SharePoint On Premises vs. SharePoint Online (Office 365)

Listing of notable limitations of SharePoint Online for Enterprise

Sites Types

  • Single public facing site
  • Multiple internal/private sites (top level is a Team Site).
    *There are no web applications.  All sites must exist under a single web application using separate site collections

Data Storage Limitations

  • Tenant storage: 10 GB + 500 MB per subscribed user + additional storage purchased.  For example, if you have 10,000 users, the base storage allocation is approximately 5 Terabytes (10 GB + 500 MB * 10,000 users).
  • Site collection: Hard limit of 100GB
  • Overall subscription limit: 25TB

External Users

Per MS: “An external user is a person who has been granted access to your SharePoint Online site, but who is not a licensed user within your organization. External users are users who are not employees, contractors, or onsite agents for either you or your affiliates.”

  • Maximum number of external users: 10,000
  • External users cannot create their own My Sites or OneDrive Pro
  • Cannot change their profile, edit picture or see tasks
  • Cannot be an administrator for a site collection
  • Cannot access search center or execute searches against “everything”

Missing Features/Services in SharePoint Online (365)

Missing: Central Administration

Does not exist in SharePoint Online (SPO), rather there is an “SharePoint Admin Center”


Missing: Web Application Management / Managed Paths

  • Starts at the Site Collection level
  • All sites, other than the public and top level team site, must exist under the “” area


Missing: Full Trust Solutions

You can only create Sandbox and App model solutions.  3rd party solutions would need to be in this format.

Missing: Search Control and Index

  • Unable to set crawl schedules
  • Unable to initiate crawl (default is ~5 minutes)
  • Unable to create custom solutions against Search Index
  • Unable to add entity extraction (custom refiners)
  • Unable to enhance relevancy (custom ranking models)
  • No federated search

Missing: Cross site publishing

Per MS: “Cross-site publishing is a new publishing method that lets you create and maintain content in one or more authoring site collections and publish this content in one or more publishing site collections by using Search Web Parts. Cross-site publishing complements the already existing publishing method, author-in-place, where you use a single site collection to author content and make it available to readers of your site.”

Missing: Content by search

(Content by search allows content to be displayed in a web part via search.  One of the top features of SP13.)

Unavailable SharePoint Services

  • Access Services 2010
  • PerformancePoint Service
  • PowerPoint Automation Service
  • State Service
  • User and Health Data Collection Service*
    *(Office 365 provides separate health info in admin center)
  • Word Automation Service
  • Work Management Service
  • Microsoft Foundation Subscription Settings Service

Branding Limitations

Adding a custom design to the internal site “Team Site” is a bit counter intuitive.  The option to select a MasterPage is not available under “Site Settings.”  You must upload the MasterPage to the MasterPage gallery, along with a “Preview” file.  Then, you must create a “Composed” look.  From there it will be available under the “Change the Look” feature.  I hope to detail this out more in a future post.

Other Notable Limitations

  • Migration must be done remotely
  • Disks cannot be shipped
  • Cannot control upgrade schedule
  • BCS security concerns about opening local data up to the cloud

A detailed feature comparison from Microsoft:

Another consideration: hybrid environment

Another consideration: Azure hosted

Posted in SharePoint 2013.


  1. Just ran into another important limitation with a client of mine. Apparently, Microsoft can’t take a backup of an existing site on SharePoint Online and restore it to another site collection (to serve as a dev/test environment). This is a standard practice in on-prem SharePoint, and creates a huge problem for me and my client now (we built the site online, and now can’t test changes to customized pages in another site, but rather have to do them live in production).

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