3 Reasons To Pick A Custom Built Microsoft Azure Web Portal

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What Are Web Portals & How Can They Help Your Business?

Web portals allow organisations to grant important stakeholders access to business data and processes, within a secure platform. So, without entering your Dynamics 365 environment, they could securely complete tasks and view selected data.

For example, web portals could be set up to help customers make orders or raise cases, partners can share potential leads and pick up referrals from you, and help suppliers and distributors see real-time updates on shared activities.

The aim is to give external parties the ability to self-serve. This relieves pressure off your team and means the portal audience can view information on-demand, boosting engagement, efficiency and service quality.

Power Apps Portals & Custom Azure Portals

Microsoft provides various templates for Power Apps Portals. Each template is built with a specific audience in mind, and covers core processes important to each.

By contrast, Custom Azure Portals, are built from the ground up. Preact builds custom portals on the Microsoft Azure Platform, meaning you still have access to all the same functionality offered by Power Apps Portals.

Custom Portal Home Page Template

Demonstrating Custom Azure Web Portals

Video Transcript

Hi All, it's Jack from Preact here and today we're going to be taking a look at one of our Custom Web Portals. While Mic…

Hi All, it's Jack from Preact here and today we're going to be taking a look at one of our Custom Web Portals. While Microsoft do provide Power App portal templates, we sometimes find that these don't suit every usage scenario. Often there are three main reasons why an organization would choose to deploy a Custom Portal rather than using a Power Apps portal. These are the ongoing cost of licensing, UI requirements and integration options.

Let's start off with costs. A Custom Portal offers a lower monthly usage cost compared to Power Apps web portal licensing. A basic Power Apps portal can be set up with a relatively low upfront cost, however these are billed by logins over a 24-hour period. Depending on how many logins you have per month, this can start to get expensive. While the cost of the initial portal setup is attractive with a Power Apps portal, organizations often ask us how they can lower the ongoing monthly cost of their web portal. This is where Custom Portals come in, because we can build a portal on the Microsoft Azure platform, which avoids the additional cost for logins. This is especially cost effective if your organization's portal has hundreds or thousands of users logging in each week. Custom Portals do typically involve higher upfront cost but their significantly lower monthly cost is frequently a crucial factor.

Price is not the only reason why you may want to look beyond Power App portals. Custom Portals include the same capabilities as Power App portals, but also provide a more flexible end product. As these portals are built from the ground up, it allows us to use modern technologies and approaches that allow us to expand on what these portals can do. Do you have specific UI requirements? Well, a Custom Portal can help you do that. We've also seen in previous deployments that Custom Portal will often increase performance too. So, let's take a look at one of our Custom Portals.

This is a portal that we've previously built for a customer and it's a great example of the type of things we can do with Custom Portals. We're currently on the login page for the portal and as you can see already, we've gone for a really clean modern design. Upon entering our details and clicking the sign in button we're brought to the main page. Here, we can set this to show a number of things but in this case we have our latest announcements and our twitter page. In the top right hand corner you'll also be able to see that we have a profile button. Clicking the profile button would allow us to change our details for the portals such as name, address and any other details that are required. This will automatically update in Dynamics 365. This portal contains sales and service. We can allow customers to make new orders as well as make inquiries that come into Dynamics cases. Let's take a look at how this works. To create an order, we go ahead and click on the place order button. And here we can fill out all of the relevant details. Once we've filled out all of our relevant details, we can go ahead scroll to the bottom and click submit. Now that I click the submit button, this data has been entered into Dynamics 365 and I can see all of my other related orders here. We also have some other entities in this portal such as enquiries. If we go and take a look at enquiries, we can currently see a list of all of my enquiries which in this case links to cases in Dynamics 365. if we click into one of these cases, we can go in and we can see all of our case details. From here we can download any details relating to this enquiry and we can also go ahead and update the case directly from the portal if we need to.

As you can see we're able to replicate any Microsoft portal features and much more. I hope this quick demo has given you an insight into what we can do with Custom Portals and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Why Should You Consider A Custom Azure Portal

1. Affordability

    When we speak to clients and prospects, the first hurdle we come across, when discussing a portal implementation, is the ongoing costs of a Power Apps portal. This is because Power Apps portals are billed per login in a 24-hour period, which may not be cost-effective for organisations who have hundreds of portal visitors who log in regularly. A highly used portal, that attracts large volumes of visitors, could quickly incur high monthly usage costs; particularly for SMBs and charities working with a limited budget.

    In these scenarios, we often propose building a Custom Azure Portal because clients can completely avoid the additional usage cost of logins. As it is built from scratch there is a higher up-front cost, dependent on functionality required in the portal, but this is off-set by the lower monthly costs. Your business growing, and naturally inviting more portal visitors, won’t become a negative cost item.

    2. Flexibility

      Another major driver in customers deciding the higher initial development cost of a Custom Portal is justified, is the greater level of flexibility available. With these custom projects, we’ve been able to provide clients with functionality that wouldn’t be possible, or not easy to set up, with a Power App Portal template.

      Starting with blank canvas provides you the chance to mould and shape your portal to work exactly how you, and your portal users, need it to, with a better and simplified user experience.

      Some examples include:

      • The ability to customise the portal theme per account, by showing the logo and brand colours, which isn’t possible in a Power Apps portal as it only allows a single theme. For example, display a different logo and matching colours based on which partner logs in.
      • Out-of-the-box, Power Apps Portals have security limitations around displaying images, which would require a custom table to be created in Dynamics 365, to store each image. This wouldn’t be necessary with a custom portal; you would be able to display related images from Dynamics 365 records without compromising on security.
      • Providing additional searching functionality, such as searching different fields and supporting wildcard searches, which is difficult to create in a user-friendly manner within Power Apps Portals.
      Custom Portal Log In Page Template

      3. Scalability

        With a custom portal deployed within your Azure environment, you have greater control of your monthly costs. In quiet months, you can scale down your App usage, and where you anticipate a lot of traffic you can proactively increase usage.

        This is often an important consideration for organisations that experience seasonal bouts of traffic, but also for those who are looking to grow and need a portal that will effectively scale with them. Where Power Apps Portal licensing can ramp up monthly costs if the numbers of portal visitors quickly grow, a Custom Portals implementation will offer more manageable ongoing costs.

        From our portal projects, we find that building on top of a Power App Portal template, requires a lot of custom code to overcome some limitations in existing code. As a result, the portal isn’t as optimised as it could be.

        This creates a greater problem when it comes to further development once the portal is up and running; building new features becomes even more complex, and requires more time and resource to complete.

        With a Custom Azure Portal we are better able to plan lean builds that are optimised to operate efficiently.

        Related: Learn more about the different Power Apps Portal Templates.

        Related: Learn more about accessibility in web portals and how custom portals can help.

        Next Steps…

        Implementing a web portal could be the next big step in your business progression; whether the portal is for customers, partners or employees, it can allow your key stakeholder to self-serve and access data when it’s convenient for them.

        Want to start a discussion around a new Custom Azure Web Portal? Fill in your details below and we’ll be in touch shortly!

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