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SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint Server: Which is Best for You?


With the collective transition of to cloud technology in the business community still in progress, many businesses are still wondering whether they should be using servers or the cloud.

Although cloud computing has come a long way in the last few years – not just in capability, but in awareness – there are still many businesses who continue to rely on on-premise solutions. Most commonly, organisations opt to continue using servers for file storage – perhaps out of a mistrust of the security of cloud storage, or simply because it is what they have always used.

Whatever the reason, most IT specialists agree that the cloud is a worthwhile solution to adopt; and so we spoke with one London-based specialist – TechQuarters – that has over a decade of experience with the cloud in their line of work providing business IT support London SMBs rely on. According to TechQuarters, the difference between on-prem and the cloud can be easily illustrated by looking at Microsoft SharePoint. Several versions of this product exist, but the two main ones to look at are SharePoint Online, and SharePoint Server.

SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint Server

Microsoft SharePoint is a well-known product nowadays, but there are some who associate it more with file servers, and others who associated it more with the cloud. Neither parties are wrong, and it is worthwhile understanding the different. So, below is a breakdown on the differences between SharePoint Online and Server.

What is SharePoint Server?

A file server is simply a computer that has been configured specifically for storage, and is connected to other work computers as part of a network. This means that all the computers connected to the server have a centralised storage location that they can use. In a Microsoft-based company, a file server would have SharePoint Server installed on it, as well as an Active Directory domain, in order to control access to content stored on the server.

When is SharePoint Server Useful (and is it Unsuitable)? 

Although it seems as though the whole world is now using the cloud, there are still many businesses who are still using file servers. If you were to ask any of the IT support companies London businesses rely on, they would tell you that for most of the 21st century, businesses have been using file servers. In particular, file servers are best for storing large files, and in large amounts. The simplicity of file servers is also useful for many businesses.

Although many businesses are now adopting remote and hybrid work practices, file servers can only be used on-premises; therefore, they are unsuitable for businesses (or employees) who do not have an office.

What is SharePoint Online?

Microsoft SharePoint Online is a product that comes as part of the Microsoft 365 plan – which is a Software-as-a-Service suite of products. The primary purpose of SharePoint Online is to store and manage files in the Microsoft Cloud. This makes it suitable for file sharing (both internally and externally); content management based on retention policies, records management, library management, and more.

SharePoint Online is organised by sites – a kind of workspace in the cloud. Sites may be team sites (for collaboration), or communication sites (for information sharing – news, wikis, etc.)

When is SharePoint Online Useful?Microsoft are generally encouraging businesses to migrate to their cloud solutions – including SharePoint Online – owing to the much better value they offer compared with even the latest on-prem solutions. For instance, SharePoint Online comes with unrivalled integration with the Microsoft 365 stack; furthermore, as most SharePoint consultants will be able to confirm, the information sharing and management capabilities of Online are far more advanced than its on-premise counterpart. For instance, many processes that would be complicated on SharePoint Server – such as external sharing – are very easy on Online; this is largely to do with the added security that comes with Online being hosted in the Microsoft Cloud.

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