Troubleshooting in a modern Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) like SharePoint Online is not my interest. Last week I had a customer who asked to look into an out-of-the-box Search problem in SharePoint Online. When searching on the search box, SharePoint Online throws out the message below:
Asked by a colleague of mine yesterday whether there was any security checklist for SharePoint Online to improve security because recently he ran into a huge incident in IaaS cloud in which several productions virtual machines got deleted. This incident triggered an audit plan through the entirely his organization, not only IaaS cloud but also SaaS cloud.
The deprecation of Sandbox solution is actually not new to those who continuously keep their eyes on Microsoft, which was announced in 2014. And 2 years later in 2016, Microsoft announced that its steps to completing the removal of code-based sandbox solution in SharePoint Online. Customers who have been using code-based sandbox solution have only 30 days before existing code gets stopped. This message does contribute to the list of pain points that exists.
SharePoint is proven a platform for so many real-world no-code solutions, it still requires customization to fulfill business requirement, and to maximize investment for the platform, especially for middle and large organization. With SharePoint On-premises, the customization is flexible as you have several options in the development approach. You own your development environment to test everything you need. You control what to be patched when Microsoft releases a new update. You can rollback with your backup and recovery plan. Everything sounds well as you go. But with SharePoint Online, things are not that easy like the on-premises one. The development approach SharePoint Online supports is to go with client-side technologies. No server-side is supported. Sandbox mode with many limitations has been deprecated. You wouldn’t easily rollback your SharePoint Online site. This results to a nightmare to people who are responsible for roll-out of SharePoint Online in the whole organization.
I often ask myself about the future of Office 365 for government or organizations that don’t really trust in cloud computing. When data comes to cloud provider, it is undeniably accessible to cloud provider’s engineers as well as there is no warranty in data leakage. Although Microsoft has claimed a number of different international security compliances applied to its cloud infrastructure, and security features in Office 365 (e.g. Data Loss Prevention, Information Right Management), the pessimistic view of the data in the cloud still exists.
Today, the announcement of the new feature named Customer Lockbox in Office 365 gets my question off for a while. What Customer Lockbox does is provide customer the key that they can decide to give Microsoft cloud engineers to open the door or not. Normally when a tenant’s Office 365 box has problem, Microsoft cloud engineer team has full control to access to the box for investigation. The security becomes breached with this kind of work. The customer who owns the tenant has no choice in this case. To maximize data security and privacy, Microsoft has vastly put its effort into Customer Lockbox feature. The selling point made by Microsoft is as follows
Use of the Customer Lockbox feature ensures that Microsoft engineer does not get access to the customer’s content without customer’s explicit approval. When the customer gets the request for access, they can scrutinize the request and either approve or reject it. Until the request is approved, the Microsoft engineer will not be granted access
According to Microsoft, Customer Lockbox will be available for Exchange Online by the end of 2015, and for SharePoint Online by the first quarter of 2016.
Will Customer Lockbox fill up the trust?
Yes of course! At least Office 365 customers are able to control access to their data in a tenant-level perimeter. However, to me there has been still a missing point here that Microsoft might be under its development roadmap. Imagine if Microsoft engineer team is allowed to have access to your data, they will definitively see all. The data should have been classified and controlled at the highest level. For example, even I give a Microsoft engineer the key to access my room, he still can’t open the cabinet where my valuable stuffs are within. Similarly, with secret classified information, nobody has access until allowed. That’s the ultimate objective!
Government agencies are going to considerably think towards cloud, specifically Office 365. With Customer Lockbox, Office 365 will become much more competitive with other SaaS cloud providers.
To me, I’m going to have this question back: What is the actual future of SharePoint on-premises from now on?
For more information about Customer Lockbox: http://blogs.office.com/2015/04/21/announcing-customer-lockbox-for-office-365/
SharePoint has revolutionized the business world for one simple reason: it’s flexible, secure and completely customizable. In line with this principle, SharePoint as a server product can be accessed through a variety of different ways to suit the needs of any business; it offers all the intranet and extranet features needed to drive business operations. For many entities, it’s not cost efficient to host a server onsite in relation to the amount of information they have being processed on an intranet. Small to medium sized businesses seem to gravitate toward the cost efficient option of operating SharePoint through Microsoft’s online service. What are the perks?
Simple Automated Updates
Let’s take for example the popular social media website Facebook to understand the benefits of SharePoint Online through Office 365. The average Facebook user is only slightly aware of the constant software updates made to the Facebook platform. These changes and upgrades are made multiple times a year by Facebook itself. Following the same tradition, SharePoint hosted through Office 365 is constantly being upgraded at a pace that is user friendly. For companies who host their own server these upgrades can quickly become a very costly expense. With SharePoint Online, the need for an IT department is almost completely dissolved. Assistance from the Microsoft Partner who installed your system will be infrequent because of the constant free updates being provided with the Microsoft Server.
Custom Development With Lower Governance Costs
The crowning component of SharePoint has been and always will be its customizable capabilities; you can essentially tweak it to become your ideal intranet or extranet in anyway possible! Switching to SharePoint Online doesn’t mean you can’t continue to customize business solutions for yourself. In fact, the average implementation of a SharePoint solution with an onsite server takes approximately 3-4 weeks because of governance. Governance costs are essentially streamlined and the installation process will take a mere 5 working days with SharePoint Online. This is a huge plus for small to medium sized businesses because it cuts costs on custom development. The downside would be that customization would have certain parameters according to the Microsoft server, limiting businesses to customization that has been approved in the SharePoint Marketplace.
More ‘out-of-the-box’ Package Solutions
“99 percent of all independent enterprises in the country employ fewer than 500 people. These small enterprises account for 52 percent of all U.S. workers according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).” (About.com/Economics) What does this means for SharePoint Online? Because Office 365, featuring SharePoint Online, is geared toward small businesses, the marketplace for custom solutions built for the Online Platform are in much higher demand. This has acted as a catalyst providing thousands of custom solutions at a fraction of the cost incurred by users operating under an onsite server. What this boils down to for 99% of American Companies is a huge savings in development work with custom packages made specifically for their business.
SharePoint Online has taken a previously Big Business power tool and put it into the hands of businesses of all shapes and sizes. The proliferation of Office 365 and its subsequent benefits arguably constitute one of the business world’s most revolutionary moves. Small and medium sized businesses who do not take advantage of these powerful tools will fall prey to costlier and more time consuming “solutions” the marketplace has to offer.
Read more here.