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The careful balancing act of Microsoft Office 365 services

Office 365 services are in the cloud. But many customers are still on-premises. Learn more about how Microsoft is walking the fine line between the two.

If there is any question about Microsoft's roadmap for software, it's directed at the cloud. Since 2013, the company has been rolling out new cloud-based offerings in Office 365, its collection of collaboration and office productivity tools.

According to the "Cloud Security Spotlight Report," Office 365 is currently the second most-popular cloud application. Sixteen percent of the respondents to the survey have deployed Microsoft Office 365 services; it's the most popular planned cloud application, with 29% of respondents planning to deploy it.

At the same time, Microsoft recognizes that many of its customers aren't ready for the cloud. They need to keep some or all data on-premises for compliance, industry regulation or other data security reasons. Others face a difficult migration in moving to the cloud, with years of legacy data and sprawl to rein in before they can get there. As a result, Microsoft has created a patchwork roadmap of sorts, where Office 365 features services whose functionality clearly overlaps with traditional SharePoint.

Microsoft ... is breaking SharePoint into pieces and making it easier to move the most important pieces to the cloud.
Rob Helmmanaging vice president of research, Directions on Microsoft

"Microsoft recognizes these realities and is breaking SharePoint into pieces and making it easier to move the most important pieces to the cloud," Rob Helm, managing vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft, a Microsoft research firm, said. Helm noted, for example, that OneDrive for Business, a file sync-and-share service in Office 365, enables companies to store files in the cloud, while also using functionality in some cases. Breaking up that functionality into pieces has created some conflict for Microsoft shops, where the pivot to the cloud hasn't been a home run.

In our latest look at Microsoft Office 365 services, we explored how the company travels the line between the cloud and on premises, and whether it's carving out key functionality in SharePoint and bringing it elsewhere. First, Peter O'Kelly discussed the double-edged sword of Microsoft cloud migration: While content is headed there, companies need to make numerous people-, process- and technology-related adjustments to get there. Many companies, for example, with a heavy investment in SharePoint on-premises often have lots of real estate there, and a migration can be painful -- as well as costly from a licensing perspective.

Next, Nathan Lamb discusses Microsoft's careful balancing act in featuring its cloud roadmap while trying to satisfy the needs of its on-premises customers. And finally, we look at the rapid rollout pace in Microsoft Office 365 services and whether it's creating features that aren't quite ready for prime time.

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