SharePoint has earned a reputation as being an excellent business solution that can increase collaboration, effectively manage important business documents, manage workflow & processes, and promote social engagement. The way people are communicating and conducting business are constantly evolving as technology and business needs change. The new version of SharePoint 2013 has added a new capability that may serve businesses of all types and sizes quite well. SharePoint 2013 is just as much an online solution as an on-premise solution, and as technology and organizations continue to evolve it’s not inconceivable to think that all business may be conducted in the Cloud one day. Gartner Research predicts that 50% of Global 1000 companies will store customer-sensitive data in the cloud by 2016 (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1862714). But, let’s just put the brakes on that thought for right now, and get a basic understanding of what business solutions in the Cloud versus on-premise look like, specifically for SharePoint.
SharePoint in the Cloud
SharePoint 2013 is taking it up a notch. Well taking it way up, to the Cloud. SharePoint in the Cloud is the managed, on-line delivery of the SharePoint technologies and servers. This can include a company’s intranet, extranet, document management, records management, or external website. This means that companies utilizing SharePoint in the Cloud can now experience the same feel, capabilities, and functions as the on-premise version of SharePoint. SharePoint in the Cloud allows an external provider to host and manage SharePoint, taking the burden of administration and maintenance off the organization’s IT department, allowing the organization to allocate those resources more effectively elsewhere. This is the premise of the Cloud. Allowing third parties, who specialize in cloud environments, to manage and maintain the IT needs of a company, leaving the company more resources to focus on the main goals & functions of the business. So what does this mean for companies using SharePoint and what should they consider before moving SharePoint to the Cloud?
Cloud vs. On-Premise
Once SharePoint has been implemented in the Cloud, companies do realize the benefits associated with the change (decreased management responsibilities for your IT team, increased flexibility in terms of scalability, infrastructure disaster recovery, and more cost effective licensing models) but first you need to decide if you should and can indeed complete the implementation of this program. You need to evaluate your resources and decide if your IT staff can complete this in-house or if it will be wiser and more cost effective to outsource it, or perhaps a little bit of both? A smooth transition is crucial for business operations to remain on point, unaffected by the decision to move to the Cloud.
Keeping up with the hardware and software of SharePoint can be a difficult task for many organizations. Maintaining the infrastructure takes time and money. One advantage of moving SharePoint to the Cloud is the savings realized in IT maintenance. The time and money spent on the challenges to start-up and maintain SharePoint can be reduced, and maybe even eliminated by hosting SharePoint on the Cloud. Be aware though, that the SharePoint provider will not take care of everything. The company still needs to make the important decisions of how they want the environment to look, it’s URL, as well as how the content is categorize, search functionalities, and the type of authentication.
Search requirements need to be discussed as they can be one of the most important functions for SharePoint users, and not all SharePoint providers allows full functionality of the search function. If this is a key function for the successful experience for your users then you may need to reconsider the migration or determine a solution that will allow you to search for both internal and external content.
As mentioned, categorizing content cannot be overlooked by the organization implementing SharePoint. This is how users are able to locate the information they are looking for. SharePoint on the Cloud can create some difficulties on this area that need to be evaluated and solutions explored.
Add up your scores, and see how you match up:
32: You are probably already on SharePoint Online or Office 365. Enjoy the view from your cloud!
24-31: You are a strong candidate for SharePoint Online. Study carefully and understand some of the functional tradeoffs of the platform. SharePoint Online doesn’t support the following:
- Deployment of custom solutions that require direct access to the server, such as Visual Web Parts. It does support sandboxed solutions, however.
- SQL Server Reporting Service Integration
- Business Connectivity Services (originally this was a blanket restriction, but a slipstream release in 2011 added support for access to web services-based remote data in O365 BCS).
- FAST Search Server Integration
- Web Analytics
- Site collections greater than 100GB
10-23: You are somewhere in between. Understanding the platform advantages and tradeoffs is essential to figuring out your cloud strategy. Odds are good that you may use a hybrid approach in which parts of your SharePoint world remain on premises, with other aspects living on Office 365.
0-9: If SharePoint is already living in your data center, it’s probably in the right place.
Evaluate & Decide
So are you a good candidate for SharePoint on the Cloud? Should you implement SharePoint on-premise, on the cloud, or as a combination of both? It really just depends on the organization’s specific needs, size, and type of cloud environment that is right for the organization: Software as a Service; Infrastructure as a Service, or Managed Services. The decision to stay on premise versus moving to the cloud is an important one. The organization needs to decide what control they still want to have, and what they want others to have so they can focus on other things. What is most important to you and the success of your business?