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SharePoint Online... a real cloud alternative


Johannesburg, 09 Mar 2015
Concero IT Press Office
Read time 4min 50sec

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.

Companies are choosing Office 365 because of the flexibility and range of products that are readily available to them as a cloud-based service as well as the minimal capex investment required to get up and running. Commonly, the first thing that companies move across to Office 365 is the hosted Exchange Email service. What a lot of people don't realise is that other products such as SharePoint, Lync, Project, Visio, Yammer, Power BI and Dynamic CRM are also available through the cloud-based Office 365 service offering.

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.

One of the general concerns with SharePoint Online is around branding, UX design and personalisation. A common misconception is that SharePoint Online cannot be styled, or at least not to the degree that you are able to style and brand an on-premises SharePoint solution. This is definitely not the case, all the same tools you would use for on-premises SharePoint is available to you in SharePoint Online, giving you the same flexibility to customise and personalise your sites according to your brand and its unique identity. The most commonly used tools and elements used to brand SharePoint sites include SharePoint Designer, Design Manager, Custom Master Pages, Page Layouts, Display Templates, CSS and JavaScript.

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.

Concero IT

Concero IT was founded in 2008 to service the desperate need for highly skilled SharePoint-focused solution providers.

Concero IT's approach is as unique as its background, which separates it from its competitors and makes it the perfect partner for your business. Concero IT doesn't just offer an array of IT-related services. It is a focused, niche SharePoint business that builds customised organisational solutions to drive productivity, reduce costs and improve collaboration.

Concero IT has extensive experience across all versions of the SharePoint Platform. With its vast experience, quality resources and a savvy business approach, Concero IT can help you optimise your business with SharePoint. Visit the Concero IT Web site for more information on www.concero.co.za.

Editorial contacts
Concero IT Charlotte Kearsey (011) 466 8644 charlotte@concero.co.za
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