If you’re an IT leader for an organization with over 200 employees, you’re not a stranger to SharePoint. And if your organization is in manufacturing, finance, government or health care, you’re more likely to run SharePoint on-prem and not in the cloud.
There is no shortage of daily hype from Microsoft and other cloud providers telling us to migrate to the cloud version of their platforms. Hearing this, many leaders we spoke with were asking:
“Is SharePoint on-prem dead, and should I be getting into the cloud as soon as possible?”
Regardless of what you choose, this post will help you make an educated decision and stay confident in your strategy.
What data tells us
In the study ORIGAMI conducted in the summer of 2021, we found that 20% of companies surveyed in North America and Europe are running SharePoint on-prem.
Out of those companies, at least 62% plan to stay on SharePoint on-prem while actively building new solutions on this platform; they are not planning to migrate to the cloud in the near term.
With that in mind, we set to find out why most organizations are planning to stay.
Why many SharePoint on-prem customers are opting to stay
The reasons to stay with SharePoint on-prem are not superficial, and you might have discussed some of the following in your organization:
- Legal or compliance rules make it prohibitively complex to store data in the cloud while maintaining industry- or government-enforced compliance.
- There are more limits on what customizations are possible in the shared SharePoint Online infrastructure, making some existing applications hard to migrate. Here are just a few examples:
- SharePoint on-prem can support a virtually unlimited amount of data. While SharePoint Online requires monitoring of data sprawl to avoid hitting capacity limits: 1 TB plus 10 GB per license purchased.
- SharePoint Online server API allows retrieval of up to 500 items from the list while in on-prem, this number is configurable.
- In SharePoint Online, the maximum file size in a document library is 100 GB or 250 MB for files attached to list items.
- It can be unreasonably expensive to rewrite existing customizations to be compatible with SharePoint Online limits.
- There is a high risk that continuous Microsoft updates in SharePoint Online may break customized functionality or introduce disruptions to employees’ work.
- Organizations running SharePoint on-prem have better control over scheduled patches and server infrastructure—this helps avoid unexpected issues coming from automatic Microsoft updates. And in the event of a bug, it’s easier to roll back the update.
Looking at the list above, we wanted to know what constraints organizations face when planning to stay on-prem.
What challenges do SharePoint on-prem users face?
When it comes to staying on-prem, the top issues IT leaders are facing are:
- SharePoint Server 2013 is under extended support until April 11, 2023.
- SharePoint Server 2016 and 2019 are both under extended support until July 14, 2026.
- There is a lack of modern page experience in SharePoint 2013 and 2016, though SharePoint 2019 supports modern UI.
- There are a limited number of plug-and-play and no-code integrations in SharePoint on-prem.
Clearly, the top technical issues IT leaders have with their SharePoint on-prem set-up are the out-of-date look and lack of plug-and-play integrations.
The features IT leaders need most
Not surprisingly, when we compared what SharePoint on-prem customers have ranked in our survey, the top 5 desired features for SharePoint on-prem, in order of importance, are:
- Better search
- Custom design
- Integration with other work apps
- Employee social
When we asked respondents what help they would need from an external consultant, they chiefly wanted a consultant to help with the visual design and build custom integrations.
Staying on-prem while delivering value to your organization
As with many things in life, the rule of 80/20 applies here as well. You can help your organization achieve 80% of the benefits by focusing on 20% of your key priorities.
Delivering better search
A better search was the #1 requirement named by most organizations we surveyed. The search issue often derives from poor and outdated information architecture design, confusing navigation and lack of directories where employees can find forms, templates and procedures.
All of these issues can be solved on-prem with an information architecture design. For example, here is an approach to how you can improve SharePoint search.
Custom visual design
IT leaders are also concerned about the look and feel of their SharePoint site and potential criticism from end users. Fortunately, you don’t have to hire a full design team to improve your SharePoint site design significantly. Here are a few ready-to-build SharePoint templates and design examples that can elevate your SharePoint on-prem to rival SharePoint Online.
You can vastly improve the features available to you on-prem by implementing SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, which was released in July 2021. This new edition is compatible with SharePoint 2016 and brings enhancements for both administrators and end-users.
You can also take advantage of the SharePoint 2019 Modern Experience available for SharePoint 2019 on-prem. This will allow you to create and use modern Communication and Team sites, new search experience, and better hybrid experience, among a few.
Social and Analytics
Limited social is available on-prem, but several pre-built solutions can notably enhance what your on-prem SharePoint can do. The same applies to SharePoint on-prem analytics. These two areas also represent an opportunity to bring in an outside consultant.
SharePoint On- Prem – Bottom Line
SharePoint on-prem is alive and well, and Microsoft is committed to upgrading it, knowing that many of its enterprise customers face extensive regulatory requirements. By tackling search, visual design and integrations, organizations using SharePoint on-prem can deliver better value to their employees without worrying about migrating to the cloud.