SharePoint in the Cloud and On-Premises: One of these things is not like the other

By Dave Martin posted 06-19-2012 11:49



Recently Google announced the acquisition of QuickOffice - a “Cloud” based office productivity solution known for its ability to provide better than average Microsoft Office file format support and cross-device support.  The thought that immediately came to mind wasn’t so much that Google is once again ramping up its capabilities in its battle against Microsoft Office 365, rather, it’s the misconceptions folks have with regards to functionality between Cloud and on-premise solutions.

Earlier this same day I was online showing my 2 year-old daughter classic Sesame Street videos and one of my all-time favorites came up, “One of these things is not like the other!”  The best part of this video/song is that they show four very similar things, in this case circles.  Three of the circles are identical and one is a bit smaller – similar, but not quite the same.  You see where I am going with this right?

SharePoint Online and SharePoint on-premise are not the same, more specifically and for the purpose of driving a more focused topic around this post: the support of integrations for SharePoint on-premise will not be (exactly) the same as those created for the Cloud version.  When we are thinking, should we go Cloud or on-premise with SharePoint we have to really look and see those differences that might exist between those circles/feature sets and understand their potential impact.

Over the past few months I’ve been asked the same question quite regularly, and that is, if the on-premise solutions/integrations for SharePoint my company provides work the same way with SharePoint Online.  My response is to take it back a step because the answer today is not a simple yes or no and people need to first understand: SharePoint Online does not work the same way as SharePoint Server (on premise). I won’t spend the next six paragraphs outlining how the two versions of SharePoint are different (that’s what TechNet is for), but I will outline that they were built for different audiences.  A relevant stat: over 90% of Office 365 users are from companies of fewer than 50 employees. With that in mind one could presume (and likely should) that the first iteration of Office 365 was developed to defend Microsoft’s turf from being encroached on by Google Apps. But, Office 365 certainly wasn’t marketed as an SMB solution alone.

Small companies are really today’s ideal users of Cloud applications, especially when you consider a little thing called “multi-tenancy.”  Another relevant stat: the median size of a customer is under 35 users. Which brings me back to the customer questions/requests I get… from large enterprise companies with tens of thousands of employees.

I get that you want to reduce costs and shift expenditures but we need to be thinking about how we’re going to do this.  Sure, where there is a will there is a way, and I like to call that ‘way’ the hybrid Cloud, but we have to be realistic with the expectations around how ISVs are going to support Microsoft’s on-premise and Cloud versions of SharePoint (or other products for that matter) with their integrations.  In a nutshell: it will be just like SharePoint online vs. SharePoint on-premise for features… today, it is simply not 1:1.  

The Cloud brings a whole new set of dynamics, and of course challenges, and as I and many others have recommended in the past, when it comes to SharePoint, success starts with a thorough examination of your environment and a solid plan that connects the people, processes and technologies involved.  For example, we need to understand: who the users are that will be working in the Cloud?  And those that won’t be, or shouldn’t be. We need to understand what types of content they will be dealing with (internal only, business critical, non-critical, transactional, etc.)? We need to consider IT’s role and will we, or how will we, connect existing on-premise systems with new Cloud repositories and how we manage all that (think compliance)?

If this seems familiar, I’ll ask, do you remember when you were looking to first deploy Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS)?  Well I sure do, and this is all too familiar.  I recall in 2007 and 2008 getting constant requests from customers asking, what solutions for SharePoint I offered?  It took a little while for me to come to the realization that this wasn’t because people were really interested in the solutions per se, it’s that they didn’t really know what use cases SharePoint was ideally suited for yet.  Ultimately these companies were asking me about my solutions simply to get an idea of what they should be doing, because they had acquired a product, but had no plan for using it or understanding of how it could/would fit into their existing information infrastructure, across the enterprise.  And now here comes SharePoint Online, and again, all those requests.

I don’t want to come across as anti-Cloud here (I’m a big fan) but I am against the concept of any SharePoint deployment without a plan, on-premise OR in the Cloud. 

So as a note to all large enterprise customers with thousands of SharePoint seats already deployed, if you are going to ask me (or any other vendors that support SharePoint) what solutions I provide, be prepared for me (and hopefully all the other vendors) to respond by asking what your plan is for SharePoint in the Cloud.  If you don’t have a plan that’s okay, we can build one out once we’ve taken a look at your environment and use case requirements.  And of course we’ll kick things off with a great instructional video, brought to you by the letter “S”.

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