Should you use Microsoft Power Pages or Power Apps if you need to give access to an external user? The answer used to be really clear. But as more companies work closely with contractors and people who aren’t employees, the distinction about who is an external user has blurred. In this post I’ll compare the Power Pages Microsoft includes in the Power Platform with the Power Apps component of the Power Platform and look at four use case scenarios with external users.
Microsoft Power Pages, Power Apps, and the Microsoft Dataverse
Cobalt has spent the last 25+ years helping organizations improve their processes using Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. There’s so much you could do with these tools, but most teams don’t have the time to learn how to really make them work for what they need. That’s one place Cobalt’s support and service helps our clients maximize their CRM investment.
The Power Platform consists of five low code/no code business applications—Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, and Power Pages. The benefit of using these applications is they all “speak the same language,” and that language is Dataverse. Once your data is stored in the Dataverse, you can seamlessly use any of these tools to do pro-development style work as a business user.
How is that possible? Business users can easily connect these different applications using one of the thousands of pre-built data connectors with drag-and-drop designers. And that easy-to-use UI is critical because combining two or more of these applications is how you get the maximum value from your investment.
Because these tools all work so seamlessly together, it can be difficult to know when you should use a certain tool. Today, we are going to focus on two of these tools: Power Apps and Power Pages.
Both tools enable users to read, create, and update business data, but the major difference is Power Apps was originally designed for internal use and Power Pages was designed for external use. However, more and more, our customers are employing partner programs and working with part-time contractors to expand their business.
The seemingly obvious, traditional advice of using Power Pages for external users isn’t so obvious anymore.
This leaves our customers wondering: if they need to give external users access to their business data, when should they use a Power App and when should they use Power Pages?
Below, I answer common questions about functionality and price, and then I walk through four scenarios to consider when deciding which application to use.
What is a Power App?
Microsoft’s Power Apps is a software as a service platform that enables business users and developers alike to build, distribute, and interact with low-code, business applications. Power Apps essentially works as a user-friendly way to interact with business data stored in the Microsoft Dataverse.
Power Apps are traditionally used by internal staff members. However, because of the cheap license, robust security model, and general availability of Azure AD B2B authentication, some organizations are wondering if it is worth giving external access to the internal staff interface.
Here are just a couple of different ways you can use a Power App:
- If your business operates in a niche industry where a traditional CRM will need to be heavily customized to fit your needs, you are a good candidate for building out a database using Dataverse, and then using a Power App as a “front end” for business users to interact with that database.
- If you are already using a Microsoft business application like Dynamics 365 Sales or Dynamics 365 Marketing, and want to segment out data and/or functionality into different apps based on someone’s job role, this is also the perfect reason to use a Power App.
- If you have a specific task that involves a lot of spreadsheets and back and forth via email, like checking out hardware or submitting expense reports, these tasks can be streamlined using a Power App.
Microsoft Power Apps Pricing
If users already have a D365 Sales license, they can create additional Power Apps with no additional fees or licenses. However, let’s assume your external users don’t have any other license and they are looking to access a single Power App. You may be asking—how cheap is cheap?
If you know how your users will be using the app at least once a month, you are best positioned to buy the $5 per user/app/month license. You can also go the pay-as-you-go route which means you will only be charged when a user interacts with the app, but that license doubles in cost, meaning if a user engages with an app in a given month, it will cost $10 per active user/app/month.
You can read more about Power Apps pricing here.
What is Microsoft Power Pages?
Microsoft Power Pages is also a software as a service platform where business users can interact with business data stored in the Dataverse. There is one big difference between Power Apps and Power Pages: Power Pages was built specifically for external users. Organizations can use Power Pages for internal use cases, but the numerous authentication options (like Azure AD B2C, logging in with LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), the ability to easily send someone an invitation to the portal within D365, and the no-training-needed UI experience makes Power Pages Microsoft a good option for certain scenarios:
- If you need a place for partnering organizations like resellers, distributors, or suppliers to collaborate on shared activities
- If you need a place for external leaders (i.e. board members or committee leaders) to view, edit, and create data relevant to their groups.
- If you need a community site where your customers can engage in conversations with other, liked-minded individuals
The big difference between Power Pages and a basic WordPress site is the integration with the rest of Microsoft’s Power Platform. Through Power Pages Microsoft allows an administrator to easily surface data from Dynamics 365 Sales (or any other Power App for that matter) in a website. Even better, an administrator can configure forms for these external users to create new records or edit existing information. The data that is surfaced on the website can be easily restricted so contacts can only view or edit information related to them once they’ve been authenticated.
The Power Pages Microsoft Pricing Options
Your Power Pages Microsoft pricing is dependent on if your users just need to browse the site anonymously, or if they need to be authenticated. If your website users need to see and edit data that is relevant to them, they will need to be authenticated. Let’s say I only want my website users to see and edit their own data, so I need them all to be authenticated.
For a monthly rate of $200, you can get 100 authenticated users per site per month. This means each user will cost $2 per month. If you aren’t sure how many users you will need or if you will need fewer than 100 users, you can take advantage of the pay-as-you-go plan, which will cost you $4 per user/site/month. This is double the rate per user as the subscription plan, so we encourage organizations to think before they decide on either plan.
All things being equal, Power Pages does have one advantage over Power Apps: storage. Each Power Pages capacity pack (i.e. each batch of 100 authenticated users) also gets you an additional 2 GB of data storage. D365 licenses include allotted capacity, but if that isn’t enough for all of your data, you will need to buy additional storage, which will cost you $40/GB. If you are already purchasing additional storage, the real cost of this could look more like $120/per month.
You can read more about Power Pages pricing here.
How should you give external users access to your data?
Each organization is different, but we’ve put together some general guidelines on when you should use Power Apps or Power Pages for external access.
Situation: Your end users will have no training
In Power Pages Microsoft designed a tool to be used by external users. And like any website, there shouldn’t be any training needed to use it. Power Pages is the right solution when your external users don’t “need” your application to do their jobs.
For example, let’s say you want external users to log into your portal to submit bids for potential projects. These representatives are not going to spend the time learning how to submit a bid—they will just submit that bid to another company. We want to make sure our application is easy to use, so that people actually use it and it doesn’t negatively affect your business.
Power Pages is the perfect solution for when your users need to complete a finite number of processes as quickly as possible—like create and view their orders. For more inspiration on how to best use Power Pages, check out Microsoft’s pre-built templates here.
Situation: You don’t want to get IT involved every time a new person needs access
Power Pages makes it super easy for new people to set up an account on the site. If you want anyone to be able to create an account, all you need to do is ensure the sign-up page for your Power Pages site is publicly available. Then, just promote the site to your end users, and they will take care of the rest.
Once someone signs up for a website account, that contact will be created in D365 automatically—no staff intervention required.
However, if you only want certain people to have access to the site, you can remove the sign-up page and use Dynamics 365 to send invitations directly to users. All the staff member needs to do is click ‘Create Invitation’ and they can easily send an invitation to a specific person.
The contact will be sent a code that they can then redeem on the site for access. This functionality is available out of the box in Dynamics 365.
Situation: You need to be very careful about the data that is exposed
Security is important to every organization. However, there is a big difference between accidentally giving a third-party accountant contracted by your organization access to all active bids in the system and accidentally giving a random website user access to all active bids in the system.
Power Pages has an easy-to-understand security model that makes it difficult to accidentally give someone permissions to something they shouldn’t see. Additionally, because Power Pages was designed with an external user-first mindset, the Power Pages designer acts much more like designing a website in WordPress, meaning you are physically adding each page. This design framework makes it difficult to unintentionally expose data.
Situation: A small number of people need access to do a lot of different things with the data
As mentioned in scenario #1, Power Pages is really good when a group of external users need to do the same one or two things on a continuous basis. However, building out a Power Pages site does take work, and it takes even more work if you are building out a ton of complex processes for website users to use.
If you have a small group of individuals that need to do things like view and edit data from multiple tables, send emails, create reports, etc., it is probably in your best interest to clone an existing internal Power App and work backwards to remove the data that should not be exposed.