SharePoint 2016 is taking a “cloud-first” inspired approach. This means that it'll be able to both consume information from, and provide data to, Office 365 cloud products, such as Office Graph, Delve, and so on. Let’s consider, though, that IT professionals won’t be your only pool of users – in between your experienced IT staff and your ‘rank and file’ daily users are a special group of users that have their own set of demands: business users.These business users are an interesting bunch. They typically require less support than people that aren’t comfortable with IT, but (and this is a rather big BUT) you’ll find they may start asking more intricate and challenging questions, and expecting the answers. These users will lean more on technology – mail merges, intricate spreadsheets, client side relational access databases, and so on – for a range of complex tasks.
When these tools fail to work, or don’t provide abilities to manipulate data in a way that’s required, business users will understandably get frustrated. These limitations and frustrations will be experienced regardless of the industry, company, or sector a business user is in.
SharePoint, as part of the wider Microsoft toolset, has also been relied upon by many business users to meet their tasks. Each version of the tool has provided useful new features, ranging from the introduction of content types and self-service site creation in SharePoint 2007, to Office Web Applications and other Application Services in SharePoint 2010. Each of these (and more) have provided extra utility abilities for power users to work the way they want.
And now, with SharePoint 2016, we think it’s prudent to keep one step ahead of your known trouble-making business users (it’s a love/hate relationship, right?), and to think of the new tools and aspects that they may want to know about.
SharePoint 2016 Improvements for The Business Crowd
Boundaries and Limits
SharePoint list limits are a well-known source of frustration. Ever had anyone complain about that 5k limit in a view? Fortunately, this is now a thing of the past. You’ll also see more index items in your searches, as well as a higher list capacity.
Fast Site Creation
Building on what we mentioned earlier, regarding self-service sites, many users find this a complicated process to get a site exactly as they’d like. A new feature allows users to clone an existing site, eliminating the need to set up configuration and altogether speeding up the process.
This is a big one! A much sought-after addition, users can now surface all search results in one search stream, rather than individual SharePoint on-premises and Office 365 searches. This should prove a big boost for productivity, especially for companies making the move to the Cloud, and we expect this change to be a very well-received new feature. Microsoft have dubbed this as “hybrid search”.
Sites You Follow In One Place
The evolution of OneDrive for Business continues. Currently, there are various places to follow content through Delve, Promoted sites, and the rest. The new OneDrive Site Folders aims to be ‘location agnostic’, and will show you items regardless of where they are stored.
The new user interface (UI) for SharePoint 2016 sees the introduction of the Office 365 app-launcher, and the Office 365 top bar. This aims to harmonize the SharePoint on-premises look and feel with the current Office 365 appearance for familiarity and ease-of-use.
Increased File Size For Uploads
No longer are your users going to be limited to 2GB file uploads – the single file limit is now 10GB. The underlying SQL database limits have also been raised, offering a more robust and resilient alternative to file shares.
Bill Baer, SharePoint Senior Product Manager, has been quoted (frequently!) as stating that SharePoint 2016 has been built “from the cloud-up.” This means ’16 will take advantage of design and infrastructure decisions aimed to maximize uptime and reliability. Additionally, this infrastructure is designed to work with cloud services, which themselves need to be extremely reliable to be considered a viable business solution.
The Mobile Experience
2016 aims a mobile-first view on devices that presents tiles and menus, rather than plain text. It’s also touch responsive.
Another subtle but powerful change is the ability to give an item its own, ever-present link. SharePoint 2016 offers a feature called Durable Links – this intends to give a document a permanent link regardless of it being moved, renamed, edited, or modified in some way.
Improved Compliance Center
We’ll close out with a big one, and that’s a much-improved discovery and compliance option. Better cloud integration and connectivity can make some users worry about the potential of data loss. SharePoint 2016 now includes a robust and powerful Compliance Center that provides eDiscovery templates and queries. Microsoft’s commitment to various standards (ISO27001 and EU Safe Harbour in particular) reassures us that these tools will be well-tested and thought through.
Time for Change…
What we think you’ll see with SharePoint 2016 is that (power) users ultimately don’t care about the technology behind SharePoint – they just want it to work. Keeping ahead of the technology curve and being able to guide your users to new, interesting, and powerful ways to do their jobs is part and parcel of this change.
Azure Business Benefits
Ability to Scale on Demand
It can be hard to predict how your business will grow, or if and when you will require extra resources for short term 'bursts' of traffic or transaction volume. Increased growth or other demands often demands running applications with high load, or additional applications that most traditional hosting models cannot handle.
So it's a big advantage that Azure was built to scale alongside your business. One way Azure does this is by loading your applications as a cluster that allocates a web application to a specific set of processes. The result is that all of your applications are not forced to run off a single server and you will thus never run out of server capacity. As a bonus, Azure can even be managed to auto scale based on load or schedule.
In the quickly evolving technology sector you need a hosting solution that can quickly evolve as your needs change. Azure is simple to adapt and offers a host of application building blocks and services that will allow you to customize the cloud as needed.
With Microsoft’s huge customer base, they have been able to pass volume discounts on to their customers. And it's a good bet that Azure costs will go down as the competition heats up with AWS and Google. Additionally, Azure works off a pay-as-you-go model, which reduces the upfront costs to small businesses and those that sign a contract can receive an additional enterprise discount. If you are worried about price increases, you can be assured they have pledged to maintain their AWS-comparable pricing for the general public.
Azure infrastructure is now in 19 regions across the globe, with multiple data center regions in the US, Europe, China, Asia and the Pacific. They provide support plans in English and Japanese and offer support plans in many more languages.
Unlike AWS’s cloud only approach, Windows Azure provides you with the ability to create hybrid environments, allowing you to leverage your on-premise resources and the benefits of the cloud without costly workarounds. With Azure you can also build hybrid applications.
Azure Data Benefits
Big Data insights
Microsoft Azure HDinsight service brings an Apache Hadoop solution to the cloud. While that might sound like complicated at first, the service is powerful, allowing you to handle and analyze any amount of data at a time. Additionally it integrates with Excel allowing you to visualize your data in new ways to help you uncover business insights to help you succeed. There are more and more options for BI being added regularly as the demand increases.
Simple and Reliable Data Storage
Azure allows you to store any type of data, whether it is file data, structured data sets or queries in a reliable and fast environment and share it across VMs using the industry standard SMB 2.1 protocol. It’s easy to manage using an import/export feature to move data as desired.
Keeping your Data Secure
Azure was built based on the Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle, a cutting edge approach for developing the most secure code based on proven technology and tested around the globe.
Backups you can rely on
Azure backs up 6 copies of your data across two separate Azure data centers, which means they can guarantee 99.9% availability of backups.
Integrative Data Solution
Azure seamlessly integrates data across the full line of Microsoft SaaS and PaaS offerings. This includes the Azure package such as Visual Studio, Active Directory, System Center and PowerShell, as well as Microsoft software such as Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics solutions, Dynamics ERP (including NAV on Azure) and more. This allows you to do more with your ERP, CRM and other business data in a scalable environment that is faster and more reliable.
Not a Microsoft user? Azure’s BizTalk service provides application integration solutions for SAP, Oracle EBS and a constantly growing list of technology providers.
Azure Management Benefits
Azure Automation allows you to automate tasks in your Azure environment by creating workflows called “runbooks”, you can eliminate the time spent on monitoring and maintaining the resources in our cloud environment, lowering overhead costs and allowing you to focus on value added business work.
If you create and run a variety of APIs, Azure API management allows you to publish APIs to your market (employees, customers) securely and at scale.
"Set it and forget it" scheduling
Microsoft Azure allows you to create jobs on simple or complex recurring schedules. If you have recurring actions such as cleaning up logs, application maintenance or pulling data from an API or feed, Azure’s scheduler can automate those tasks for you at a scheduled time. Additionally, Azure gives you the ability to create actions that call HTTP or HTTPS endpoints or post messages to a storage queue for long running or offline jobs.
Ability to Run Virtual Machines
With Azure you can deploy premium virtual machines in minutes including Linux and Windows servers. Attach premium storage to your virtual machine and begin running 32 TB and achieve 50,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second).
Developer Collaboration and Options
Azure comes with Visual Studio Online and Application Insights, which provides enhanced collaboration between your dev teams in an integrative environment. Additionally, Azure provides the option to create new applications in ASP, ASP.net, PHP, Python, or Node.js, so you are not limited to Visual Studio if you so choose.
Time for Change...
Hope you’ve got a nice overview now on some of the best features the Microsoft Azure ecosystem has to offer. As mentioned, Azure continues to grow rapidly, adding support for various features, applications and different technology platforms, seemingly on a weekly basis. So if you're going to "Go Cloud", Azure should definitely be part of the picture!