You may have heard Microsoft’s announcement at the end of 2014 that they are deprecating the Public Website offering in both SharePoint Online and Office 365. Clients who are already using this feature will have continued support from Microsoft until at least March 9, 2017. New clients can create a public website using a third-party offering that Microsoft makes available in Office 365 (currently GoDaddy and Wix.com).
What does this really mean?
For the majority of SharePoint users, this announcement has limited or no impact. First, most SharePoint environments are still on-premises or in a private cloud running the on-premises version. SharePoint on-premises is NOT impacted by this announcement. At Tahoe, we have numerous customers who host their public facing website with an on-premises SharePoint environment. These customers, and any who use on-premises SharePoint, will not be affected. All indications are that SharePoint Server 2016, the next version of on-premises SharePoint, will continue to support Web Content Management capabilities. That said, Microsoft has made it clear that its future focus is on the cloud. So even though on-premises SharePoint public facing sites are safe for now, it is unclear how long it will be before current on-premises customers are affected.
The second reason this announcement has limited impact is that, as the announcement states, only a small percentage of Office 365 users were taking advantage of the capability to host a public facing site. Of course, if you are one of the customers using this feature, you’ll have some decisions to make and some work to do in the next two years to prepare for the loss of this functionality.
What are options for public sites?
While this announcement removed one option for hosting public facing sites, there are still alternatives for companies using Office 365 and SharePoint. The entire list is too numerous to cover in this article, but I will highlight a couple for companies that were considering the Office 365 option and those that are invested in Microsoft technologies. These include:
- Office 365 Third-Party Offerings
- On-premises SharePoint
As Microsoft’s announcement states, other third-party offerings are available now in Office 365, currently GoDaddy and Wix.com. Although these are established tools, they are typically used to support basic websites and are generally not a good fit for most mid- to large-sized companies. However, for simple sites, these tools provide more features and capabilities than Office 365 for public facing sites.
As mentioned above, on-premises SharePoint 2013 and presumably the next version of SharePoint on-premises continue to be a viable candidate for hosting public facing sites. This often makes sense if your company already has an investment in on-premises SharePoint, such as an intranet or line of business applications, and/or plans to leverage content in multiple environments, such as the internet and intranet, but wish to manage the content in a single location.
Another great Microsoft-based option for hosting public websites is SiteCore. SiteCore is an enterprise-grade Customer Experience Management platform with a .NET foundation. The strength of SiteCore is highlighted in a new 2015 Q1 Forrester Wave report on Web Content Management, whose results can be summarized as “Adobe and SiteCore Lead a Strong Field.” We’ve found heavy use of SiteCore among our customers who have adopted Microsoft technologies and have employees with .NET skills that they want to maximize across more applications. Additionally, SiteCore integrates with SharePoint so that content can be leveraged in SiteCore.
While Microsoft’s announcement caught users of Office 365 Public Websites off-guard, and while it will cause short-term pain for these users, it aligns with Microsoft’s overall strategy and in the end promises to benefit customers. Tahoe Partners is both a Microsoft and SiteCore partner, so if you need help determining if SiteCore, SharePoint on-premises, or one of the new Office 365 third-party offerings best suits your needs, we can help.