Two SharePoint 2016 features that may be worth the upgrade

Mobile and hybrid cloud support improvements in SharePoint 2016 may be worth putting an upgrade from SharePoint 2013 on the fast track.

When SharePoint 2016 makes its debut in May, few enterprises will be ready to upgrade, but two important features...

in the new version may be worth putting a SharePoint migration on the fast track.

Cloud computing and mobile device use for work are on the rise, and Microsoft has responded with support for those trends in the upcoming version of its document management and collaboration tool. Among the many features in SharePoint 2016 are improved hybrid cloud and mobile support, which are must haves for most large organizations.  

SharePoint 2016 mobility improves

Mobility improvements from SharePoint 2013 will be undoubtedly welcome by most organizations. Although SharePoint has long supported the use of mobile browsers, the experience hasn't been optimal. Some users find SharePoint sites render incorrectly or aren't formatted properly.

In SharePoint 2016, Microsoft improved the mobile experience and touch optimized both the mobile view and the PC view. Users are also free to switch back and forth between the mobile site and the full site. These capabilities may prove to be especially useful to users who rely on tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro that use the same browser as a desktop PC, but are touch oriented.

Hybrid cloud support

The biggest SharePoint 2016 feature improvements are related to hybrid deployments for companies that already use cloud services or plan to move resources to SharePoint Online.

Microsoft's improvements for hybrid SharePoint deployments fall into three general categories. First, there are improvements related to the use of sites. SharePoint 2016 will allow users to operate seamlessly, even when some sites reside locally, while other sites exist within SharePoint Online. Users will be able to access a consolidated list of SharePoint sites that span the on-premises network and SharePoint Online. Further, users will have a single profile, which exists within Office 365.

Microsoft has also improved hybrid support for OneDrive for Business. OneDrive for Business isn't a new feature, but Microsoft has introduced two new capabilities. Users will be able to synchronize files via Office 365 and share those files with others. End users will also be able to treat Office 365 as a centralized file access portal to access their files from anywhere, on any device.

A third improvement to SharePoint 2016 may drive adoption more than anything else: The new search feature will allow administrators to crawl their on-premises SharePoint content and then index that content on Office 365. This means end users will be able to receive query results that include both local and cloud-based resources. The best part is that although hybrid search is being introduced as a new SharePoint 2016 feature, it is backward compatible with legacy versions of SharePoint server. Administrators will be able to compile a unified index that includes resources from SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016, as well as Office 365.  

SharePoint cloud decisions

Although SharePoint 2016 contains some very welcome improvements for hybrid deployments, IT pros must consider whether it is in their organization's best interest to upgrade to SharePoint 2016 and continue operating a hybrid deployment, or move all their local SharePoint resources to the cloud. Most of the organizations that operate hybrid SharePoint deployments today will likely use SharePoint 2016 as a stepping stone to an eventual cloud migration.

The thing that will inevitably hold many organizations back is the inherent complexity of a SharePoint migration. Some organizations will skip SharePoint 2016, opting instead to migrate to SharePoint online to avoid the costs and hassles of future migrations.

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