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TechnologyApr 06, 2016

SharePoint 2016: Not Your Father’s Intranet Portal

Chris Griswold

OK, let’s face it: There are many, many people out there from organizations big and small who love to hate SharePoint. Most of them had a really bad experience with a very poorly implemented intranet portal running on MOSS or SharePoint 2007.  And, like most technology, there is no forgiveness for bad software (Windows Vista…).  However, under the new regime of CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has uncharacteristically embraced a new strategy toward innovation and partnerships, which has drastically changed the face of its products.

SharePoint has become the de facto leader to form the backbone of the digital workplace, supporting intranet portals, team collaboration, document storage, enterprise search, and many more critical enterprise functions. With the latest release (represented by SharePoint 2016 On Premises and SharePoint Online), Microsoft has continued to innovate and strengthen the platform.

Hybrid Deployment

There is no question that Microsoft’s focus is on the cloud, as it should be. For them the perpetual subscription model is more profitable and predictable, and it frees the enterprise chief information officer (CIO) from having to buy and maintain hardware. However, for those who want to embrace the cloud, but still require an on-premises deployment of SharePoint due to political, regulatory, or logistical reasons, a hybrid deployment can integrate your sites and libraries in SharePoint online with what is still on premises. So, via the magic that is Office365, you can enable search capabilities across environments, synchronize files, integrate OneDrive for Business, follow sites across environments in a single list, and integrate MySite profiles.

The next generation hybrid search capability is probably the most highly anticipated feature. Even the most well designed information architecture can make finding the right list or document difficult, so accurate and fast search capability is key to user adoption and satisfaction. Hybrid search allows you to index all of your content across both online and on-premises environments and therefore provide one set of results with combined search relevancy ranking.

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OneDrive for Business

For many organizations that were early adopters of SharePoint, it was the silver bullet for eliminating the all-important network file share—the “P” drive, or whatever letter of the alphabet your company chose to designate. As cloud adoption and the need to share files of all sizes across an ever increasingly distributed workforce has grown, so has the availability of Internet-based file-sharing services (Dropbox, Box, iCloud, SkyDrive, etc.).  However, with that came the concern around data security and data ownership. CIOs across the globe reeled when they discovered employees storing highly sensitive documents with services whose “fine print” gave them ownership of the document as soon as it was uploaded.

By seamlessly integrating SharePoint and OneDrive for business, Microsoft has solved this problem and their industry-leading compliance certifications ensure your documents are safe, secure, and yours. With OneDrive for Business, integration users can sync files with Office 365 and share them with others, and users can access their files directly through Office 365 from any device.

Leaving for the airport? Use the OneDrive app to synchronize your files to your laptop for offline use and your changes will be automatically merged back into OneDrive once you are reconnected.

Users can also redirect their MySite to OneDrive so it’s centralized and easy to access, and OneDrive site folders allow you to navigate your Sites and Libraries from OneDrive directly. Couple this functionality with Durable Links (send a link to a file to a co-worker, then move or rename the file, and the link you sent previously still works!) and the combination of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business builds a very compelling story, which should drive user adoption and productivity.

No Limits

Depending on your history with SharePoint and your level of usage, you may or may not have come across the dreaded 5,000-record limit for lists and document libraries. However, Microsoft did not enforce this limit to be difficult, but rather to eliminate the inevitable frustration with the backend database’s inability to serve up that volume of data. At a capacity greater than 5,000 the system would be very slow and get slower as these lists and libraries increased. The technically savvy user who had the access and ability to do so could manually index your list columns in order to improve performance, but that knowledge and ability is rare. In SharePoint 2016 Microsoft has introduced the automated creation of indexed columns. This effectively removes the limitation because the indexes will take care of ensuring acceptable database performance.

Additionally, Microsoft has removed the limit on the size of files you can store in SharePoint. You can now store documents larger than 2 GB, but Microsoft recommends you stay below the 10-GB threshold to prevent connection issues.

Another feature that should help with size and performance concerns is the new Compliance Center in SharePoint 2016.  In short, this feature allows you to manage policies regarding the deletion of documents, templates, sites, and site collections.

Forward Progress

As a consultant who specializes in digital workplace technologies, I am very happy to see Microsoft investing so heavily in SharePoint and its host of supporting services such as Office, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, and others. SharePoint continues to be the leader in enterprise-class workplace collaboration and information access, and this small sample of new features demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to both its end users and its development community.