In case you are living under a rock, this topic is hot right now. Independent SharePoint Consultant Nigel Price was kind enough to lend his expert opinion in the second session I attended in Cardiff. The first thing he asked was: “What is the ideal SharePoint environment?” According to Nigel, it’s a trick question; the ideal environment doesn’t exist. There will always be drawbacks no matter what you do. The task then is to figure out what is the closest to the ideal environment that you can use and manage. It also comes down to what your business wants and needs. Do you want the latest and greatest? Do you want to be able to keep your
legacy systems? Do you want to make the most of a small budget? What about network speed? As you can see, there are a number of considerations that vary from company to company.
So what are the benefits of Office 365? It’s cheap when considering the whole picture: there is no need to have space in a data center, no need to have the staff to manage the infrastructure, no need to have in-house servers, etc. There is also a lot of maintenance that is taken care of by Microsoft. Specifically, you get patches and upgrades automatically, backups are done for you, and the availability is likely better than you can provide yourself.
Remember what I said about always having drawbacks? As can be predicted, there are a few with Office 365. You get patches and updates automatically… WITHOUT warning and without any notion of what they are going to be. It has become commonplace for people to come into the office in the morning and find their site is broken because of an update. Since you don’t get a choice of installation, you have to just live
with it. Another thing you have to deal with is when a search runs. It runs when it runs, meaning you might upload files and they may not show up in a search for a day or more depending on the crawl settings (which you can’t see). Office 365 also does not allow custom site templates. Are you a person that likes to make a few templates and then choose from those? Too bad, with Office 365 you can’t.
At this point in time, most people are pretty familiar with the pros and cons of on-premises SharePoint. To summarize: it’s more expensive and more involved to build/service/maintain but allows you almost infinite control. So what about the hybrid environment, which is a mix of both? You get the benefits of having someone else do the back-end maintenance and the larger scope of control with updates, etc., but you still have to build the site in the first place. Likewise, it’s only marginally cheaper since you are still maintaining an on-premises environment.
When choosing the right SharePoint for your organization, the decision will come down to what your business needs are. Can your business keep up with the rapid changes that come with Office 365? Do you need to maintain a legacy system and/or keep your third-party applications? Nigel had some helpful recommendations and suggestions. For one, customization is not a good idea with Office 365. Additionally, usage reporting is rather sparse. Storage is limited with Office 365 and it is taking a long time for Microsoft to get all of its Business Intelligence running in the cloud. A hybrid solution could be the best of both worlds (we are certainly seeing that at the moment), but it should be clear that it is the hardest to set up.
So while it’s never a win-win, there are some clear differences that could lead you to a decision. Nigel’s final piece of advice was to include all the stakeholders in the decision, focus on security, and think long-term.
Are you thinking of switching to Office 365? Bamboo Solutions is curious as to what YOU think – When it comes to SharePoint 2013 vs. Office 365, Who Should Stay and Who Should Go? To help understand and drive the market, we encourage you to take a few moments to take our survey on the future of SharePoint. Please note that this survey is being conducted by Bamboo Solutions and has nothing to do with Nigel Price or any of his affiliates.