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SharePoint Online vs. On Premise & How to Prepare for Your Move

sharepoint-online-vs-on-premiseSharePoint Online vs. On Premise is a topic we discuss with organizations very often, especially with Microsoft’s refocus on continuing to modernize SharePoint. Microsoft continues to sell on-premises applications while focusing most efforts on the equivalent cloud-based versions, updating cloud-based versions usually well in advance.

If you are evaluating whether to choose SharePoint Online vs. On Premise, there are several differences. So, the real question is whether these differences have an impact on the specific solution’s fit for your business.

What is SharePoint

Businesses of all sizes use SharePoint to create websites and to store, organize, share and access data securely from any device! And as we all know, information is a key business resource so using it and storing it effectively and securely is critical. Without information being stored properly, disorganization will lead to lost productivity, slow communications, and underused expertise, and these are the things SharePoint was built to solve. With SharePoint in place, each of your teams will have the ability to store their data, access it anywhere, and work in the most collaborative manner possible,simultaneously editing working documents and easily sharing ideas.

SharePoint Online vs. On Premise

Deciding between SharePoint Online vs. On Premise software requires your team knowing the differences between the two to know which solution is better fit for your organization. Microsoft offers a web page here that outlines the service descriptions of both, but the big differences of the two still remain rather unclear. But, let’s discuss some of the big differences that may effect your decision between the two.

Search Capabilities

Both SharePoint Online and On-Prem applications feature a search function, but what’s indexed is a bit different. With SharePoint On-Prem you will have the ability to index multiple, differing content sources, including file shares and Exchange. This doesn’t work so well with SharePoint Online. With the online software, your users will not have the ability to search external sources like file shares of external databases, because your administrators will not have access to define other content sources.

Big Data Constraints

Unfortunately, with SharePoint Online you also won’t have the ability to access big data from enterprise software such as SAP or Oracle software due to regulations and/or security constraints. This could potentially be an issue for large companies that are wanting to use SharePoint as a massive database for Enterprise Information Management, as much of that big data cannot be placed in the cloud.

Internal Custom Development

Custom development usually requires either a sandbox development mode or a farm level situation, which is not available in Office 365 SharePoint Online. So if your business plans to use SharePoint to develop internal or external applications to be used by clients, SharePoint On-Premise is the best choice for your organization. However, if you are looking to SharePoint solely to provide your employees with a better way to store and be productive with your data, a SharePoint Online migration is still an option!

Enhanced Collaboration 

SharePoint Online, unlike SharePoint On-Prem, gives you the ability to leverage Office Online to have a move comprehensive, collaborative document repository in which your users can use to edit documents online, while multiple people are working on the same document. This could be a rather important feature for specific teams, so talk to your power users to find out if this is a necessary collaborative function.

Preparing for Your Migration

Now that we’ve gone through the major differences of SharePoint Online vs. On-Premise and you’ve chosen the solution fit for your business, let’s talk about preparation. First off, there are two ways you can complete a SharePoint migration: (1) you can look at the migration as a direct copy or (2) which we believe is the better option, you can look at your migration as an opportunity to review your existing file storage implementation and first evolve and optimize your file storage and overall structure before your migration. In addition, you should document which capabilities you are using, such as database integrations, workflows, and custom webparts.

If you are moving to SharePoint Online, figure out what capabilities you need that are not included and summarize that group as custom code on your internal servers before your migration so you don’t lose any of your data.

Planning Considerations

Project documentation: Your SharePoint migration needs to be well documented, on a specific timeline, and announced to your end users since your existing environment needs to be static, meaning your users have to stop using your current version of SharePoint completely as you are making you SharePoint transition.

bandwidth considerations: In addition, if you are moving to SharePoint Online, your users will be working browser based instead of within your LAN if you decide on On-Prem software. Because of this, you will need to consider currently available bandwidth and where your people are working at what times to decide if you need to increase your organization’s bandwidth. If you have offices based worldwide, you will also need to consider this as all of your employees will be accessing/uploading their files from Microsoft databases in the US.

External Sharing: If your organization shares documents externally with vendors or customers, then you will want to be familiar with how to set up the external sharing features of SharePoint. These external users basically inherit your SharePoint rights, however, they will not have the exact same functionality as a licensed member within your business. Limitations include the inability to create their own sites, no admin capabilities, limited search capabilities, and no access to mailboxes. You may need to provide custom documentation for your external users as to what they have access to and how they should use your SharePoint sites.

Your Hybrid Option: If you are migrating from SharePoint Server 2013 to SharePoint Online and would like to gradually move move your existing on premises infrastructure to the cloud via a staged migration, you can do this with SharePoint Server 2013 hybrid. With this, your productivity services in SharePoint Online can be integrated with on-premises SharePoint Server 2013 to provide unified functionality and access to data until you complete your full migration.

Data Backup: If data backup is a major concern for your organization beyond basic disaster recovery, you may want to consider third party backup solutions in addition to your migration.


Moving to SharePoint is probably a more extensive project than you expect. It’s not just about moving files; there is also a fair amount of work to address errors such as incorrect file names, incompatible characters, and general file type errors. In additional, in regards to copy structure, you will need to address permissions associated with specific files since that’s not something your SharePoint migration will automatically take care of.

Unless you have a SharePoint expert on staff, finding a SharePoint migration consultant that has access to specialized tools to report out errors, can implement thorough permissioning schema and capture file metadata, and offer SharePoint training, is something you should consider. Feel free to contact us to schedule your free one-on-one SharePoint consultation!



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