Birds migrating south in the shape of an arrow - cloud migration concept
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SharePoint Hybrid is a configuration and feature set that enables users in SharePoint on-premises environments to take advantage of SharePoint Online functionality. It also enables users to access content in both the SharePoint Online and on-premises environments from a single place.

With hybrid, productivity services in SharePoint Online can be integrated with on-premises SharePoint Server to provide unified functionality and access to data.  For enterprises that want to gradually move their existing on-premises SharePoint Server services to the cloud, SharePoint Server hybrid provides a staged migration path. In effect, it enables users to extend high-impact SharePoint Server workloads to SharePoint Online. When computing and processing demand fluctuates, hybrid cloud computing gives businesses the ability to seamlessly scale their on-premises infrastructure up to the public cloud to handle any overflow — without giving third-party data centers access to the entirety of their data.

At the time of the launch of 2019, Dux Raymond-Sy, CMO of SharePoint migration specialist AvePoint, told CMSWire that the hybrid version delivered an enhanced hybrid experience of the platform to all users. "All the good qualities of SharePoint Online are now available for on-premises users, including modern sites, communication sites and hub,” he said. “Most importantly, the new rock-solid sync feature for OneDrive makes it more compelling for enterprises to retire competing file, sync and share solutions like Box or Dropbox, allowing SharePoint to become their one-size-fits-all solution for all of these needs," he said.

Hybrid Benefits

If SharePoint hybrid deployments act as the link between SharePoint on premises environment and SharePoint online in Office 365, what benefits do hybrid deployments provide you, the business user? There are a number, not least of which is the fact that Microsoft made it easier to use, according to Norhanie Pangulima of Kansas City, Miss.-based Centriq. “One of the major investments for Microsoft was making SharePoint hybrid configuration easier to use,” he said. And if you’ve ever set up Hybrid in the past, you’ll agree they’ve made huge improvements.

He added that a hybrid SharePoint environment can enable organizations to enjoy several advantages that are exclusive to the Microsoft Office 365 environment and a cloud environment, including the following.

1. WorkForce

SharePoint Hybrid enables regulatory compliance, ensures user adoption, and provides the ability for the mobile workforce users to work methodically through a variety of applications, while providing the richness of the features within Microsoft Office 365.

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2. Usability

SharePoint Hybrid enables users to avail of the rich features that Microsoft releases weekly and by providing users with go-to-market tools for sharing and collaborating with internal and external users.

3. Cost Savings

SharePoint Hybrid enables users to save costs on storage, high availability and scalability. It also can eliminate the need for third-party products that have similar functionality with the Microsoft Office 365 application. Dave Barnett, product management senior advisor at Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Quest, Microsoft Platform Management business unit, points out that for many organizations, moving to hybrid is not a choice, but a necessity. “Taking a hybrid approach to managing SharePoint environments isn't necessarily what organizations want to do, but rather, something they must do,” he said. “SharePoint Hybrid features — such as hybrid links, shared search and navigation experiences, and common user identities — provide great advantages and are critical to ensuring the sharing and discovery between platforms with minimal business impact.”

And even if some enterprises would like to move everything to SharePoint Online, there are barriers for customers who want a 100% SharePoint Online approach. This results in some having to be kept on-premises. As a result, they need to look to hybrid, for three reasons in particular.

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4. Complexity

SharePoint Hybrid is an absolute necessity for customizations that are not supported by SharePoint Online. Think full trust code solutions and experiences, custom code workflows driving external business processes, legacy 3rd-party or in-house software integrations that might have to be expensively rebuilt from the ground up to support cloud. These will be the largest drivers of long-term hybrid deployment. There are still some organizations that appreciate the control of on-premises but as data continues to grow, so too will the benefits of the cloud.

SharePoint on premises can be an application platform and there may not be equivalent capabilities within SharePoint Online that allows customers to easily and securely migrate that application into SharePoint Online. It could require a rewrite of the application, so they prefer to table that conversation until they are forced to move it. Finally, business units within the organization may not be able to progress to the cloud at the same rate.

5. Content Silos

Adding new content silos often creates duplication of data and lost content islands. This is enough of a problem in a standalone SharePoint implementation, let alone one where users are also being asked to jump back and forth between different sites and unique logins, then perform the same searches multiple times. Users face either paralysis waiting for IT to point them at the right system, or just adopt one platform over the other (even if it violates your security policy).

6. Governance

With emerging regulations, organizations may be required to keep sensitive content on-premises, at least for now. Some organizations have built processes that they are comfortable with and want to retain them as is without making changes due to regulatory or internal security practices. It's worth noting that as organizations embrace SharePoint Hybrid, it should not be an end user's job to know which back end system is storing their critical collaboration content. Links in either instance of the SharePoint environment should seamlessly redirect to the appropriate target and Searches should not need to be repeated across multiple systems.

With the growing importance of hybrid deployments, Microsoft has, over the past year, made its Office 365 migration tools easier and free. At Ignite last November, Microsoft announced updates to its tools including SharePoint Migration Tool for moving sites and files to Office 365 and Microsoft 36, as well as the SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool.

Nor is that the end of it. In October Microsoft also bought Mover, which offers cloud file migration, including admin-led and self-service offerings. As customer demand to move content to the cloud continues to grow, Mover will help make it easier than ever for customers to migrate files to Microsoft 365.

These are just some of reasons enterprises are moving to hybrid deployments and some of the tools available to enable migrations. There will, undoubtedly, but more on this in the coming year.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of hybrid cloud models vary from organization to organization, said Hunter Willis, product marketing manager of Jersey City-based AvePoint. Either for security concerns or lack of a justifiable need, they are trying to get the best of both worlds until the ROI for a shift to the cloud presents itself. For others, they simply cannot see the ROI for the effort it will take to make the move to the cloud and will continue to operate server-based systems as needed for the foreseeable future. "In any case, a hybrid model allows organizations to pick and choose what will benefit them the most," he said.