SharePoint Online... a real cloud alternative
Today's work environment is changing rapidly, with more people demanding the ability to perform their daily activities from anywhere, and at any time of the day. At no point previously has this been more possible than it is today, due to the advancements in technology, broadband connectivity and software as a service.
With the proliferation of smart devices (ie, phones and tablets with downloadable apps), access to the everyday office tools while on the go is a reality. It is this emerging way of work that has fuelled the growth and demand for cloud-based solutions and services.
Microsoft has acknowledged this shift and met this growing demand by introducing Office 365. Office 365 is a cloud-based solution that provides you with the familiar office suite of productivity tools that are not only available while you are at the office, but when you are on the go too, regardless of the device you are on (ie, laptop, tablet or smartphone) or the operating system (ie, iOS or Android). Microsoft has also priced Office 365 competitively, with a wide range of plans and licensing options that suit every pocket, whether you are an individual or a large corporate with many employees.
This is an attractive proposition, not to mention a cost-effective solution for businesses small and large. "The hardware costs as well as the service and support overhead to maintain the infrastructure are taken out of the equation," explains Henri Fourie, CEO at Concero IT.
Office 365 and SharePoint
Companies now have the option of using SharePoint Online as an alternative to a physical on-premises SharePoint installation. SharePoint Online can be purchased as a standalone offering or as part of a complete Office 365 offering that includes your desktop productivity tools.
With SharePoint Online, companies have access to an extremely powerful hosted platform that can take care of their document management, internal portal/Intranet and line of business systems requirements, including workflow and business process automation. The SharePoint Online option has made the power of SharePoint available and affordable to many more companies who previously might have had to consider other options.
Another benefit of utilising SharePoint Online is that the release cycle for new features and functionality is so much shorter than for on-premises, as they have focused on incremental feature updates. Microsoft releases additional functionality to the hosted product suite virtually on a weekly basis, giving the users an improved feature set to utilise.
Concero IT has seen a significant increase in the demand for SharePoint Online solutions with a number of existing and new customers making the move to the cloud.
Initially, when SharePoint Online was introduced to the market, the ability to build tailored solutions on such a multi-tenanted platform (ie, a shared platform) was very challenging, with the ability to customise the platform severely restricted when compared to what was possible with an on-premises deployment. Concero IT can certainly testify, though, that the platform has come a long way since then and it is now a platform that can host enterprise-ready solutions tailored to your specific business needs.
Is there still value and a place for an on-premises deployment of SharePoint or has this become redundant based on the hosted SharePoint Online platform?
Henri explains that it is "horses for courses" and choosing the appropriate approach is dependent on a number of factors. The key drivers for the decision pivot on two things, the level of control that you need on the platform and whether the solutions you are building require access to systems only accessible inside your network. Even then, some of those limitations can be overcome utilising Web services and other integration mechanisms or cloud hosting of these systems in Azure.
In order to get maximum value out of the SharePoint platform, it is best to partner with a service provider that understands the full capabilities and who can advise you on the best way forward based on your unique requirements.