1. Lack of Full Blown Central Administration
There are SharePoint admin functions with Office 365/SharePoint Online, but they are pretty limited. This is because Office 365 is multi-tenanted SaaS (software as a service). This means that many organizations are using the exact same implementation of SharePoint as you are -- wouldn't pay to give you central administration functions that would affect other organizations would it?
Some of the important admin functions you won’t get:
- The ability to control to the list view threshold (you are limited to 5000 items)
- No web applications
- No analytics
- A number of fine tuning options such as quota templates, resource and request throttling, managed accounts and more.
What this means is this: if you have an existing SharePoint environment that you have adjusted greatly through central administration options, you aren't going to want to move to a cloud-based version if you absolutely need those customizations. Make sure you know what administration functions you can have, and if you can live with that. If you can, if might make sense to make the jump.
Again, customization doesn't really work when you are living in a SaaS-based SharePoint environment. Yes, some customizations are allowed, such as some branding, but there are a lot of typical customizations that aren't allowed.
Consider the web part. One of the first things many organizations do when customizing SharePoint is build their own web parts. It doesn't happen the same way with SharePoint Online. There are ways to incorporate third party content into your implementation using the IFrames and what Microsoft calls app parts.
App parts don’t actually reside with your SharePoint implementation, you host them in a different web application, using an IFrame to surface UI elements within a SharePoint site. This is one of the new approaches to custom development in SharePoint (both online and offline). In the SharePoint online case, it means managing and paying for another environment alongside SharePoint, essentially adding to the cost of your overall SharePoint environment and eliminating any benefits to not having to manage your environment.
3. Limited Feature Set
Everything that comes with the on premises version of SharePoint is not available via Office 365 / SharePoint Online. I talked about some of these from an admin perspective, but there are also some nice features you can’t get either. Here are a few examples:
- You can’t create email enabled lists.
- A number of Web content management features (for external facing websites) aren’t available including: analytics, catalog, cross site publishing, faceted navigation, image renditions and topic pages.
- Insights features are limited and completely unavailable in some SharePoint Online subscriptions.
- There’s no e-Discovery.
You can check out the full list of difference across online SharePoint subscriptions here.
The feature set available partly depends on the subscription you have. For example, enterprise subscriptions have much more functionality than basic subscriptions.
4. Control of Your Content Access
This is not about securing your data, but about access to your data 24/7. Two things must always be in place to ensure you have access to your information: 1. Office 365 must be up and running, and 2. You must have internet access.
Microsoft has a really good service level agreement, but the reality is, stuff happens and SharePoint Online is not immune to “stuff.” Internet accessibility can also be spotty at times (think major storms for starters).
The reality is, if you need to be 100% sure your information is always accessibility, a move to the cloud may not be your option. Of course it’s pretty tough to ensure your on premises infrastructure is 100% available, but you usually have much greater control over what happens in your own backyard.
A Hybrid Solution May Be the Best Approach
Maybe a full blown move to the cloud isn't your best option, but you know there is some value to be gained by having at least some of your infrastructure hosted externally. One reason for a partial cloud implementation is if you have information that external parties need access to. Making that information available in Office 365 is easier than implementing a strategy to get outside people access to your internal systems. So move out the things you need to share and keep internal the things you don’t. Sounds like a plan for hybrid.
Title image courtesy of Winston Link (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Still not sure if you should move to the cloud? Read Steve's 4 Considerations for Migrating to Office 365 and SharePoint Online