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While SharePoint 2013 can be installed on a company's servers and be maintained by in-house IT, SharePoint Online is hosted in the cloud; that architectural difference in where servers are maintained means less customization of SharePoint as a whole, but also allows tailoring of SharePoint search in particular.
With enterprise search, users can search for files residing in SharePoint, as well as in related applications such as Outlook and Lync. But with SharePoint in the cloud, search becomes less possible to tailor because the application resides on Microsoft's servers; coding on the back end with features like the content Web are no longer possible. With SharePoint on-premises, you can use features like eDiscovery to search Exchange, file shares and other SharePoint farms. Given its architecture, this can't be done in the cloud. "We have content search, but it doesn't work the same way as it works on the ground," said Scott Robinson a SharePoint and business intelligence expert. "This can make a big difference if you need to use enterprise search out in the field."
Robinson noted that making changes to custom Web parts in SharePoint can create serious problems for users in terms of SharePoint performance.
"Custom Web parts can break in a heartbeat because we don't control those servers," he said. "If I have a production SharePoint system up there in the cloud, and I have custom components up there, they can break, and I could be in a world of hurt -- that's especially true of search, which is a very sensitive technology. If I'm not very careful, I can blow my SharePoint environment to smithereens by using custom Web parts. But that can cripple my efforts to fine-tune my search."
In this podcast, Robinson discussed how you can get the most from enterprise search in SharePoint online -- without breaking it. The key, he said, is good SharePoint governance.
For more, check out the podcast below.
A SharePoint migration guide
On-premises SharePoint search still falls short
SharePoint in the cloud isn't a zero-sum game