SharePoint Online or On-Premise - Which one to choose?

Let our expert Microsoft SharePoint Consultants help you decide

Vanesha Peach

Sharepoint is the popular document management and storage and collaboration tool favoured by thousands of UK businesses to enhance company productivity. The latest debate has been around choosing its on-premise version or its online version. Studies reveal 56% of Sharepoint users are using Sharepoint Online. Businesses with the on-premise standalone version are in a real dilemma whether to opt for a migration of services or to keep things the way they are. A quick look at the charms of SharePoint in its dual versions can help find a solution.

Document Management Solution & Integration

Both versions embrace excellent document management functionality. For people who forget to save files on the main company drive, SharePoint offers a few welcome features: automatic versioning (a draft is preserved every time a document is updated), file check-in (tracking who is working on a document at any time) and custom workflows (document reviews - SharePoint emails the right person at the right time). However, only SharePoint Online is a component of the cloud-based Microsoft 365. Sharepoint Server can be purchased as a standalone product and an on-premise solution and integrates smoothly with third-party applications.

Software Security & Access

IT teams are responsible for security and access within both editions of SharePoint. However, in the case of SharePoint On-Premises, security is achieved at high operational costs and requires a lot of time. The business needs good, qualified staff to maintain the on-site servers on physical premises. Using SharePoint Online saves time and money and brings value to the workforce who are liberated to focus on core tasks instead. Microsoft cyber security experts already work 24/7 to protect SharePoint Online. It’s unlikely that most businesses will put the same investment into protecting an on-premise server. There are also additional security features for Sharepoint Online: Azure Active Directory for single sign-on solutions that prevent password hacking, and Microsoft Intune for protecting mobile devices. They also maintain multiple levels of backup for Sharepoint Online.

Regarding external access to the system, it is difficult to share Sharepoint content with clients with the on-premise version. External client access is easier with Sharepoint Online: using the client’s Microsoft account connected to their business email address or creating Guest Links. You can decide the level of permission - Read, Contribute, or Edit.

Ease of Navigation and Collaboration on the go

An exciting feature of Sharepoint Online is that of its website, portal and intranet management. Such management is more difficult with SharePoint Server. Moreover, SharePoint Online is more user-friendly and is completely mobile-friendly. There is better navigation. Staff can access data anytime and anywhere, on any device. Mobile apps can be used to view and share documents, analytics, etc. Content uploads are easier. Yammer, the social networking app, can be integrated with Sharepoint Online so that people can converse, collaborate and share information on the go.

Frequency of Updates & Operational Costs

SharePoint Online has automatic updates for all the exciting features and functionality as soon as they come out. This won’t, of course, override any customisation to your SharePoint site. In the case of SharePoint Server, the latest features can only be updated in major releases. Also, upgrading or updating the on-premise version takes time and engages more resources, sometimes bringing about a pause in operations, or downtime. The operational costs of running an upgrade are higher and Microsoft support for SharePoint Server is not always as engaging, or as easily at your fingertips as with SharePoint Online.

There are also very appealing and unique features exclusive to Sharepoint Online:

  • Microsoft Graph: a database for collecting information on user identity and activity
  • Delve: a collaboration tool that connects colleagues to create, edit, and share documents
  • Power Automate: build time-saving workflows for individual tasks and large-scale systems
  • Power Apps: build and share low-code apps to modernise business processes

Distinct Advantages of using SharePoint Server

There are however, several reasons why a company would prefer to stay with the on-premise edition in spite of all the delights offered by Sharepoint Online. The hassle of migrating from on-premise to Sharepoint Online is to be considered. In addition to this, a company might feel the need for keeping really sensitive data on site while allowing for less confidential data to be in the Cloud. Staff might have become used to the navigation and the ongoing customisation tied to the on-premise site.

The Hybrid Model

It’s all about finding a compromise. The ideal solution would therefore be a hybrid model, where businesses continue to use their on-premise server while transitioning to the Cloud. This solution is perfect for businesses that are worried about compliance challenges, such as data breaches if they move to the Cloud model. While the most confidential business data can still be kept within the organisation, others can be moved to the Cloud for greater scalability. The business would benefit from all the positive or customised features of the on-premise model as well as the more flexible functionalities of the Cloud model. Moreover, there would be no great hassle migrating from the older on-premise version to the new online one.

As Microsoft Partners and Sharepoint Consultants we would be happy to help you launch and manage the hybrid Sharepoint model. We want to analyse what your business priorities are and work with you to find the right approach. For a more detailed, no obligation discussion, please contact us:

+44 (0) 20 3695 2848

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