As user adaption of SharePoint grows, companies are looking at different cost-effective implementations.
Putting SharePoint in the cloud is a hot topic. One of the first things to do is define what the cloud means to you. While many sales and marketing people would happily throw around the concept of what the cloud is, too many times the concept lacks any formal definition and could be easily confused. Generally speaking, the cloud is any device or service that is physically separate from your existing infrastructure. Whether this means a dedicated off-site single server, hundreds of dedicated servers, or Office 365, each of these represents different implementations or flavors of what might be called the cloud. The value of each of the flavors of the cloud grows as each of these is properly leveraged.
The first and most recognizable cloud implementation for SharePoint is Office 365. Office 365 is a cloud offering centered on delivering SharePoint in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. The advantages of delivering in a SaaS model are fairly obvious and well covered in marketing materials. They include low upfront costs, less IT knowledge, lower storage costs, geographically efficient distribution, and ease-of-growth accommodation.
The disadvantages of a cloud implementation are just as important to recognize. In a SaaS model, there is a shared infrastructure that allows the provider to deliver these services at a lower cost, something very similar to an apartment analogy. The shared structure also brings many problems not easily recognized.
The primary consideration for such an implementation is the business requirement around regulatory requirements. If you are dealing with such requirements as HIPAA, the shared infrastructure would violate such regulations.
Other negatives include limited customization opportunities. Customization could range from anything like branding to additional SharePoint functionality. These third-party add-ons are typically not allowed in a shared infrastructure.
Another consideration is lack of deeper SharePoint control. In Office 365, there is no access to the SharePoint central administration Web application. Not having such access severely limits the overall control, and configurability, of SharePoint.
When thinking about moving SharePoint into the cloud, you should carefully evaluate your reasons to ensure that you can meet your goals successfully.
Javier Barrera is a consultant with SharePoint911, a Rackspace company.