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SharePoint Online vs On-Premise: which one to go for?

Are you still unsure which version of SharePoint, Online or On-Premise, would better suit your organisation? Are you looking for a comparison between the two versions?
In this article, we will try to cover the main differences between SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016 On-Premise and help you choose the right version for your requirements.

Hardware Resources and Maintenance

This is the most critical aspect in choosing the right model of SharePoint to suit your needs. You must have a clear idea of what are you looking for and what is the budget for the implementation. What are your major expectations from the product?

Talking about the On-Premise version, no doubt you will require much more hardware resources to set up the server and apply configuration when compared to Online. Not only that, you will require a dedicated IT team too which will be responsible for not only the daily maintenance of the server but also for creating the schedule and monitor monthly or weekly updates and patches. But when you are using the Online model, the requirement of resources as well dedicated IT team gets nullified. Furthermore, in case of the On-Premise model, you need to cater to the responsibilities yourself for failover and continuous availability. You need to ensure that you have a proper disaster recovery mechanism in place for your servers with proper and timely backups and the failover mechanism is quick and efficient in response.

Whereas with the Cloud or Online model, the failover and disaster recovery is offloaded as a service provided by on the cloud.

Where you want to store information?

As an enterprise, it is very critical for the business to know where information is stored and to whom it is accessible. Even at present day, there are many companies which are reluctant to store their information on the cloud for reasons of security, laws and compliance. For some businesses, the information is highly sensitive and classified. Also, if your application is too heavy to accommodate the multi tenancy of cloud then for such enterprises, the On-Premise solution is the right option.

Investment and Patches

The investment and maintenance cost of the SharePoint set up is always one of the first considerations for any business. Both models differ widely in this aspect. If you choose the On-Premise solution then you are planning to set up the complete hardware, along with the licensing cost of the SharePoint Server and others. You need to plan for the cost of the IT team as well. But if you are planning to got with SharePoint Online, then you need to know that it is offered as a part of an Office 365 plan and is billed monthly per user. The billing varies with the number of users, features, etc. So, you need to consider the setup which is optimal in terms of investment and requirements. In many cases, where the user base is not huge and the application requirements are not exhaustive, the Online model is quite.

If you are planning to opt for the On-Premise version of SharePoint, then you need to install and manage the schedule of updates on your own. As this version is maintained by your IT team and is responsible for applying patches and updates. Lately, Microsoft has reduced the size and number of patches considerably from SharePoint 2016 onwards, hence the downtime previously required while publishing the patches and updates has been shortened. This clearly indicates that Microsoft is catering for the shortcomings in the previous versions and is committed to create a SharePoint platform which is feature rich, powerful but yet easier to maintain.

Availability and Backups

Availability is one of the most important non-functional requirement in all sorts of application. If you are dealing with the On-Premise version of SharePoint, then you will be having your own fully controlled and managed data center and your IT team will be responsible for tackling the availability and implement as per your requirements and available resources. Comparatively, if you are working with the Online version of SharePoint then as per the statement by Microsoft, they guarantee 99.9% of availability of services. You can configure SLA for your applications too.

Regarding the backup capability within each version. For the online version, Microsoft takes the responsibility it. Microsoft takes regular backups of the entire farm for SharePoint Online. Moreover, it allows you to configure the backup strategy. On top of it, it ensures that all the applications and the services remain available, even in the scenarios where few components fail due to unforeseen scenarios. But if you are using the On-Premise version, you need to take care of creating and then evaluating your own backups as you are responsible for running the datacenter.

Collaboration support

This is the age where everyone is migrating to mobile and firms are looking for options to allow employees to collaborate when they are remote or travelling with the help of mobiles. Microsoft appreciates this direction and is continuously overhauling the entire Office 365 suite. The suite offers a lot of modern tools which increases the productivity to next level when used in the Online version. The Online version supports integration with lot of Microsoft PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, Azure functions and others which let you use new options with SharePoint content and processes. But these options come with a limitation which is seen quite often. If your network bandwidth is limited in any way then this apps will become a problem. You need to be thoughtful as well of how many of the user base will use these features and their expectations from them. But if your users are willing to use mobile access or even mobile collaboration, then the Online version with Office 365 is your best option.

Latest features

Microsoft has clearly specified in few last updates that it will be releasing new features for the Online version first and then make them available to the On-Premise version.
Examples of this are the “Modern Sites” or “Modern Pages”. The modern sites available in the Online version is one of the recent features releases in SharePoint. It involved the complete redesign of the interface. The new interface is not only more intuitive than the previous version, its responsiveness makes it fit for use on mobile devices. Furthermore, the new development approach coined under the name SharePoint Framework is another example of the ideology. It is a new development approach for expansions and is evolving continuously. Both features are still missing in the On-Premise version of SharePoint. But it is very clear from these examples that going forward there will be features which will be available exclusively in the Online version only. So, if you are looking for the latest features at the earliest then the Online version is the option for you.

Few more things

There are a few more things which are worth discussing while comparing the two versions. The Online version comes with the concept of capacity limits within features like OneDrive and Exchange Online. Also, you need to closely monitor the performance of it as it is a online component but the On-Premise version does not suffer from this issue.
Another big difference lies in administration control. In the On-Premise version you can do high end customizations with ease as you own the farm. You have the Central Administration, PowerShell and Farm Administrator in your control to let you meet your requirements. But SharePoint OnLine differs as the farm offered is enclosed and therefore you as a client have access to SharePoint Client level instead of farm. But still you can employ PowerShell cmdlets to automate tasks. But overall PowerShell control is limited in SharePoint Online versus SharePoint On-Premise.
In case if you are planning to connect to users outside the network then the Online version should be your ideal choice as it provides the capability with Azure services along with multi-factor authentication and others. But to implement the same in the On-Premise version you might need to set up your own infrastructure including firewalls, configure the logging and authentication.

AxioWorks SQList allows you to export SharePoint lists & libraries as normalised SQL Server tables, and build powerful reports on SharePoint data using SSRS, Crystal Reports, Power BI, on an other reporting tool.

From the above comparisons, we cannot say there is a clear-cut winner between the two version, but the choice entirely depends upon your requirements. If you want to set up things quickly, keen on reducing the infrastructure costs, mobile collaboration then the Online version should be your ideal choice. But if you are too concerned about the security of the data, not sure about the internet bandwidth, complex applications relying on farms, then you should be thinking of the On-Premises version as your solution.

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