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Microsoft Highlights Upcoming SharePoint Support Deadlines

The SharePoint "workflows" component stands to lose support this year in SharePoint 2010 Online, and will be deprecated in SharePoint 2013 Online.

Those were among the approaching SharePoint support deadlines that Microsoft highlighted recently for organizations. End of support means Microsoft will no longer issue new patches, including security patches, for the product. To keep these SharePoint systems optimal, organizations likely will need to replace or upgrade software before the deadlines hit.

The workflows component of SharePoint provides a selection of prebuilt applications in template form that can be used to automate various business processes, according to a Microsoft document description. Microsoft wants organizations to move to using Power Automate (formerly known as "Microsoft Flow") instead of SharePoint workflows.

The newly announced deadlines for SharePoint workspaces only apply to organizations using SharePoint Online services, hosted by Microsoft. Organizations using SharePoint Server products "on premises" (or in their own datacenters) can continue to use SharePoint workspaces until 2026 if they have upgraded servers.

Here's how Microsoft expressed that notion: "SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013-based workflows will continue to be supported for on-premises SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint 2019 Server platforms until 2026."

SharePoint 2010 Online Workflows Deadlines
Organizations using workflows with SharePoint 2010 Online have fewer than three months to react to Microsoft's end-of-support announcement. Here are Microsoft's deadlines on using SharePoint 2010 Online workflows:

  • Starting August 1st, 2020, SharePoint 2010 workflows will be turned off for newly created tenants.  
  • Starting November 1st, 2020, Microsoft will begin to remove the ability to run or create SharePoint 2010 workflows from existing tenants.

SharePoint 2013 Online Workflow Deprecation
The workflows component will continue to work with SharePoint 2013 Online, Microsoft's announcement indicated, but it is still deprecating this component. Deprecation means that Microsoft isn't planning to do further software development work on workflows, although security patches will continue to arrive.

Typically, a component might be expected to be supported until the end of the product's support, but all bets are off for Microsoft's online services. Microsoft's announcement actually didn't indicate how long workflows would be supported for SharePoint 2013 Online.

Microsoft is planning to turn off workflows for new SharePoint 2013 Online tenancies "starting in November." However, organizations can still use it. They'll need a certain PowerShell script to activate workflows, though, the announcement explained. 

Workflows Use with SharePoint Designer 2013
Microsoft's announcement also included a note about coming limitations of SharePoint Designer 2013 when it gets used with workflows on SharePoint 2010 Online.

Microsoft is planning to turn off workflows creation using SharePoint Designer 2013 for new SharePoint Online tenancies "starting August 2020." It's planning to turn off workflow creation using SharePoint Designer 2013 for existing SharePoint Online tenancies "starting November 2020."

However, SharePoint Designer 2013 will continue to work with some SharePoint Server products throughout the server's product lifecycle. Here's how Microsoft expressed that notion:

SharePoint Designer 2013 will work with SharePoint Server 2019 for the remainder of the client support lifecycle (2026). SharePoint Designer 2013 will not be supported beyond that timeframe.

Power Automate Alternative
Microsoft contends that organizations using SharePoint Online workflows can make the switch to Power Automate and have the same functionality. However, comments left by readers of Microsoft's announcement suggested that Power Automate isn't up to speed in certain areas, such as enabling "automated permissions management of SharePoint content."

Since SharePoint Online users already have Microsoft 365 licensing, they have the licensing to use Power Automate, which is part of the Power Platform suite of solutions, the announcement contended:

All Microsoft 365 licenses include usage of the Power Platform for customizing and extending Microsoft 365 applications. This includes both Power Automate and Power Apps.

While that notion may seem reassuring, Power Platform licensing is rather complex, so organizations may have to purchase "premium features" depending on how they use Power Automate. Office 365 licenses just give organizations the use rights to run custom Canvas-based apps with Power Automate, per a description in the document, "Microsoft Power Apps, Microsoft Power Automate and Microsoft Power Virtual Agents Licensing Guide" (PDF download).

Some Power Automate premium costs are associated with the use of certain prebuilt connectors to Azure or Dynamics 365 services, according to the document, which doesn't show the costs.

Online Services and Degraded Support
Microsoft's action to end support for workflows with SharePoint 2010 Online gives IT pros little time to react. They may still be recalling the product lifecycle support that was afforded with SharePoint Server on-premises products, although SharePoint Server 2010 is nearing its end on April 13, 2021. Microsoft actually had extended that server's life by about six months, as described in an April announcement.

Microsoft can essentially end its Online Services products at will with its Modern lifecycle support policy. Its Fixed lifecycle support policies for servers still reflect the traditional 10-year cycle of support. However, Microsoft has suddenly revoked support there, too, as it did when it ended support for the Edge role component in Exchange Server 2016.

At some point, Online Services perhaps had its own lifecycle support cycle, perhaps tied the associated server product's lifecycle. Consequently, IT pros could reasonably assume that a component of SharePoint 2010 Online would have the same support lifecycle of SharePoint Server 2010, namely until April 13, 2021. However, Microsoft seems to have folded its Online Services into its Modern lifecycle support policy at some point, which in effect offers no support assurances at all to organizations.

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