Remote SharePoint Access just got better. But not thanks to Microsoft.

June 23rd, 2016 by Robert Quiros

Microsoft recently announced the availability of SharePoint 2016. The previews and subsequent delay in the release of SP’16 built a crescendo of hope for major changes, yet when it was released, people were still surprised that, well, not much has changed. The new mobile app is something many SharePoint customers have been waiting for, just as they have waited for links to Office365. Yet, Microsoft has done nothing to ease customer pain concerning remote access and connectivity to SharePoint Server.

When Microsoft pulled support for the Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG) in December 2013, the problem of delivering SharePoint access to mobile employees, customers, and business partners went from relatively straightforward to extremely complex. Whereas before IT could secure access with a single product (UAG), now a number of disparate products, including Application Delivery Controllers, Proxies, Unified Threat Management, Web Application Firewalls, and SSL VPNs, must be cobbled together to get an almost equivalent solution.

If you’re wondering why Microsoft would pull a product as popular as UAG, then leave the gap left still unfilled with the release of the new version of SharePoint, the answer seems obvious: Office365. Microsoft wants to make the move to SharePoint Online easier. Every user of Office365 connects via the Internet, and the problem of securing access to SharePoint Online is handled by the numerous controls Microsoft has built into Office365. From the perspective of a SaaS application, remote access is the default, and the defenses against botnets, DDoS, SQL injections, password theft, and numerous other threats packaged with the solution are of immense value.

That’s great news for enterprises ready to make the switch from running SharePoint on-premises to accessing it in the cloud. Yet for many enterprises, SharePoint Server has tendrils that run deep and wide into both infrastructure and business processes, thus stymying what may, at first, look like a straightforward move. Even without these tendrils, migrations to SharePoint online fall victim to Gotcha Number Nine: feature parity. “In the long term, SharePoint on-prem and SharePoint Online are on divergent paths,” said Christian Buckley in Redmond Magazine, “with the cloud moving toward plug-and-play and on-prem supporting customized Swiss army knife scenarios.”

Customers are left with a dilemma: Want simple global remote access? SharePoint Online. Want flexibility and no complex migration? Stick with SharePoint Server. Want both? No such luck.

Or at least until now. At Akamai, we’re seeing remote access to SharePoint as a driving factor in upwards of 80 percent of the deals we do, partly because of the impending need to find a replacement solution to UAG. Another reason is an increasing need to provide a global, secure data path that gives users the same experience with SharePoint Server, OneDrive and Office apps outside the office and in, without the problems of a VPN. That’s great news for all of you that are tired of waiting for a solution.