SharePoint Online with Office 365 vs. SharePoint Server

By - December 4, 2014

I’m sure you all have been hearing a lot about Office 365 and SharePoint Online over the past several months but how do you know if it’s right for you and when should you migrate over? I would like to discuss some of the pros and cons of SharePoint Online as well as some of the limitations I have encountered to give you a little more information to make an educated decision as far as migrating your SharePoint.


  • No infrastructure to maintain
  • Don’t need to worry about backing the environment up
  • Low to no downtime
  • Low initial cost (minimal monthly licensing fee)
  • Direct integration with other Office 365 functionality (web apps)
  • Everything “just works”


  • Integration to other systems can be difficult (or occasionally not possible)
  • Restrictions on customization (apps, search, design, etc.
  • Automatically updated by Microsoft (no testing done on sites, can break things)
  • Administration – No Access to backend or CSOM
  • Migration options limited
  • Features and functionality are occasionally disabled by default for everyone


  • Threshold of 5,000 items per list/library
  • SharePoint 2013 workflows do not migrate
  • Difficult to use 3rd party solutions
  • No email enabled lists or libraries
  • Data connections to InfoPath limited
  • No Client Side Object Model
  • Limited AAM (little ability to change the URL that people use to browse the site)

With all that being said, when is SharePoint Online a good fit for your organization? If none of the cons or limitations are a deal breaker for you here are some good indications that SharePoint Online might work for you.

  • You want to explore SharePoint without spending a lot of money up front
  • You’re only looking for “out of the box” functionality to share documents and collaborate on information
  • You’re want a quick deployment without a lot of time and resources invested
  • You aren’t planning on doing integration to other systems or using a lot of custom code
  • You have limited regulatory restrictions and compliance concerns
  • You don’t have (or want) a lot of resources to maintain servers

I hope that that clears up some of the high-level areas of when to pursue SharePoint Online and when to use SharePoint Server (on-premises).

To find out more about this or other ways that RSM can assist you with your SharePoint needs, please feel free to reach out to me directly at

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