Mark Miller’s ‘To Host or Not to Host: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Decisions’ at STP Buenos Aires

Mark Miller presenting at STP Buenos's Director of Global Strategy and Senior Storyteller Mark Miller opened his STP Buenos Aires session with an example of his perception of what's happening between competitors in the SharePoint hosting space. Mark's representation of the relationship between competitors in the space took the form of a clip from the spaghetti western classic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, as three gunmen size each other up in a drawn-out scene before the gunplay ultimately begins. Mark's stated goal for the session was to "examine the different models for SharePoint hosting," and he allowed that "in every model there will be some good, some bad, and some ugly."

Addressing on-premises first, Mark listed as being "the Good": full control of the environment, the data, and the security management; "the Bad" as: do you have the money and expertise to monitor SharePoint 24x7x365? (including upgrades, patches, etc.); and "the Ugly": infrastructure investment, IT management overhead/cost, and distraction from the core solution (which is to say, the actual running of your business). Mark noted in conclusion that about 80% of companies are on-premises today, and most are considering when to move to the cloud.

Moving on to Office 365, Mark called out as "the Good": integration with the Microsoft stack, self-service, and the pricing model; "the Bad" as: developer options (as in "there's nothing to do" development-wise), migration options (you'll have to pay a third-party provider to move your existing data), and environment administration (you only have access to the farm collection level); and "the Ugly": enterprise features are not offered (i.e., there's no BI, Web analytics, Records Center, etc.), backup and restore (if something happens to the data, how do you get it back?), and (again) the pricing model (since "it doesn't scale unless you have Microsoft contacts that can help you negotiate the licensing"). In conclusion, Mark said that Office 365 is a very good solution for small companies ("You cannot beat the price and functionality at that level.").

Next up were the "Mega-providers" (e.g., Amazon, Google, Rackspace, etc.), about which Mark said "the Good" is: self-service setup, reliability ("Google does not go down, Amazon does not go down"), and pricing built to scale; "the Bad": they're not SharePoint-specific, lack of SharePoint support, "legacy spaghetti" (i.e., integrating data from other systems into SharePoint can be problematic); and "the Ugly": U.S. Patriot Act (if the hosting company is owned by a U.S. company, the U.S. government can request access to the data on those servers), regulations (they vary by country, especially with regards to health and financial data). Mark's conclusion here was that mega-providers are good on very large implementations and have world-class reliability for uptime.

Moving into his own neighborhood, (companies which exclusively provide) SharePoint hosting was next up, and "the Good" here includes: "You literally have the box as if you own it in your business" (it just resides elsewhere), SharePoint-specific ("it's all there as part of the service"), and cost savings; "the Bad": Security of the cloud (there are worries, "but this is mostly an education issue"), reliability (be sure to ask prospective providers, "What's your SLA, [and] what happens if the system goes down?"), and compliance; and "the Ugly": U.S. Patriot Act ("the bane of my existence when I'm trying to go global"), third-party data access ("When someone is hosting your data, by definition, they have to have access to the information"), and perceived loss of control (in actuality, the only difference from on-premises is that "the box does not reside underneath your desk"). In conclusion, Mark said that "If you're running a medium-to-large enterprise (200-5,000 users), this is a viable solution."

Finally, Mark touched on Hybrid solutions, noting that this is often a transitional step in which companies begin moving to the cloud piecemeal, with the majority of the data initially remaining on-premises, but gradually moving to the cloud department by department.

Wrapping up, Mark said that every option has its own good, bad, and ugly, and ultimately, you have to decide what the business problem you're trying to solve is … and that's where you get your buy-in.

Sharing the Point South America is made possible through the generous support of and AvePoint.

Read John Anderson's complete coverage of the Sharing the Point South America events: