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Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central: What’s the Difference?

In the big family of Microsoft products, it can be difficult to choose the right tool. So while Dynamics AX became Dynamics 365 Finances and Operations and numerous apps have been added to the Dynamics 365 suite, I must admit that I receive phone calls from confused clients every now and then.

When Dynamics 365 Business Central was created, many have found that Dynamics NAV takes up less and less space, and that we would refer to Business Central instead when we spoke about ERP solutions for small and medium enterprises. What does that mean?

The difference between Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central isn’t that big. It’s pretty simple actually. You want to learn how to distinguish one from the other? Understand the evolution of the Dynamics 365 suite? And understand which one is the best choice for you? I explain everything in this next blog post.

What is Dynamics NAV?

If you are looking to learn more about Dynamics NAV, we could talk more about Dynamics 365 Business Central. There’s a reason for this.

In fact, between Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central, NAV is part of the ERP suite Microsoft created to provide a complete solution to help enterprise managers manage their workload and increase their performance. Dynamics NAV is a product that can be operated on-site first, not on the cloud.

So, Dynamics NAV was filling a need for small or medium businesses. With more than 160 000 clients and more than 2.7 million users, it goes without saying that Dynamics NAV has won its bet. However, to better address the realities of its clients, Microsoft brought its two most popular solutions to the cloud.

Dynamics AX has become Dynamics 365 Finances and Operations while Dynamics NAV has become Business Central.

So, what’s the difference between Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Well, the difference isn’t in the apps or the main body of the solution. The difference is in the platform that each solution uses. Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central: NAV can be implemented and operated directly on site. It’s installed on local servers. On the other hand, Dynamics 365 Business Central is hosted on the cloud. Business Central includes all the apps that you find in NAV, but they have been redesigned to work fluidly and coherently on the cloud.

Dynamics 365 Business Central: a breath of fresh air

When I told you that Dynamics NAV could be found in Dynamics 365 Business Central, I didn’t lie. Business Central gathers the same apps that you trust and that let you manage your business from A to Z.

However, you’ll also find a solution that has been built for the cloud. That way, you’ll benefit from the fluidity, liberty and power of the cloud without the burden of on-site solutions.

Finally, you’ll find a solution:

  • Without silos – this allows to unify your enterprise and simplify your workload. Besides offering task automation and the integration of tools like Office and Outlook, Dynamics 365 Business Central is a solution that powers your enterprise and improves your efficiency.
  • Ready to evolve- with Business Central on the cloud, it has become even easier to put an ERP solution in place and extend its functions based on your growth. It allows you adopt it effortlessly.
  • Filled with important information – with data and a complete view of your enterprise, it gives you privileged access to analysis that will guide you to better decisions.

And so, can we expect to see Dynamics NAV 2018 take the same road?

Absolutely! Dynamics NAV 2018, according to the Microsoft, will become Dynamics 365 Business Central On-Premise. That way, the solution will join all the other Microsoft CRM and ERP solutions in the big family of Dynamics 365 for better coherence and efficiency.

Obviously, Dynamics NAV won’t change overnight: the solution will keep the same basic apps. The formula will allow a smooth transition to the new and powerful world of Dynamics.

In the fall, we should expect to see a formula for deployment on-site to meet the needs of enterprises that are still a bit worried about bringing their companies to the cloud.

So, all of us who still want to use Dynamics NAV 2018 on-site will be able to do it through Dynamics Business Central.

However, it’s important to understand that Microsoft actively works to deploy solutions on the cloud that are competitive, innovative and powerful enough to put the technology to use in the service of business life.

We can expect a bigger place for ERP solutions on the cloud soon.

Why make the transition over to the cloud with your ERP and Business Central?

We must admit that we expect to see the interest in cloud-hosted solutions expand. There are simply so many benefits.

First, because you can find a system that includes your data and your processes in the same place: no need to worry about servers or managing data backups. This way, the cloud offers the benefit of not having to deal with physical infrastructures and the costs of updating the technology.  Everything is taken care of by your ERP partner!

Finally, with an ERP on the cloud, without its physical infrastructure to manage, is able to easily follow your growth. You just need to call your partner to get more hosting space, change your plan or order access to more apps. It’s that easy!

And there are a ton of benefits that I haven’t mentioned yet like savings, mobile apps or security. So if you want to know more, here’s a blog post for you.

The new function of Dynamics 5 Business Central: privileged access to apps on the cloud

As if there weren’t enough benefits to choosing the cloud. Business Central offers us the ability to download and install any extensions created by an independent vendor directly from the Microsoft AppSource. You’ll be able to test them, explore their functions, and keep them or uninstall them quickly based on your needs.

Obviously, this option is not available for the on-premise Dynamics NAV. However, in the great dilemma between Dynamics NAV and Dynamics Business Central, not everything is lost for NAV. I must remind you that Dynamics NAV allows you to customize app functions and develop extensions to better benefit from your solution.

Dynamics 365 Business Central vs Dynamics NAV: how much does it cost?

This is the big question that always comes up. This is totally normal since ERP software already represents a big investment in terms of time. So what you need to know is that the licenses of Dynamics 365 works on a monthly-basis.

That way, Dynamics 365 Business Central, unlike Dynamics NAV, is a solution offered in a package that you pay per month and per user (and their roles) and for the apps used. That means that you aren’t required to pay much upfront, and you have greater flexibility in your ERP budget. Since the solution can be modified with only a phone call to your Microsoft partner, it’s possible to reduce your bill to better adapt to your income.

But, that also means that it’s not possible to get annual maintenance deals or simultaneous users. So, the new price model can represent some adaptation for the NAV users that would like to use Dynamics 365 Business Central.

And the security of all this? Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central: which is trustworthier?

When we talk about an ERP on the cloud, it’s common to see some worried looks, especially when it’s about security. But, an ERP on the cloud at Microsoft isn’t any less trustworthy than the on-premise version.

With Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, you’ll have access to one of the most secure clouds on the market. Why? Because it’s hosted on Azure, the cloud that’s trusted by the American government. With its exceptional compliance, Azure is reliable and sturdy enough to house any type of data, even the most sensitive.

Still not convinced? Read our blog post.

Finally, Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central: which one is best for you?

It’s probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. I hear it a lot. Why? Because ERP software is such a personal tool that it needs to really fit your organization to realize its fullest potential.

So the best advice I could give you is certainly to really understand your enterprise and its needs. Because there are numerous benefits to using Dynamics 365 Business Central and the cloud. However, your project could be very complex and require staying on-premise with Dynamics NAV and all its customizations.

At last, it’s important to understand that Dynamics NAV users won’t have any choice but to join the Dynamics Business Central family before the end of the year and to benefit from the same power of the cloud. This is Microsoft’s plan.

To sum up, Dynamics 365 Business Central is a simple evolution toward ERP solutions that are hosted on the cloud. It’s an inevitable current, and Microsoft is trying to offer software that is innovative and makes the best use of the technology. So, the Dynamics NAV vs Dynamics 365 Business Central debate might seem simple, but it represents a step toward the future of ERP solutions.

If you’re still considering Dynamics 365 Business Central vs Dynamics NAV, call one of our experts in ERP solutions.

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October 03, 2023 by Frédéric Charest VP of Marketing

Data-driven Growth Marketer with a Passion for SEO - Driving Results through Analytics and Optimization