Four Highly Available Architectures for SharePoint Today

How do I build a highly available SharePoint farm today? These days there are four different ways to architect your SharePoint environments for high availability. Kudos to Michael Noel, Joel Oleson, Microsoft for permission to use the resources below. Please refer to the links contained within for more information. As you plan through these, why not consider Fpweb for assistance with your architectural designs? We also support what here are referred to as on premises, but ultimately are another type of IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service.

  • Office 365 SharePoint Online/SaaS
  • SharePoint Hybrid
  • SharePoint in Azure/IaaS
  • SharePoint on premises

Reference Architecture Design

In addition to the three tiers of services in SharePoint, including the web, app and database tier, there are four architectural models for SharePoint and each has its own costs and benefits which need to be equally weighed per the needs of the customer. While we can provide guidance and recommendations, we would need to better understand the operational skills, requirements, aversion to SaaS as well as budgets to recommend what would best fit the needs of the customer.

All four models support high availability, disaster recovery and business continuance, yet the recovery time objective and recovery point objective, as well as minimum load times, are key to understanding your host and architectural, process and operational methodologies.

Multi-Tiered Architecture of SharePoint for Performance, Scale and High Availability

SharePoint farm comparison

SharePoint was originally designed for on-premises use, but over time the complexity of administration and maintenance has encouraged both streamlined development and outsourced administration in the cloud. It has provided capabilities for machine learning and artificial intelligence, while hybrid configuration has allowed some of that to make its way back to enhance on-premises data. It’s come full circle as the child of the cloud is now on-premises deployments of SharePoint.

Understanding SharePoint Farm Responsibilities


Office 365 SharePoint Online/SaaS – You consume SharePoint through the Office 365 Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription model. SharePoint is always up to date, but you are responsible for managing the content and settings for your tenant in SharePoint itself.

Your data is replicated across datacenters within the United States and is backed up, monitored, managed, and secured by Microsoft.

Microsoft global footprint

Customer data is stored in a redundant environment with robust data protection capabilities to enable availability, business continuity, and rapid recovery. Multiple levels of data redundancy are implemented, ranging from redundant disks to guard against local disk failure to continuous, full data replication to a geographically diverse data center. Data is encrypted in transit and at rest. Additional Rights Management Options, IP access controls, additional security and threat management options, and customer managed encryption keys can be achieved through the E5 subscription model.

Your data is highly available and financially backed with a 99.9% SLA with service outage notifications and 24×7 support staff. Microsoft frequently provides 99.99% uptime.

SharePoint Hybrid – You combine a SharePoint Online subscription with your on-premises SharePoint offering, which can be SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint 2016. The hybrid options differ greatly between SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016. It often starts by getting your mail in Office 365, and then OneDrive, and then it’s partner collaboration. But, you want to hold onto the Crown Jewels and get the hybrid search experience. We won’t dig into feature differences, but from a perspective of high availability, there are mechanisms to support integrated hybrid search, like the cloud crawler which works with both 2013 and 2016. You may find it easier to simply allow Fpweb to do the heavy lifting.


You can incorporate SharePoint Online services into your overall SharePoint offering, start building SaaS management skills in your organization, and move your SharePoint sites and apps to the cloud at your own pace.

SharePoint in Azure/IaaS – You extend your on-premises environment into Microsoft Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for production, disaster recovery, and dev/test SharePoint Server 2016 farms.

Virtual network

Running SharePoint Server 2016 farms in any Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environment can take advantage of the following:

  • Capacity on demand and the ability to scale virtual machines up (elasticity)
  • Partial outsourcing
  • Additional locations with minimal investment
  • Cost savings

Microsoft supports SharePoint Server 2016 deployment on Azure IaaS virtual machines (VMs)

Deploying SharePoint Server 2016 with SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups in Azure

SharePoint on-premises – You plan, deploy, maintain, and customize your SharePoint environment in a data center that you maintain.

Starting with the November 2016 Public Update for SharePoint Server 2016, Microsoft has introduced enhancements to high availability:

Microsoft recommends installing the November 2016 Public Update (or newer) for SharePoint Server 2016 to take full advantage of these enhancements. SQL Server has a number of different configurations depending on your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) & Recovery Point Objective (RPO).

This table can help you understand what is possible with which technology:

SharePoint Farm Data Recovery Considerations

High Availability and Disaster Recovery
SQL Server Solution
Potential Data Loss (RPO) Potential Recovery Time (RTO) Automatic Failover
AlwaysOn Availability Group – synchronous-commit Zero Seconds Yes
AlwaysOn Availability Group – asynchronous-commit Seconds Minutes No
AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance NA Seconds
Database Mirroring – High-safety (sync + witness) Zero Seconds Yes
Database Mirroring – High-performance (async) Seconds Minutes No
Log Shipping Minutes Minutes
Backup, Copy, Restore Hours Hours

Highly Available SharePoint On-premises Farms with Failover Disaster Recovery options

Depending on the requirements there are ways of designing farms in highly available ways.

On-prem SharePoint with DR

Highly Available Database Designs for SharePoint

Database Synchronous Asynchronous Recommended AOAG
Content Databases Yes Yes AOAG1 – Content
App Management Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
BCS Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
Managed Metadata Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
PerformancePoint Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
PowerPivot Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
Project Server Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
Secure Store Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
Subscription Settings Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
Machine Translation Services Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
Word Automation Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
UPA Profile Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
UPA Social Yes Yes AOAG2 – SA-ASync
UPA Sync Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Config Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Central Admin Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Search Analytic Reporting Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Search Admin Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Search Crawl Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Search Links Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
State Service Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
Usage Yes No AOAG3 – SA-Sync
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