Microsoft SharePoint: On Premises or in the Cloud?

July 10, 2013   //   SharePoint, , , , ,

Despite the fact that the information technology world has been talking about “The Cloud” and “Cloud-Based Solutions” for years now, the media hype seems to be going stronger than ever. I see articles every day about infrastructure and application hosting services, providers, considerations, challenges and more. Even with all the information out there, people still seem to be a bit confused about “The Cloud,” especially when it comes to deployment options for Microsoft SharePoint.

The traditional deployment model is generally referred to as “On Premises,” meaning that the SharePoint server(s) are located within your internal IT infrastructure data center. While there are many potential configurations of servers and services that might be used in a SharePoint installation, the basic setup typically includes one SharePoint server to host the web application and related services and one Microsoft SQL Server to host the databases. In this scenario, the capital investment might be significant, since you will need to purchase licenses for Windows Server, SharePoint Server and SQL Server and probably “Client Access Licenses” for each named user that will be accessing the SharePoint environment. You will also need physical or virtual server machines for SharePoint and SQL Server, although you can leverage an existing database server if it has sufficient capacity.

For all that initial investment, you will get the benefits of owning your own SharePoint environment. That means there won’t be any direct ongoing costs for the hardware and software. You will get access to all the functionality of SharePoint, without any of the limitations that some of the “In the Cloud” deployment models might impose. Of course, it also means that you will be entirely responsible for administering and supporting your SharePoint environment, either via internal resources or by engaging a partner to assist.

Of course, the alternative to an “On Premises” deployment is “In the Cloud.” That means the hardware and/or virtual server(s) running SharePoint exist somewhere besides your internal infrastructure data center. The hosting provider you choose typically owns and manages the servers and you can access the environment remotely via your internet connection. Rather than paying up front to buy the hardware and relevant software licenses, you generally rent it on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. While the monthly operational investment will be a lot lower than the capital expense of buying everything, over time the “rental fees” can add up to more than it might cost to buy (kind of like buying vs. renting a house). Costs range from dollars per month per user to hundreds or even thousands per month per server, depending on how your chosen hosting provider prices their offerings.

Some of the benefits of the cloud hosting model include a more robust and well-connected facility to host the physical hardware, easier scalability as your organizational requirements grow over time, on-site technical specialists that can help with administration and support and additional services like monitoring, alerting, patching, updating and backup and disaster recovery. On flip side, the “In the Cloud” model often entails giving up significant control over your SharePoint solution and the content and data stored within. You might lose access to some of the capabilities of SharePoint, or face limitations on the types of things you can configure and customize. The security, auditing and compliance implications might be significant as well. Depending on your particular needs, such limitations might not matter, or they might be showstopper issues that preclude the use of a particular hosting provider or even the cloud model in general.

The bottom line is that the choice of where and how to host your SharePoint deployment might not be a simple one. There are a variety of key decision factors and relevant considerations.

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When you cross-reference that with the myriad of available options, it’s not hard to quickly become overwhelmed. In trying to make a final decision on the right hosting option for your deployment, we recommend that you stay focused on the business priorities, and don’t lose sight of the “total cost of ownership” in addition to the more obvious costs. As always, IT consulting firm, SWC stands ready to help you make the best choice possible.

To learn more about Microsoft SharePoint and the cloud, please join SWC for our next informative Microsoft SharePoint event or follow Jeff Lanham on LinkedIn.

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If you enjoyed reading this post, please take a moment to read some of Jeff’s past posts on Microsoft SharePoint.

The Importance Of Solution Design In A SharePoint Deployment
The SWC SharePoint Way – Part 1
The SWC SharePoint Way – Part 2
How will Microsoft SharePoint Bring Value to My Business?
Designing Your SharePoint Architecture
Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and the Modern Office Experience
Two Fundamental Approaches to Microsoft SharePoint