SPTechCon 2014: Microsoft’s Eric Harlan Helps Us Understand SharePoint Online and Hybrid Environments

In his presentation titled Use SharePoint Online as a Viable Hybrid Approach, Bamboo Nation favorite and Microsoft SharePoint Premier Field Engineer (PFE) Eric Harlan showed admins and users how SharePoint Online can be utilized as a key component in turning an enterprise on-premises environment into a hybrid environment. With so many different SharePoint options available, including cloud-hosted and on-premises, Eric demonstrated how SharePoint Online can be leveraged to bridge these two environments.

Eric began his presentation by posing a very simple question on most people’s minds: “What the hell is SharePoint Online and why should I care?”  To put SharePoint Online (SPO) in perspective, Eric broke down the different SharePoint options in terms of real estate. SPO can be compared to living in an apartment; you have four walls but there is little you can do to change what is contained in those four walls.  Conversely, when you think about Office 365 or a private cloud, you might compare these options to a condo or townhouse. You have four walls that you have to contain your environment within but unlike the “apartment,” you have more flexibility to do what you want since you own the space. Lastly, there’s the hybrid option, which Eric compared to a single-family home. Unlike the other two options, you pretty much have carte blanche to do as you please with your “property.”

So why choose SharePoint Online when other options offer more freedom and flexibility?  While you may get a limited level of control with SPO, you reap a number of benefits. These include an environment that is completely cloud-based, less configuration, reduced costs since someone else is providing the maintenance, scalability, and a subscription-based pricing model. Once he established some of the benefits of choosing SPO, Eric went on to analyze some of the questions that organizations need to ask themselves when they opt for a cloud solution, including:

  • Do on-premises users need to be able to authenticate to SPO;
  • Do on-premises users need a “TRUE” single sign-on;
  • Do SPO users need to be able to authenticate back to on-premises;
  • Do users need to be able to see both SPO and on-premises search results;
  • Do users need to be able to use BCS (inbound/outbound); and
  • Are there any legal issues to consider?

So let’s assume that your organization poured over the questions above and decided that a hybrid solution is the way to go. Where do you go next? One major thing to consider is whether or not you plan to utilize Azure as your cloud-based platform.

In his presentation, Eric explored how Azure fits into a hybrid solution. One of the benefits of choosing Azure to complement SPO is the cost savings that can be reaped. With how competitive the market has been, Microsoft has worked overtime to make Azure one of the most cost-effective options available. In addition, from a technical standpoint, users benefit from the ability to run their entire on-premises SharePoint farm in the cloud. This means no private servers or data centers to maintain which further increases your cost savings.

You have your SPO and your Azure, so what else does one have to look forward to with their hybrid environment? With this Software as a Service (SaaS) option, there are endless options for how you can shape your SharePoint environment.  In addition, with the availability of over 520 existing apps that are already configured for use from the Microsoft Online Store, a hybrid solution is as attractive as ever.