Examining the Office 365 Hybrid Scenario
Gartner predicts that half of you reading this blog will use Office 365 extensively by 2016 for any collaboration and productivity needs. The other half will keep some version of SharePoint on-premises.
Please note, this article is aimed at those Office 365 install bases that have more than 500 seats and will benefit (and need) the most utility from various hybrid options and SharePoint Server 2013 or later on-premises installs.
Why Are Businesses Choosing Hybrid?
There are several great business reasons to go hybrid. Among the most compelling reasons is the ability to use the latest shiny and new (Office365) NOW while you continue to get your full ROI out of existing infrastructure and application investments.
Your users get to use applications that have the best user interface (easy to use) with the functions they need to get their work done faster and better. Here are some other great reasons to go hybrid now: disaster recovery options, you have two or more SharePoint versions to support, to leverage computing power of cloud, to leverage the elasticity of the cloud and leverage the agility of cloud.
When is the Best Time to Go Hybrid?
70% of all companies are currently using Cloud in production to some degree or running Proof of Concepts (POC) according to Gartner. These groups will be ready to make a decision the next time their on-premises hardware needs a refresh or the next version of SharePoint is released.
If you aren’t actively testing now, you may miss an opportunity to move some or all of your SharePoint to the Cloud in the near future and with it the ability to move more quickly and let your internal SharePoint team focus on better ways to strategically use SharePoint or Office 365.
Who is Hybrid for?
Who will the Cloud or Office 365 help the most? What line of business (LOB) will benefit the most from the enhanced portability and usability? When you identify the candidate group build a use case, and then work with a Microsoft partner to run a Proof of Concept (POC) with real data. If it makes sense for the small sample group, roll it out to the department and then the entire LOB. The LOB champion can then take it to the other LOB leaders so you can connect the dots for full enterprise Cloud integration.
How does Hybrid work?
There are a few technical challenges which need to be addressed for a good hybrid experience. Authentication, security, licensing, and integration are key areas of focus. A strong internal team or Cloud partner will help facilitate the process and ensure your success in all the areas.
Considerations when looking at a hybrid scenario:
Do you need Dedicated Servers or Multi-tenant Servers?
One of the largest advantages that businesses receive by going hybrid is the ability to use both multi-tenant (SharePoint Online) and dedicated (on-premises) servers. This means they can keep their customizations and 3rd party web parts and enjoy the full functionality of SharePoint only in areas where they need it.
If performance is a priority for certain business units, dedicated servers are the only way to go. You won’t have a large number of other Microsoft customers on the same servers as you. It’s great to share the cost of the server, but not the performance. And eventually you will notice that a spike in usage means a significant drop in performance for everyone involved. Many people shy away from the cloud altogether because they don’t want to share their infrastructure with anyone, which is an important security concern as well.
A safer, better-performing option is to keep mission critical (often highly customized) workloads on-prem and send non-mission critical workloads to a multi-tenant environment like SharePoint Online. This way you get the best of both worlds, save money where you can and beef up performance and security where needed. If you’re looking for examples on what is perfect for the multi-tenant/SharePoint Online world, here are a few: Yammer, email, unstructured data, and basic collaboration. Beyond that, anything you deem performance or security intensive should stay on-premises or in the dedicated servers of a private cloud provider.
What Hybrid Cloud Topology Works Best for Your Business?
Let’s take a look at the three different topologies Microsoft has for a hybrid scenario:
- One-way outbound – The on-premises SharePoint Server farm connects to SharePoint Online. On-Premises users can see both local and remote search results while users of the SharePoint Online search portal can only see local results.
- One-way inbound – SharePoint Online connects to an On-premises SharePoint farm through a reverse proxy device. On-Premises SharePoint users can see only local search results while users of the SharePoint Online search portal can see both local and remote results.
- Two-way bidirectional –The on-premises SharePoint farm connects to SharePoint Online. SharePoint Online also connects to an on-premises SharePoint farm through a reverse proxy device. The result is on-premises users can see both local and remote results while users of the SharePoint Online search portal can also see both local and remote results.
Certainly there are advantages and disadvantages to each topology, however only your team or a trusted Managed SharePoint provider should make recommendations on which solution fits your business. For example, a company with a large amount of mobile employees may have completely different needs than one with a staff that is all in one building.
Each topology offers considerable advantages depending on what type of business you are in. But hybrid itself is where the largest advantage lies: control.
You have control of our environment, as well as your migration strategy, now you decide exactly how and when you upgrade your technology over time. You can add certain workloads to the SharePoint Online world or remove them as you see fit, the same is true for the on-premises world.
Over time, this makes you less dependent, you aren’t stuck with aging on-premises equipment, and you don’t have to make a massive investment in new hardware. Either way, you decide what needs to stay on-prem and what will save you time and money by going to SharePoint Online. It’s hard to go wrong with this level of flexibility.
A hybrid SharePoint deployment can prove to be a useful deployment scenario when looking to run certain workloads in SharePoint Online, but maintain others by running in a SharePoint on-premises deployment as part of a long term migration strategy.