In early May, Microsoft announced the next generation of SharePoint. A new barrage of “Why should I care about SharePoint Online?” will come with this announcement, and there is a different response for each organization. Each organization that we meet with has their own set of goals and concerns, but I find that there are 3 areas that our customers most commonly ask us about:
Microsoft has had a clear focus on the cloud with many of their major solutions making their way to the cloud in recent years. SharePoint Online, and Office 365 as a whole, benefitted from constant and seamless updates that improved the way we work and collaborate without the downtime of a software update or patch. The ability to access our sites and content via mobile devices is one of those improvements.
SharePoint has had the ability to render sites on mobile devices for some time, but while the experience has always been functional, it has also been a bit clumsy. SharePoint 2016 will bring improvements to the mobile story by introducing the SharePoint mobile app. The SharePoint mobile app will be released first to iOS devices followed by Windows and Android devices in the 2nd half of 2016. The new app will surface sites that are important to you, the people that you work with, and provides search capabilities.
The number one concern for many of our largest customers is security. SharePoint provides the ability to set granular security from the site all the way down to the item/document level. This is sufficient for many organizations, but others require a more strict set of policies. Office 365 provides a security and compliance offering that allows you to easily automate the security of your content. The security and compliance center gives you the ability to lock down SharePoint and OneDrive via the use of rules. A common scenario is securing documents that contain sensitive materials like social security numbers or credit card numbers. In the Security and Compliance center, an admin can specify what to do when a user attempts to share content that contains sensitive information. Actions can include the ability to block the sending of the content and also sending an email to the person attempting to send the content that contains information about why they are unable to share. A future update to the Compliance and Security center will include rules for Exchange.
This is just a small sample of some of the security features. Office 365 provides you with the ability to secure content by person, device, and location. An audit log allows you to see what actions have been taken on a particular piece of content. An admin can terminate a user’s session remotely in the event that an unauthorized access occurs.
Now, what about the physical hardware that hosts my content? Many organizations feel more comfortable having hardware in their datacenters, behind a firewall, with their security measures. While that may make some organizations feel better about security, the reality is that Microsoft invests far more in security than most organizations.
Microsoft engineers do not have access to your content. In the event that an engineer does need access to your content due to a request by the organization that owns the content, the engineer will send the organization a request via Custom LockBox which can be enabled in the Office 365 admin center. If you authorize access, the engineer is then granted access. The request and the access is logged and auditable so there is full visibility over what is happening with your content. Additionally, every file stored in SharePoint is broken up into multiple files, individually encrypted, with the keys stored separately, so that the organization can revoke Microsoft’s access to those keys. A team of security experts also test the environment for security risks, further ensuring that your content is safe.
Another benefit of SharePoint Online is its near 100% uptime promise that is financially backed. The backbone of Microsoft’s cloud offerings ensures that you won’t experience major outages due to failures in their service. SharePoint 2016 on-premise has benefited from infrastructure changes that Microsoft claims will grant on-premise users similar uptimes but the key difference is in the cost. While SharePoint Online provides an admin center that can be managed via a browser by a small number of people, on-premise versions of SharePoint will require much more work on the end of the organization. Organizations will need to:
- Purchase and maintain the hardware which will have to account for capacity and redundancy.
- Staff people to manage the hardware, SharePoint, and SQL
- Manage updates and patches
- Manage outages that can be detrimental to an organization and result in financial losses
- Manage performance so that remote workers can access important content while outside of the firewall
- Manage upgrades to newer versions
- Manage content security and more
SharePoint Online is constantly evolving. Its integration with other suites and applications makes it a powerful platform that is secure & easy to access. If your organization is deciding upgrade or move to SharePoint, then don’t dismiss SharePoint Online. Microsoft has invested a lot into making this platform what it is today. What that means for you is a powerful, accessible, secure, reliable platform without the costly overhead of a traditional on-premise environment.
Anexinet is a leading professional consulting and services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions around digital disruption, analytics (and big data), and hybrid and private cloud strategies. Anexinet brings insight into how technology will impact how business decisions will be made and how our clients interact with their customers in the future.
Jason Rivera, JRivera@anexinet.com
SharePoint/Office 365 Architect