The release of the almost ready for prime time version of SharePoint 2016 is reportedly just weeks away — and Microsoft is already improving its online and Office 365 offerings in preparation.

Many of the upgrades announced last night improve auditing, reporting and storage in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. And some of those will be particularly welcome to current and future users.

SharePoint 2016 Release-to-Manufacturing (RTM) is expected to be available mid-March. 

Hybrid Cloud Search

Enterprises planning to add an online element to their on-premises SharePoint environments will benefit from clarifications about the hybrid cloud search.

According to a blog post by Mark Kashman, senior product manager for the Office 365 team, users with hybrid search configured will now be able to index one million items from on-premises SharePoint for every 1TB of hybrid storage they use. (SharePoint Online is already covered by their Office 365 contract).

Cloud hybrid search was announced at least year’s Microsoft’s Ignite conference in May.

In August Microsoft introduced a hybrid search preview that enabled users of SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 to retrieve unified search results through a combined search index in Office 365.  The new hybrid search solution is also native to SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview.

In addition to offering the ability to exploit applications like Delve and Graph more effectively, it also reduces the on-premises search footprint. It also enables users to search legacy versions of SharePoint, such as 2007, 2010 and 2013, without requiring upgrades of those versions.

Easier Data Management

In December, Microsoft shot itself in the foot with a number of announcements about the amount of storage that business and private users are entitled to have in OneDrive consumer storage services.

Least the same thing happen with SharePoint Online, Office 365 Groups and Office 365 video services, Microsoft has increased the default storage limits here to 1TB per contract plus 0.5GB per user.

This is up from 10 GB that has been in place until recently and is in addition to the unique default per-user OneDrive for Business storage space and individual storage provided for user email inboxes. Kashman added:

“Office 365 customers on our premium Enterprise, Government and Education plans will receive OneDrive for Business unlimited storage, and we’re pleased to announce that the first stage of providing 5 TB for each user is now complete.”

Microsoft is also increasing the upload file-size to 10GB from 2GB.

Other announcements yesterday relate to auditing capabilities across Office 365. 

Microsoft announced some of these capabilities during the second half of last year, but has now made them generally available.

“We’ve now started to roll out some of these capabilities in the reports section of the Office 365 Compliance Center, including auditing and reporting on user and admin activities logged from SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, and the ability to view activities in Azure Active Directory (the directory service for Office 365) and Exchange Online,” Kashman wrote.

Outlook.com Out of Preview

Microsoft also noted yesterday that the new version of Outlook.com is out of preview.

Much of what is now generally available was unveiled last May. However, it is worth remembering that because of its relationship with Office 365, users will be able to collaborate on email documents easier than before as well as to share files and attach Skype to their inbox.

The upgrades to Outlook.com will be made available over the coming weeks. No user action is necessary to get the upgrades.