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Should You Move SharePoint Data to the Cloud By @ProfessionalAdv | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Stick with managing the data in-house or move to the cloud? Here's a blow-by-blow analysis

Should You Move SharePoint Data to the Cloud or Keep it in-house?

When Microsoft SharePoint first hit the market in 2001, it was clunky but offered new tricks that could help businesses in ways previously unseen in easily accessible software.

The release of 2007 really ramped-up SharePoint's features and improved usability, and organizations salivated at the prospect of project collaboration, centrally-managed content, automation of processes, and web-based report publication. Meanwhile, the eyes of company directors lit up with cartoon dollar signs at the thought of the increased productivity SharePoint would bring.

The sell-in to gatekeepers was made that much easier by SharePoint's user-friendly look and feel; the familiar Office-like interface resonated with baby boomer executives who'd only recently leapt into the 21st century via Microsoft applications like Outlook. Anyone who could send an email or write a business letter could get their head around SharePoint.

In short, it was an easy sell.

Fast forward to 2009 and the advent of cloud computing. SharePoint had graduated to the cloud, but take-up was slow - according to research firm IDC, only  around 4% of offices at the time were using virtual applications to manage productivity.

Continue fast forwarding to 2014 however, and the cloud has become impossible to ignore.

Those 2001 IT managers who convinced purse-string-holders to migrate their data into SharePoint's stack-based system must now answer the tough question of whether that data should again be migrated to cloud-based alternatives - including SharePoint's own Office365 incarnation.

So what's the verdict? Stick with managing the data in-house or move to the cloud? Here's a blow-by-blow analysis:


Security

Housing data yourself is a two-sided coin. Managing in-house means if something goes wrong, it's all on you. But the thought of surrendering that control to Microsoft raises questions for both IT managers and executives.

Microsoft's various solutions to these issues include a service level agreement offering compensation for lost data and the recent  expansion of its Azure network aimed at satisfying government restrictions on housing data overseas.

For many organisations however, the argument is moot - compliance and data governance regulation means data stays in-house, end of discussion. But for many more, the questions should be what level of security is present on existing systems and how well can you actually respond to security threats or incursions if they were to occur on your systems. Have you really got this covered better than Microsoft?

Verdict: Cloud (unless specific compliance legislation prevents it)


Cost

Dedicated data servers aren't cheap to run; it's estimated that servers and data centers account for around 23% of IT energy demands. Cutting your IT department's energy bill by nearly a quarter without having to train staff on a new platform will therefore present an attractive value proposition for many internal stakeholders - as well as shareholders.

Moving to the cloud also reduces hardware-related capital expenses; purchasing data servers requires a sizable initial outlay, with more funds required for hardware upgrades every three to four years. Conversely, cloud-based systems' subscription-based nature offers a more manageable ongoing cost. Housing data in the cloud also means a substantial saving on the man hours normally required to monitor and service in-house data servers.

Verdict: Cloud


Usability

The end user is now far more connected and tech savvy than they were back in 2001. They use social media on their phones. They download torrents. They share information through the cloud without even realizing it. And that includes boomer execs. Getting them to buy in to the enhanced usability afforded by a cloud migration is therefore paramount to seeing the full benefits.

As Mark Watson of  Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Professional Advantage noted: "if your system end users are in fact not using the system, or are not using it correctly or to its full potential, you will never achieve that all‑important return on investment."

Microsoft's cloud-first strategy should help that all important buy-in where usability is concerned. The addition of new local data centres to Microsoft's Azure network in March 2015 will also enhance SharePoint's performance - a massive factor in usability.

Verdict: Too close to call.


Accessibility

The modern office is more a state of mind than a physical place. Smartphones, tablets and laptops mean on-road sales staff can file sales reports on-the-fly instead of waiting to get back to HQ. Staff will rely more and more on the cloud to access and contribute to increasingly large data lakes, so it makes sense to migrate sooner rather than later.

Verdict: Cloud

Evolution

Microsoft are releasing features regularly in the cloud under a continuous improvement program. You don’t get that service with on-premise installations as you have to wait until major service packs or version upgrades to be released (which can take years).

Verdict: Cloud

Integration and Custom Development

There are integration restrictions when it comes to Office365 – integration isn't impossible but it is severely limited. The inability to search apps and data sources outside of the Office365 cloud is also still a considerable limitation.

Verdict: In-house

Overall verdict: Cloud

Everything's moving to the cloud, so migrating is probably a wise idea. And although backing up your data in house won't solve the issue of storage costs, having that safety net in place would be a smart move.

However, if there are organisational data compliance, governance or security considerations, then keep everything in house.

More Stories By Craig Panigiris

Craig Panigiris is an experienced marketing professional with a 5+ years’ experience in the ICT industry and 10+ years’ experience in B2B marketing. At Professional Advantage, Craig leads a team of marketing professionals to deliver innovative marketing strategies including; cross-channel demand generation campaigns, brand & collateral development, and public relations and is responsible for the development and implementation of the overall strategies for Professional Advantage building repeatable predictable demand generation.