What’s Your SharePoint Flavor: Cloud, On-Premises, or Hybrid?

What’s Your SharePoint Flavor: Cloud, On-Premises, or Hybrid?

By Jeremy Thake

As one of the top buzzwords in 2012, “the cloud” quickly changed from a mythical place in the sky where your data and information went to live, to the likely solution for businesses and organizations looking for the next best way to manage their SharePoint deployments and company data in 2013 and onward.

Gartner Research predicts that 50 percent of Global 1000 companies will store customer-sensitive data in the public cloud by 2016, so it’s a sure bet that IT teams everywhere are already planning for a move from their on-premises SharePoint environments to some sort of cloud model.

The only question that still remains is whether to run a hybrid environment, utilizing both on-premises and cloud resources, or to go all-in and move fully to the cloud, removing all of your company’s data from within its own walls.

Benefits Yes, But From What Combination?

The benefits of incorporating the cloud into your SharePoint deployment are well known – decreased management responsibilities for your IT team, increased flexibility in terms of scalability, infrastructure disaster recovery, and more cost-effective licensing models are some of the many positives to be incurred through such a move.

But which combination of on-premises and cloud environments will allow your organization to see the most value?

The options for bringing your SharePoint to the cloud are many, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Managed Services. How you decide to optimize SharePoint will depend on your current needs. Whether it is on-premises, online, or a hybrid combination of the two, you have plenty of options to consider.

Software as a Service

The SaaS model is ideal for any organization that would like to hand over the monitoring of SharePoint operations to an outside source, while continuing to look over and maintain their own content.

The SaaS provider will handle things like SharePoint server updates, server crashes, and rebuilds, removing this responsibility from your organization’s IT team, freeing them up to focus on other necessary tasks. Your IT team will continue to monitor and maintain your site collections, but the mundane, time consuming tasks related to server upkeep fall to the SaaS provider.

Another benefit of moving to SaaS is the ability to access the newest features more quickly than those strictly on-premises. These service updates can come in 90-day release cycles, as detailed by Microsoft's Jared Spataro during the keynote at SharePoint Conference 2012, starting at the 9:50 mark.

Since the SaaS is hosted centrally, customers can access the updates faster than those on-premises, with no new software to install. This will ensure your SharePoint is always up to date with the newest releases and patches as soon as they are available.

There are some detractors when it comes to SaaS, most notably when it comes to customization. Customizations that use Full Trust Solutions are not able to be deployed in a multi-tenant environment, so they must be kept on-premises, resulting in some sort of hybrid setup.

It is possible to use Sandboxed Solutions, or the new App Model to customize SharePoint 2013 in Microsoft Office 365, but features in these will be limited in comparison. Some decisions will have to be made based on the level of customizations you hope to maintain.

Those utilizing SaaS will also run into an issue when it comes time to test any applications before actually implementing them into their SharePoint, as there is no true pre-production environment.

Without this QA setting, it’s difficult to predict system performance and readiness when implementing new applications into SharePoint. Using either a “pre-production” site collection in a production tenancy or having a pre-production tenancy is required.

Check back tomorrow for part two, where I’ll discuss Infrastructure as a Service, Managed Service, and ultimately, what option is right for you.


Jeremy Thake joined AvePoint in 2011 as Enterprise Architect, and was later named Chief Architect in June of 2012. He was named a Microsoft SharePoint MVP in 2009, and continues to work directly with enterprise customers and AvePoint’s research and development team to develop solutions that will set the standard for the next generation of collaboration platforms, including Microsoft SharePoint 2013.

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