Microsoft SharePoint Online in 2013: Microsoft Turning on a Dime

Post Date: 01/30/2013
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Last year, during Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2012, Microsoft announced its plans for fiscal year 2013. There was a strong message championing Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft SharePoint 2013, a vision for the cloud, and a fresh take on social computing. Last year, we were told that SharePoint would go online in a big way and that collaboration would change forever at SharePoint Conference (SPC) 2012. There were a lot of promises last year, and now it’s 2013. This is a year where Microsoft must successfully make the buzz a reality and turn its strategy across the board on a dime. We’ve seen Microsoft grow throughout the years, but there has not been as much in the way of disruptive technology until now; from client access licensing (CAL) to Software as a Service (SaaS) subscriptions, from Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) to Office 365, and, most importantly, a shift from the power user to the end user with additions like Windows’ modern User Interface (UI) and the Microsoft Surface tablet. All of these changes are transformational and present in every last bit of the Microsoft stack, including SharePoint. Along with the changes, no longer are companies asking “what if?” and “why should I adopt social software or the cloud?” they are asking “how can I do it responsibly?” They are then turning to companies like AvePoint and our partner network for the answers. SharePoint 2013 hit the ground running with a few key themes such as enhanced social functionality, the app model, and, notably different this year, cloud. An extensive feature list has been provided about what features will be available in SharePoint 2013, of which many are exclusive to SharePoint Online, which is part of Microsoft’s cloud offering, Office 365. Microsoft Driving Users to SharePoint Online After spending only a few minutes browsing TechNet, it is clear that Microsoft has chosen a path toward the cloud. An unprecedented three-month release cycle for SharePoint Online gives it a significant appeal over the on-premises version of the platform, which will still follow the standard “big bang” release cycle of Service Packs. This means that customers – especially those using plans below the Enterprise Edition – will be long salivating for features their cloud-based cousins are already enjoying. In addition to features, revamped pricing models, more flexibility in plan options have been implemented to convert current customers from on-premises License consumers to cloud-based subscribers. Microsoft’s aggressive push combined with rising data center expenses as well as the increased demand to cut costs and consolidate resources is driving users to consider or re-consider a cloud strategy. Users in need of a Solution As organizations look to migrate to Office 365, questions about compliance and governance in both cloud-based and hybrid deployments will become even more prevalent. Here are a few reasons why these will be hot topics around SharePoint 2013 Online throughout the year: SharePoint 2013 Online Migration: Organizations will be upgrading to SharePoint 2013 Online as part of their normal software and hardware lifecycles in addition to the following: · Reducing infrastructure costs, retiring old hardware, and removing upgrade cycles from future costs and forecasts · Consolidating SharePoint farms by moving collaboration initiatives to Office 365. This allows customers to leverage Microsoft’s native data center connectivity to better support geographically dispersed users · Customers switching over from utilizing Google Docs due to compete campaigns from Microsoft and a shift in the Google Pricing model, no longer making the platform available to small and mid-size businesses for free. · Migrating websites to SharePoint 2013 due to new, greatly simplified web content management licensing making it more appealing to host a site on SharePoint instead of standard platforms. · Customers in the education vertical will receive very competitive pricing with Office 365. SharePoint 2013 Online Content Management: While the need to move content into Office 365 is obvious, what is perhaps more interesting is the need to restructure content once it is stored in the cloud. There are many reasons to rearrange content, including changing business requirements and content being uploaded in the wrong place. What makes this story interesting is that the content management service was initially assisted with by Microsoft through support tickets. While not as robust and flexible as a tool such as DocAve Content Manager, this was “good enough” for many organizations at the time. However, Microsoft has now made it clear that all requests for local data migrations will no longer be honored, and instead customers will be directed toward third party vendors who provide cloud content management solutions. Below is an excerpt from Microsoft’s announcement of the policy change: As a reminder, the content migration policy for Microsoft SharePoint Online for dedicated plans will soon change. Starting January 1, 2013, inbound content migrations need to be carried out via independent software vendors (ISV) solutions as described in the SharePoint Online Content Migration Policy. These include sub-site migrations within the customer online farm. SharePoint Online is discontinuing the processing of sub-site migrations via Service Requests as ISV solutions offer more reliability and convenience, just like for inbound content migrations! All requests for inbound content migration must be submitted on or before Wednesday, December 5, 2012 for the content to be migrated into your environment(s) by Friday, December, 14, 2012 as a change freeze is in effect from December 15, 2012 for the current year, 2012. SharePoint 2013 Online Administration: The beauty of Office 365 is that it eliminates the need to requisition hardware, configure Microsoft SQL Servers, and manage Internet Information Services (IIS). While the stress related to hardware and platform vanishes, SharePoint is still SharePoint at its core. Users are still concerned about permissions management, centralized control of SharePoint settings and configurations, and require the ability to know who has access to what and why. A tool like DocAve Administrator serve a key and invaluable role in SharePoint Online just as it does in on-premises deployments. SharePoint 2013 Online Data Protection: If the platform is supported by Microsoft, a need for platform backup seems redundant. However, as we have learned, not all content is created equal. Should the Chief Executive Officer’s or the Board of Directors’ site be given the same Service Level Agreement (SLA) for backups as the company photos? Office 365 provides limited data retention for single items, but there is no clear cut strategy for providing custom SLAs based on business requirements or retaining data after one year. The ability to restore a single item to a list while the site is in production is as valuable to end-users in the cloud as it is on-premises. The table below outlines SharePoint Online recovery SLAs taken from this Office 365 Enterprise Service Descriptions document.
Service Requirement Support
Item Retention -Site Collections – Sites –Lists – Libraries Folders – List Items – Documents – Web Part Pages 14 Days (Recycle Bin) 0 Days (Without Recycle Bin)
Site Customizations created via SharePoint Designer Not Supported
Backup Cycles 12 Hours
Backup Retention 14 Days
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future of collaboration in the cloud, and there is certainly much to look forward to and be mindful of throughout 2013. For more information on the subject, make sure to read our white papers on Office 365 and SharePoint Online. What are your thoughts on SharePoint 2013 Online and Microsoft’s push toward the cloud? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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