Fabian Williams was our guide on the first steps to a hybrid SharePoint environment. What do you need to think about first when discussing a hybrid environment?
Let me first throw a spoiler alert at you… SharePoint hybrid is not easy. Fabian made it clear that the little over an hour we had was not enough to really sort this out; in fact, he had a four-hour webinar that wasn’t enough time. So with that in mind let me first set you, readers, up with some resources.
Channel 9 Fabian Williams
The above links should give you a plethora of information about hybrid environments. Also, they should be more relevant as a technical resource than the rest of this post will be. Here is what I was able to understand from the avalanche of information Fabian so kindly released on us.
SharePoint Online (SPO) is coming, at least in a hybrid way, so come to terms with that now and start thinking about it. I’ve heard lots of people talk about hybrid as a way to slowly transition to SPO. Fabian offered more ideas than that.
First of all, a hybrid environment could, reasonably, be your answer. A hybrid environment might be where your organization wants to stay. The second new way to look at it is that a hybrid environment is a more useful way to wait for SPO to evolve. This was something I haven’t yet heard, but it makes a lot of sense.
So why would you want to do this anyway? Well, several reasons were discussed. It is a good way to get an introduction to the cloud. It’s a great way to be able to reach out to employees who are not in the office, or
anywhere in the world (with an internet connection).
It is, of course, a logical migration path as well. You might be facing some complexity or regulations that won’t let you go fully online, hybrid could be the answer. It is also a good thing to use as a temporary fix. Fabian gave the example of how Microsoft spins up a ton of VMs in support of conferences. They are built, used for the event, and then taken down when it’s over. That might only be an option for large companies but it is a good use of a hybrid environment.
The bottom line is that if you are thinking about going hybrid, make sure you evaluate your on-prem environment from top to bottom. There might be something that prohibits you from doing it at all and you won’t even need to get into the more technical discussions.
If you have determined hybrid is the way to go the next step is to look at the ways you can do it. There are three ways. You can use SPO as essentially a cloud view of your on-prem farm(one-way outbound), You can have SPO set up to actually be able to query your on-prem farm (one-way inbound), or you can have both with two way bidirectional.
One way outbound is best for search functions and not much else. One way outbound allows SPO users to actually change information on the server and bidirectional obviously is the best of both worlds. The main downside to bidirectional is that search results are displayed in two blocks. This also does not support search relevance, though Fabian hinted to pay attention to next year’s Ignite Conference (hint, hint).
Once you get this far in the process it’s time to start thinking about the fact that you will have a public-facing URL
associated with your SharePoint environment. This opens up the issues of having the right certificates and the big question of security. The good news is that there are actually lots of options for security so that shouldn’t be a total scare away. You will also have to think about user management and identification. After all, you can’t have just anyone access your farm. Now you are talking about active directory and decisions about single sign-on and the like. These topics, while touched on in this session, are much better explained in the links above.