ViewPoint, SharePoint, Information Management
Should organizations choose Office 365 over SharePoint on-premises as their SharePoint solution?

This is the million dollar question that organizations are faced with today.

Most every time you turn on the TV, or are using a browser to access the Internet, you’ll see an advertisement for a cloud-based environments such as Office 365. These advertisements brag about all of the positive aspects of hosting your SharePoint implementation in a cloud-based environment. But are they telling you everything? Are you hearing the entire story about your cloud-based SharePoint implementation? I think not.

Coming Back Down to Earth

Like most advertisements there is often a rosy picture painted for you about how wonderful it would be if your SharePoint implementation was hosted in an Office 365 environment and managed by Microsoft. However, what we don’t see in these advertisements are some concerns that should be taken into consideration before making the decision to host your SharePoint content in Office 365.

Let me clarify -- I’m not totally against an Office 365 hosted SharePoint environment, because I feel Office 365 can be beneficial for particular audiences, specifically smaller companies. It is beneficial for these types of organizations because they don’t have to spend a lot of money on hardware, licenses, performing the installation, performing the upgrades, applying Service Packs, performing backups, and no worries about locking down or securing their SharePoint content, as all of this is done by the hosting environment which is GREAT!

But let’s dig a bit deeper and take a peek at some concerns you should be aware of when deciding to go with Office 365 (BTW, here is a link to the SharePoint Online software boundaries and limits: SharePoint Online: Software Boundaries and Limits).

Office 365 Concerns

Let’s assume you've decided you want to migrate a current on-premises SharePoint environment to Office 365. This migration itself can involve a level of difficulty if your current SharePoint environment contains custom code or third-party applications then Microsoft will not allow these customizations or third-party applications to run in Office 365. The migration can take place, but you may now have to purchase third-party tools to help with the migration to Office 365.

Reliability is the next concern that should be considered when weighing the important differences between Office 365 and on-premises for your SharePoint environment. On-premises provides a more reliable environment being the content is stored locally so you have fewer worries about the network connection needed to access the content when it is local vs. remote.

Staying with the network concern, if the SharePoint content is local and not remote, you have more control over monitoring and tuning of the bandwidth ensuring an optimal experience for your information workers.

Missing Features in Office 365

There are other key features introduced in SharePoint 2013 environment that are powerful but not available in Office 365. A few of these key features that are missing include; the ability to use the new cross-site publishing feature and faceted navigation, key Business Intelligence (BI) components like PerformancePoint, Scorecards and Dashboards are not available, and the Content Search Web Part used to dynamically present data on a page based on a search query is not available.

An example of how this may impact an organization is if a company decides to use Office 365 but also wants to take advantage of the BI functionality, they are still going to have to maintain an on-premises SharePoint Enterprise edition to utilize the BI functionality which in turn will most often take more time and money to keep the farms integrated which will quickly reduce the amount of money they saved from going to Office 365.

To view all of the functionality differences between the different Office 365 SharePoint implementations and the SharePoint on-premises editions, visit SharePoint Online Service Description.

As I stated previously, I’m not anti-Office 365 for your SharePoint 2013 environment, however I’d like to make sure that you aren’t wearing those rose-colored glasses when deciding whether your SharePoint 2013 implementation should be deployed in Office 365 or on-premises because as you can see there are advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios.

Image courtesy of nattapol sritongcom (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Brian in his 35,000 Foot View of SharePoint 2013 series.