Office 365 Portals with External Content
Combine the efficiency, cost, and agility benefits of Office 365 with external content
There are several common scenarios that can be supported well in a configuration with portals hosted in SharePoint Online:
Externally-facing portals and extranets: External sharing and collaboration, for example with partners, customers, and suppliers, taking advantage of Azure AD for external accounts and authentication.
Cloud-only applications with on-prem content: New capabilities that are cloud-only, such as OneDrive, Delve, or Yammer, are compelling to the business but must be integrated with content that is in on-premises or line-of-business systems.
This configuration is called an “inbound” hybrid topology by Microsoft. This term seems designed to confuse the innocent, but it means that the content is ‘flowing in’ from on-premises systems to a portal in the cloud.
Indexing External Content into SharePoint Online
Microsoft provides several building blocks for SharePoint hybrid, including identity management, server-to-server trust, and remote result sources. Microsoft’s new Cloud Search Service Application (Cloud SSA) is the way to bring content into a search index running in Office 365. BA Insight’s Connectors for Hybrid SharePoint work in conjunction with the Cloud SSA to create a unified search in Office 365 including external content.
Even using Cloud SSA, OOTB capabilities do not adequately address portals surfacing content from multiple sources. Users’ experiences can suffer without consistent metadata, a unified search result, and an ability to explore and preview results no matter where the content is located. That’s where BA Insight comes in.
BA Insight’s Software Portfolio for Office 365
BA Insight makes a seamless experience possible through a rich index, including consistent metadata and content from enterprise and line-of-business systems, accessed with full security. All content is automatically tagged with metadata and processed for easy findability. Portals driven from this index can provide a remarkable user experience by leveraging pre-built applications such as Smart Previews, Connectors, and AutoClassification.
Whenever possible, this is a single centralized index, either in SharePoint Server or in SharePoint Online. For situations where a single index just isn’t possible, our Federator provides a ‘virtual single index’. Content in SharePoint Online is automatically tagged in place using BA Insight’s upcoming AutoClassifier for SharePoint Online, and then crawled within SharePoint Online. Content from many other systems (located on-premises and/or in their own cloud platforms) is crawled and processed using the same tags, taxonomies, and rules. The resulting content will then be parsed and the text from it sent to SharePoint Online for indexing (using the upcoming Microsoft Cloud Connector). A single cloud-based index will provides unified results with consistent metadata.
Secure Connectivity to Enterprise Systems
BA Insight’s Connectivity software provides secure, high-performance crawling and indexing for a wide variety of content sources. Portals hosted in SharePoint Online can include important content from many different on-prem and cloud-based systems.
SharePoint Online does not currently support indexing of content from on-premises systems (or anywhere else outside of SharePoint Online). BA Insight is focused on changing this, and we are working together with Microsoft to this end. Some capabilities are already available, some are in development.
Consistent Metadata and Information Architecture
BA Insight’s Classification software automatically creates metadata and assigns content types. With the upcoming release of our AutoClassifier for O365, the same process can be applied to content in SharePoint Online, and term sets can be shared across hybrid SharePoint environments. Microsoft strongly recommends having a structured information architecture prior to distributing content between two environments, if search is used heavily. Few organizations have this in place; automatic metadata creation in both environments is the only pragmatic way to accomplish it, and BA Insight makes this possible.
Remarkable User Experiences in a Hybrid SharePoint environment
BA Insight’s software portfolio includes Smart Previews of content from outside of SharePoint, Content Assembly to automate time-consuming find-cut-and-paste work, and Visual Refiners that help you assemble remarkable user experiences quickly. The user experience is consistent and strong, independent of where the content lies.
These capabilities also eliminate awkward issues with feature parity across Online and On-Premise – for example, the Microsoft’s Cloud SSA does not provide content enrichment, entity extraction, or previews of on-premises content, and BA Insight addresses this.
Take Advantage of Azure
Any of the capabilities and scenarios described here can also be supported with SharePoint Server running in hosted environments, or in Microsoft Azure. This lets you focus on applications, instead of datacenters and infrastructure, without limits on customization. One particular scenario for this is SharePoint for Internet Sites. Product catalogs, public-facing web sites, and sophisticated internet portals would all benefit from BA Insight’s technology in this configuration.