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What's new in SharePoint 2016?

Posted by: Jess Meats Posted date: 29/02/2016

​What does SharePoint 2016 have in store?

SharePoint is such a large product that any release of a new version generally involves a focus on a few key ideas or areas of development. SharePoint 2016 is no different, with the focus areas of this version being Hybrid Deployments and Compliance. There are also improvements to both the user and IT Pro experiences.

Hybrid Platform

Microsoft have been going big on the cloud over the past few years, and more and more people are embracing platforms like Office 365 and making the most out of Software as a Service offerings. Microsoft have a very strong story around SharePoint Online and this has been growing rapidly as a deployment option in companies that are looking at SharePoint. However, there are still people who want to use on-premise, usually due to regulations about data sovereignty – they have certain data which cannot be stored out of the country.

Hybrid is therefore an interesting concept to these companies, and a lot of the improvements to SharePoint 2016 around are making hybrid deployments simpler and more effective.
Starting with simpler: there are a number of deployment scenarios with wizards to make the process of deploying a hybrid architecture more straight-forward.

In hybrid deployments, there will be a single user profile in Office 365, which will allow users to favourite and share content regardless of whether that content is on-premise or in the cloud. Similarly, a single search portal will display results from both locations in a seamless way, giving users the impression of a single platform instead of two distinct deployments.

Compliance and Reporting

One of the big areas of improvement in compliance is around Data Loss Prevention. If you’re familiar with Exchange Online, you may have come across this term in the context of blocking the sending of emails containing private or confidential data. In SharePoint terms, Data Loss Prevention allows you to protect data by defining policies. These policies define certain types of critical information (e.g. a 16 digit number looks like a credit card number) and what should happen if users attempt to do certain actions. For example, if a user tries to share a document containing credit card numbers with someone outside the organisation, they might get a prompt message to confirm that they really mean to do this. Other policies might block external sharing of certain data altogether. You will also be able to define policies based on SharePoint content types or document metadata.

Overlapping with the hybrid improvements, there is the concept of hybrid eDiscovery. SharePoint has eDiscovery capabilities allowing you to identify and report on files matching properties for the sake of compliance and legal holds. SharePoint 2016 will support hybrid eDiscovery, identifying and containing files in both on-premise and cloud deployments of SharePoint simultaneously.

Another area of improvement is around analytics reporting. In the past, SharePoint has been criticised for the limitations of its usage analytics, so SharePoint 2016 develops on these areas. SharePoint 2016 will allow for reporting on daily and weekly active users, users by browser and operating system, and other such information allow administrators to analyses patterns and problems with the usage of SharePoint.

Other Improvements

There are improvements across a range of other areas, less easily contained under a nice heading.
As with all releases of SharePoint, there are increases in some of the boundaries and limits. In SharePoint 2016, file uploads up to 10GB will be supported, content databases can be TBs in size, list thresholds will increase, and so on.
There are improvements which will mean a lot to administrators, such as zero-downtime patching and faster creation of sites. This will improve the overall experiences of those running the SharePoint farm, although they might not be noticed so much by the end users.

The improvements more likely to be noticed by the end users are around the ability to use Delve to discover content in an on-premise SharePoint farm, giving personalised insight into the documents available and surfacing content based on its likelihood to be of interest.

Then there is my personal favourite feature: URLs that are based on the resource ID, not the name and location of the file. In the past, when a user shared a file, there would be URL of that file. However, changing the name of the file or moving it between locations in SharePoint would alter that URL, meaning that any previously shared links would no longer work. The new system means that files can be moved around SharePoint without those links breaking, so people can continue to collaborate without confusion.

SharePoint 2016’s changes will not be as dramatic a jump as between some of the previous incarnations of SharePoint, but in a world that’s moving towards the cloud but retaining a legacy of on-premise, the appeal of hybrid is a powerful one. SharePoint 2016 provides a solution that delivers the best of both worlds.


To find out more about SharePoint 2016, come along to our next SharePoint event in April, of if you would like to speak with Jess or one of our SharePoint consultants, get in touch.