Benefits of Provider-Hosted SharePoint Add-Ins

Just like you can download apps to your phone, you can also download apps to your SharePoint site. SharePoint add-ins (formerly known as SharePoint apps) are self-contained applications that extend the built-in capabilities of SharePoint. These stand-alone apps exist to solve a specific business need, such as task management or contract management. Add-ins can show up in your SharePoint site as an immersive full-page experience, as part of an existing page, or as part of the UI (menu items or ribbon buttons).

(Want some advice on how to make your SharePoint add-ins look amazing? Check out our 5 Tips for Beautiful SharePoint Web Apps infographic!)

Add-ins don’t run any custom code on SharePoint servers, which helps you avoid any negative impact on server security or performance. Instead, all of the custom code runs on either the cloud, client computers, or an on-premises server that is external to your SharePoint farm.

You can download add-ins from the Microsoft Online store, or you can have an add-in custom made for your organization. When developing a custom add-in, there are two different add-in models to choose from: SharePoint-hosted or provider-hosted.

SharePoint-Hosted Add-Ins

Everything is stored within SharePoint. SharePoint-hosted add-ins consist entirely of standard SharePoint components like lists and Web Parts, and are designed using SharePoint Designer. All processing occurs client-side, which means you can’t use server-side code.

Provider-Hosted Add-Ins

The web application is hosted outside of your SharePoint farm on an external server for improved security. The application interacts with your SharePoint site, and all of your data is stored in your own SharePoint. These add-ins can include common SharePoint components, but can also include custom, external components. Business logic can run via remote server-side code or client-side code.

Provider-hosted add-ins tend to be much more powerful than SharePoint-hosted add-ins. Both models of add-ins can leverage standard SharePoint functionality. But since provider-hosted add-ins are not limited to client-side processing, they can leverage resources unavailable to SharePoint-hosted add-ins. Provider-hosted add-ins allow for much more flexibility, and are a more scalable solution for companies. Their benefits include the following 4 points:

1. Timer Jobs

Timer jobs allow the system to perform scheduled tasks, and they are extremely useful for automating your business processes. However, timer jobs are not available in Office 365/SharePoint Online, since they require server-side code. To work around this limitation, you can use a provider-hosted add-in. A provider-hosted add-in can run remote timer jobs by creating and scheduling them outside of SharePoint.

2. Performance

SharePoint-hosted add-ins often suffer from slow speeds and performance issues. When add-ins are designed with SharePoint Designer, CSS and jQuery code tends not to be optimized for performance, and workflows tend to get stuck. With provider-hosted add-ins, the code exists outside of SharePoint and can be written using any programming language. This helps avoid performance issues that stem from SharePoint Designer.

3. Design

There are no design limitations on a provider-hosted add-in. The application’s pages can mimic the look and feel of standard SharePoint pages if you want, or they can break outside of the SharePoint mold to feature a unique design. This flexibility allows you to create beautiful SharePoint web apps that are customized to your exact needs.

4. User Experience

SharePoint Designer has many limitations for changing functionality, which can result in a less-than-ideal user experience. By using a provider-hosted add-in, you will be less restricted and will be better able to create an optimized user experience. For example, you can customize document upload or people picker controls for a more streamlined experience.

In essence, provider-hosted SharePoint add-ins allow for all the flexibility of custom business applications, while also leveraging SharePoint’s built-in functionality. You can harness SharePoint’s powerful features, like document management and versioning, without facing limitations imposed by SharePoint Designer.

Whether you choose to go with a SharePoint-hosted add-in, provider-hosted add-in, or a custom application built on another platform will ultimately depend on your unique needs. Our experienced SharePoint consultants can help advise you on the right path for your organization. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your needs and receive on-the-spot recommendations from an expert.

Need a provider-hosted SharePoint add-in?

Our team of SharePoint experts can help you develop a custom SharePoint add-in to fulfill your unique business needs.

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