Manage sandbox and production environments

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The Environments tab of the Business Central administration center allows you to view information about the Business Central production and sandbox environments for a tenant and manage updates for each environment.

Starting with 2020 release wave 2, every new Business Central customer with a Business Central Premium or Essential subscription can use one production environment and three sandbox environments, at no extra charge. They can then choose to purchase an unlimited number of additional production environments, if needed, through their CSP partner. Each additional production environment comes with three additional sandbox environments and 4 GB additional, tenant-wide database capacity. Production and sandbox environments can be created and used in any country or region where Business Central (online) is available, including the countries or regions where the existing environments are running.

Administrators can create the additional environments in the Business Central admin center. On the Capacity page, you can see how many environments of each type you can create.

The environments quota will be applied when you try to create a new environment, or copy an existing environment, in the Business Central admin center.

The Environments list page provides an overview of the sandbox and production environments in the tenant. You can see the details and additional actions for an environment by selecting the link in the Name column of the list for the environment.

The Business Central administration center provides a simple method for creating the production environments for a tenant. For each tenant, administrators can create multiple production environments, including
the option for environments to be on different country-specific or region-specific versions of Business Central.

To create a production environment, follow these steps:

  1. On the Environments tab of the Business Central administration center, select the New action on the action ribbon.

  2. In the Create Environment pane, select Production in the Type drop-down list.

    Create Production Environment

  3. In the Country drop-down list, select the country for the environment. The selected country determines the localization for the environment and the Microsoft Azure region in which the environment is created and stored.

  4. Select Create.

When the new production environment is created, it will be on the latest production version of Business Central.

Create a sandbox environment

A sandbox environment is a non-production instance of Business Central. Isolated from production, a sandbox environment is the place to safely explore, learn, demo, develop, and test the service without the risk of affecting the data and settings of your production environment. Each Business Central tenant is limited to three sandbox environments.

To create a sandbox environment, follow these steps:

  1. On the Environments tab of the Business Central administration center, select the New action on the action ribbon.

  2. In the Create Environment pane, provide a name for your environment.

  3. Select Sandbox in the Type drop-down list.

  4. Specify if you want the sandbox environment to contain a copy of another environment. If this option is selected, select the environment to copy. When you are creating a sandbox environment as a copy of another environment, the new environment is created on the same application version as the environment that is being copied. The new environment will also contain all the per-tenant extensions and AppSource extensions that are installed and published in the environment that is being copied.

  5. In the Country drop-down list, select the country for the environment. The selected country determines the localization for the environment and the Azure region in which the environment is created and stored.

  6. Select the application version for the new sandbox environment from the version list. The sandbox environment won't be accessible until the State shows as Active.

A new sandbox environment (preview) only contains the CRONUS demonstration company. Actions that you perform in the sandbox environment (preview) do not affect data or settings in your production environment.

When you are creating a new sandbox environment, if the environment isn't a copy of an existing environment, you have the option to select the application version for the new environment. The version list will show the latest production version, which is the version that is used for new production environments.

The version list might also have one or more preview versions. Preview versions are early release candidates of upcoming releases of Business Central that are made available specifically for sandbox environments. This feature allows you to review new functionality, validate extension compatibility, and perform other general testing of the upcoming release.

When a sandbox environment is created on a preview version, the environment will be updated automatically to new preview versions when they become available. However, the environment won't be updated to the production version. When a sandbox environment is on a preview version, it must stay on a preview version until it is deleted. The environment might also be deleted if an update between preview versions fails. We recommend that preview versions are used only for temporary testing of an upcoming release.

Create a sandbox based on a production environment

A single, default sandbox environment can also be created from within a page in the production environment of the Business Central application.

If a sandbox is created with a copy of a production environment, several precautions are taken for that sandbox:

  • The job queue is automatically stopped.

  • Any base application integration settings are cleared.

  • Outbound HTTP calls from extensions are blocked by default and must be approved for each extension.

  • Any General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) action must be handled separately and repeated for the sandbox. No synchronization occurs with the production environment after the sandbox has been created.

To create a sandbox environment from within your production environment, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Search for page icon in the upper-right corner of the page, enter Create Sandbox, and then select the related link.

    Screenshot showing Tell Me Create Sandbox Environment options.

  2. Select Sandbox Environment (Preview) > Create.

    Screenshot showing information provided about creating a sandbox.

To enable outbound HTTP calls, go to the Extension Management page in Business Central and select Configure. Then, on the Extension Settings page, make sure that Allow HttpClient Requests is turned on. This setting must be enabled for each extension.

Delete a sandbox

To delete a sandbox environment, choose the environment on the Environments tab of the Business Central administration center and then select Delete on the action ribbon.

Restoring an environment

Database backups are an essential part of any business continuity and disaster recovery strategy, because they protect your data from corruption or deletion. Business Central online service uses Azure SQL Database as the underlying database backup technology for its environments. All databases are protected by automated backups that are continuously created and maintained by the Azure SQL service. The backup retention period for Business Central databases is set to 30 days for both production and sandbox environments.

As an administrator, you can restore an existing environment from a time in the past, within the 30-day retention period. An environment can only be restored within the same Business Central version (minor and major).

Permission to restore environments is limited to specific types of users: internal and delegated administrators.

The following users are allowed to restore environments.

  • Delegated administrators from reselling partners

  • Administrators from the organization that subscribes to Business Central (online)

Also, these users must have the D365 BACKUP/RESTORE permission set assigned to their user account in the environment they're trying to export.

The following are considerations and limitations, when restoring an environment.

  • Environments can only be restored if the customer has a paid Business Central subscription.

  • Each environment can be restored up to 10 times in a calendar month.

  • It isn't possible to use the Business Central administration center to restore an environment that was previously deleted.

  • If you end up in the situation where you need to restore a deleted environment, contact Microsoft Support for help. In such cases, Microsoft doesn't guarantee a restore operation will succeed, or all data and extensions will be available in the restored database. So before you decide to delete an environment, it's important to ensure that the environment is no longer needed.

  • An environment can only be restored within the same Azure region and country (Business Central localization) as the original environment.

  • A production environment can be restored to either a Production or Sandbox type environment. A sandbox environment can only be restored to a Sandbox type environment.

  • When restoring a sandbox environment, all development extensions (that is, extensions published directly from Visual Studio Code) won't be available in the restored environment—even if they were present at the point-in-time you're restoring to). Additionally, any per-tenant extensions that depend on such development extensions won't be available.

  • Per-tenant extensions you may have uploaded that target the next version of the Business Central won't be available in the restored environment even if they were uploaded at the point-in-time you're restoring to. Per-tenant extensions that were already installed will be available in the restored environment.

  • Every AppSource and Business Central app in the restored environment will have the latest available hotfix installed automatically even if the hotfix was introduced after the point-in-time you're restoring to.

Here are a few important things to do when you're planning to restore an environment.

  • Make sure you communicate the plan to restore an environment within your organization upfront, in good time.

  • Typically, you want to stop users and external integrations from using the environment during restoration. Consider doing the following actions in the environment you're planning to restore:

    • Remove access to the environment for non-essential users, but make sure required users, like administrators, keep access. For more information, see Remove a user's access to the system.

    • Put all job queues to on hold. For more information, see Use Job Queues to Schedule Task.

    • Consider renaming the environment. The users and external integrations won't be able to access it by its old name.

  • When restoring an environment, you'll create a new environment that the database backup will be restored to. You can't use the same name for two environments of the same customer. So, if you want the restored environment to have the same name as the original environment, rename the original environment before you run the restore operation. For example, you could change the name to include [DONOTUSE].

To restore an environment, you'll have to provide a name for the environment and a date/time from which to restore the database.

  1. Select Environments, and then open the environment you want to restore.

  2. Select Restore.

  3. In the Restore Environment pane, specify the date and time in the past to which you want to restore the environment.

  4. Select the type to be used for the restored environment.

  5. Specify a name for the restored environment.

  6. Select Restore.

    • If there's no backup available for date and time you chose, select the available nearest backup, when prompted. This situation can occur, for example, if the environment was being updated to a new minor or major version during the specified time.

    • For newly created environments, it may take up to 30 minutes for the backups to be initialized, so you may not be able to restore an environment if you have just created it.

  7. When the process starts, you can go to the list of your environments and see the status of the restored environment. At first, you'll see the new environment with a state of Preparing. The original environment state remains as Active.

    • The restore operation duration is affected by several factors. For large or highly active databases, the restore might take several hours. You can find more details about the factors that affect the recovery time at Recovery time.

    • Once the restore is completed, the environment state will change to Active. If the restore operation fails, you can find the failure details on the Operations page. In this case, delete the failed environment, and then try to restore again. Contact Microsoft Support if the issue persists.

After restoring an environment, you should inspect and adjust data to prepare it for users. Consider enforcing these steps during this period.

  • Remove access to the environment for non-essential users, but make sure required users, like administrators, keep access.

  • Put all job queues in the restored environment to on hold immediately after restore.

  • If needed, you can upload the per-tenant extensions targeting the next version of Business Central again.

The original environment will remain available and isn't affected by the restore operation. You can then get back to the original environment if you need to look up data. Or maybe you'll have to migrate some data to the restored environment. You can, for example, migrate data by using Business Central RapidStart services.

You can restore your production environment into a new production environment even if doing so results in exceeding your number of environments or database capacity quotas. You can however only exceed this quota by one extra production environment, regardless of how many production environments you have available for your subscription. This capability is provided as an exception, to ensure that you can always restore your production environment in critical situations. You must return within your quota within 30 days following the restore by either removing the original production environment or by purchasing an additional production environment. Before removing the environment, we recommend you export the environment to an Azure storage container in case you need to access some data at a later point. This exception isn't available for restoring from and to sandbox environments.

When you're satisfied with the data in the restored database, enable the users, start the job queues, and let your organization know that the restore process is now completed and they can again use the environment.

Set the update window

Business Central environments are updated on a monthly basis. Major updates occur semiannually, and minor updates occur each month where no major update occurs. The Business Central administration center gives you a level of control over the timing of updates for each environment.

The update window for an environment defines a window of time during the day in which the environment can be updated. When an update is rolling out to Business Central online, regardless of whether it's the monthly service update or a major update, the update will be applied to an environment within the time frame that the update window defines. This approach helps to ensure that updates are applied outside of the customer's normal business hours, for example. The update window must be a minimum of six hours.

To set the update window for an environment, follow these steps:

  1. On the Environments tab of the Business Central administration center, select the Name of the relevant environment to open the environment details.

    Screenshot of where to set updates to an environment.

  2. Select the Set update window action on the update list on the action ribbon.

    Screenshot of the Set Update Window action.

  3. In the Set update window pane, specify the start time and end time for the update window for the environment.

    Screenshot of the Set Update Window showing details.

  4. Select Save.

For major updates only, you have the option to select a specific date on which the environment is updated. When a major update version is available, a notification is sent to the notification recipients that are listed on the Notification recipients tab of the Business Central administration center. The Update version field in the version management section of the environment details also displays the version number of the available update version.

To schedule an update date, follow these steps:

  1. On the Environments tab of the Business Central administration center, select the Name of the relevant environment to open the environment details.

    Screenshot of where to set updates to an environment.

  2. Select the Schedule Update action on the update list on the action ribbon.

    Screenshot of the Schedule Update Action action.

  3. In the Update pane, select the desired update date. The selected date must be within a given date range that is displayed in the pane.

  4. Select Schedule Update.

Start immediate environment updates in the administration center

When you receive an email notification about your environment being scheduled for an update, you can change the update date to a more convenient date by using the Business Central administration center. You can also test the update by creating a sandbox environment as a copy of your production environment.

In previous releases, newly added environments would be added to the update roll-out process within a few days, which significantly limited your ability to test the updates. With the improvements introduced to the update roll-out process in 2020 release wave 1, the newly created sandbox environment will be automatically added to the update roll-out within one hour. If you added yourself as a notification's recipient in the Business Central administration center, you'll receive an email notification, and the update notification will also be visible in the administration center.

If you want to start the update of this environment immediately, open the Environment page, then select Schedule Update from the Update menu. Change the update date to the current date and confirm your choice. The update will start immediately.

If your environment has the update window defined, the update will start in the first available window (which might be on the next day). If the update fails, you can analyze and correct the failures and repeat the update attempt again in the same way.

Timelines for major updates

The following figure illustrates the key milestones and dates for rolling out a major update. The timeline and dates are loosely based on 2020 release wave 2. The same timeline applies to all other major updates, though dates will differ.

Diagram of an update rollout timeline for Business Central.

The following describes the milestones with example dates for the two release waves in any given calendar year:

  1. Update is available - The date when the new major version of Business Central becomes generally available.

  2. Update starts rolling out - The default date when Microsoft starts upgrading your environments. Once the update is scheduled, you can change that date, within an allowed date range, to a date which fits you better.

  3. Last scheduled update date - The last date you can choose to extend your upgrade date to, typically 30 days after the update is available, but this was extended to 60 days for 2020 release wave 2.

Dates and times differ significantly across countries and regions. Make sure that you have set up notifications in the Business Central administration center so that you're notified when the next major update is available.

In the release plans, you can see when the next major update is generally available. Typically, the update is announced on the Dynamics 365 blog, and Microsoft starts rolling out the update to existing environments. On the same day, new customers signing up for a trial and all newly created environments (sandboxes and production) are directed to the new version.

The existing environments are scheduled to be updated to the new version gradually across the world. Microsoft strives to schedule all environments soon after the official release date, but for some environments, the update might not be available for a few weeks. In extreme cases, a given environment might be scheduled for update up to one month after the release date.

When the update becomes available for an environment, all notification recipients for that environment receive email notifications. A notification about the update availability is also shown in the Business Central administration center itself. Starting this day, you can set the date for when your environment should be updated via the Business Central administration center (schedule update). You can choose any date between that date and the date that is shown as the last available date for the update. The last available date can be between one and four weeks away.

Managing Apps

A Business Central environment is built as a collection of apps. These apps include Microsoft apps and third-party apps, for example, apps from AppSource. The apps work together to provide customers with a broad set of features to address their various business, market, and industry needs.

Updates are frequently made available for these apps by Microsoft, partners, and ISVs. App updates add new features and fix known problems. To keep your environment up to date and running smoothly, you should check for and install the latest updates regularly.

To help you manage app updates, the administration center includes the Manage Apps page. Like other features in the administration center, this functionality can be used by the partner (delegated administrator) or a local customer admin.

When ISVs make new versions of their apps available on the AppSource marketplace, the partners and customer admins can discover and install the updates by using the Manage Apps page of the administration center.

The Manage Apps page can also help admins do the following:

  • Resolve requirements for app updates.

  • Understand an app's dependencies.

  • Analyze installation and update issues.

  • Trigger app updates.

The functionality is also available using the Business Central Administration API. The API enables partners and customer admins to do the above operations programmatically.

Note

The installation of the new AppSource apps, as well as updates to per-tenant extensions (PTEs), is still managed from the in-product Extensions Management page.

To get an overview and check for updates, follow these steps:

Open the Manage Apps page from the environment details page. Select Environments, select the specific environment, and then Manage Apps.

Screenshot of the Business Central Admin Center Manage apps page for environments.

The Manage Apps lists all the apps installed on the environment and indicates whether updates are available. When first opened, the system will start checking for updates. Wait for this operation to complete.

When completed, if an update is available for an app, there are two indications:

  • The Latest Available Version column contains the new version number of the app.

  • The Available Update Action column contains one of the following actions:

    • Action required - This action means that you have to do something before you install the update for the app. For example, you may have to first update another app or install a new app. Select the link and read the Requirements for App Updates pane to see what is required.

    • Install update - This action means that the app is ready to install. Select the link to start the installation.

We recommend you always install and test an app update on a Sandbox environment first. Make sure the app update won't disrupt the operational flow or cause problems for the users.

The following steps provide the general flow for updating an app:

  1. If you don't have a sandbox environment, create one.

  2. Open the Sandbox environment and select Manage Apps.

  3. On the Manage Apps, find the app in the list that you want to update.

  4. If the Available Update Action column for the app shows the Action required link, resolve the update requirements.

  5. When the Available Update Action column for the app shows Install update, select this action to install the new version of the app.

    The update will be applied immediately after you accept the confirmation dialogue. The users can continue working during update installation, but depending on the app changes coming with the update, they may receive a message asking them to log out and login again. It's therefore recommended that you apply the updates outside of working hours.

  6. Wait for the app to be installed.

    • Select Refresh occasionally to check the status.

    • If the app installs successfully, the new version displays in the Installed version column and the Available Update Action column is Up to date. If the installation fails the Available Update Action column changes to Update failed.

  7. If the app update succeeded, sign in the Sandbox environment and test the new app version.

  8. If the app update works as expected on the Sandbox, switch to the production environment, and repeat the installation steps for the app update.

For apps that have dependencies on other apps, you may have to update or install the dependency apps. The Requirements for App Updates page provide this information. The requirements are divided into two categories, Update requirements and Install requirements. After you resolve all requirements, the app that you want to update will be ready to install.

The Update requirements category lists existing dependency apps that have updates to be installed. To resolve these requirements, complete the following steps for each app:

  1. Return to the Manage Apps page.

  2. Find the app in the list and select Install update.

  3. Wait for Available update action column to change to Up to date.

The Install requirements category lists dependency apps that haven't been installed yet. For example, a new app was introduced that app update depends on.

You can't, however, install a new app from the Manage App page. Use the Extension Management page in the client instead. Completing this step will resolve the requirement.

When an app update is installed, the new app version is starting to install immediately, following the confirmation dialogue. The new app version will be published, synchronized, and updated in the background. This process usually doesn't take long, and users won't be interrupted. However, we still recommend you to install the updates outside of working hours.

When the installation of an app update fails, the Available Update Action column will display the Update failed action. Select this action to get more information. The App Update Details pane provides some details about update and what might have caused the failure.

Sometimes the update could fail because of a transient problem. Select Retry to try to install the update again. If the installation continues to fail, contact your ISV. You can find the support details of each ISV on their app page on AppSource. Contact Microsoft support if the app publisher is Microsoft.

Viewing Database Locks

A new page called Database Locks is available in the client. The page shows a snapshot of all database locks. Where possible, it displays details on the AL session that is causing the database lock.

Locking controls access to the same data at the same time by multiple users. To protect a transaction from another transaction modifying the same data, the first transaction puts a lock on the data. The lock remains until the transactions is done.

When a database lock occurs, concurrent transactions are limited in their access to the affected data resource. The limit is determined by the locking mode set by SQL Server. In the client, depending on the locking mode, users may be blocked from completing transactions on the locked data. If so, they'll typically get a message that indicates the lock condition.

The Database Locks page gives a snapshot of all current database locks in SQL Server. It provides information like the table and database resource affected by the lock. Or, the AL object or method that ran the transaction that caused the lock. These details can help you better understand the locking condition.

Database locking controls access by multiple users to the same data at the same time. To protect a transaction against other transactions modifying the same data, the first transaction puts a lock on the data. The lock remains until the transaction's done.

Users may be blocked from completing transactions on the locked data. They'll typically get a message that indicates the lock condition.

To view database locks, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the Search for Page or Report icon, enter Database Locks

  2. Choose the related link.

The Database Locks page gives snapshot of all current database locks.

Screenshot of the Database Locks page showing the current locks.

Viewing Table Information

When troubleshooting performance issues, sometimes it's necessary to see the distribution of data size across tables. This feature makes it easy for an administrator to look up this information.

The page 8700 Table Information provides information about all system and business tables in a Business Central solution. In particular, the page displays information about the amount of data the tables contain.

This information is useful for troubleshooting performance problems, because it let's you see the distribution of data size across tables.

To open this page, select the Search for Page or Report icon. Enter Table Information, and then select the related link.

The Table Information page shows the following:

  • Company Name
  • Table Name
  • Table No.
  • No. of Records
  • Record Size
  • Size (KB)

Screenshot of the Table Information page.

Information is shown for all companies for which the user has SUPER permissions.

Managing Sessions

Sometimes, canceling a session is the only way to unblock a customer. For example, a long-running report is locking data in a table, preventing warehouse employees from working. Prior to this feature, partners would need to contact support to locate and terminate the session.

In the Business Central administration center, an administrator can see a list of active sessions on an environment and cancel one or more of them. All existing resources consumed by a session will also be canceled.

The Manage Sessions page displays information about active sessions on an environment and lets you cancel selected sessions.

To open the page, follow these steps:

  1. Select Manage Sessions.

    Screenshot showing the sessions tab in the admin center.

  2. Use the Show session details check box to show more or fewer details.

    Screenshot of the Show session details option.

Manage the available database and file capacity

Internal administrators and delegated administrators (partners) can get an overview of the database and file capacity available for their Business Central environments, and how much of it is currently used, in the Business Central admin center.

This overview helps administrators better control the size of the environments so that they can purchase additional capacity or free up capacity in time for when it's needed.

To open the capacity overview page, select Capacity, in the menu of the Business Central Administration Center.

Screenshot of the Capacity window in the admin center.

Storage capacity usage of Business Central is represented by Database and File on the Capacity page. Business Central customers can use up to 80 GB of database storage capacity across all of their environments (production and sandbox), meaning that the sum of database capacity usage of all of their environments must not exceed 80 GB.

Some businesses have unique scenarios that may require additional storage. For those organizations that need more space, there is an option to purchase extra database capacity as an add-on to their existing Business Central subscriptions through their reselling CSP partner. Every add-on increases overall database capacity quota by 1 GB. Every additional production environment purchased by the customer also increases tenant-wide database capacity quota by 4 GB.

The Storage usage by environment section of the Capacity page provides a tenant-level view of where your organization is using storage capacity. Here you can see how much database and file storage is used by each environment. For each of your environments, you can also navigate to the Table Information page within Business Central, which let's you see the distribution of data size across tables.

Exceeding the paid database storage limit won't interrupt transaction processing within the existing environments. The existing environments that organically grow and eventually exceed the quota will still be accessible and available for the customers to continue their business operations. However, once the capacity limits are exceeded, customers won't be able to create new environments or copy their existing environments until the storage used by the existing environments is decreased to fit the quota or additional capacity is purchased.

Administrative actions are currently not limited by the File storage, however similar restrictions will be applied to the File storage with one of the next releases of Business Central.

There are a few things that you can do to reduce the amount of data stored in a database to keep it under its current limit.

  • Delete unused companies - If you have companies that are no longer needed such as test companies or the Demo company, delete these companies.

  • Delete documents - Over time, the database will accumulate historical data for documents, like invoiced purchase orders. If these documents are no longer needed, delete them.

  • Use retention policies - Retention policies allow you to specify how frequently you want Business Central to automatically delete outdated data in tables that contain log entries and archived records.

  • Migrate BLOB data types to Media or MediaSet - Data in Media or Media set data types aren't counted in the database limit. As an extension developer, consider migrating data from blobs to the Media or MediaSet datatypes for your own extensions.

  • Compress tables - Business Central supports data compression of tables. Compressing table data saves space and helps improve performance of I/O-intensive workloads.