SharePointSharePoint OnlineMaking the choice on where to host your next SharePoint collaboration environment is becoming less of an apples to apples features and price comparison, but more of a strategic decision based on your organizational needs.

Microsoft’s cloud-first approach and focus on building integrated pre-packaged solutions that have up-front security and governance benefits baked in makes Office 365’s SharePoint Online a very attractive “move in ready” solution.  It is not going to be the right solution in all cases.

Let’s dig in and look at some of the considerations.


One of the deal breakers you may run into in your analysis will probably be current or desired customization investments.  If you have spent a large amount of capital customizing current on-premises SharePoint environments with farm solutions, the migration of your code will typically be easier to the newer version of SharePoint in your own datacenter.

If you are willing to start clean, or spend the time and money rewriting your custom farm solution code, timer jobs, and other functionality, then Office 365 will still be an option.

Feature releases

Another downside you’ll need to consider is that you have no control over platform feature release schedules.  Microsoft pushes platform changes and new features to Office 365 tenants at a rapid pace with limited heads-up for tenant administrators on the exact date of the change.  Tenant admins need to keep a close eye on the Message Center in the Office 365 admin portal.  Microsoft announces upcoming changes here and it is up to you as the admin to disseminate this information and then plan and prepare end users.

You can also keep an eye on the Office 365 Roadmap site which has more information.  As of April 2, 2018, there are 45 features being rolled out, 190 in development, and 205 previously launched.  These metrics indicate an uptick in the amount of changes Microsoft is pushing out.

Here’s an example of a feature being rolled out now – LinkedIn information integration with Microsoft apps.

Many of these features are very interesting and definitely add value to the services Microsoft provides, but do so at a pace that makes it hard for large enterprises to keep up, test, and train their users properly.

Storage Limits

Another important consideration you must closely analyze is the amount of data you have and will need to migrate and store in Office 365.

  • Microsoft has published the storage quotas that come with each level of Office 365 subscription. With every plan you’ll get 1TB per organization plus .5GB per user purchased. With 100 users, that would only be 1,074GB to share across all the Office 365 services, which isn’t much. Of course additional storage can be purchased at $0.20/GB/month, which will quickly add up if you are storing a lot of data in OneDrive, Exchange, and SharePoint.
  • A SharePoint Site collection can store up to 25TB of data which is a very, very large amount of data to put into a site collection. Based on the SharePoint 2016 limits, a content database cannot exceed 200GB. Office 365 must be using BLOB externalization to keep those files out of SQL server databases.
  • In Office 365 you are allowed up to 500,000 site collections per organization. For SharePoint 2016, this number could be much higher since 10,000 Site Collections per content database x 500 content databases per farm is 5 million site collections.
  • In Office 365 the file size upload limit is 15GB. SharePoint 2016 the default is 2GB and configurable/supported up to 10GB.


Since Edward Snowden (an NSA cyber security contractor who was given systems admin rights to the NSA’s SharePoint intranet) leaked thousands of highly classified documents to the world in 2013, data loss prevention, security compliance, user activity auditing, and hardened edge defense has never been in higher demand.

One of the beneficial things with Office 365 is that is all setup for you from the get go.  If you wanted to implement all the necessary technology services around SharePoint 2016, security control documentation, third-party audit and validation, and other painful projects required to deliver a complete compliant and secure collaboration solution, it could take years to accomplish in a large organization.

However, there are most likely security tools you already have in your network that will not directly integrate with Office 365 and possibly custom dual factor authentication proxy investments that you’ll need to consider before uploading all your company secrets to the cloud.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when trying to decide the direction to steer your digital strategy.  Customization possibilities, costs, storage limits, and security are just a few you’ll need to analyze. While Office 365 is a very compelling collaboration option for many companies, it will never fit the needs of all.

Contact Fpweb to discuss your unique needs and find out more from the managed SharePoint experts about managed SharePoint Online in Office 365, dedicated SharePoint hosting, or a hybrid scenario.