Part 7 - My Thoughts on How to Approach Office 365 & SharePoint On-Premises Today

by Andrew Connell on May 20, 2014

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Date Revised:
May 16, 2014


This is just one entry in a series of articles that cover a keynote presentation I delivered in April 2014 at the SPTechCon conference in San Francisco, CA. The first article in the series below sets the stage and explains what the series is about. All articles in the series are meant to be read in order, but hey… it’s your browser and mouse… click what interests you!

  1. Navigating the New World of SharePoint Online, Office 365 and On-Premises - Introducing the Series
  2. Level Setting and Definitions
  3. Why is Microsoft Moving to Office 365?
  4. Completely Unscientific Survey - Survey on Office 365 and Where Are You?
  5. Customer and ISV Takeaways from the SharePoint Conference 2014
  6. My Thoughts on The Challenges with Customer Acceptance of Office 365
  7. My Thoughts on How to Approach Office 365 & SharePoint On-Premises Today
  8. Office 365 Call to Action - What Should You be Doing?

I'll say it multiple times but let's just face it: Microsoft is moving SharePoint to the cloud (Office 365) and you can't stop it. It's inevitable. You can stay on-premises, but you won't get all the great innovations or features when the Office 365 guys get them and there's even a change you may never see them. For many, that may be just fine... but for others, that's not going to be acceptable.

In this installment of my series let's assume we are not going to stay stuck in the mud and take a fresh look at Office 365. How can we go about that?

Change your State of Mind & Approach to Office 365

slide17The first thing I think you should do, or better stated not do, is put yourself in a bucket. Don't say "we're only using SharePoint on-premises" or "we can't be a full Office 365 solution". There are multiple ways you can take advantage of SharePoint and hybrid is a great way to start.

In addition, don't put yourself into an audience bucket if you can avoid it. Don't say "I'm a developer" or administrator or end user... these days you rarely fall into one camp.

My friend Dan Holme has a great saying for both of these areas: the lines are blurring. Stop and think about that for a moment... they really are! You've got this whole concept of DevOps where developers are doing some of the work administrators are doing. You've got administrators writing scrips for deployment and configuration of systems, something you'd normally see developers do. And you have end users even diving into the world of JavaScript. On the deployment front you've got hybrid deployments... the lines really are blurring all around you in the SharePoint space (and greater technology space arguably)!

Instead, *focus on WHAT you want to do and then WHERE it makes the most sense. Don't focus on the where* first because it locks you into what you can do. Then simply take the best things and deployment that makes the best sense for what you want to do. If that means staying on-premises but leveraging hosted solutions like Yammer or OneDrive in a hybrid deployment, do it! Do it at your own pace!

So what things make the most sense for different deployments? Don't think features... think workloads.

What Workloads are SharePoint On-Premises Deployments Ideally Suited For?

slide18On-Premises SharePoint 2013 deployments have some exclusive advantages over a hosted deployment like Office 365. One clear workload is for customers who simply can't move their data to the cloud... it must stay on-premises. This can be the case for organizations where data can't be in the cloud... it needs to reside in a highly protected or managed area that they control. While Microsoft is doing a lot to address this such as obtaining more data privacy certifications, it might not be enough for the specific requirements for certain industries in particular countries.

Another common workload that should stay on-premises is using SharePoint to host a public facing internet site. This would be what you commonly hear as a WCM or Publishing site. Simply put: you can't do this in Office 365. There is a very small and limited public facing site that you get in Office 365, but it isn't a full blown publishing system.

Disaster recovery (DR) scenarios are also commonly kept on-premises as well, at least for those customers who want to, or need to, retain a lot of control over their DR implementation.

For those customers who want to do customizations using fully trusted code in farm solutions, on-premises is the only option in town. Office 365 simply does not allow fully trusted code to be deployed or operate in the cloud. If you have farm solutions, they must run on-premises.

And finally, another common thing that comes up with the need for on-premises deployments is for those customers who want more control over the upgrade path than what Office 365 gives customers. Today, you get a notification that you will get updated and you can put it off, but not forever. In addition, today customers deal with some automatic upgrades to the platform that has broken their customizations (I discussed this in the last installment in this series). For those customers who want full control over the upgrade path, on-premises is the way to go.

What Workloads are SharePoint Online (Office 365) Deployments Ideally Suited For?

slide20So when is Office 365 a great solution? Microsoft will tell you almost all the time (at least it seems like that's what they keep saying). However I do think some are worth mentioning. First, are you trying to get out of the day-to-day maintenance of your SharePoint deployment? How about a DR strategy? Performance? The storage requirements? If you are, these are the classic things where Office 365 will be a great solution for you because you remove yourself from those things.

In addition, consider some features like OneDrive, Yammer and some of the powerful business intelligence capabilities. These are Office 365 only solutions... there is no on-premises version of these. If you want to use them, you are only looking to the cloud.

This extends further as well. I've said it before in this series and you've heard Microsoft say it, but they are building for the cloud first. That's where they are innovating first and spending most of their energy. When things make sense they may move or port the features down to customers who are on-premises.

What Workloads are a Hybrid SharePoint Deployments Ideally Suited For?

slide19Finally, what about hybrid deployments? These are when you want to take your existing on-premises deployment and connect it to an Office 365 tenant. With SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 you can connect your on-premises deployment to an Office 365 tenant to take advantage of hosted offerings like OneDrive for Business and Yammer.

In addition there are some neat search hybrid scenarios you can do. Users want to search from on-premises and see content from both your on-premises and Office 365 investments. Today that it's terribly great because you get query federation which simply runs the query twice, once on-premises and once in Office 365 and shows you both results, but it isn't how you'd want it to look as you get to result sets. However Microsoft has said that they will have remote indexing coming soon which will give us a single unified result set pulling from both our investments.

Finally you can also connect your on-premises deployment to the business connectivity services (BCS) capability in your Office 365 tenant making it even easier to surface data within your SharePoint on-premises deployment through office 365.

As you can see, there are plenty of options. The key is to pick the best solution for your situation. There's no easy checklist... it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Just keep in mind you want to figure out what you want to do first, then see where it makes the most sense.