The Issue

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a powerful tool, but because it’s so robust, it can be challenging when you run into an issue for the first time. In this case, I was redeploying a customer’s production instance to their testing environment so we could have more current data and I received the error below while configuring a workflow.


Prior to this project, I had been working exclusively with CRM 2011, so I thought I was surely stuck. What was this data encryption key? Where did it come from? To what should it be set?

The Solution

This Microsoft blog post answered most of my questions, but since I did not have a copy of the original encryption key, I still wasn’t sure how to set it so I could continue testing.  Since Microsoft CRM usually has very specific parameters for this type of configuration, I assumed that I couldn’t just make it up… could I?

It was a daring thought. Most other times when I’d made something up while configuring CRM I’d broken it (that’s what makes me so great at quality assurance – I can break just about anything). But the more I researched and came up with no answer to my question, the more I was tempted to see what happened if I made up a value.

Holding my breath, I pasted in a randomly generated key. I clicked activate and squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for my server to explode.

A few seconds passed. No explosion. I peeked through one eye. My world was still there. Hands shaking, I did some testing in my org. It seemed… fine. And that workflow? It fired. Did I really just get away with it?

The answer – yes, yes I did. So, folks, I hope you are as excited as I am to have found the one value in CRM where you can enter whatever you want with reckless abandon and everything will be A-Okay. Microsoft even recommends that you change this once per year. That said, there are some best practices for security reasons: the value you enter should be between 10 and 100 characters in length, have at least one numeral, at least one letter and one symbol or special character. Without this key, none of the features that use encrypted data will work. We’ve found that workflows won’t complete and some reports won’t run. If you find anything else this impacts, tell us in the comments below!

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