For the last few years, SharePoint owners have been balancing between two realities of a server-based SharePoint On-Premises and a cloud-hosted SharePoint Online. Microsoft keeps promoting their cloud offerings, so SharePoint Online, as a standalone app and as an integral part of Office 365, is gaining popularity among businesses of all sizes. But did the cloud rush absorb all companies running SharePoint solutions?

SharePoint On-Premises still Heads the Competition

In their 2017 SharePoint and Office 365 State of the Market Survey, Concept Searching revealed an unexpected truth. As companies are now “much more knowledgeable about the pros and cons of ‘life in the cloud’ […] they are in no rush to move to the cloud, and, in fact, plan on keeping key applications on-premises.”

This statement questions organizations’ mass readiness to switch to the cloud completely, and the numbers prove that. While SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online top the list of the platform’s most used versions with 52.83% and 52.56% respectively, 18.06% of respondents use Share Point 2016, 14.29% stick to SharePoint 2007 and, finally, 40.43% stay loyal to SharePoint 2010, which is overwhelming.

These stats lead us to two major findings. First, the cloud triumph isn’t unquestionable, as organizations still rely on SharePoint On-Premises heavily. Second, the trends prove that there are various reasons for organizations to keep their on-premises deployments as they are, even though SharePoint Online and Office 365 look attractive.

Now, let’s look at these reasons.

When On-Premises Defeats Cloud

SharePoint Online and Office 365 are dynamic and user-centric collaboration solutions. However, associated risks and challenges often force companies to keep away from Microsoft clouds.

Saving your SharePoint investments. It’s quite natural to see SMEs among cloud activists, as cloud platforms free them up from heavy server-based infrastructures. However, large companies with complex SharePoint On-Premises deployments can be not so enthusiastic about switching to the cloud, as it would mean losing their initial investments into the platform.

If a company has built a server-based infrastructure, acquired SharePoint Server licenses, and spent years customizing their SharePoint to align it with organizational processes, it will be painful to give up on it. So, if the platform performs well and meets business needs, it will be reasonable to keep it up and running.

Avoiding stiff long-term pricing. Easier implementation and lower TCO often appear among SharePoint Online and Office 365 advantages over the server versions of the platform. Indeed, the initial average price of a SharePoint On-Premises project will be quite impressive compared to moderate cloud subscriptions: $50-100K vs. $5-35. But don’t let the numbers trick you. Remember that you will have to pay cloud subscription on a monthly or yearly basis for every user, so your long-term cloud budget can exceed the one of SharePoint On-Premises greatly.

Keeping away from challenging cloud migrations. Upgrading or migrating a SharePoint On-premises solution to the platform’s higher version can be much easier than taking up a thorny migration path to SharePoint Online or Office 365. A cloud migration will require organizations to review and move existing content, rebuild their IT infrastructure, elaborate a strategy for migrating or redeveloping custom solutions, implement a step-by-step adoption plan, as well as new governance and security approaches. If an organization turns to qualified SharePoint consultants to perform such a migration, the price of the project will also include service costs.

Security is on your side. Protection of cloud deployments is always the key concern for companies. While Microsoft pledges their cloud solutions secure, organizations are still afraid to entrust their sensitive data stored on-premises to the Microsoft Cloud.

However, there are certain oversights both on Microsoft’s and on organizations’ part. The above-mentioned report says that “organizations aren’t using it [security], don’t know how to use it, and in many instances, the security does not live up to Microsoft’s claims.” So there is a great work to do for Microsoft and for organizations in terms of security education, to make companies understand and implement all the available cloud security mechanisms appropriately.

At the same time, moving to the cloud raises the question of deployment ownership. While SharePoint On-Premises companies own their deployments completely, companies running SharePoint Online or Office 365 should trust Microsoft Data Centers that will host their solutions and data.

Taking care of enterprise solutions. SharePoint On-Premises has won organizations’ loyalty owing to its customization flexibility. The platform enabled companies to develop a variety of solutions, including SharePoint-based intranets and extranets, fully functional content management systems, complex workflows, departmental solutions and industry-specific systems.

With SharePoint Online, such drastic customization steps can be problematic. Not only Microsoft recommends using the platform as it is, the corporation also warns companies that ongoing cloud updates can affect customizations and worsen the performance of the entire deployment. So if you have heavily customized SharePoint solutions, it’s reasonable to leave them on-premises to ensure their proper operation.

SharePoint 2019 gives a new hope

The release of SharePoint 2016 was accompanied with numerous rumors about the upcoming SharePoint On-Premises ‘death,’ as the platform’s latest version was supposed to become the last one. To a great surprise of the community, Microsoft announced a brand-new SharePoint On-Premises 2019 during Microsoft Ignite in September 2017.

By now, there were no updates on the new platform, which will arrive in the middle of 2018. However, the announcement itself caused a great buzz. At the moment, the community is wondering how the new SharePoint will look, and what benefits it will bring. All in all, the arrival of a new server version is a guarantee for organizations that Microsoft won’t give up on SharePoint On-Premises. But will SharePoint 2019 be able to keep companies’ devotion?

To do so, the new SharePoint should come with clear benefits for end users. The lack of such advantages is exactly the biggest SharePoint 2016 gap that resulted in its moderate adoption rate. Hopefully, the fresh SharePoint will come with a reworked UI and new collaboration features, at least, with communication sites that are currently available for cloud users only. Such a reboot could also be another pro for organizations to stay on-premises not because of their fear to move to the cloud but because they feel satisfied with their server-based solution that employees like and use actively.

About the author 

Sandra Lupanava