Now that you’ve heard me ramble about the development “opportunities” in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365, let’s talk about the next reason some may think that SharePoint is more washed up than Vanilla Ice--and I promise not to say, “Stop, collaborate, and listen.”
Many people are discovering there are complications with moving to the cloud. Some just don’t want to be in the cloud out of ignorance; other people have valid concerns. In the end, the cloud is where Microsoft wants you, but with many organizations vowing to never enter the cloud, some have pontificated that cloud complications may doom SharePoint.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the complications and see what’s really going on.
The first cloud complication is migration, and this complication has many facets.
If you currently have an on-premises installation of SharePoint and want to migrate to Office 365, you will quickly learn that if you have any custom-developed solutions, getting them on Office 365 can be costly (or impossible, in some cases).
That Visual Studio solution you wrote most likely will not work in Office 365--unless it’s a sandbox solution, but even then those are frowned upon now. That third-party tool you paid for? Yeah, mostly likely it won’t be there either.
What do you do? Many companies are finding a hybrid scenario is a great way to get their feet wet with Office 365 and take advantage of a lot of the Office 365 features like Exchange Online, Lync, Yammer, and OneDrive.
Hybrid for SharePoint? You mean you don’t know what that is? Well, stop me and ask, please. I’m not a mind-reader.
A hybrid SharePoint scenario is where an organization has both an on-premises version of SharePoint and SharePoint online. These two services are integrated as a unified experience. It’s a great way to get your feet wet with SharePoint Online and also migrate to the cloud in a staged approach.
You can find out more about hybrid SharePoint at: Hybrid for SharePoint Server 2013.
The hybrid approach can be a great scenario for your organization, because it lets you take advantage of both on-premises and cloud features. But my question is: How long will hybrid really be supported? How much longer will on-premises SharePoint truly be around? Also, how much longer will it really be advantageous to even have an on-premises SharePoint farm with more and more features being rolled out that are cloud-only?
You cannot just deploy a hybrid model, and stick your head in the sand. If you deploy a hybrid model, you also need to start to plan your all-in cloud strategy (if you intend to keep using SharePoint).
Many people are just not ready to migrate right now. Should you? The hybrid approach is a great place to start for many organizations. Start looking at your third-party and custom applications that won’t migrate to the cloud and determine what your next steps are. Get started. Baby steps are okay here, but do something.
Ahh… The cloud… Many enterprise organizations simply do not want their data in the cloud. Period. They don’t want to discuss it further. One of the big reasons is the fear that their data is not "safe" in the cloud. I think we have all learned by now that no matter where your data sits, if it's on a network, someone can get to it if they really want to. So is your data less secure in Office 365? .
What I do like about storing my data in Office 365 is the awesomeness that is Ft. Knox Encrypted Storage. In a nutshell, imagine uploading a file to SharePoint and SharePoint tearing the file into chunks, encrypting each chunk, and storing it in multiple geographic locations. If someone were to hack into one of these data centers, all they would have is an encoded chunk of your document without knowing where the rest is. That sounds a lot more secure than what I would have on premises.
And what happens if you suffer a catastrophic data loss? How good is your disaster recovery? How many data centers do you have? What would it take to recover? Microsoft has heavily invested in multiple data centers (the exact number is a closely guarded secret), but what are the chances of you competing with Microsoft’s ability to protect your data? What are the chances of you losing your critical data now?
For more information about the security of your data in Office 365, check out The Office 365 Trust Center. And check out the Top 10 security and privacy features of Office 365:
- We restrict physical data center access to authorized personnel and have implemented multiple layers of physical security, such as biometric readers, motion sensors, 24-hour secured access, video camera surveillance, and security breach alarms.
- We enable encryption of data both at rest and via the network as it is transmitted between a data center and a user.
- We don't mine or access your data for advertising purposes.
- We use customer data only to provide the service; we don't otherwise look in your mailbox without your permission.
- We regularly back up your data.
- We won't delete all the data in your account at the end of your service term until you have had time to take advantage of the data portability that we offer.
- We host your customer data in-region.
- We enforce "hard" passwords to increase security of your data.
- We allow you to turn off and on privacy impacting features to meet your needs.
- We contractually commit to the promises made here with the data processing agreement (DPA). For more information about the DPA, visit the Data Processing Agreement section of the independently verified page.
I think as companies become more educated about the cloud, this security fear will slowly dissipate. Indeed the fear is mostly unfounded, but this is definitely a hurdle for Office 365 adoption for some organizations.
Connectivity with business systems
As a developer, my biggest headache with moving to Office 365 and SharePoint Online is the loss of those full trust solutions we have in our on-premises farms. If you’re not in the cloud, you can easily create solutions that connect to your external business systems and surface that data in SharePoint to quickly and easily create powerful dashboards for the business users. Once you get in the cloud, however, you lose a lot of easy integration with your external business systems (at least the way you currently integrate with them).
The fundamental ways we communicate with our business systems are gone in the cloud. Those web parts and dashboards that were developed as farm solutions? Useless. SQL Server Reporting services (SSRS)? Nope. That timer Job you have that syncs data between SharePoint and your critical business system? Not going to work. Solutions will have to be rewritten. New skills will have to be learned. In some ways, we are starting over from scratch with all those critical dashboards and reports.
Should we abandon SharePoint, though? Absolutely not.
Yes, we’ll have to invest some time and effort, but many options are available to us to help us integrate with our business systems. In some cases, things are even better in the cloud.
Better? Yes! Better. We may have lost some of our integration points in Office 365, but Microsoft is working on making up for that in a huge way. Just look at some of the BI functionality they have out there. By far my favorite is Power BI which is only available in Office 365. With Power BI, you create Excel workbooks with data connections to your data to create truly amazing reports. I can’t imagine a business user wanting to go back to SSRS after getting their hands on it.
You can also use the aforementioned Provider Hosted Apps to create dashboards that present your business data. Another option would be to create your own Web Services that you call from within SharePoint to display the information you care about.
As you can see, although you lose some of your connectivity with your business systems, you do have several options for connecting to your business systems if you put some effort into it. It’s definitely something you should take a hard look at. And this hurdle is one of the biggest reasons to consider a hybrid approach. But it should not prevent you from taking the leap and going to the cloud.
Don’t make mountains out of mole hills
Yes, there are some possible hurdles with transitioning to the cloud. Tough decisions have to be made. Should you go all in? Should you go hybrid? Should you just hold tight and wait for a couple of years?
Well, lucky for you, the answer is “It Depends.” It depends on your current needs. It depends on your future needs. Probably the biggest factor in your decision to move to the cloud is the culture of your organization. It is a culture shift. Many are hesitant because they hate change. Take this opportunity to educate those people on the benefits from moving to Office 365 (which I’ll cover in an upcoming article).
All of these obstacles are surmountable if you can remove your biases and get reliable help from people who know what they are talking about. Don’t be scared to move forward. Yoda said it best: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Don’t fear the cloud.