You have been asked to build an environment that your employees can use to share documents and collaborate on projects. You found that SharePoint has two platform options – build a server in your network or use the Microsoft Cloud and provide the service online. Microsoft has been pushing SharePoint Online as part of its Office 365 offerings.

So you have a choice.

Understanding Which Platform You Should Use – SharePoint or SharePoint Online

The issue is that methods for customisation that work with SharePoint Server won’t necessarily work with SharePoint Online. For example, some of the methods used for customising and extending SharePoint Server require a stable platform where you can control changes to the environment.

Since Microsoft offers SharePoint Online as a shared environment, changes are constantly being made to tune the environment to accommodate customer needs, and this may affect any files that have been customised in your efforts to serve your organisational needs.

To be fair, Microsoft does expect a certain number of organisations to be interested in customising the online environment to meet specific needs. In answer to that, they provide a knowledge base article that offers guidance about options and ways to customise SharePoint Online to suit your needs.

You can find that article here

The table below summarises major development options you have by platform.

Development Type Code Execution SharePoint On Premise SharePoint Online
Server-Side API (Farm Solutions) SharePoint Server Yes No
Coded Sandbox Solutions SharePoint Server Yes Deprecated
Provider Hosted Apps Provider Server (Usually Azure) Yes Yes
No Code Sandbox Solutions Client Machine Yes Yes
SharePoint Hosted Apps Client Machine Yes Yes

Building On-Premises

Building your own environment provides you the opportunity for greater control and flexibility since you don’t have to worry about impacting your fellow tenants.

However, it is also more costly, since it requires capital expense for equipment and technical staff to manage the equipment and infrastructure.

Also remember that you aren’t just buying one server.  Most organisations today require at least a production, test and development environment.  Put simply, this means that if you thought you were just buying one set of widgets, you actually need to buy three matched sets.

Application development requires the same or similar skill sets and costs, but developers in a SharePoint Online environment have to play nice and respect their neighbours.  Think of it as a sort of “Home Owners Association.”

The net of all this is that you should be able to reduce costs of development and reduce time to market.

Building with SharePoint Online

As you might guess, there are essentially no restrictions when you develop SharePoint applications using your equipment and your infrastructure other than what you can afford.

When you go with the SharePoint On-Line environment, though, you cannot rely on Server-Side API solutions. Until recently, Microsoft allowed developers to use an alternative that created an isolated environment called the “Coded Sandbox” which essentially built a virtual server environment within the cloud. That option is being deprecated, or phased out as an option to support “Server-Side APIs.” Whether that is a “show stopper” depends on your application architecture and design.

Take heart, though, there are still options available that will result in solid applications developed in SharePoint Online.  These options include:

  • Provider Hosted Apps based on the SharePoint Client API – basically the web services that Microsoft uses through SharePoint.
  • No Code Sandbox Solutions that allow you to deploy things like list definitions, site definitions and client-side code to SharePoint.
  • SharePoint Hosted Apps hosted completely in SharePoint and executed exclusively on the client. (Keep in mind, though, that this will have difficulty when the end user machine is limited in processing power).

We personally like the Hosted App model the best since it seems to have the brightest future with Microsoft SharePoint Online and does not rely on a client with significant processing power.

A final word: The 2016 SharePoint (server version) is being released on the 4th of May. So, rather than updating SharePoint, it might be a good time to consider switching to SharePoint hosted in the cloud.

Nettko can answer any questions you may have regarding the choosing between SharePoint development on premises and SharePoint development using SharePoint Online in the cloud. We aim to give you the confidence to move forward in an effective and efficient manner.  If you want to fast track your way to safety and security, let us help you. We are experts in these matters and would be glad to offer you guidance and assistance. Please reach out to us on our contact page or give us a call on 1300 NETTKO