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SharePoint Server 2016 arrives with renewed focus on content

Microsoft refocuses on the core of its collaboration platform, with SharePoint Server 2016 updates that address content management, updates to the UI, team sites and more.

The SharePoint Server 2016 release this month brings some long-awaited features, and Microsoft has promised to deliver more, faster updates for this release.

Many in the SharePoint user community felt the product had lost focus. Developers certainly were frustrated, as methods and best practices were heralded in new releases and deprecated soon after, forcing them to unlearn old habits and learn new methods. The enterprise content management story within the product hadn't changed very much during the last couple of releases, and much of the emphasis within the product was on how to link up to Office 365.

In addition, very little core file- and content-related improvements were made in recent years. If you were paying attention, you remember a lot of business intelligence stuff, news feeds and microblogs, Business Connectivity Services, and the like, but not a lot of innovation on the core document management, collaboration, publishing and lifecycle control components.

At The Future of SharePoint event on May 4, Microsoft re-emphasized those components with improvements to four key areas:

  • File sharing from whomever to whomever on whatever device;
  • Team sites and intranet in your pocket;
  • More enterprise features for security and compliance;
  • Another new development model.

What's changed in SharePoint Server 2016

The first two bullets are the ones that will rejuvenate SharePoint. The experiences of file sharing, synchronizing document storage using OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, copying those OneDrive files over to SharePoint team sites, and collaborating on the documents from there really gets at the core of what SharePoint should be about -- the content.

For the first time in history, we are accelerating the pace of innovation on premises.
Jeff Tepercorporate vice president, Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint

The user interface for SharePoint's team sites has gotten a long overdue upgrade and now looks crisp and refined, although there will be some heartburn for die-hard SharePoint users who love their ribbon -- a UI element gone in this release. The idea is that in SharePoint Server 2016 and upcoming feature pack updates, users can make a new document on any device from any connection, sync it as necessary, and then use the OneDrive apps on their phones and tablets as well as on the Web to manage those files, share them with colleagues, and move them into SharePoint team sites to make them "official."

Perhaps the shiniest, most user-friendly update is the new SharePoint mobile app. Available for iOS and Android, the new app basically puts the intranet in your pocket. New and existing sites on your SharePoint deployment are intelligently surfaced in the app based on the power and knowledge of the Office Graph.

Along with the new user interface for team sites, IT pros will be happy with a new control capability. During the process of creating a new site, the user can classify the content that will be stored within the site as low business impact, medium business impact, or high business impact. IT can then determine how retention settings, permissions, external sharing, and other bits are configured based on how protected the data within a new site should be.

SharePoint Server 2016 Feature Packs

Though Microsoft explicitly stated this was not the final on-premises release of the product, it is clear that a lot of innovation is happening in the cloud version of SharePoint, with the attendant dependencies on machine learning, the Office Graph service, and more. That may mean the next full version of SharePoint Server won't come for a while, but enhancements will be delivered through feature packs.

Feature packs bring regular innovation that start in SharePoint Online and Office 365, packaged up for on-premises deployment and brought down to SharePoint Server 2016 deployments.

"For the first time in history, we are accelerating the pace of innovation on premises," said Jeff Teper, corporate vice president, OneDrive and SharePoint, during the event.

Software Assurance is required to qualify for these feature packs.

SharePoint Server 2016 licensing

As far as costs go, a quick check at the Microsoft License Advisor site shows that a SharePoint Server 2016 single license through the Open License program with Software Assurance costs $10,197 at the regular list price (no volume discount involved). A non-Software Assurance option is not readily available on the site.

Client access licenses (CALs) through Open License without a discount run $162 for an enterprise user CAL and $184 for a standard user CAL. It is a healthy investment to stay on premises, but you still get the ultimate in terms of the ability to control and customize your deployment.

By comparison, SharePoint online pricing ranges from $5 per user per month for the Standard edition to

$20 per user, per month for the Office 365 Enterprise E3 suite.

SharePoint Server 2016 is available for download now.

Next Steps

Office 365 adds file-sharing features for SharePoint

Compare SharePoint 2016 with SharePoint 2013

More about SharePoint Server 2016 features

Key points between SharePoint Online and on-premises

Dig Deeper on Enterprise SharePoint strategy