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How does the cloud limit SharePoint search and integration?

Search is a key function for SharePoint, but capabilities vary for cloud, hybrid and on-premises deployments.

All searches are not created equal, and tradeoffs remain for companies mulling deployment of the cloud, on-premises and hybrid versions of Microsoft's collaboration platform, SharePoint.

SharePoint on-premises has evolved over the years with a focus on customization and integration with other internal systems. That is not yet the case in the cloud with SharePoint Online, and there are still unique challenges for those who look to combine the two products with a hybrid approach.

How does the choice of cloud, on-premises or hybrid impact SharePoint search?

SharePoint and SharePoint Online are really the same fundamental product with two different deployment models: on-premises and the cloud-based software as a service version.

The on-premises version of SharePoint is functionally a more complete version. It allows the most customization flexibility and the broadest integration with other internal systems.

SharePoint Online is a cloud service that can be purchased separately or as a part of the larger Office 365 suite. SharePoint Online is a multi-tenant cloud application that carries certain restrictions, primarily on customization. For example, it's not possible to customize the search engine or directly interact with the core SharePoint API.

The hybrid option, which is a mix of cloud and on-premises SharePoint, also creates new challenges. Implementing search across environments is possible, but it requires additional configuration adjustment.

At a basic level, search in a hybrid environment should be hosted on-premises. SharePoint Online's search is generally limited to its cloud-based repository and any content sources connected through Business Connectivity Services.

Beyond this basic constraint, another challenge is user identity. SharePoint Online uses the cloud-based Azure Active Directory, while most on-premises implementations use on-premises Active Directory. Microsoft has created a facility for synchronizing the two identities, making it possible to have a single sign-on. However, this requires some additional configuration and planning to ensure users will have access to the right content and that it will surface in SharePoint search results.

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