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Introduction to SharePoint 2013 and the Hybrid Cloud Mind-Set

Questions about the evolution and maturity of the hosted and hybrid cloud, as well as some of the data, privacy, and security concerns that exist around it, are questions that you will need to be able to answer with facts and a clear understanding when asked by key project stakeholders and users, as well as by your organization’s legal and compliance stakeholders.

As mentioned, SharePoint’s 2013 “on-premises” environment, versus “hosted, off-premises,” or “hybrid” environment, contains different offerings and capabilities as well as security, regulatory, and privacy implications. SharePoint 2013 stakeholders can sometimes find themselves at a fork in the road or between two possible paths, as illustrated in Figure 3.3, when selecting the type of environment or offering that will best service the organization in regard to cost, maintenance, and intellectual property security.


FIGURE 3.3 The SharePoint on-premises versus Office 365/hosted architecture decision.

There are also security- and regulatory-related questions that must be answered and addressed regarding storing personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), HIPPA, and FDA (Title 21 CFR) Part 11. For global organizations, there are other regulatory concerns such as those of data centers in the European Union (EU) and Safe Harbor regulations that the U.S. and the EU have agreed to via the United States Department of Commerce and the seven principles of data protection and security.

There are also considerations related to the ability of your organization to develop custom solutions (workflows, apps, custom events, and so on) and promote these customizations to the cloud rather than into your on-premises environment, which you have full control over.

I have had hundreds of conversations with CIOs, CTOs, and key business stakeholders at organizations throughout the globe about this topic, and there are key considerations that must be vetted and understood when choosing a path for the organization even if a hybrid approach (that is, both on-premises and Office 365) is selected.

I was having this environmental conversation with a well-known oil and gas company’s CIO I was working with who had extensive intellectual property (IP) for which the organization had invested millions of dollars on researching and collecting. His statement to me during this conversation was, “There is no way I am going to risk our IP by hosting this information in a cloud for which I cannot guarantee I have full control.”

Another conversation that comes to mind is with the Enterprise Application’s Director, for which SharePoint was managed, of a Fortune 500 military contracting and aerospace company. He said, “We have a ton of business intelligence needs that require us to access multiple internal systems, and there is just no safe way to deploy this custom code to the cloud and then “hook” into our SAP and other systems from SharePoint due to permissions and federation issues we have discovered.” He made an interesting point during this conversation: “Do I want to have to get other IT hosting providers to have to review and approve my custom code prior to implementing it into their cloud after we develop it? This could cause additional delays I am just not comfortable with....”

In contrast, I had a conversation with the IT leader of a Fortune 500 manufacturing company who said they found Office 365 to be an excellent solution for servicing partners and clients who need quick collaboration sites set up that were also housed outside their company’s DMZ (a term commonly referred to as outside the company’s internal network database and perimeter), and the on-premises solution was not meeting their current needs.

I am not pushing you toward one environment or another but playing a bit of devil’s advocate regarding some of the concerns and elements you need to keep in mind when going “all in” on one type of environment or another.

Key Features of Office 365

Office 365 (O365) is an attractive offering to some organizations whose IT model as well as related content security governance will properly be met with the requirements of O365. Office 365 has an updated user interface and much improved administration controls with an improving cloud-app development model.

Office 365 has several key features:

  • OneDrive

    OneDrive is a core element of Office 365. It offers users organizational control to allow them to do the following:

    • Sync and share documents.
    • Collaborate on document security with individuals both inside and outside of their organization.
    • Access content and information anywhere and from a multitude of devices.
    • Control content life cycle and versioning.
    • Manage access permissions.
    • Access OneDrive with native mobile client apps for Windows 8 and iOS.
  • User Interface Updates (UI)

    The Office 365 user interface has been redesigned to allow for usability improvements in navigation to include features such as these:

    • Drag and drop: This enables users to upload content to sites by dragging items from their computer into a SharePoint document library.
    • On-hover: This is a new “callout” feature that works with any document within a SharePoint document library, as well as from a search results, that enables viewing, sharing, and following or “jumping” right to specific content.
    • Touch: This feature allows for large “touch targets” for easy navigation on mobile devices and should be part of your mobile device management and BYOD considerations for your organization’s governance strategy.
  • Yammer (in Office 365’s Offerings)

    Yammer is a key element of Microsoft’s social networking (that is, professional networking) strategy, and it is designed to bring additional collaboration, file sharing, and knowledge exchange within your company.

    Depending on the release cycle you are currently in, it may be optional or may be included with the Office 365 investment. Key features of Yammer include these:

    • Enables enterprises to become social quickly
    • Offers easy access to groups and feeds
    • Provides easy access across different devices and browsers
    • Offers easy-to-use administration tools
  • Office 365 Guest Links

    Office 365 allows users to share everything, including sites, folders, and individual documents, using the Guest Link feature, which enables users to invite guests from inside and outside the enterprise firewall to share and collaborate on specific documents. These permissions can be added and revoked like any other permission element in Office 365.

  • Public Website Feature

    The public website feature in Office 365 comes with a large number of customization options for sites and individual pages. There are added publishing capabilities, web parts, and built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) property options and advanced design options.

    You are also able to disable this feature and have it remain invisible until needed per the governance policies that are developed to control the SharePoint platform. The public website feature also enables users to utilize the Design Manager to completely redesign the sites from scratch.

  • e-Discovery

    Office 365 Enterprise comes with an e-Discovery management site, via integrated Exchange Online, that enables organizations to add sources and create queries to discover content across SharePoint sites and SharePoint document libraries, mailboxes, and discussions, while keeping them in place in Office 365, Exchange Online, and Lync Online.

  • Site Mailbox Feature

    The Site Mailbox feature combines Office 365’s document management capabilities with Exchange Online’s email solution. Teams can organize project-related content and email into a single view while keeping documents in their proper location. With the Site Mailbox feature, site mailboxes can be accessed through Outlook 2013, as well as Office 365.

  • Enterprise Search

    Office 365 search has been greatly improved in the relevancy of search results, enabling users to find the content they are searching for with the appropriate results. SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 have the same search engine and capabilities, with the added FAST features that were optional in SharePoint 2010 included natively. This enables users to control the search experience and also provides powerful metadata-driven results and filtering options.

  • Office 365 PowerShell Capabilities

    Office 365 enables administrators to use Windows PowerShell to manage their subscriptions as well as scripting tasks associated with provisioning new sites, site collections, and performing upgrade activities. SharePoint 2013 has a web-based companion tool called the Windows PowerShell Command Builder Tool for “power users or super users” with relatively moderate IT skills.

  • Office 365 API Tools

    The new Office 365 API Tools continues to extend the platform and will open up more possibilities around the hybrid cloud by adding not only the ability to access SharePoint 2013 on-premises, but also extending the platform in Microsoft Office 2013 by adding the ability for both sites and native applications to consume Office 365 data.

Yammer Considerations

Microsoft acquired Yammer in June of 2012, and understandably it takes time to finalize a technology roadmap within a technology of this magnitude. Office 365 users have been provided with an option to replace Office 365’s activity-stream component with Yammer’s, which is the first step and integration point between Yammer and SharePoint.

Microsoft has also offered the capability to embed a Yammer group feed into a SharePoint site. This is available through the “Yammer application” available in the SharePoint App Store, which will work with both on-premises and Office 365.

Microsoft has also provide organizations with the option to replace the newsfeed in SharePoint 2013/Office 365/SharePoint Online with Yammer.

OneDrive for Business (Previously SkyDrive Pro) Considerations

OneDrive for Business, previously SkyDrive Pro, has made several recent updates, such as providing SharePoint users who have Personal Site Use Rights with access to Microsoft’s cloud-based OneDrive to store data and providing that same access via OneDrive from their smartphone or mobile device (see Figure 3.4).


FIGURE 3.4 Showing a diagram of the workflow of OneDrive for business.

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