NetSuite vs MS Dynamics Nav: What are the key differences?

If you’re looking for some new business management software, one of the options that you’re sure to come across during your search is Microsoft Dynamics. Here we go through some of the key differences between MS Dynamics Navision and NetSuite.

Meet the solutions

MS Dynamics Navision

Microsoft Dynamics Navision, often referred to as NAV, is an ERP software (Enterprise Resource Planning) product that’s part of the Microsoft Dynamics family. It is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises and is available for on-premise installation or deployment in the ‘cloud’ (more on this below).
Add-on modules and partner solutions are available to extend functionality and offer vertical-specific solutions.
The system originates from Navision, a suite of accounting applications which Microsoft acquired in 2002. Navision originated at Danish company PC&C A/S who released the first version in 1987.
The latest version, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015, was released in October 2014. The ERP software includes a customisable codebase along with extensive development tools.
Customers can license Dynamics NAV in perpetual or subscription models.


NetSuite is a cloud-based business management software suite supporting ERP, customer relationship management (CRM), eCommerce, and more. It is a good fit for small and medium businesses as well as larger enterprises.
The solution offers comprehensive functionality with industry-specific modules for a broad range of industries. The NetSuite ecosystem is vast and functionality can be extended with partner-developed ‘SuiteApps’.
NetSuite was built from the ground up for the cloud in 1998, and has been designed to be a perpetual business management solution, with all customers on the same version. The latest version is Version 2015 Release 1 which was released between January and April 2015.
Customers pay for the solution annually on a subscription basis.

On-premise, hosted or true cloud?

MS Dynamics NAV is either installed ‘on-premise’ (on your own servers), or it is ‘hosted’ which means the legacy solution, originally designed to be on-premise, is hosted on remote servers and delivered via the internet. It can either be hosted by partners or on Microsoft Azure.
Since it was not built for the internet, MS Dynamics NAV does not leverage modern web technologies and is not compatible with all platforms, web browsers, and mobile devices.
Hosted cloud solutions are often less flexible and customisable, and can be difficult to upgrade and scale.
NetSuite is what we would describe as ‘true’ cloud. This means it was designed and built for the age of the internet so it is accessed via, and works seamlessly on, all browsers and devices. It is built to cope with large numbers of users with no drop-off in performance and is more flexible and scalable than hosted solutions.

Outdated versions

A new version of MS Dynamics NAV is typically released every 2 – 4 years. Customers must carry out the upgrade themselves or enlist a Microsoft partner / their hosting provider to manage this for them. Upgrading usually involves converting the database, upgrading the code, and upgrading the data.
A NAV implementation would more than likely be customised and may use a lot of partner-developed bolt-ons and custom development. Whilst the range of customisations make it possible to build a solution bespoke to the exact needs of your company, deployments can often end up too customised and become difficult to upgrade efficiently – which may leave many users stuck on old versions.
Even if your system isn’t heavily customised, moving up to new versions isn’t always easy. If you have an earlier version, such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 R2, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0 or Microsoft Dynamics NAV 4.0, you must first upgrade that version to Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 before then upgrading this to Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015.
By comparison, NetSuite only offers a single version of their software, which is automatically upgraded every six months. The upgrade is rolled out over the course of a 3-4 month period in order to allow customers to test it on their own systems and preview any changes.
Any customisations or integrations you have carried out to make it fit your business are not usually impacted by the upgrades.

Product complexity

While NetSuite is focused on innovating a single codebase, Microsoft develops and markets numerous business applications so customers may face a confusing number of options based on their company size and requirements.


With MS Dynamics NAV, basic customisation projects often require product-specific hard coding which can be tricky and costly. If the solution uses a lot of partner-developed bolt-ons and custom development, then it can become difficult to upgrade to newer versions of the software.
Some customers have also run into problems with bolt-ons that are no longer being supported or updated by Microsoft partners.
NetSuite can be customised more easily because it has a more modern web architecture and expert help can therefore be found by anyone who is proficient in JavaScript (internally referred to as SuiteScript).
With NetSuite, there is only one version of the software and you simply ‘turn on’ the functionality you need in order to tailor it to your business. SuiteApps allow the platform to be customised further, but these are not usually impacted by the six monthly upgrades. Preview accounts allow upgrades to be tested prior to the upgrade date so customers can make sure their customisations are not affected.
Do you have anything to add? Please let us know in the comments below.
If you would like to discuss further how NetSuite compares to Microsoft Dynamics or any other ERP software, please get in touch with us!


More Information

Stephen Adamson


[email protected]

(+44) 115 758 8888
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