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Why Microsoft’s Azure Update Strengthens the Case for Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud

by craig (follow)
Craig Panigiris is an experienced marketing professional at www.pa.com.au with 5 years’ experience in the ICT industry
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SharePoint has been available on the cloud since its inclusion in the Microsoft Online suites in 2009. With the continued proliferation of data hosting options however, companies using SharePoint now have a wealth of choices beyond Office365, including Microsoft’s own Azure service, Rackspace, Amazon’s AWS Partners network, and Fpweb.

And thanks to recent changes to Microsoft’s Azure platform, the case for Australia-based businesses moving their SharePoint operations out of house to cloud servers continues to gather momentum.

The game-changer –Australia-based data centres

First announced in May 2013 and cemented in October this year, Microsoft has extended its Azure network to include data centres in Sydney and Melbourne, removing a long-standing roadblock posed by data compliance regulation; previously, all data from Australian users running SharePoint through Azure was housed in Singapore and the introduction of Australian data centres comes as a response to national security concerns around data being housed in a state-controlled territory. It’s a situation that’s raised particular controversy where Government-related data such as Medicare records are concerned.

Following the network’s expansion however, Azure users can now opt to nominate either the Sydney or Melbourne hub as their primary data centre, with the option to back data up through domestic or overseas centres.

Microsoft has also made it simpler for businesses to connect with Australian Azure data centres through its ExpressRoute service after inking deals with Telstra and Equinix.

Executive vice president of the Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise group, Scott Guthrie said: "with ExpressRoute you can ensure that all your traffic between your on-premises data centre and Azure runs over private dedicated network fibre with guaranteed quality of service."

Problem solved – cloud here we come

Not so fast. Though data can now be safely stored onshore, there are other factors to consider before uprooting your entire SharePoint user base and sending them off of the cloud.

Firstly, there’s uptime top consider. Outage issues are still present with a cloud service and the Azure service has not been immune to these. While Australian-based users appear to have so far been spared the affliction, it would be foolish to think moving from in house deployments will make uptime of services bulletproof.

And while Azure’s service level agreement includes a guarantee of 99% availability, you unfortunately can’t choose when that 1% downtime will happen. While housing data in-house could pose similar issues, the prospect of that control being out of company hands may dissuade decision makers on the merits of operating SharePoint in the cloud.

There’s also the competition to consider. While running SharePoint through Microsoft’s own cloud offering may be the most streamlined option, Google’s and Amazon’s cloud services are highly price competitive. And while Google are yet to offer a local storage option, Amazon’s network boasts a Sydney-based data server. The key decision-making factors in choosing Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure may therefore lie in subscription price and whether software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) based operating is preferable. Microsoft’s establishment of Australian data centres is likely to spark a price war between the three major players, putting more power in the hands of the subscriber in coming months.

What is really going to shake the ground however is Microsoft’s recent announcement that their SaaS offering (SharePoint in Office 365) is coming to an Australian data centre near you (Sydney and Melbourne) in March 2015. And unlike Azure which is infrastructure as a service (IaaS), you won't just get the potential benefits of cloud - you'll also get in-built geo replication for disaster recovery, continuous updates and improvements and rapid deployment capabilities.

So if onshore storage removes all of your data governance roadblocks, then moving SharePoint to the cloud should warrant serious consideration.

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