgrades". They also include regulatory features and updates to localization packs, and also new features and functionality.

Why Utilize NAV Cumulative Updates?

Microsoft releases a new CU for NAV each month. Even though each CU includes every CU before it, it is best to routinely schedule these important updates for your Dynamics NAV solution as part of routine maintenance. It's also an important risk mitigation strategy, with NAV's increased exposure to the internet. CUs often include fixes for known vulnerabilities.

3 Cumulative Updates Best Practices

1. Always Deploy in a Test Environment Before Deploying in Production

As with any update to your Dynamics NAV system, we highly recommend deploying Cumulative Updates in a test environment before deploying them in your live production environment.  Why is it important to test? Because not all Cumulative Updates will impact the system in the same way due to the different things they contain. Since any system change has the potential to have unexpected consequences, it is critical to follow rigorous testing procedures to ensure the CU addresses any issues you are experiencing and does not have unintended side effects, particularly for solutions that include modifications to standard NAV.

2. Stay within 2 Cumulative Updates to Stay Current

With Dynamics NAV 2016 and newer versions available, especially those on Microsoft Azure and exposed to the internet through the web-client and integration with cloud services such as Dynamics CRM and Office 365, or 3rd party applications, it is more important than ever before to keep the systems up-to-date. Applying CUs regularly is possibly the single biggest step you can take to mitigate internet security risk.

Whether your solution is deployed in the cloud or on-premise infrastructure, these risks are still present.

3. Know Your Cumulative Updates, Stay Informed

As previously stated, not all Cumulative Updates are the same in scope or impact. The updates can vary considerably. It is important that you know and understand what areas of your NAV solution each Cumulative Update affects so that you may plan and prepare for the potential impacts on your users.  To stay informed there are a few websites I recommend you follow:

  1. Obviously, the Dynamics NAV Team Blog which provides detailed information on what's included in each Cumulative Update.
  2. Also the Microsoft Customer Source for Dynamics NAV which supplies customer-related NAV upgrade/update information to help explain changes for users.
  3. Not surprisingly, since you are already here, MSDynamicsWorld's NAV Resource Center, which delivers a wealth of informative articles for your Dynamics NAV solution.
  4. Not to toot our own horn, our team's Catapult's Ready. Set. Grow. Blog delivers original posts on Dynamics NAV features and support.

In order to prepare for Cumulative Updates accordingly you must be informed about what will be impacted when you install each one.

For more information and best practices on future proofing your Dynamics NAV system, download our Ultimate Guide for Future-Proofing Dynamics NAV (registration required), a 30-page resource that includes more best practices for keeping your NAV solution up-to-date and ease the upgrade process.

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About Elliot Fishman

As CEO of Catapult, the only firm that is dedicated to delivering managed services and long-term support to organizations using Microsoft Dynamics NAV and CRM, Elliot's accountabilities including setting vision, providing leadership and driving alignment, and ownership of the company brand and promise to customers.

Download Catapult's latest eBook How to Future-Proof Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

For nearly 20 years Elliot has been helping organizations use information technology to improve their business operations and performance. His experience spans domains such as ERP, CRM, business intelligence, workflow and document management. Prior to leading Catapult, Elliot was Executive Vice-President with Habanero Consulting Group, the leading Canadian provider of enterprise portal solutions. Elliot's experience also includes senior management consulting and systems implementation with KPMG and management roles in Finance and IT with the University of Chicago.

Elliot mentors young entrepreneurs and CEOs through the Canadian Youth Business Federation and the Simon Fraser University School of Business.

Elliot is passionate about mountain biking, kitesurfing, and boating, his family and the business he leads.

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Aristides's picture

Hi Elliot, Great article on managing cumulative updates! I would also add that custom coding seems to be a major contributing factor of upgrades and updates either being delayed or simply going bad. NAV customers and partners are well advised to look at the ISV market space to fill their needs before they decide to do "customizations" which will more than likely be problematic down the road. Aristides (Ari) P. Smith, President & CEO Next Generation Logistics, Inc. 1611 Colonial Parkway, Inverness IL 60067 USA Email: asmith@nextgeneration.com Office: 847-963-0007 Ext. 112 Fax: 847-963-0079 Hours: Mon - Fri, 8:00AM – 5:00PM CST