SharePoint’s explosive growth is testament to the measurable benefits brought to organizations where it is deployed. For smaller organizations with limited IT capability, taking advantage of SharePoint is problematic. Deploying SharePoint is necessarily complicated since dedicated server(s) and infrastructure are required. And as SharePoint becomes critical to the business, resiliency, failover and back-ups are also key considerations.
Fortunately for smaller organizations and for the large organizations too, there are companies that host SharePoint. Hosting plans are based on the size (in GB) the SharePoint site requires for data storage and the richness of SharePoint features required. Foundation 2010 does not require additional Microsoft licensing, other than Windows Server and SQL, and includes document management, discussion forums, wikis, basic search and support for web parts such as workflows. SharePoint Server 2010 includes two additional and increasingly feature rich products, Standard and Enterprise, which require additional per user licensing called CALs (Client Access Licenses). Normally SharePoint is deployed in an intranet or closed user group environment where all users are authenticated. However some SharePoint sites are open to Internet access where users are not authenticated. In those cases an alternative SharePoint Internet Enterprise Sites license is required.
Most hosting companies offer SharePoint in a “shared” environment. That is the hosting company maintains root control of the servers that host the SharePoint environment and uses the “Multi-tenancy” feature to allocate private SharePoint sites to hosting customers. In addition, the Multi-tenancy feature maintains data security between customer sites in the shared environment. By using a shared environment, hosting companies can allocate data storage in much smaller amounts, usually starting at 500 MB, and share management, processing and database resources among multiple customers. The customer gets a much less complex application entry point and as a result a much lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for its SharePoint site.
Some hosting companies offer dedicated SharePoint 2010 sites to their customers. For those customers who require server root control, large data storage requirements (minimum 100 GB), 100% white label branding, or a requirement to use custom web part applications, a dedicated site is the best solution. The cost is higher than the shared solution, but not nearly as high as managing SharePoint on premises with a dedicated IT staff.
Not all SharePoint hosting companies are alike. It is important to note that many hosting companies do not offer dedicated SharePoint 2010 hosting plans, or offer Standard or Enterprise hosting plans, either.
Beyond flexible SharePoint hosting plans, the most important factor to consider in choosing a SharePoint hosting partner is their ability to service the SharePoint application. A reliable hosting partner is critical to a successful SharePoint hosting experience. Generally there are 5 essential hosting requirements to consider.
1. Reliability and Performance – A practical, achievable and enforceable Service Level Agreement with penalties. A 30 day, no obligation, free trial is the best way to test this.
2. Back-ups – Back-ups by the hosting company with options for customer back-ups.
3. Security – Dedicated SharePoint servers that only run SharePoint related applications, SSAE16 compliant data centers, comprehensive software and hardware maintenance programs, secure active directories, private networks for SQL transactions, fire walls.
4. Flexibility – Free data migration. Shared and dedicated plans for Foundation, Standard and Enterprise solutions that meet the customer’s specific need to maximize its SharePoint experience.
5. Support – When you have questions, the support team must get back to you with accurate answers in a timely manner. Again, a 30 day, no obligation, free trial is the best way to test this.
The SharePoint hosting alternative is the right choice for many companies. When executed correctly, a hosted deployment significantly lowers the TCO for many SharePoint applications. When considering the hosting alternative, pick a hosting company that offers plan flexibility (your needs will change), sign-up for the 30 day free trial, get comfortable with the hosting company’s support structure, and understand your requirements for a successful SharePoint deployment. It bears repeating, a reliable SharePoint hosting partner is critical to a successful SharePoint hosting experience.
Check out PlexHosted SharePoint Hosting. The PlexHosted solution is a cost-effective, secure, well managed, and highly available alternative to locally managed platforms, and achieves significant savings in infrastructure capital as well as running costs.
By Guest Blogger, John Wayt, PLEXHOSTED