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Talking about SharePoint in the Cloud

Today I am supposed to be writing my SharePoint List for the November issue of SharePointPro Connections magazine. It's going to be about SharePoint in the cloud. I thought I'd putter around first and play with the shiny bits of advice and opinion I've gathered before hammering everything into a polished Box O’ Content.


Shiny bit #1: What is the Cloud?


"The cloud" has become such a trendy, and therefore nearly useless catch phrase that even vendors at VMworld a few weeks ago couldn't coherently explain what exactly it is. I'll take Wikipedia's basic definition: "Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid."


Shiny bit #2: Payment Model


One model: You pay for what you used (it’s a utility).

Another model: You pay for what you say you’ll use (it’s a subscription).


Shiny bit #3: BPOS


When someone says "SharePoint in the cloud" they're talking hosted SharePoint. Or they’re specifically talking BPOS. But here again there’s ambiguity: Microsoft websites tout Business Productivity Online Standard Suite and Business Productivity Online Services. Of course, naming conventions were never Microsoft’s strong suit.


Anyway, BPOS (no wonder we all just say the acronym as a word, BeePoss) is Microsoft’s set of enterprise products delivered as a subscription service, hosted by Microsoft and sold with partners. The BPOS suite includes Exchange Online, Office SharePoint Online (or more simply, SharePoint Online), Office Communications Online, Forefront Online Protection for Exchange, and Office Live Meeting.


Shiny bit #4: Why BPOS?


Dave Chennault, MCTS in SharePoint and Business Process Automation and author of SharePoint Deployment and Governance Using COBIT 4.1: A Practical Approach: “BPOS is Microsoft's cloud offering and it comes in 2 flavors - a dedicated and a multi-tenant solution.  Dedicated requires around 5,000 seats or more to make financial sense.  A dedicated environment means you can do most anything you want.  If you are less than 5000 seats, then you will use a multi-tenant solution to get the cost savings of BPOS.  That means you have to be a good neighbor since there are many other companies sharing a single instance of SharePoint - think of it as an apartment building - no loud parties and you can't just install anything you want.”


“It also means there are a lot of restrictions on what you can do - not necessarily all bad - you just have to do things a certain way and in a way that does not require you to access the central administration or install code on the server. I actually like it because it forces you to build very clean applications by the rules.  This means it is supportable by anyone who knows SharePoint and frees you from custom code and being shackled to the developer who wrote the custom code.”

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