The sessions at Nintex InspireX, our first customer and partner event, offered a wealth of insights and workflow best practices, and the session led by Gartner analyst Kyle Davis on February 23 was no exception. He offered practical and actionable SharePoint version advice to help answer the question: What version of SharePoint is right for me?
Between SharePoint Server on-premises, SharePoint Online or an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) version that incorporates elements of each, the difficult question that organizations face today is not if and when to upgrade SharePoint, but now where.
So, Kyle developed an easy framework to help clients determine – by business solution – which SharePoint version is the right choice for them.
Unsurprisingly, most companies that work through this framework for each of their business solutions end up in the same place – a hybrid solution. Because, of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. While one version of SharePoint may be the best choice for one business need, it may not be the right choice for the next.
With Microsoft’s release of SharePoint 2016, this decision is more important than ever.
Check out Kyle’s recommended considerations when choosing a SharePoint version:
1. Compliance and privacy
If SharePoint Online or IaaS doesn’t meet your specific requirements for compliance and privacy, you can automatically rule them out.
Also consider whether you’re comfortable trusting a vendor to protect your data. If not, look at SharePoint on-premises instead of moving to the cloud.
2. Data sovereignty
This is a common concern for organizations moving to the cloud and is especially relevant for companies outside the U.S. that may risk having their data move to a data center in a different country.
If your organization has data sovereignty concerns, SharePoint Server on-premises is probably best for you.
3. Wide Area Network (WAN) and internet connections
Regional locations with poor connections to WAN and the Internet could experience latency issues with SharePoint Online, which may result in user dissatisfaction.
4. Scalability and capacity management
According to Kyle, cloud computing can be likened to ordering a burger from a fast food restaurant; you can make small tweaks to your order, but you’ll never be able to request that the burger is cooked to the exact specifications you prefer. This is the same with SharePoint Online – everything is generalized and you may not be able to adapt the solution to meet the unique needs of your organization.
For business solutions where scalability and capacity are key, SharePoint on-premises or IaaS is likely your best bet.
5. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
While Microsoft publishes uptime data for Office 365, it doesn’t publish its RTO and RPO within its contract, nor is it backed by a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
RTO and RPO are both critical factors for determining how quickly your data can be recovered in the event of a disaster and how much of that data you can expect to get back. Without this information, it’s difficult to determine the downtime or impact a disaster will have on your SharePoint deployment. With an on-premises version of SharePoint, you create your own SLA and can better plan for unforeseen circumstances. IaaS also gives you more control over your technology stack than SharePoint Online.
A benefit of SharePoint is that you can design it to look, feel and work exactly how you want it to. If you have these kind of highly customized environments designed for your organization, you may not do well in SharePoint Online.
Consider keeping these business solutions on-premises or lifting and shifting to IaaS (just remember that your network topology would need to change with this move).
If you think all signs point toward SharePoint on-premises, you’re not alone. According to Kyle, more than 70 percent of Gartner’s clients are on-premises with SharePoint today.
But consider this: While SharePoint Server gives you full control in an environment using skills you have today, it can be significantly more complex and costly when it comes to things like disaster recovery and often requires a dedicated team for support and maintenance.
On the flip side, SharePoint Online can reduce a lot of support and maintenance requirements for your IT staff, and it’s where you’ll see the most innovation happening from Microsoft – products like Delve, Sway and others will always hit SharePoint Online first (and may only ever be available there).
Kyle recommends keeping five key things in mind when weighing your SharePoint version options:
1. Evaluate each business solution independently
Each has unique requirements and use cases that may be more conducive to one SharePoint version versus the other.
2. Determine early on if a SharePoint version will meet your compliance and privacy needs
If one of these options doesn’t work, you can just stop there.
3. Evaluate existing customizations
Determine if they are worth rewriting or abandoning altogether to move to a cloud-based deployment model.
4. Move regional sites to SharePoint Online only if they have a fast and reliable Internet connection
Otherwise, latency issues will arise.
5. Equip yourself for administering a hybrid environment
As mentioned above, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.