In my last blog post, I began a discussion of things to consider when thinking about SharePoint Online Services. Part 1 covered the implications relative to Browser Support and the Overall Client Experience. Again, my objective is to provide some commentary about the decision process and identifying key decision points between t he Standard, Dedicated and On-Premises Architectures. If you don’t understand what I just said, read Part 1.
In Part 2, I’ll review the issues and limitations of SharePoint Online regarding Collaboration Features.
Availability of Site Templates
For me, here is where the rubber begins to hit the road. The Standard Offering does not support any of what I would call “Portal” templates, most notably the “My Site” template. In a nutshell, this means that you are looking at a Dedicated Offering in order to realize Enterprise Social Networking. Also of note is that the Internet Facing Sites are not supported here – I expect this will be a specific Online Offering from Microsoft in future. Finally, most Meeting Workspaces are not supported, which is only disappointing if you currently use them: my experience is that this is an underutilized feature anyway.
Most of us really dig the “jellybean” – it provides an entry point into opening up a dialogue with colleagues, some well-known to you and some not, which would otherwise be terribly awkward in the online world; presence is a key ergonomic feature of the Microsoft Business Productivity Suite. Ok, so the good news is that if you are looking at taking advantage of the BPOS offer (that is, you are looking at bundling Exchange, SharePoint, OCS and Live Meeting in the Cloud), then you get presence. But, SharePoint Standard Online alone will not support presence unless you are also taking advantage of Office Communication Server Online.
In the Dedicated Offering, you can take advantage of an Office Communications Server on-premise – if you are looking at co-existence architecture, this can work for you.
Of course, presence works out of the box in the On-Premises world – most of this stuff does if you have planned your SharePoint Architecture at all.
Did I mention that My Sites are not available in the Standard Offering? It’s true – if you see value in Web 2.0, if you see value in discovering the knowledge network which exists in your organization, then you need to be looking at the dedicated offering, not the Standard one. This is really a critical consideration for many firms, as it makes the cost benefits of the Standard offering a wee bit less inviting.
Mail enabled Lists
This is the capability to configure SharePoint to receive email into Lists and Libraries, making them a first class citizen in the collaboration process, but also potentially raising a number of difficult compliance issues. In my experience, this capability is most value in custom applications which leverage SharePoint technologies. As an example: a solution which manages a relatively complex business process which includes documentation which should be contributed via email. Since your options are limited in the realm of custom features and solutions (more on this in future posts), I don’t envision this giving anyone pause.
In my next post, I’ll look at the Impacts to Portal Features which you should take into account before committing to a SharePoint Online Architecture.