Hybrid SharePoint and Office 365 - the reality for the next ten years?

Remember the mini disk? It was once the future of music, long before Apple entered the market and changed the way we listen to music. Or Myspace? After peaking in the mid noughties the social network quickly collapsed. Tech trends come and go, and while innovation is always important, the hype machine can sometimes do more harm than good. Excitement around the cloud (where companies store data in large third party servers rather than within their own datacentres) has slowly grown to reach fever pitch in the last ten years. The cloud is a much more solid tech proposition than most, but in recent years many have come to take a more nuanced view on its many benefits.

A decade or more ago the cloud quickly escaped the consumer sphere and began being pushed as the solution to every possible enterprise IT problem. As recently as 2013 Google’s Eric Schmidt went so far as to claim it was inevitable that all firms would move to the platform. The cloud was expected to make all local servers redundant, businesses would be moving in droves and anyone left behind would collapse. In short, the cloud was ‘the’ direction of travel. For many companies Eric had a point, but one thing I have learnt over the years is a ‘one size fits all’ approach rarely works for IT systems.

Over recent years the dust has started to settle, and what we’ve seen is businesses taking a much more measured approach. Although the majority of fears about the cloud are unfounded, I think decision makers have been right to ask questions and push providers like Microsoft to be more transparent.

Recently we’ve begun seeing a growing interest in ‘hybrid’ enterprise IT solutions, which give businesses the best of both worlds, allowing them to combine both local and cloud servers in their day to day. Much of the recent Microsoft Ignite show and SharePoint 2016 announcements focused on this.

This isn’t to say the cloud isn’t the right choice for many many organisations. I believe passionately it is. Office 365, Microsoft’s most advanced enterprise collaboration environment yet, initially appears to be delivered exclusively via the cloud, however it’s actually a Hybrid deployment with Microsoft Office used locally, and OneDrive for Business allowing you to synchronise content locally. This offers a vast number of business benefits, and for many a hybrid model that delivers the best of ‘On Premises’ and the Cloud might better align with company objectives and operating models.

SharePoint is dead. Long live Office 365 and SharePoint!

The release of Office 365 in 2011 unleashed a wave of speculation as to the future of SharePoint, Microsoft’s original and revolutionary enterprise collaboration environment. It seemed like Office 365 would make SharePoint redundant – it was as if it would swallow SharePoint up as part of a much larger, cloud based stack. Not only did Office 365 offer the document management functions of SharePoint, it also incorporated new social features such as Yammer, state of the art Artificial Intelligence like Delve [link to Delve on every device post], and allowed workers to access company data from anywhere with an internet connection. SharePoint then, would surely be superseded?

That was the theory, but the reality has been rather different. Organisations haven’t abandoned their previous IT solutions and ‘On Premise’ SharePoint remains hugely popular. Julia White, General Product Manager for Office recently explained that with SharePoint 2016 and future updates to Office 365 Microsoft are responding and envision a future where SharePoint continues to play a big part in enterprise IT.

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Why the resistance to the cloud?

Before we look at how ‘On Premises’ SharePoint and Office 365 will work together in hybrid fashion, it’s worth recapping why companies have been sometimes hesitant in moving to the cloud.

  • There have been a lot of fears around security. Although Microsoft’s cloud has never been exploited by hackers, high profile attacks affecting some of their competitors have made IT managers nervous of the general ‘cloud’. While these fears are understandable, it’s worth questioning whether your own, locally deployed security is better than that of IT’s heavyweights.
  • Certain countries have laws about where your data can be held – Canada for instance, prohibits organisations from storing certain types of information in cloud servers located physically outside of the country.
  • Concerns about privacy: many cloud server centres are based in the USA and are consequently subject to the ‘US PATRIOT Act’ which allows the American government to access data held on these servers. Companies, not-for-profits, private businesses and individuals are all, quite naturally, apprehensive about the possibility of their data being revealed in this way.

Hybrid – an alternative

For the next decade at least, many businesses will see SharePoint and Office 365 as a system that better meets their requirements. Hybrid offers a much more flexible approach to data storage and management, the best of both worlds in many ways – Content and Code offer a range of services to help clients achieve the solutions they need.

What business benefits does hybrid offer?

  • It gives IT departments a greater sense of control over data. Information which they want to store locally – whatever the reason – can be saved on ‘On Premise’ SharePoint, while less sensitive data can still be saved in the cheaper, more scalable cloud.
  • You get the best of both worlds – SharePoint remains your basis for document management, yet it can still interact with all the latest features of Office 365 like Delve or Groups – and these will be constantly updated.
  • The cloud will allow distance and mobile working on documents stored within the environment, meaning your staff can be more productive, more of the time.

I can see Hybrid being very popular with larger enterprises for the foreseeable future and I’m looking forward to helping our clients keep their business critical data On-Premises while benefitting from the powerful Office 365 cloud based functionality.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you find the right Hybrid solution for your environment. Tweet @timwallis or tim.wallis@contentandcode.com

Tim Wallis

Tim Wallis

CEO and Founder

Tim is the CEO of Content and Code and founded the company in 2001. As CEO of Content and Code, Tim focuses on corporate strategy, client and partner relationships, and has overall responsibility for driving the growth of the company. Tim founded Content and Code so he could help transform organisations to be more responsive, more competitive and engage their employees to better realise business goals.