Lately there has been considerable buzz around and about SharePoint Online with Office 365 in the cloud, but what does it all mean? I thought this would be a great opportunity to explain what it is, how it works, and how it is used. Oh, and don’t forget how does it differ from previous service offerings and similar platforms.
In the most basic terms, the SharePoint Online can be simply described as a cloud-based version of this leading web application framework and platform from Microsoft. It has a much broader range of capabilities than previous versions, though, and functions differently thanks to the widespread availability of cloud technology.
While SharePoint has been widely used in organizational settings for its content management, document management and intranet capabilities since its inception, the cloud-based version of SharePoint Online with Office 365 is changing everything. Before you can understand how 365 is changing the game for Microsoft’s product and service offerings, though, you must first understand a few basic definitions and concepts.
The Basics of SharePoint
SharePoint is a web application platform and framework developed by Microsoft in 2001 to integrate content and document management with intranet capabilities. It is typically used in conjunction with the Microsoft Office suite, to which it is closely related in its look and user-friendly functionality.
Since its inception, the platform has evolved to include a wider range of capabilities including business intelligence tools, collaborative tools, enterprise search functions, extranet capabilities, process integration tools, social networking capabilities, system integration functionalities, website development tools and workflow automation solutions. Many of the world’s largest and most successful companies use it to automate day-to-day business processes and even workflows.
SharePoint 2013 (which is offered via Office 365) includes enhance social media, search, and document management features.
The Basics of “The Cloud”
It seems like everyone’s talking about “the cloud” in terms of computing and data storage, but not everyone knows what it really means. Even some of those people who are talking about it. Cloud computing is a method of delivering computing resources, whether it is software or hardware based, as a service through the Internet or a similar network. This allows individuals to access hardware and software services that are free from any sort of data center, so they are available from any location as long as the user has access to an Internet service provider. So “the cloud” is basically the space out there in the Internet ether where content can be stored, accessed, shared, collaborated on, etc. – all without being limited to the constraints of a physical server or data center. The benefits include ease of access from any location, enhanced collaborative applications and cost savings compared to traditional methods of accessing content via hardware and software products.
How SharePoint Fits Into the Cloud
In order to determine whether SharePoint Online with Office 365 is right for your organization, it’s important to understand what your organization’s needs and goals are. As well as, what type of cloud computing services would best accomplish these goals and whether this platform fits into the overall strategy?
Some organizations also find that a hybrid cloud setup, where a combination of cloud options are utilized in addition to any non-cloud applications, is most appropriate. Moving your organization’s SharePoint platform to the cloud, or migrating to Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online from another content management platform, may just be the most appropriate option for your organization. It isn’t appropriate for every organization, however, particularly those with regulatory and security constraints that make cloud computing out of the question.
Is SharePoint in the Cloud Right for You?
If you’re wondering whether migrating to the cloud-based environment via Office 365 or other cloud providers is right for your organization, it would be wise to get an expert opinion before moving forward.
First of all, you will need to determine whether you will get more out of the SharePoint experience via the cloud-based version, or whether the traditional means of accessing this platform make more sense. There are limitations imposed by Microsoft, such as no custom development. You can integrate with other IIS servers to support custom functions as “Apps” in Office 365, but that does represent a different model than owning the application and servers on premise. While the amount of storage available is being positively addressed by Microsoft, if your organization has complex compliance requirements, a need for very unique branding, or integration with multiple systems, you may have to consider the hybrid options. And if your organization isn’t already using some version of SharePoint, you’ll want to determine whether it’s an appropriate option for you to begin with.
On the other hand, SharePoint in Office 365 provides enhanced social media and search features, integrates tightly with Yammer much more than on-premise, and reduces your internal support activities.
There are many different options for accessing SharePoint in the cloud as well, including various hybrid options. With considerations such as cost, flexibility, functionality and security to factor into this decision, getting the expert opinion of a knowledgeable consultant is well worth the time and investment. Experienced business and technology consultants know what works in the cloud, what doesn’t work, how to best move forward and what each organization must consider based on their industry, size and a number of other factors.