Good question! You are not the only one wondering. I see many of my clients asking me which one is the best choice for them. To be able to choose the right solution for yourself, you need to understand them correctly. To shine some light over this difficult choice, I am going to go over advantages and disadvantages of each possible solution. One thing is very important, this article will not tell you which one is the best, there is no better solution, only the one that’s best for you and your need.

On-Premise

On-Premise usually refers to keeping all servers required for SharePoint to run within the company. Although many are quick to tell you that, this is absolutely the best solution for anyone in any scenario, I will disagree. I am not against On-Premise, in fact I found myself using it many times but it is not always the best solution.

Advantages:

  • The hardware belongs to you. Although I would also put this in disadvantages as all the hardware problems, also belong to you
  • Easier to integrate to external systems that will work with SharePoint like SAP, etc.
  • You know and control where your Data is
  • Convenience to restart, backup, shutdown and update servers whenever you wish
  • Changes can be applied to the infrastructure when you decide to do them
  • Developers have full access when developing solutions and not limited to a Site Collection
  • Performance, if properly set up, due to the proximity to the servers. No bottleneck on the internet connection.

Disadvantages:

  • The hardware belongs to you. Like I said when servers break down it is up to you to fix it
  • Cost. You will find yourself spending a lot of money on the first year. Hardware, licences for the SQL, Servers, SharePoint Servers, Client Access Licenses. Although SharePoint Foundation may sound free, the servers it sits on are not, licences are required for them as well
  • Maintenance on the servers is required
  • Additional IT skills will be required to Support the servers and the infrastructure needed. SharePoint can touch AD, SQL, DNS, IIS and of course SharePoint itself
  • Reliability, this is depending on the infrastructure in place to host your own SharePoint

Office 365

The famous Microsoft Cloud offering. Of course the key in Office 365 is that it’s not only SharePoint but it’s also Exchange (emails) and Lync (live meetings, video calls, instant messaging). So it holds an unfair advantage over the others. Office 365 has different plans, which offer different solutions in the package. Information is available on Microsoft’s site.

Advantages:

  • Package of solutions (Exchange, Lync and SharePoint). In some packages it even includes your Office 2010 licence
  • Get started very quickly
  • Anywhere access since it’s in the “cloud” and available anywhere internet is available
  • Performance and reliability. Office 365 offers 99.9% availability on their services, which means you don’t have to worry whether your site will be down or not
  • No Maintenance on your part, everything is taken care of by Microsoft. It’s like being at the hotel
  • Pay as you go model which allows you to start quickly without high cost for infrastructure

Disadvantages:

  • No idea where your data actually is, susceptible to other countries’ laws
  • Difficult migration without third party tools like Sharegate that don’t require server side install
  • Anything requiring something installed on the servers cannot be integrated
  • Developers are limited to Sandbox solutions which limit them to a single site collection, more information about that available here

Thoughts

Those are the main advantages and disadvantages when choosing what to do with SharePoint. Of course there isn’t one perfect solution that will always work. In fact, you could choose to host your server completely at a company like http://iweb.com/ and remove some disadvantages we identified for On-Premise. Then again it may raise some new ones instead.

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