Server Edition vs. Sharepoint Online

Occasional Contributor

Hi, I'm new to Sharepoint and I would like to know: if a company is using the SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, can they also be using the 'Online' version? Or are these 2 separate things? Can a company start with the Server Edition and then go to 'Online' to work remote? Thank you. 

6 Replies
best response confirmed by tborody (Occasional Contributor)

@tborody, this is a great question, thanks for asking it. SharePoint Server Subscription Edition is the next major version of our "SharePoint Server" on-premises product. This is a product that customers would deploy and maintain in their own on-premises datacenters.


On the other hand, SharePoint Online (also known as "SharePoint in Microsoft 365") is our cloud-hosted SharePoint service. Customers don't need to deploy or maintain SharePoint Online because Microsoft handles this for you in our cloud service. Customers can just focus on using SharePoint to enhance their collaboration.


For customers who are brand new to SharePoint, our recommendation would be to go directly to SharePoint Online. Not only does it free you from the deployment and maintenance overhead I described above, it also gives you immediate access to a variety of features that are only available in our cloud-hosted service. And new features are being introduced to SharePoint Online all the time.


But for existing SharePoint Server customers that aren't ready to fully migrate to SharePoint Online, SharePoint Server Subscription Edition will also be a good option. For example, they may have legal or regulatory requirements to stay on-premises, Internet connectivity issues that make it difficult to rely on a cloud-hosted service, or a large investment in custom solutions that were designed for SharePoint Server and aren't compatible with our cloud-hosted SharePoint Online service. New SharePoint customers may have some of these challenges as well, and if so, exploring SharePoint Server may be an appropriate option for them.


Even if a customer isn't ready to fully migrate to SharePoint Online, we do offer hybrid experiences that allow customers to connect their on-premises and cloud-hosted SharePoint environments and provide a more integrated experience between them.  For example, cloud hybrid search provides a unified search experience across all of your content regardless of whether it's hosted in the cloud or in your on-premises environment.  This is a great option to put most of your content in SharePoint Online and take advantage of all of its capabilities, while keeping content that must remain on-premises in your SharePoint Server farm.


And when you are ready to fully migrate to the cloud-hosted version of SharePoint, we offer several easy to use tools to assist such as the SharePoint Migration Tool.


I hope that helps!  Please let us know if you have any more questions.

(My early interpretation - will be nice to get the official Microsoft answer)
Yes. You can use both the SharePoint Server SE and SharePoint Online. They are 2 separate things (though based on common concepts and functionality)
A company can definitely start with the "on-prem" SE version and then switch to SharePoint Online.
Using both together is a hybrid configuration. We've had the capability to use online and on-prem in the past, so it's logical that the new SE version will accommodate that as well. I haven't seen details yet on how that'll work, but am confident it will.
We haven't seen info yet on migration paths between SE and Online. Microsoft may or may not offer services or functionality for that, though there will likely be 3rd party offerings to help. Some existing products may work - but we'll have to see.

In general, if you have the ability to start with SharePoint Online, that is the recommended path. It will always have the latest and greatest features and functionality and being in the cloud has the best capability for integration with other products in the Microsoft "stack" like the Power Platform (which is online-only, though it can have some connectivity to on-prem environments).
Ahhh thank you! This really clarified a few things... namely what the heck 'on-prem' means. I hadn't connected the dots yet. Thank you!
Thank you for this info!! This is very helpful. Now I understand that my (soon-to-be) company is still using the 'on-premises' server version. They're talking about migrating to the cloud soon, so I guess I can use the hybrid features until we migrate all content over to the cloud. I know searchability is one of their main concerns.

One question-I have no tech background, so this may be dumb... is it possible to be using the Server Edition remotely/away from the office? I will be working remote... Is this possible with a VPN/remote desktop situation?

Thank you!
Yes, you should be able to use SharePoint SE via a VPN/remote desktop scenario. Once you've "tunneled in" (via VPN, etc.) to your corporate environment the on-premises server should be available to you.
Great. Much appreciated.