Compare SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online

As organizations aim to digitize their operations, including content management, they need to know their options.

Microsoft’s enterprise content management system, SharePoint, serves as a central repository for digital assets that users can interact with through a web interface. Additionally, Microsoft sells SharePoint in different versions. As SharePoint 2016 approaches its end of life, content management professionals may want to consider SharePoint 2019 or SharePoint Online.

SharePoint 2019 is on-premises software, while SharePoint Online is a cloud service available in Microsoft 365 subscriptions. The two platforms differ in key areas including system requirements, security, and payment models. Content management professionals should know the difference between these versions of SharePoint before making a purchase.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is an enterprise content management and business process automation system launched by Microsoft in 2001. It can store different types of content, such as documents, lists, images, and videos. It allows users to collaborate, search and share content with each other. Additionally, it may use InfoPath or HTML forms to collect information from end users.

Originally, Microsoft only offered SharePoint as on-premises software. However, in 2013, Microsoft released the cloud version: SharePoint Online for Microsoft 365. As SharePoint evolved, Microsoft replaced some of its core components with dedicated online services. For example, Microsoft Power Apps replaced InfoPath, Power BI replaced PerformancePoint, and Microsoft Power Automate replaced SharePoint Workflows.

Although Microsoft has replaced some of the components of SharePoint, it still offers SharePoint in two flavors: SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online for Microsoft 365.

Differences between SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online

As an on-premises system, SharePoint 2019 differs from SharePoint Online in many ways. Organizations should understand these differences to determine which version of SharePoint best meets their needs.

System requirements and infrastructure

Implementing SharePoint 2019 requires organizations to install and manage a SharePoint server farm. It includes front-end web, SQL and application servers. Organizations may need more servers if they need additional redundancy in SQL and other SharePoint services.

SharePoint Online, on the other hand, does not require any servers or hardware, as Microsoft hosts the software in its data centers. The main system requirement for SharePoint Online is a web browser that supports HTML5.

Maintenance and updates

IT pros may find it too much work to host SharePoint 2019 on proprietary infrastructure, such as on-premises or in a colocation data center, as many of its components require maintenance and support. For example, application and database servers often need patches and upgrades. While IT can easily perform some fixes, they should ensure adequate system backups and access to Microsoft support if needed.

Additionally, new features reach SharePoint Online before they appear in the on-premises version, which can leave on-premises users behind in functionality.

SharePoint Online users don’t have to worry about maintenance, as the vendor handles patches and updates. However, Microsoft manages and schedules these updates as it sees fit, which can cause issues with customer customizations.

Data security

Securing the data hosted in SharePoint is a major concern for any organization, whether it hosts the platform internally or if Microsoft hosts it. SharePoint 2019 users can implement restrictions that isolate the system from the outside world. Organizations with on-premises systems have the flexibility to implement protections through software and hardware to meet security requirements.

SharePoint Online is a cloud service, so Microsoft requires user authentication to access data. Many of Microsoft’s cloud security features, such as Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and Azure Active Directory (AD) Premium, offer more advanced security features than its on-premises counterpart. ATP can detect login anomalies based on user location, and Azure AD Premium can generate reports that identify potential malicious actors.

Payment model

SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online have different payment models, which is often a deciding factor for buyers. For SharePoint 2019, organizations must purchase a server license in advance as Capex.

Microsoft sells SharePoint Online through a subscription model. Subscribers pay monthly fees based on license type and number of users, so users may pay higher upfront costs with SharePoint 2019 than with SharePoint Online.

Know the differences between SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online.

How to choose the right version of SharePoint

Before purchasing any version of SharePoint, organizations should consider key factors. These factors include customization and compliance needs, budget, and pre-existing infrastructure investments.

SharePoint 2019 or later can help organizations that meet the following criteria:

  • support client applications that cannot run in cloud environments;
  • follow data access controls and compliance requirements that require their databases to reside on private networks;
  • want to purchase their own server licenses;
  • plan to use existing investments in IT infrastructure; and
  • need access to high-level controls and customizations.

SharePoint Online can help organizations that meet the following criteria:

  • want to avoid managing on-premises environments;
  • follow requirements that require them to adopt a subscription model;
  • plan to bundle SharePoint software with other Microsoft 365 subscriptions;
  • want to integrate SharePoint with other services, such as Power Apps;
  • lack of SharePoint and SQL management skills;
  • need access to the latest features as soon as Microsoft releases them; and
  • use online file storage and synchronization features.

Organizations can choose one version, SharePoint 2019 or SharePoint Online, but they can also go the hybrid route. A hybrid approach provides the benefits of on-premises SharePoint as well as SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365 services.

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