"Is it time to migrate to SharePoint Online?" Have you asked yourself that question? If you work for an organization in manufacturing, finance, government or healthcare, chances are, your company is running SharePoint on-premises.

A few months ago, my firm ran an online study with employees from medium and large organizations across North America. A group of 200 volunteers participated in the study. Our goal was to learn about what collaboration technology these organizations use now and what their future plans looked like. 

The findings from the study provide insight into the strategies of other organizations in your same position.

What Data Tells Us

Over 20% of our 200 study respondents from North American companies are running SharePoint on-premises. Of those 20% respondents:

  • 62% said their organizations plan to stay with SharePoint on-prem.
  • 15% said they plan to move to hybrid.
  • 23% said they plan to move to SharePoint Online.

Almost 80% of respondents identified themselves as IT or leadership.

Next, we set out to learn what makes these organizations keep SharePoint on-prem.

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Why SharePoint Customers Opt to Stay On-Premises

In a follow up to the study, we asked a sample group of our customers and partners to share why they chose to stay on-prem. Here are the top reasons we heard:

  • Heavy technology investment over the years created a dependency on SharePoint on-premises.
  • Compliance can make it prohibitively expensive or complex to store data in the cloud.
  • Some customizations are not available in SharePoint Online. Few examples include:
  • Store limits in SharePoint Online: 1 TB plus 10 GB per license purchased. There is no such limit in SharePoint on-prem
  • SharePoint Online API limitations. For example, you can only retrieve 500 items from the Sharepoint list. SharePoint on-prem allows you to change this number.
  • The file size limit in the SharePoint Online document library is capped at 100 GB.
  • Many experts worry that Microsoft updates in SharePoint Online carry more risks of inadvertently disrupting customizations in a customer environment.
  • It is said that SharePoint on-premises offers more flexibility to roll back updates, which is not available in shared SharePoint Online tenant infrastructure.

It seems there are good reasons to stay on-prem, but what about Microsoft support and upgrades?

What Challenges Do SharePoint On-Prem Users Face?

If your organization plans to stick with SharePoint on-premises, you're looking at these key obstacles:

  • April 11, 2023 is Microsoft's deadline for SharePoint Server 2013 support.
  • July 14, 2026 marks the end of SharePoint Server 2016 and 2019 extended support.
  • SharePoint 2013 and 2016 both don't include modern list and page experience, though this experience is available in SharePoint 2019.
  • Plug-and-play and no-code integrations commonly found in SharePoint Online are less likely to be found for SharePoint on-prem.

Looking at the list of these technical challenges, we wanted to learn what the top business needs are when it comes to SharePoint (both on-prem and the cloud).

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The Features IT Leaders Need Most

In order of importance, the top three items respondents said they needed most when it comes to SharePoint are:

  1. Better search.
  2. Better design.
  3. Integration with other work apps.

We confirmed this ranking when we asked respondents to tell us about what kind of help they usually seek from external consultants. Help with visual design and help with building custom integrations were the two most common responses.

Learning Opportunities

How Do You Stay On-Prem While Delivering Value to Your Business?

Knowing that going to the cloud may not be an option for some organizations, how do you continue delivering value to the business while staying compliant?

Looking at the top three needs called out by our study respondents, we recommend these solutions:

Improving Search

A better search is the biggest requirement for many organizations. In our experience, search issues are often caused by outdated site structure and information design. This out-of-date information architecture usually results in confusing navigation, poor metadata tagging and a lack of intuitive search. You'll recognize this is happening when employees complain about not finding forms, templates and procedures.

Search issues — whether on-prem or SharePoint online — can often be resolved with an information architecture redesign.

Related Article: The Rise and Fall of Microsoft Search

Custom Visual Design

Respondents also mentioned the poor look and feel of their SharePoint site and poor end-user perception of the platform. Visual design no longer needs to be a multi-month project with an outside design team. SharePoint on-prem and Online both support pre-built SharePoint templates and design examples that can give your SharePoint on-prem and SharePoint Online a much better user experience.


SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, released in July 2021, can help improve integration options available in your on-prem SharePoint. The SharePoint Server Subscription Edition is compatible with SharePoint 2016 and has many new upgrades that your end-users will appreciate.

If you're using SharePoint 2019, you have access to SharePoint Modern Experience, which includes modern Communication and Team sites, a new search experience, and a better hybrid experience.

Goodbye SharePoint On-Premises?

So, is it time to say goodbye to SharePoint on-prem? Not yet. Microsoft is showing evidence that it's committed to keeping it fresh. If you're affected by regulatory requirements that make it difficult for your organization to migrate to the cloud or hybrid, you can tackle search, visual design and integrations to give your employees a better experience while keeping the costs down.

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