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Deciding between Copilot Studio and Azure Bot Services

Chatbots are a popular way to deliver enriched functionality conversationally. Microsoft offers two different technologies for building chatbot solutions: Azure AI Bot Services (formerly known as Azure Bot Framework), a traditional software SDK, and Microsoft Copilot Studio, a modern low-code approach for building chatbots. If you are planning to build a chatbot, this article will help you decide which technology to use as the foundation for your solution.

Here is a high-level description of each technology:

  • Microsoft Copilot Studio is a user-friendly no-code solution, leverages AI to create chatbots, offers a range of features such as AI integration and easy deployment across various channels.
  • Azure AI Bot Services is a coding-based platform that empowers seasoned developers to build and deploy intelligent, fully customizable bots.

The content below summarizes each technology's key features, limitations, and recommended use cases, with the goal of helping you choose the most suitable approach for your chatbot engineering needs.

Microsoft recommends using Copilot Studio whenever feasible. This is the technology that Microsoft is actively improving to meet the needs of chatbot developers. However, while Copilot Studio is not currently as flexible or complete as Azure Bot Services, there are times when Bot Services may be a more appropriate choice.

Microsoft Copilot Studio

Overview of Microsoft Copilot Studio:

  • Incorporates OpenAI into its functionality, enabling both generative answers and generative actions, freeing you for more complex tasks.
  • Offers a user-friendly, no-code visual interface for building chatbots.
  • Allows access to content in your public website or a Sharepoint repository through low-code support for Retrieval Augmented Generation.
  • Supports single sign-on (SSO) for Microsoft Teams integration.
  • Provides built-in bot testing and support for the Power Virtual Agent Test Framework.
  • Integrates with Power Platform Build tools.
  • Can be deployed across channels like websites, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facebook, Telegram, Slack, Line, GroupeMe, Directline Speech, and email.
  • Integrates with platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 using prebuilt data connectors from Power Automate.
  • Offers various integration options, including web, Twilio Teams, Facebook, Skype, Telegram, Slack, Line, GroupeMe, Directline Speech, and Email.
  • Integrates with Azure services, AI capabilities, and connectors natively, as well as through calling Power Automate.
  • Provides an overview and can be directly published, simplifying production deployment.
  • Allows for updates to be made within the Microsoft Copilot Studio interface and published directly or via CI/CD pipelines.
  • Enables versioning via source control and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), for example by using Microsoft Power Platform Build Tools for Azure DevOps.
  • Secures the data in the conversation using the Common Data Service tool.

Copilot Studio key capabilities

  • Simplifies bot creation and speeds development via PVA Copilot (Public Preview), powered by Azure Open AI.
  • Rapidly generates a complete PVA topic by describing your bot's purpose in natural language.
  • Includes creating topics from scratch, refining existing topics, summarizing user information with adaptive cards, and iterating over specific dialog nodes.

Copilot Studio limitations

  • Does not inherently provide compatibility with task modules as seen in Microsoft Teams.
  • Lacks native support for messaging extensions.
  • Bots created with unified authoring canvas cannot send proactive messages in Teams.
  • Bot can post proactive messages only in personal chats.
  • The no-code approach might limit customization.
  • Limited CI/CD options, especially for codeless bot development.
  • Scaling might be limited to Microsoft Copilot Studio subscription tiers.
  • Rapid development with its no-code interface, templates, co-pilot authoring run-time capabilities, and built-in analytics makes it ideal for projects with time constraints.
  • Accessible for teams with diverse skill sets, making it suitable for organizations with limited coding expertise.
  • Subscription-based pricing.

Azure Bot Services

Overview of Azure Bot Services:

  • Enables developers to build, test, and deploy intelligent bots that interact with users across various channels using a comprehensive coding-based platform.
  • Provides a series of SDKs that developers can use to create and deploy bots as part of the Azure Bot Framework.
  • Requires coding expertise and is designed for seasoned developers.

Azure Bot Services key findings

  • Integrates Task Modules within Teams for enhanced functionality.
  • Incorporates Messaging Extensions in Teams natively, enhancing the user experience.
  • Enables proactive messaging to be directed towards individual users, groups, or channels for a more tailored approach, relying on the Bot Framework SDK for proactive messaging.
  • Is available for free with an Azure Subscription and offers a message-based pricing model, where Premium channels involve costs based on message quantity, while Standard channels are free.
  • Scales dynamically based on demand.
  • Supports complex dialog flows and multi-bot architectures.
  • Automatically encrypts data using customer-managed keys with Azure Key Vault.
  • Offers robust CI/CD capabilities using Azure DevOps, GitHub, etc.
  • Supports integration with Microsoft Copilot Studio, Alexa, Azure Communication Services (ACS), Omnichannel, WeChat, Outlook (preview), and Search (preview).
  • Enables local testing using tools like Bot Framework Emulator and support for ngrok-based debugging.

Azure Bot Services limitations

  • Requires more time for development, as it often involves writing code, creating custom dialog flows, and integrating with external systems.
  • Demands a higher level of technical expertise, as developers need to write code, configure connections, and manage more aspects of the bot's architecture.
  • Demands coding, CI/CD via Azure DevOps, GitHub, and production deployment for updates.
  • Recommended for those who need Teams-specific features like Task Modules, Messaging Extensions, or Proactive Messaging in Microsoft Teams.
  • Ideal for scenarios involving complex dialog flows, high customization, and multi-bot architectures.
  • Enables greater customization of UI/UX via the Bot Framework Web Chat component, which is a highly customizable web-based client for the Bot Framework V4 SDK using either JavaScript or React.

Microsoft Copilot Studio vs. Azure Bot Services summary

Here is a table comparing Microsoft Copilot Studio and Azure Bot Services (Azure Bot Framework):

Criteria Microsoft Copilot Studio Azure Bot Services (previously called Azure Bot Framework)
Licensing Choose from multiple plans, including Teams Plan, Standalone Plan, and Dynamics 365 integration. Get it for free with Azure Subscription and choose from message-based pricing options.
scalability, quotas, and limits Experience limited RPM and up to 50 bots per Teams app. Scalability is tied to subscription tiers. Enjoy higher operation limits and dynamic scaling based on demand.
Customization and flexibility Customize using default canvas with JavaScript or create a custom canvas derived from the Bot Framework Web Chat canvas]( Customize extensively with Web Chat and React.
Development expertise No to minimal coding experience required. Advanced customization requires coding skills.
Authentication Support for multiple authentication providers, including azure AD v1, Azure AD v2, and OAuth2-compliant identity providers. Support for Azure AD and OAuth providers.
Data security and compliance Integrate with Microsoft security features. Offers robust data security with customer-managed keys using Azure Key Vault.
Optimized for scenarios No multi-bot support as it can lead to NLP/NLU errors. Supports complex dialog flows and multi-bot architectures.
Budget constraints Subscription-based pricing, no-code interface. Usage-based pricing with some free channels.
Future expansion Suitable for initial use cases, may have limitations for future expansion as low-code development always faces challenges post-development regarding updating and maintaining the apps. Offers room for growth into complex scenarios as it is 100% code-based approach.
Analytics Offers built-in Azure Application Insights, Power BI, and custom analytics. Supports Azure Application Insights, Azure Monitor, Flexibility to integrate custom analytics solutions using various Azure services and external tools. Integration into Grafana is achievable with straightforward steps. For more information, see Monitor your Azure services in Grafana.
Time constraints Rapid development with no-code/low-code interface. Customization may extend development timeline.
Deployment cycle Simplified deployment and versioning within the interface. Requires coding, CI/CD, and production deployment.
Microsoft Teams support (task module) Not natively supported. Supported.
Microsoft Teams support (messaging extensions) Not natively supported. Supported.
Microsoft Teams support (proactive messaging) Limited support through Power Automate flows. Supported through Bot Framework.