In this week’s installment of our SharePoint Top 5, we are highlighting SharePoint 2013 Online (with a bonus 6th item!). One thing you will notice is that many of these features are similar to the top features in the on-premises versions of SharePoint 2013. This is by design – Microsoft is closing the gap in the feature set between online and on-premises SharePoint. These are some of the top features of SharePoint 2013 Online.
In Top 5 SharePoint 2013 Social Features, we covered many of the top social features in SharePoint 2013. That post did not differentiate between online and on-premises social features – and for good reason. Everything mentioned also applies to SharePoint Online – Activity Streams, Microblogging, Yammer, Community Sites, and updated MySites are all part of SharePoint 2013 Online.
COLLABORATING WITH EXTERNAL USERS
Project and Team sites continue to be one of the most common uses for SharePoint. One popular step is to extend these sites to partners, vendors, suppliers, and others outside your company. SharePoint 2013 Online makes collaborating with external users easier than ever. Sharing with external users does not require a license, and you can determine if the user must sign in with a validated account or if you want to provide access through anonymous guest links. Either way, it is easy to provide sharing functionality through SharePoint.
CLOUD APP MODEL
SharePoint 2013 Online leverages the new Cloud App Model, enabling developers to create SharePoint apps. These apps are self-contained modules of functionality that extend the capabilities of a SharePoint website – think apps for your cell phone and tablet. Users browse and download apps from the SharePoint Store or from your organization’s private App Catalog and install them on their SharePoint sites. Administrators control what can be installed, so you don’t sacrifice security or violate governance policies.
SkyDrive Pro is a document storage service that organizations establish and manage, enabling users to synchronize their work documents from SharePoint to the cloud, and to take documents offline when they’re on the go. One reason this is such a powerful feature is that people can now easily access and edit their documents across devices, and files are automatically synchronized with SkyDrive Pro when online. SkyDrive Pro is integrated into SharePoint Online and on-premises – both SharePoint and Office desktop applications (like Word and PowerPoint) can save documents directly to SkyDrive Pro. SkyDrive Pro provides Dropbox-like sharing functionality through SharePoint.
BUSINESS CONNECTIVITY SERVICES
Another important addition to SharePoint 2013 Online is the ability to use Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to bring external data into the SharePoint Online environment. This means you can access and display data from applications inside your company’s firewall (like ERP and CRM systems) on your SharePoint Online site. BCS has been available in on-premises SharePoint, but 2013 is the first release where some of these capabilities are available in the online version. Note that SharePoint Online does not provide all the BCS capabilities of on-premises, but expect Microsoft to keep increasing this online functionality.
ALL THE PERKS OF THE “CLOUD”
This article would not be complete without mentioning an obvious feature of SharePoint 2013 Online – Microsoft hosts and manages the infrastructure. Your SharePoint data is in highly secure, geographically distributed data centers with backup, disaster recovery and experts monitoring the environment. Additionally, Microsoft has promised more aggressive update schedules for SharePoint Online compared to the on-premises version, so you will have earlier access to new features and functionality.
Not all features are available in all SharePoint Online plans, so check out this article on SharePoint Online features across Office 365 Plans for details.
In a future post, we’ll cover what’s missing between SharePoint 2013 Online and SharePoint 2013 on-premises, to help you make an informed decision as to which deployment model is right for your organization.