Migration & Upgrade: SharePoint Online vs. On-premise vs. Hybrid

When migrating or upgrading your SharePoint intranet, you will have three options: SharePoint Online, SharePoint On-Premise, and SharePoint Hybrid.

By Anthony Baratta

Get to know the 3 flavors for SharePoint before you upgrade or start fresh

When you set up or upgrade your SharePoint intranet, one of the biggest decisions you need to make is which environment to use. In most cases, you will have three options: SharePoint Online (abbreviated SPO), On-Premise, and Hybrid.

The definitions behind these environments are pretty straightforward. If you are using SharePoint Online, that means Microsoft is managing the data for your intranet using their data centers. Your access to the systems and features of SharePoint is provided through the cloud. If you choose SharePoint On-Premise, then you must have your own servers or data center to manage your intranet—as well as the IT team to do the actual management. Hybrid is a mix of the two, where you host some of your data on Microsoft’s servers and some of it on yours.

For a deep dive into all that SharePoint has to offer and how we can assist you with any functions and capabilities, check out our topic page SharePoint Consulting: Experts reveal SharePoint mysteries, eliminate confusion.

Understanding the Differences Between SharePoint’s Different Environments

In the past, SharePoint’s alternative environments had very noticeable differences in quality and support. For instance, with any updates to SharePoint 2010, only enterprises using the On-Premise environment got the update “right away”. SharePoint Online users, meanwhile, paid for the convenience of having Microsoft host their data by waiting months to get the latest features and functionality of the update.

With SharePoint 2013, though, these two environments got a lot closer to one another in terms of quality of features. The trend of SharePoint Online’s gradual improvement has continued with 2016, to the point where you can now use either environment (or a mix of both) and expect a similar level of performance and functionality. On-Premise is still regarded as the ultimate SharePoint experience by most experts, but the gap isn’t as big as it once was.

So how can you choose which SharePoint environment to use as you build or update your intranet? Here are some of the key factors to consider as you try to make your choice.

  • Cost and Resources: The big drawback with SharePoint On-Premise is that it calls for a lot more in the way of resources and manpower than SPO. To keep your SharePoint files and systems on local servers, you need to have the space to maintain your own data center and servers. You will also need an IT team to manage and maintain those assets. With SharePoint Online, everything is on the cloud, which means you don’t need to spend as much money directly on resources, infrastructure, or staffing.
  • Compliance Requirements: Is your business legally required to keep files stored On-Premise? If so, then SharePoint Online might not even be an option for you, just because of compliance concerns. If you are unwilling or unable to store your information off-site, then SharePoint On-Premise easily wins the debate. Alternatively, you could build a Hybrid environment to fulfill compliance requirements with some of your SharePoint document management, but still store less sensitive data elsewhere.
  • Update Considerations: You might have the space and staffing to run a SharePoint On-Premise environment now, but will you in the future? Will you be able to add extra servers (or the space for them) if necessary? Will your IT team have the technical skills to manually patch and update your SharePoint software on a regular basis? If thinking about these update complexities gives you a headache, then SharePoint Online—which updates automatically—might be the better option for you.
  • Flexibility Requirements: Even now, when SharePoint Online has made some pretty serious leaps forward between SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2016, the core advantage to choosing SharePoint On-Premise is that it is more flexible and customizable. This fact is a rather logical tradeoff that you would expect from virtually any cloud-based service. For instance, when you decided to go the SPO route, you will be more or less beholden to Microsoft’s standards for data security and other compliance factors. When you choose SharePoint On-Premise, you can tweak those settings more to suit your preferences or legal needs. If you’d like the most flexible system possible, you probably won’t opt for the cloud.

The Case for SharePoint Hybrid

Do certain features or advantages of both SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-Premise appeal to you? Perhaps you like the flexibility and peace-of-mind that On-Premise can provide, but also like the convenience and money-saving factors that come into play with SharePoint Online. As mentioned previously, you can opt for a Hybrid environment where you split your data between the cloud and your own servers.

With SharePoint 2016, this Hybrid configuration is an exceedingly viable option for perhaps the first time. Microsoft has honed its search function so that it can pull data from both the Online and On-Premise environments at the same time. The Hybrid option can also take advantage of the features of Office 365—from broader online functionality to mobile compatibility and beyond. In fact, the inclusion of Office 365 compatibility might be the biggest reason that some On-Premise users are upgrading to a Hybrid environment.

If you think it’s time to upgrade your SharePoint intranet to a new environment, or if you are building your intranet for the first time and aren’t sure what environment to start with, 2Plus2 can help. Give our SharePoint experts a call today to start discussing your options. use. To contact us and set up a free consultation with our SharePoint experts, give us a call at 510 652 7700.

Anthony Baratta
Anthony Baratta – Chief Technology Officer
Anthony helps the company realize it's mission - Real results. Every time. Fluent in technology, Anthony breaks down complex problems into scalable solutions and manageable automated tasks.
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