Taking search into consideration when choosing between an On-premise farm and Office 365

Let me explain why SEARCH could be the criteria which may counterbalance your choice between hosting your content on an On-Premise SharePoint farm and Office 365/SharePoint Online.

With the arrival of the cloud, many organisations study carefully the pros and cons of hosting SharePoint content.


3 options come into light:

  • On premise SharePoint farm
  • Office 365/SharePoint Online
  • Hybrid where some content and service applications are hosted either in the cloud or within the organisation’s internal network.


Studies take a lot of different criteria into consideration when choosing between those, this could be:

  • Boundaries and Limits of each solution
  • Standard features
  • Ease of customisations
  • Integration with existing backend system
  • Ease of maintenance and Exploitation
  • Security and legal
  • And ultimately cost!

The importance of search into modern SharePoint 2013 portal

Nowadays Intranet, Extranet and Internet portal are developed around functionalities based on the search service. Web parts such as Content Search Web Part (CSWP) and Search Results Web Part (SRWP) are much more powerful than the old Content Query Web Part (CQWP) available in SharePoint 2010.

Here is an article explaining the detailed difference between the CSWP and the CQWP.

Note that as s Content Search Web Part (CSWP) is only available in the Entreprise Edition of SharePoint Server 2013 while Search Results Web Part (SRWP) is available in the Standard Edition.

Articles, announcements and news on the portal homepage as well as other document libraries rely heavily on those webparts to display information in a nice fancy way.

The inconvenience of the search service in Office 365 / SharePoint Online

In your On-premise SharePoint farm, you can configure the indexation frequency (incremental crawl, continuous crawl) in order to make those announcements coming up as quickly as possible as soon as your internal communication contributor publishes its news article.

In Office 365/SharePoint Online, you don’t have this luxury. You are dependent on the platform shared by everyone.

By experience, news articles of an intranet hosted in the cloud usually take a few hours before it is crawled and finally available on the home page. Sometimes, it has been reported that this could go up to 1 day.

How to manage the expectations of your internal communication team?

By experience, after implementing an intranet with a home page using the search web parts as explained above, the first feedback that we have is from the internal communication users.

They are surprised to see that after publishing an article, this article is not displayed straight away on the home page. After some explaining and a bit of convincing, usually the end users accept this and there is no problem.

Some end-users want to be able to publish and display an article as exactly a specific time because it is related to financial announcements or other specific needs. In this case, I have been asked a few times to “tweack” the search settings of the On-premise SharePoint farm so that the frequency of the indexation allows to display articles within a few minutes.

So, what’s the deal?

To put it simply, if you internal communication team are OK to wait a few hours to get a published article displayed on their Intranet’s home page, then Office 365’s search is good enough.

If your end-users require specific needs to publish articles at exact time, you can either :

  • Use another mecanism other than search web parts. This is to allow immediate publishing.
  • Opt for an On-premise hosted SharePoint farm where the search indexing frequency can be better controlled: hybrid or full On-premise scenarios.

Published by

Jean-François Pironneau

Travaillant depuis 2003 sur les versions successives de SharePoint, je me suis spécialisé au fur et à mesure des années dans la partie infrastructure/technique, puis récemment dans la gouvernance de Microsoft 365.

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