A hybrid SharePoint system is one that uses both SharePoint ‘On Premises’ and SharePoint Online (part of Office 365) to deliver an integrated solution. It in effect combines a private traditional SharePoint system with a publicly hosted cloud instance. For some clients, and projects (for example hybrid intranets), it offers the best of both worlds.
What are the benefits of a hybrid system?
Over the last 10 years the use of cloud technology has been a focus for businesses seeking to take advantage of the many benefits. However when planning out an IT Roadmap, some organisations discover that regardless of these advantages, their business has specific legal, compliance, or business constraints that require the use of internal IT infrastructure e.g. Legal documents need to be kept in house to comply with UK law and retention.
To overcome these constraints, and to put their business in the best position to adopt future technology developments, many organisations have started to introduce cloud technology that is combined and integrated with internal IT Infrastructure - hybrid solutions.
The introduction of Office 365, which provides ‘software as a service’ through the public cloud, has enabled businesses to use core products such as Exchange, Lync, Office Web Apps and SharePoint without having to host any of the hardware. Within many organisations this is an extremely attractive option because:
- It is cost effective.
- It offers scalability and flexibility.
- It reduces headaches in infrastructure management.
- Ensures you always have the best and most up to date tools.
- Supports mobile working.
- Supports external collaboration.
Yet a direct and complete move to the Office 365 is often not feasible, due to factors such as:
- You have existing SharePoint investments you want to leverage.
- Specific business needs require customisation of SharePoint that cannot be completed in the cloud.
- You have some data that you cannot, or do not want to put in the cloud.
- You have large amounts of data, and it may be more cost effective to store it 'On-Premises.'
How do we use Hybrid Solutions?
SharePoint ‘On Premises’ and SharePoint Online can be employed in parallel to meet the needs of the business. But this can be clunky, with two different systems, two different logins, separate search functions etc.
The latest editions of SharePoint provide three options for a more integrated hybrid intranet deployment. This allows your business to get the best of both worlds, whilst presenting users with what seems like a single unified system.
1. Federated Search
An enterprise search hybrid is based on having an 'On Premises' SharePoint farm which is running search, and a SharePoint Online setup. The 'On premises' and online searches are then “federated,” which from an end user perspective means that although the search is of two distinct sources, the results are presented in a single unified interface. It is important to note that with hybrid search setups, both 'On Premises' users and SharePoint online users can access the search results from both sources, and that security and permissions rules are applied.
This is an extremely useful way of leveraging an existing SharePoint investment, and making content both searchable and usable regardless of the data or the users location.
2. Business Connectivity Services
Business Connectivity Services (BCS) is the technology in SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 that enables you to interface with data that does not live in the SharePoint Farm you are accessing. A BCS hybrid enables you to publish 'On Premises' data to the cloud by connecting a SharePoint Online ‘App’ or list to SharePoint ‘On Premises.’ The ‘On Premises’ SharePoint environment can then broker BCS connections to data located in Line of Business (LOB) systems.
The main reason for implementing this is to enable users to get access to 'On Premises' LOB data (think SQL databases), whilst keeping the data safely stored and maintained on the internal IT setup.
3. Duet Enterprise Online
Duet Enterprise Online enables users to read and write to an on premises SAP system by either using a SharePoint ‘App’ or through the Duet Enterprise Online Features. This means that the user can access and interact with business processes and information that are stored within SAP. The data itself is not stored within SharePoint, but simply surfaced with appropriate changes written back based on user permissions. This means you can implement a cloud based interface for an onsite SAP system.