business enterprises grapple with the dilemma whether to host their SharePoint
on-premises or to settle for what is available on the SharePoint online
services that Microsoft offers in its Office 365 offerings. There is a third
but less considered option – host SharePoint server on the cloud using the
Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) offered by Microsoft (Azure) or other cloud
decision, according to Gartner, must be based on the business objective of the
enterprise rather than any other consideration. As this question gets complex with
the increase in the number of users/user teams, their location, connectivity,
security, compliance, privacy and controllability, Gartner has published
decision frameworks, decision factors and lists of strengths and weaknesses to
help enterprises base their decisions on.
enterprises that desired an intranet for their staff have already invested in
SharePoint for an on-premises solution (SharePoint Online was a late-comer),
with the cloud-first principle, Microsoft has started rolling out a lot of new
features in the SharePoint online services that has become attractive and is
becoming a deterrent in decision making in support of an on-premises solution.
Now, a serious decision is looming in the near future for many enterprises whether
to go for the next upgrade of SharePoint server or should the enterprise opt
for the cloud services.
Some of the
factors that influence a decision are listed hereunder:
Is my enterprise content
safe on the cloud?
A number of
enterprises are still worried about the security of their content. With news of
data breaches happening all around the web, this is a factor of grave concern
for the enterprises. Many of them still hesitate to consider the online
services as a safe bet and are not ready to move their content to the cloud due
to legal constraints. While Microsoft, one of the most trusted IT companies in
the world, has come up with a lot of information on its trust center about the
various steps it has taken to make the enterprise content secure and about the
various certification that it has acquired over the years (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/support/trust-center/ ), it still fails to offset the
fears in the mind of the enterprise decision makers. They would rather live
with their content in their datacenter and risk a breach than trust it to a
third party vendor.
Where is my data?
business enterprises that provide services to their customers and clients are
facing this question – where is my data located in the cloud? Many of them are
bound by legal compliance requirements that prohibit them from moving their
data beyond their national boundaries. Customers and clients might consider it
a threat to allow their data to be held in a country that might not align with
their political, religious or cultural convictions. While Microsoft allows
enterprises to choose a zone of their choice for holding their content on the
azure services, it is not so transparent with respect to the Office 365
How is the connectivity?
SharePoint server might require only a LAN connectivity, SharePoint online
would require an always online kind of a WAN connectivity for accessing
content. Many developing countries are still facing a problem of poor internet
connectivity which might be a very important factor that influences the
decision against SharePoint online services. While there is the 3G and 4G
connectivity that is becoming popular lately in the urban areas, this might not
be the case in places that are far
removed from the cities where the manufacturing centers are located – in
industrial estates and export processing zones that have limited connectivity
How much do I get to
online provides 500 mb per user subscription apart from the 10GB available for
the enterprise. This might become a limitation where the enterprise is
content-intensive. While additional space for storage of the content can be
bought from the service provider, this might be considered as an additional
expense and there might not be an upper predictable limit for budgeting
Will my search be fast
SharePoint is made available in a multitenant environment, search capabilities
might be slow and not give the user as good an experience as an on-premises
solution. There is a potential scalability concern when it comes to the online
What limit of
customization do I want?
SharePoint on-premises solution, there is a possibility of extensive
customization. Enterprises can make the solution as user friendly as possible.
With the SharePoint designer, a lot of apps can be built in to the solution to
make the platform a real collaborative entity. SharePoint online provides
limited customization options.
How much am I going to
services is available at a fractional cost of the on-premises solution and
comes in a subscription model. The underlying infrastructure is of no worry to
the enterprise and does not require the upkeep of it. The personnel for
maintaining the solution and their skill set requirements become minimal. An
on-premises solution would require a Windows server, the respective client
access licenses, SQL server, the SharePoint server and the client access licenses
and a double investment for high availability scenarios.
How fast do I want to roll
out / scale up the solution?
SharePoint solution requires details architectural planning and the roll out
might take several months. The end-user waiting time for this solution might at
some time sap the enthusiasm of the users. An online solution would shorten
this time significantly as the infrastructure is readily made available by the service
provider. And scaling up and down depending on the requirement is possible in
an online solution as it is a pay for what you use model. Scaling down on the
number of users in an on-premises model will only reduce the Return on
investment (RoI) significantly.
The third option – Hosting
the SharePoint server on the cloud
be an option that enterprises might want to consider if they are financially
crunched on acquiring fresh hardware or provision existing hardware for this
SharePoint solution. In this case, not only have they to pay the vendor for
IaaS but also have to pay for the software Server licenses and CALS. And the
responsibility of running and upkeep of the solution is on the shoulders of the
internal IT admins.