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Creating a Development Environment for CRM 4

I need to create a development envirnoment for the CRM version 4 installation, but don't know how.

My purpose for this is to test my code changes, updates and patches without having to affect my production environment.  
1 Solution
Creating DEV environment for CRM can be simple, or VERY complex, depending on exactly how you want to proceed.  Here are some thoughts:

You can create a Virtual PC (or Virtual Server) image that has all the software you need to test most of your customizations.  You can export all of your customizations as XML from your PROD instance, and import them into your DEV instance, and test them from there.  Assuming you have appropriate MSDN licenses, you can do this without additional licensing fees.

You can create this image from "scratch" by installing all the necessary software.  You can also download the VPC image available from Microsoft (WARNING1: The current image is scheduled to expire in April;  WARNING2: you'll need to make sure you have the same rollups and hotfixes installed on your VPC image, otherwise you will not be able to properly import your customizations).

VPC IMAGE: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=dd939ed9-87a5-4c13-b212-a922cc02b469&displaylang=en

You'll need to ask yourself some important questions:
* Do you need to have a complete DEV environment, including Exchange?
* What kind of items will you be testing and how will they migrate over to PROD?  Depending on how you're referencing custom entities, workflows, users and other important parts of CRM, your customizations might not migrate over correctly (for example, if you have a workflow that generates an email alert to a user, the workflow tracks a GUID for the user ... this GUID is going to be different in your DEV and PROD environments)

This level of complexity is way too much to try to answer here.  Use the resources below if you want to go this route.

MORE INFORMATION: If you're developing for CRM, you should consult these resources whether you take the simple or complex path:

* www.thecrmbook.com : This is really a developer's guide and it has some excellent tips on setting up a CRM DEV environment.  Highly recommended (no, I'm not the author, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night).

* http://www.tekoppele.com/Blog/post/2009/01/21/Your-Ultimate-Demo-or-Development-Environment!.aspx  : An excelleng blog entry on the topic.  Again, I'm not the author, but this guy does have some very good material.  
A nice technet article that talks about this as well as the use and misuse of multi-tenancy


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