Microsoft’s push to get its SharePoint customers onto Office 365 (which includes SharePoint) has forced organizations to take a hard look at the cloud and tackle some difficult questions.

Should we move to the cloud? If so, when? What if we want to keep our SharePoint Server, but host it somewhere else? Is that the same as Office 365? What if I don’t want to move to the cloud? Is there a future for me?

In his keynote address at SPTechCon last week, SharePoint MVP Andrew Connell painted a clear picture of the landscape. Above all, he pointed out, it’s important to first figure out what you want to do, and then decide which platform is best. He said that’s more critical to the future of your business than making a decision to “go to the cloud” and then matching your business to the decision. Most of all, he emphasized, “Do it at your own pace.”

Connell also offered situations in which companies might decide to stay on premise with their SharePoint installation, move it to a hosted environment, or move to Office 365.

On-premise SharePoint is best suited for those organizations that cannot put their data in the cloud, those that run public-facing websites, that require full-trust solutions, and that need to have full control over the upgrade path, he said. It’s also best for those that have small farms for remote users or projects, and that need control of their disaster-recovery procedures and execution.

A hybrid on-premise/cloud solution, Connell said, would be best for organizations that have some of the above requirements, but that also want to integrate with Yammer for social capabilities, or put documents in OneDrive for use by employees and outside partners, or that use Business Connectivity Services.

Finally, Office 365 is best suited for organizations that don’t want to maintain their own data centers. That would put issues of security, storage and management onto Microsoft, which provides in Office 365 multi-factor authentication and encrypted storage; 1TB site collections and 50GB mailboxes; and automated upgrades. So, for organizations that want to take advantage of the more rapid delivery of new features into Office 365 as opposed to waiting for the next rollout of SharePoint Server, Office 365 is the best option.

Connell cautioned SPTechCon attendees to not stick their heads in the sand. “Microsoft is taking SharePoint to the cloud… it’s inevitable. But you don’t need to rush.” He told them to explore what a move to the cloud would require, and to think about how things that are currently being done on premise could be done in Office 365.

For the 70% of respondents to an Fpweb survey who said Office 365 and the cloud are simply not options, Microsoft did commit to another SharePoint Server on premise release sometime in 2015.

It is hoped that won’t be the last.

I have a suggestion for Microsoft: Decouple SharePoint Server and Office 365. Continue with SharePoint Server updates—yearly, every 18 months, whatever—for those who say the cloud is not an option, and call the SharePoint capability within Office 365 something else. Or don’t call it anything at all other than Office 365. Let “SharePoint” be the underlying engine of all the capabilities, but don’t call it SharePoint. Then, you’ll have two businesses instead of one, and many more happy customers instead of the angry and confused group of users you have now.