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Office 365 SharePoint Online features raise CIO concerns

Most of Office 365's products can help solve specific challenges facing CIOs, but they also seem to compete directly with some of SharePoint's own capabilities.

Ongoing pressures on organizations to maintain a competitive edge, streamline processes and ensure maximum productivity...

has CIOs on the lookout for technologies that achieve those goals.

SharePoint has a strong reputation helping CIOs centralize enterprise content and automate business processes. But with Office 365 SharePoint Online features, more questions center on its effectiveness alongside other services from Microsoft that seem to offer somewhat similar collaboration capabilities.

Microsoft has regularly improved its existing services and added new ones. The company's new cloud-first strategy has yielded some enterprise services, including Office 365 Groups, StaffHub, Teams, Forms, PowerApps, Power BI, Flow and Whiteboard, as part of their Office 365 bundle.

Most of these products can help solve specific challenges facing CIOs, but they also seem to compete directly with some of SharePoint's own capabilities. That has caused confusion and raised concerns about what they may need to do differently.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the new world of Office 365 SharePoint Online features.

Are SharePoint collaboration capabilities being replaced by Teams, Office 365 Groups, Planner and Whiteboard?

Yes and no. There are a number of overlapping features that these platforms share. Some even existed in older versions of SharePoint, like shared calendars, but are now part of their own apps, like Planner and Office 365 Groups.

But with Office 365 SharePoint Online features, more questions center on its effectiveness alongside other services from Microsoft.

With Planner and Office 365 Groups, users can use task management without the need for a dedicated site, or they can use PowerApps to collect information without developing InfoPath forms that would be published to SharePoint.

What are the differences between OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and OneDrive?

For CIOs looking to eliminate some of their file-share clutter, the answer may not be so simple.

SharePoint is considered by many to be a digital asset repository in which different departments can store their files within document libraries and interact with them there. But, in reality, it's intended for corporate content that's frequently accessed and not too large.

Unfortunately, SharePoint Online doesn't deliver the same experience as a mapped drive or a file-share because it requires a web browser to access the files.

OneDrive for Business, however, provides a more traditional file browsing experience and, with offline and online modes, users can sync some files while leaving others online. Users can also connect to existing document libraries within SharePoint Online to access those files with OneDrive for Business.

As for the personal OneDrive, end users can access up to 1 TB of storage, which they can use for any of their own content, including photos, documents, audio and video.

Determining SharePoint Online's viability

Is SharePoint Online more secure than the on-premises installation?

Microsoft can't score an on-premises installation of SharePoint to determine if it meets specific regulations. However, the SharePoint Online environment meets a number of security certifications, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and GDPR. It also offers high availability and system redundancy if one of its data centers is damaged or taken offline.

It's unlikely that a private organization can match the security resources and budget of Microsoft's security practice.

Another advantage of Office 365 SharePoint Online features compared to an on-premises installation is the new security services available to the platform, such as data leak prevention, data labeling and classification, advanced security, and information protection, which are limited for server installs.

What are Microsoft's long-term plans for SharePoint?

Microsoft announced earlier this year that they have as many as 120 million Office 365 commercial users, even though some continue to hesitate to adopt Microsoft's cloud service. Microsoft is continuously releasing and developing new capabilities related to SharePoint.

Should an organization start from scratch with SharePoint Online or migrate what they already have?

When it comes to migrating existing SharePoint environments, consultants should first identify the current state of SharePoint to see if the platform can still meet the business requirements. A decision can then be made on whether the existing SharePoint site structure and customization are still valid or if starting fresh with the new SharePoint communication sites, or hub sites, would be the best option.

Adopting Office 365 SharePoint Online features requires upfront planning, design and training. But using SharePoint in the context of Office 365 adds another layer of complexity because of their overlapping features. All of this requires CIOs to adequately plan their collaboration strategies.

This was last published in August 2018

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Where have you found overlap between Office 365 and SharePoint products?
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