Last Updated on 9th October 2020
When SharePoint was first released, it was available as an on-premise platform only. With the release of Office 365 in 2011, an online version of SharePoint was also released. Both versions are still popular, but the online version is being adopted more frequently, and is generally considered the more desirable option. In fact, the two different SharePoint options each have their own advantages and drawbacks.
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is a web application platform that is perfect for professional sharing, networking and document management within a business infrastructure to enable collaborative working. Think of it as a virtual working space, and one with endless possibilities too! Within SharePoint, businesses are able to create areas for teams dependent upon what is needed for the business through the sites feature. The whole business can have a site and then individual departments can do the same. You want your sales team and your design team to have separate spaces? No problem, that facility is provided.
One of the primary features that is included with SharePoint is the library application. The library application enables users within each site to be able to share their files and documents with each other, providing a kind of ‘One Drive for Everyone in the Business,’ but that name may not catch on. If it does, you heard it here first!
Along with the library app, there are other document features that will help your business be as productive as possible. SharePoint comes with the ability to share files both internally and externally to the business, as well as a collaboration feature enabling employees to edit a document together in real time. This may be a little confusing if you have lots of people accessing the document at once, but if used correctly this could be a very powerful tool in any business environment.
SharePoint provides another really useful tool in its ability to version control documents. If a user downloads a document set up with version control then SharePoint views it as ‘checked out’ and no one else can download or edit it until it is checked back in. This means that all changes that occur are attached to an individual’s name enabling a completely recorded system.
SharePoint Online Versus SharePoint On-Premise
Both versions of SharePoint offer the same basic services: document storage and management, integrated with Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365. Both versions have a wide range of configuration options, making them highly flexible and useful for a range of organisations.
With Microsoft and other software providers trending more towards cloud-based solutions, SharePoint Online is generally considered the superior option for most organisations. There are, however, some small but significant differences between the online and on-premise versions, which mean that the online version isn’t the universal best solution for every organisation.
The Advantages of SharePoint Online
Storing SharePoint On-Premise servers, plus the data they’re used to manage, can take up a lot of space. For companies that don’t want to have to manage an on-site server farm—and the necessary expansion of the IT department—SharePoint Online offers a convenient alternative. The company doesn’t have to worry about being responsible for software updates and server maintenance, and all the data is stored securely in the cloud.
Over the last few years Microsoft has gradually switched focus from offline to online products, paying greater attention to its cloud-based offerings. Because of this, all new SharePoint features are offered in the online version before they come to the on-premise version. For instance, team, communication, and hub sites were all available in the online version before making their way to the on-premise product.
In addition, SharePoint Online comes with its own mobile app, a feature which isn’t available to users of the on-premise version.
Convenient and low-maintenance
SharePoint Online is a workable option for organisations of all sizes, but it’s small to medium enterprises that really benefit. Smaller businesses, without the space or the funds for server farms or extensive IT departments, can install SharePoint Online and use it out-of-the-box without the need for extensive support. This makes it a convenient, affordable option that doesn’t need much in the way of IT and maintenance support.
Why Do Businesses Use SharePoint On-Premise?
As more and more businesses are gravitating towards online service provides, far fewer organisations are continuing to use offline versions of common software programs. This is definitely the case with SharePoint, for instance. But, while SharePoint online is the more popular version of the two, there are still good reasons why businesses use the on-premise version.
One of the main reasons why organisations choose SharePoint On-Premise is for maintaining data security. As soon as data is shared in the cloud, it’s vulnerable, even if that vulnerability exists only in theory. For some organisations, data safety is of paramount importance, so cloud storage just isn’t an option. In some cases, it’s even a legal requirement that data be kept out of the cloud.
Commonly, it’s businesses that are using or storing sensitive information such as financial and human resources data that are obliged to store it offline.
Maintenance and Customisation Control
Some businesses don’t exactly choose on-premise over online—it’s more a matter of continuing to use something that’s already up and running. For instance, if a business has been using SharePoint for a long time, they might be using custom apps that aren’t supported by the online version. In this case, it makes sense to keep using the on-premise version rather than making the switch to SharePoint Online.
Similarly, for some businesses, sticking with SharePoint On-Premise is simply about retaining a greater degree of control over the software. This is an important point because the online version of SharePoint is updated in a centralised fashion, for every user. This means that online users don’t get to pick and choose which updates they accept. So, using the offline version of the software means retaining control over site availability, maintenance, and updates. For businesses that don’t want to lose that control, on-premise is the only option. This is the case for many medium and large organisations, particularly those that need multiple different custom solutions. Using SharePoint On-Premise allows them to use the same software product for all customisations, rather than having to use multiple products.
Which is Best for Your Organisation?
While both versions of SharePoint are very similar, there are a couple of specific reasons why some businesses will continue with SharePoint On-Premise while the option still exists. But overall, for both new and existing businesses, SharePoint Online is the better option in most general-purpose situations.
Interested in SharePoint? Find out more about it as part of our Office 365 packages.