Now that SharePoint 2016 has been released, consumer demand has steadily increased for SharePoint, Office 365 and hybrid solutions that combine the two. There was a lag in interest over the past eight months, but now businesses are looking to implement these products as Microsoft solidifies its shift towards hybrid and cloud solutions. On our end, demand for support services has skyrocketed since SharePoint 2016 came out – but not for the same services requested just a few short years ago. As new options become available, our clients and many businesses like them are adopting different software and workflows that better meet their needs.
Overall, the SharePoint 2016 release should serve as a reminder to consider your current options, future opportunities and the availability of support for the platforms you choose. At Timlin, we specialize in helping organizations design, implement and support their platforms based on these core software and service components. In this Office 365 migration guide, we’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Microsoft’s current offerings and explain why certain solutions may be best for you.
SharePoint 2016: On-Premise Only
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If your existing SharePoint environment is already onsite, your path of least resistance will be to upgrade or migrate to a new version of the same software. Your best bet will depend upon which version you’re currently running. If you’re already on SharePoint 2013, you may or may not want to make any move at all – at least not yet. However, SharePoint 2007 and 2010 are out of date in both features and support, and we strongly recommend an upgrade if you’re still running those versions. Our recent article highlights some of the new features of SharePoint 2016.
The following are a few of the most common scenarios and reasons for adopting this approach:
- If you currently have, or if you anticipate developing a heavily customized SharePoint environment, a hybrid or on-premise solution will make the most sense. Server-side development and tight integrations with “behind-the-firewall” systems necessitate an environment that you control.
- The need to crawl and index local content also necessitates a local SharePoint environment. File shares, websites, databases, custom searching and content enrichment are common needs in larger organizations, and although they can be supported with a hybrid approach, the volume of local data my dictate an on-premise platform. Strict security and compliance requirements may also dictate where data must live within your organization. While Microsoft’s cloud solutions can support most compliance needs, some organizations’ policies can only be solved with an on-premise solution.
- Regulatory authorities’ validation requirements may create specific restrictions that can only be managed locally or with a specialized, dedicated hosting environment not supported by Microsoft’s cloud solutions.
- The need for largescale, strategic investments in IT personnel, data centers, hardware and licensing may influence your ability to quickly change direction. There are other costs to consider, as well, including patching, training, support, redundancy and disaster recovery. These costs aren’t exclusive to an on-premise solution, but they must be considered.
- Dedicated SharePoint “applications” may provide specialized services vital to your organization, and those services may be influenced by any or all of the above considerations. If there’s an application you can’t do without, you’ll need to adopt the solution that allows you to continue using it.
SharePoint Online via Office 365
Thinking of moving entirely to the cloud? This path represents 100 percent of your SharePoint exposure within Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
The following are the most common scenarios and reasons for adopting this approach:
- You’re starting from scratch. Like a first-time home buyer without a house to sell, you don’t have anything steering you in one particular direction. Although this scenario isn’t exclusive to a cloud-only approach, many brand new SharePoint environments are now based in the cloud.
- You want to get out of the administration and infrastructure business, and the software-as-a-service approach is looking more and more attractive. You’ve done the math, you’ve heard how many companies are moving to the cloud, and you want to be next.
- Your organization is fairly small, or you’re a non-profit organization. Not long ago, SharePoint was only available to large enterprises with the resources necessary to purchase, host and manage their own environments. Traditional multi-tenant SharePoint hosting wasn’t very good, either, and it was usually limited to single-site collection with no active directory integration or administrative capabilities. These barriers to entry have vanished, now that the price per user has dropped so much. Office 365 is an absolute no-brainer for small businesses and non-profits, even if they’re only using it for email, Skype and OneDrive.
- You have an existing on-premise SharePoint environment that’s not well used, well governed or widely adopted. Many of our clients are in this boat, and they want to start over and make the most of SharePoint Online and Office 365.
- You don’t need heavily customized or extremely robust applications in your environment. On-premise solutions have historically been more friendly to customization, and organizations with more complex needs have traditionally avoided cloud-based solutions. That being said, each iteration of SharePoint Online continues to introduce more modern methods to build custom solutions – so don’t think that a cloud-based platform will keep you from customizing as needed in the near future.
- You’re either going to move all of your file shares to Office 365, OneDrive or SharePoint Online, or you don’t want to index and search for them via your cloud solutions.
- You don’t need to easily connect to local data sources or line-of-business systems to integrate with SharePoint.
- You don’t have very restrictive compliance needs that prevent you from storing data in the cloud.
- Your current SharePoint environment (if you have one) is relatively simple and has minimal customizations. If this is the case, it may make sense to just migrate your whole environment to Office 365, instead of upgrading to a newer version on premise.
- You buy into the roadmap and investment in the Office 365 platform. You understand that most new features and integration capabilities – Delve, Groups, Planner, Dynamics CRM Online, Project Server Online, etc. – will be built first and foremost for the cloud. You also believe your organization needs to align with this strategy to take advantage of the roadmap and pipelined features, and you fear falling too far behind what everyone else is doing. While I’ve never believed in following the herd, I do understand the reasoning behind this mindset.
- You never want to perform a SharePoint upgrade again! This capability is a mixed blessing for Timlin. Upgrades have been a cornerstone of our business for years, but I see how painful they can be. Ultimately, I want to do what’s in my clients’ best interests, and it makes sense for them to spend resources on meeting their business needs – not unnecessarily upgrading software.
- Your organization bought an Office 365 license to move Exchange, and since they’re already paying for it, you want them to leverage its features and services. This is a fairly common scenario, and you can talk to us about what you can do to take advantage of your investment. Intranets, team sites, collaboration, project management and search: these are just a few of the features Office 365 offers beyond basic email, instant messaging and file storage and syncing.
Hybrid Connection: SharePoint On-Premise and SharePoint Online via Office 365
As the title suggests, this solution combines the two previous options. Although it’s more complex, the hybrid approach offers several powerful advantages. Essentially, you get to create an on-premise environment and connect to Office 365 and SharePoint Online, allowing you leverage the best of both worlds with cross-capable services and features.
Here are a few cases where the hybrid approach shines:
- Your on-premise solution is working well, your organization has migrated several major services (Exchange, Skype, etc.) to Office 365 and you now own SharePoint Online. You’re already paying for all of it, so you might as well take advantage of the cloud-only features you can now offer your users. This option is cheaper than a complete migration to Office 365, and its usability and features are much more flexible.
- You use many custom applications, but you also have a lot of team sites, intranets and department sites. You want to offload the larger or more mundane group of sites to simplify your backup and recovery processes, so you keep that simple data in Office 365 and the more complex data on your local servers.
- You want to take advantage of Project Server Online and use SharePoint integration as your portfolio and project management suite, but you don’t want the hassle of Project Server onsite. This scenario also applies to the sole use of Office 365.
- Due to unknown organizational needs, you require the ultimate in flexibility for your environment. You also want to stay a little agnostic on your updates and upgrades and follow Microsoft’s suggested paths for future-proofing.
- You need to connect to on-premise systems and index content, but you also want to leverage everything else Office 365 has to offer.
- You want the freedom for deep application development, including system integration, but you still want the “rest of SharePoint” to be in the cloud.
- You want to build first-class external sharing capabilities while keeping much of that data segregated from your on-premise environment.
- “Because Microsoft recommends this approach.” Don’t laugh; I’ve heard this one several times! Although a hybrid solution may be your best bet, you still need to seriously consider your other options.
- For various reasons, many organizations need to keep on-premise environments. Still, they’ll want to invest in the future by adopting cloud-based services and features. For these companies, it makes perfect sense to add a hybrid connection to the existing environment. I favor this approach because it provides, by far, the greatest possible flexibility and capability.
Other configurations that can impact your decisions:
Multiple Environments and Configurations
If you have more than a single SharePoint farm – or if you’re going to need more than one – then you’ll have another dimension to consider as you decide what your roadmap should look like. There are several reasons for this scenario: dedicated application farms; validated environments that require more change management, and that are often separated from mainstream servers; and older infrastructures that are still in use because time and budget didn’t allow for migration.
If you’re dealing with one of these scenarios, take the time to work through it with a mid-term vision in mind, instead of kicking the can down the road. Now may be the best time to consolidate, migrate, retire and think about the next version of your architecture.
Azure / AWS
Azure services and virtualization offer several components you can take advantage of with Office 365 for Hybrid environments. Microsoft keeps on adding to an extensive list of services, but Rights Management, Auditing, databases, virtual machines and application platforms all add significant extendibility to your core architecture and capabilities. If you’re in this boat, you’ll want to think about how these services can fit into your needs as you plan.
If you’re hosting your environment with a traditional hosting or managed services organization, now is the time to discuss your next move. We work with these companies all the time to help them keep their facilitate their customers’ adoption of newer platforms, and many of them now offer solutions and services on top of Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
If your managed services provider can’t help you take advantage of SharePoint, they probably aren’t focused on the platform’s capabilities, and they may not provide you with a roadmap to adoption. Many of these companies don’t offer SharePoint or Office 365 implementation beyond infrastructure management and licensing, and you need to consult with a company that focuses on these solutions.
The details we’ve discussed today are still very high-level. You’ll work out the specifics as you conduct needs analyses, select business solutions, create a vision and construct a plan. Given the recent release of SharePoint and Microsoft’s newest plans for its productivity tools, this is a great time to have conversations about the best ways to move forward. If you’ve been waiting for the dust to settle – it has. We encourage you to reach out for further assistance on your migration options.
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