This series seeks to dissipate a rather cloudy issue:
What exactly is in a cloud?
Since all clouds are not created equal, I’ll help shred the ambiguity that surrounds different cloud options. In the SharePoint world especially, there is a BIG difference in functionality between a private cloud with dedicated resources and a shared environment like Office 365’s public cloud offering.
Let’s Start with a Cloud Overview
The “Cloud” continues to be a misunderstood or misinterpreted term whose definition varies depending on the vendor. For example, there is the private, dedicated SharePoint cloud managed by Fpweb.net. There is also the Microsoft Cloud consisting of the multi-tenant Office 365 solution and Windows Azure. Even more, there is also the Amazon, Google, iCloud, and many other cloud services.
In simple terms, the cloud can be any web-based service managed and run on someone else’s physical computing hardware. We are going to discuss SharePoint in the Cloud and, more specifically, how solutions offered by Fpweb.net and Office 365 differ, but can also complement one another for SharePoint hosting customers.
State of the Community Understanding
SharePoint community feedback received by the Fpweb.net team from the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Vegas, phone conversations, Gartner analysts, and recently – the SP24 conference, tells us there is still some ambiguity around SharePoint in the cloud and how Fpweb.net differs from Office 365 in the delivery of SharePoint to their customers.
And while a dedicated SharePoint cloud environment from Fpweb.net differs in many ways from O365, several hybrid scenarios can actually be implemented to extend Microsoft’s Office 365 offerings to provide a complete solution for organizations. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at Office 365.
An Office 365 Overview
Office 365 bundles a majority of the features of the Microsoft Server products from the Office family – SharePoint Server 2013, Exchange 2013, and Lync 2013 into a subscription based multi-tenant service that gives customers access to these products’ services through a browser and through desktop client integration.
Multi-tenant means that you share the SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync server farms with many other customers and that your admins do not have direct server access. The service allows access to a subset of these server products at a lower cost of entry than purchasing and installing the software on your own servers. The service was officially launched in 2011 and is constantly evolving to provide solutions for smaller companies or projects which require the available features.
An Fpweb.net Overview
Fpweb.net is a Microsoft Gold Certified partner and hosting (cloud) provider who specializes in designing, deploying, and supporting hosted SharePoint server farms since the first version of SharePoint Team Services and SharePoint Portal Server (2001). Before adding the hosted SharePoint offerings, Fpweb.net specialized in hosting websites built on the Microsoft FrontPage platform.
Today Fpweb.net provides customized SharePoint private cloud environments for thousands of clients backed by the best support team in the industry. Fpweb.net also hosts Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Dynamics CRM bundled with SharePoint environments.
A Multi-tenant or Private Cloud Solution
One of the biggest differences between the two companies’ cloud offerings is that Office 365 (including SharePoint Online) is built on a multi-tenant platform where Microsoft controls the server administration and access. The inherent limitations of this type of solution is that the client is not in control and many benefits of the SharePoint platform cannot be utilized.
The SharePoint private cloud from Fpweb.net, on the other hand, allows customers full server console access. The private cloud also means that customers enjoy all the available features, customization abilities, and integration possibilities of SharePoint that you would have if the farms were hosted in the customer’s datacenter. These private, dedicated SharePoint farms are customized to fit the customers’ requirements and budget.
The term “customized” may scare some people because it usually means more work to build, maintain, and support, but, the truth is that most of it is handled for you. The initial server configuration and topology are designed by SharePoint solution architects working closely with the customer’s requirements. The environment is not over-architected with unused servers and resources to minimize up-front costs.
A great benefit of a SharePoint private cloud from Fpweb.net is that they can quickly scale the environment up and out as demand grows instead of pre-allocating resources to account for two or three year growth from the start. Basically you’re only paying for what you’re using.
The Mashup: Understanding Hybrid Clouds
The decision on which solution you should go with doesn’t have to be based on one or the other.
You can actually utilize both solutions at once while integrating Active Directory single sign-on to each platform. For example, if the customer wants to use basic messaging technologies of Lync and Exchange, but requires a heavily customized SharePoint environment, they might choose to use Lync and Exchange from Office 365 and SharePoint from Fpweb.net.
Also, if you happen to have SharePoint data in Office 365 that you need moved to your Fpweb.net private cloud environment, Fpweb.net can migrate it for you! Some other use-cases where you might want to utilize Fpweb.net for the SharePoint piece is when you are building a public website that requires the advanced WCM features of SharePoint Server 2013. This allows you to utilize content deployment between authoring, staging, and production environments.
One other great example of using Fpweb.net in a hybrid scenario would be if you have complex disaster recovery needs for SharePoint. Fpweb.net can be your secondary failover farm for an on-premises environment, offsite backup location, or the primary production environment.
By now, you should have a basic overview of the cloud services offered by Fpweb.net and Office 365. Office 365 does have some restrictions as compared to the full version of SharePoint Server 2013 offered by Fpweb.net. The two services are not mutually exclusive, and solutions can be implemented incorporating both services.