SharePoint hybrid deployments act as the link between your SharePoint on premises environment and SharePoint online in Office 365, but what benefits do hybrid deployments provide you, the business user?
You can activate five main features when deploying a hybrid SharePoint Infrastructure:
- Hybrid OneDrive for Business
- Hybrid Sites
- Site Following
- Profile Redirection
- Extensible App Launcher
- Hybrid Search
- Hybrid Federated Search
- Hybrid Cloud Search
- Hybrid Business Connectivity Services
Let’s take a look at each one:
Hybrid OneDrive for Business
A SharePoint server on premises only deployment stores OneDrive for Business content in the user’s MySite. So if you move the popular “personal Share” located on the U: or T: or X: drive to OneDrive for business in SharePoint 2016, you still need to pay for the SQL storage and manage everything from backups to growth.
The solution is to configure Hybrid OneDrive for Business to put the user’s OneDrive for Business in SharePoint Online rather than storing it in your personal datacenter. Users in OneDrive for Business in Office 365 gets between 1 terabyte to unlimited storage for their files. And by moving the storage online, you don’t have to worry about growth and backups, as Microsoft handles those.
Switching the storage to online also gives your users access to their personal files stored in OneDrive for Business from anywhere, without needing to connect to your VPN. When enabling hybrid OneDrive for Business, users that click on the OneDrive icon in the SharePoint 2016 app launcher will be redirected to their Office 365 OneDrive for Business instead of their on premises OneDrive for Business.
The Hybrid Sites functionality provides three different features, so let’s analyze them one by one.
The Site Following feature allows users to follow sites both in SharePoint on premises and SharePoint online. All of the followed sites appear on the same page in SharePoint online under the Sites (now SharePoint) tab in Office 365. The screenshot below shows the new SharePoint home page with the two sites I follow — one from SharePoint online and one from SharePoint on premises.
Merging the sites users follow in both on Premises and SharePoint pnline means users only have to go to one place to find all the sites they follow. Once again, the SharePoint 2016 app launcher, will redirect users to the proper page in Office 365.
Users on both SharePoint on premises and SharePoint online have two profiles: their SharePoint on premises MySite, and Delve in Office 365. When a user clicks on their name in SharePoint on premises, they go to the on premises MySites, and if they click on the name in Office 365, they get redirected to Delve.
Getting people to maintain one profile is hard enough, but two? Needless to say, this is not productive.
Profile redirection comes into play here. When enabling Hybrid Sites, when someone clicks on a username — whether on premises or in SharePoint Online — they will be redirected to that user’s Delve page in Office 365. Users only have one page to keep up to date, and everyone can find who they're looking for.
Extensible App Launcher
The extensible app launcher allows SharePoint 2016 users to add extra tiles in the SharePoint 2016 app launcher. By adding an image to their Office 365 app launcher it will automatically add to their SharePoint 2016 on-premises app launcher as well.
One of the most popular — and important — hybrid features is hybrid search. If you use both SharePoint on premises and SharePoint online to store documents, you need to search both systems to find documents. Implementing hybrid search in SharePoint can happen in two ways: hybrid federated search and hybrid cloud search.
Hybrid Federated Search
Hybrid federated search was introduced in the RTM version of SharePoint 2013. In a federated search topology, all SharePoint on premises items remain in the on premises search index, and all the SharePoint online items remain in the online index.
A search query will show results from “the other” system in a result block on the SharePoint search results page, as seen below.
The disadvantages of federated search is that users cannot see a mixed result set, and the results are limited, only showing a maximum of 10 results at a time.
Hybrid Cloud Search
SharePoint 2016 introduced hybrid cloud search, which is also compatible with SharePoint 2013. This option attempts to fix some of the user experience problems with federated search.
Hybrid search pushes the on premises index into Office 365 and combines it with the SharePoint online index. Since results come from the same index, they show the best results in order, regardless of where they reside.
A disadvantage of the hybrid cloud search is that once deployed, it limits you to the search customization capabilities available in SharePoint online, so you lose options like custom entity extraction and the content enrichment web service.
Furthermore, depending on how many items you have on premises, you might have to pay more. You can find out how the cost of cloud hybrid search is calculated here.
Hybrid Business Connectivity Services
On premises business connectivity services allows users to bring data from external systems, such as SQL Server, into SharePoint lists. By implementing hybrid business connectivity services, you can surface line of business data into SharePoint Online.
Imagine surfacing a sales database for a specific client in a team site in SharePoint Online. When a traveling salesperson needs that data, they don’t need to connect to VPN for access, instead navigating to the SharePoint online site, or through the SharePoint app.
To ensure secure communication, all data is encrypted between SharePoint on premises and SharePoint online.
And Still More Hybrid Features
A hybrid SharePoint infrastructure provides other important features. For example, all users have access to Office 365 Video. Instead of uploading videos to SharePoint on premises and paying for storage, upload them to Office 365 Video and embed them in your on premises SharePoint — it’s as easy as embedding a YouTube Video on a page.
Hybrid makes sharing information with partners easier. Instead of the hassles involved with opening your SharePoint server to the internet, you can create SharePoint online site collections and invite them to log in using a Microsoft account. No need to pay user licenses, and none of the security risk involved with opening your SharePoint server to the web.
A Selection of SharePoint Hybrid Resources
Implementing a hybrid SharePoint infrastructure can offer a great return on investment to your business users. They get the latest and greatest features in Office 365, while still keeping highly customized sites and sensitive data On-Premises.
Your company will now get to choose on which system to put each workload, in order to improve productivity and efficiency.
If you want to learn more about SharePoint hybrid, a few resources:
Pluralsight (Video Training): Implementing a Hybrid SharePoint 2013/2016 Infrastructure: This course starts with a video overview of the features in this blog post, but since it’s a video, you can see them in action. The rest of the course is mostly for technical users and shows you how to implement the hybrid SharePoint infrastructure. (Disclaimer: I am the author of this course)
Note: Pluralsight is not free, but I shared an article on my blog on how to get 6 free months
Microsoft eBook: Microsoft released an e-book titled "Cloud-Accelerated Hybrid Scenarios with SharePoint and Office 365" that you can download here (pdf). The e-book covers both IT Pro stuff as well as business.
Office Hybrid Site: Hybrid.Office.com is a Microsoft-owned site that has information for all the Office Servers (SharePoint, Exchange, and Skype for Business). It offers a lot of hybrid documentation on all those solutions.