I have attended FIVE SharePoint and SharePoint Extranet sessions in past month and none, not a single one of these sessions, extoled the benefits of SharePoint Online for an Extranet! Amazing! Scratching the surface with the presenters immediately after their session I questioned their logic of not including SharePoint Online they always said, “well, I don’t know that much about SharePoint Online.” or simply (and meaning about the same) “SharePoint online doesn’t have all the functionality that SharePoint on premises offers.”. First, to not know about this product is a shame, especially if you are an “expert” in extranets and/or SharePoint. Secondly, SharePoint Online is missing key features from SharePoint on premise, three to be exact;
1) FAST Search integration
2) Performance Point Integration
3) Third Party application/web part integration
Now, of the thousands of SharePoint customers I have worked with in my life I can count on one hand the number that are leveraging FAST Search and need even fewer fingers to count those leveraging Performance Point in their Extranet! The issue with third party web parts is a reality but, again, I have not seen many Extranets (none to my knowledge) that leverage third party web parts. I will openly admit that during the Business Productivity Online Suite days SharePoint Online was a mere shadow of SharePoint on prem, missing some 79 key features and capabilities but I still worked with numerous enterprise accounts and built out a number of awesome extranets with these customers. Today, with Office 365, the Server-Service gap in SharePoint has narrowed to 3 key features (above) and that gap will be totally closed with the forthcoming Wave 15 and years from now, with Wave 16, SharePoint Online will actually be BETTER than on prem! There is also this announcement around SharePoint Azure which will close the gap entirely but cost a little more, especially for Extranet users, and take a little more time.
Let’s examine that cost and time thing. I worked with a few companies, in many cases we were able to get 5 employees access to Office 365 Admin center and SharePoint Online Admin access and up to 1,000 external partners, with their business email, for an infinitesimal $30 per month! $360 per year! That would have easily cost $80,000 on premise! Time wise we started one of these projects on a Wednesday and I was fully expecting to invest the entire weekend on-site with the customer, however, I was on a flight home on Friday afternoon, project complete! From “discovery” on Monday, planning/ideation on Tuesday (both remote), set up and building on Wednesday, developing on Thursday, Friday complete and invited first test group of 20 users, all by noon. I am VERY confident that we could not even have had the architecture planned and the hardware spec’d in that amount of time! Was this the most complex Extranet in the world? Heck no. It was pretty simple but
1) It got the job done!
2) Was exceedingly better than the prior solution
3) Saved the customer a bucket (four buckets of $100s) of hard dollars
4) Delivered a full YEAR ahead of schedule.
I can hear you saying, “What about my developers?” That is a fair question. You can build highly functional sites, as we did, within SharePoint. Need more? There is SharePoint Designer (old FrontPage with benefits). Need even more? You can develop with Visual Studio .Net just as you would on premise, as a matter of fact build a SharePoint development farm on premise, publish your solutions to SharePoint Online, choose them from the gallery and you are done!
So what have we learned here today?
1) SharePoint online is every bit as good as SharePoint on prem for an Extranet
2) SharePoint Online doesn’t offer FAST integration, Performance Point functionality, or 3rd Party apps
3) SharePoint Online costs significantly less than on prem for Extranet
4) SharePoint Online is significantly easier to get up and running – minutes not months
5) Development is EXACTLY the same Online or On Prem
6) I will have better uptime and less management in the Cloud
6) I can invite 1,000 people using their business email to my Extranet with SharePoint Online for free (this number is set to increase dramatically)
7) I should send firstname.lastname@example.org an email and get started on our Extranet!