Choose Your Licensing Adventure: Exploring Business Central Essentials vs. Premium

November 1, 2023
7 min read

Picture this: the potential to push your business’s efficiency, improve productivity, and establish technical scalability indefinitely into the future. No one wants to be left behind, yet business management solutions are in a relentless state of evolution.  

When adaptation spells survival and innovation is the currency, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central emerges as the beacon, an all-in-one cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that succeeds Microsoft Dynamics NAV to ultimately inherit the business management thrown. 

Covering finance, operations, sales, customer service, inventory management, HR, and more, Business Central is a versatile, modern ERP solution. However, the decision to upgrade from Microsoft Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision) to Business Central can be a bit perplexing. 

Among other migration factors you’ll face around data, customizations, and industry add-ons, Business Central also offers two license editions: Essentials and Premium. Unlike its Dynamics predecessors, such as NAV, AX, and GP, Business Central features a unique licensing model which has led to some confusion regarding Business Central’s pricing as it relates to functionality and user access. 

Dynamics NAV had ‘concurrent users,’ where a single license could facilitate system access for an unlimited number of people so long as only one person was using it at a time. As you may have suspected, the ‘concurrent’ offering is now archived by Microsoft entirely.  

With Business Central, you’re subscribing on a per-user basis, which covers hosting, storage, and uninterrupted access to your data and business applications. Licensing operates under the “named user subscription” principle, requiring all users to have an individually assigned license. However, there are different licensing levels. As such, when you embark on your Business Central journey, you’ll need to decide who receives full user access, who needs reduced team member access, and who will use limited functionality on a shared device license – each of which clocks in at different monthly pricing levels.  

However, all your users, no matter which level, will fall under one of two licensing options for functionality: Business Central Essentials or Business Central Premium. This flexibility in licensing allows you to choose the right fit for your organization’s requirements. 

In this article, we’ll aim to unravel the fundamental differences between Business Central Essentials and Premium, offering an in-depth comparison to assist you in making an informed transition from NAV to the Business Central platform. Step aside Edward Packard, we’re going to choose our licensing adventure.

All About Business Central Essentials

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Essentials is ideal for businesses seeking streamlined operations and smarter work processes. As a base model, it covers standard ERP features and functionality for finance, sales, and operations to suit a broad range of industries.  

Business Central Essentials includes: 

  • Project Management – Basic budgeting, time entry, job costing 
  • Financial Management – General ledger, payables, receivables, cash management, fixed assets 
  • Sales and Marketing – Order management, sales opportunities, basic forecasting 
  • Inventory – Item management, basic inventory control
  • Fulfillment and Delivery – Sales order processing, sales invoice discounts 
  • Purchasing and Payables – Purchase orders, vendor management 
  • Supply Planning and Availability – Basic demand and supply planning 
  • Warehouse Management – Warehousing, location transfers, item tracking 

Companies that upgrade from Microsoft Dynamics NAV to the Business Central Essentials subscription benefit through improved financial performance, employee productivity, and operational visibility across their entire organization in the mobile and secure cloud platform. Although it is not designed for companies with service offerings or manufacturing, it is flexible and scalable to fit growing organizations, such as a retail flooring or tile store with one or multiple locations.

All About Business Central Premium 

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Premium extends the Essentials license by incorporating an additional 2 components to streamline more complex operations for service-based or consumer goods manufacturing companies. 

The Business Central Premium license includes: 

  • Project Management 
  • Financial Management 
  • Sales and Marketing 
  • Inventory 
  • Fulfillment and Delivery 
  • Purchasing and Payables 
  • Supply Planning and Availability 
  • Warehouse Management 


  • Service Management – Service orders, service price, item, and customer management 
  • Manufacturing – Real-time data, production orders, and demand forecasting 

For example, if the flooring and tile store mentioned earlier offered at-home flooring installations or manufactured their own tiles, the Business Central Premium license would be the ideal choice. This license allows service employees to access and manage data while on the move, a crucial component of modern professional customer service.

So, What’s Better: Business Central Essentials or Premium?

Both Business Central Essentials and Premium licenses serve as effective, comprehensive business management systems catering to businesses globally, across a diverse range of industries. They integrate sales, service, finance, and operations, enhancing efficiency, adaptability, and overall performance. Both editions offer similar capabilities and streamline workflows effectively. 

There isn’t a “better” one because the delineation between Business Essentials and Premium is focused on the modules an operation requires, not user, storage, security, performance, or access features. The licensing path you take transitioning from NAV to Business Central truly depends on your business structure, current issues, and future goals.  

And the best part? You can always scale up later if your business needs to expand.


Plan for Tomorrow, Today: Upgrading from Dynamics NAV

When transitioning from Dynamics NAV to Business Central Essentials or Premium, you’re not merely changing software – it’s a strategic move to future-proof your business and modernize your business management technology.  

Start by evaluating your business, considering its size, complexity, and how an ERP solution optimally supports your daily operations. Think of it as choosing the right tool for the job. 

Next, you need to assess your current financial position and outlook. Is your business set for growth, and can the selected edition scale with you? It’s all about maximizing your investment. 

Keep in mind that the move to Business Central isn’t as black and white as Essentials vs. Premium licensing. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To that end, one of the most important things you can do in the planning process is solicit and leverage a seasoned team of Dynamics NAV to Business Central experts that help you evaluate and identify all aspects of your requirements and scope into a comprehensive and complete upgrade plan. Your business likely has customizations and unique industry-specific needs that must be considered for a perfect fit transition. 

Now, about NAV. Yes, change comes with a price tag, but the cost of stagnation in a fast-evolving business world can be even greater. Sometimes, it’s wiser to say goodbye to legacy software and embrace the future.

How to Choose Between Business Central Essentials and Premium

As you navigate the transition from Microsoft Dynamics NAV to Business Central Essentials or Premium, it’s crucial to keep your specific business needs at the forefront. But the good news, in the context of upgrading, licensing between Essentials and Premium is likely the easiest decision and path forward to identify. Why? Because your business, and your current NAV system, will make the decision for you.   

Understanding your business goals and the modules you currently rely on in your NAV system will be the guiding light to selecting the right Business Central edition for your upgrade. Moreover, your implementing partner will make the recommendation based on the functionality you need to bring your existing NAV solution, modules, data, customizations, add-ons, and all, to life in Business Central.  

At NAVtoBC, we only focus on upgrades from Dynamics NAV to Business Central. That’s it. Not re-implementations, long and expensive workshopping, farming service work, or selling our own IP. Just successful, complete, accurate, fast upgrades every time, at a fixed price.   

Our team of NAV and Business Central cloud experts will swiftly assess your existing environment and seamlessly align you with the most suitable license, without any interruption to your business.  

To kickstart your digital transformation, we get you a fixed-fee NAV to Business Central upgrade quote within 48 hours or less.