The term “cloud” implies a monolithic and singular environment that delivers computing, storage, and application services through the Internet, with an array of options within each service. One such example is the technology that has various deployment and implementation options — or topologies — SharePoint. Let’s take a look at how Azure fits in with SharePoint, including recommended practices.
Traditionally most SharePoint installations have been deployed in the on-premises configuration. The on-premises format has served well in that it has allowed for:
Onsite hosting of data in a controllable and administrable environment
Collaboration in an environment that can be scaled as and when required
Flexibility to integrate with customized solutions
SharePoint Online, a part of Office 365, changed the scenario even more dramatically by enabling organizations that had not budgeted for on-premises SharePoint, and the accompanying infrastructure costs, to reap the benefits of SharePoint at a low per-user fee.
The fact remains, however, that the two topologies, SharePoint Online and the on-premises installation of SharePoint, are almost diametrically opposite.
The following are a few characteristics of SharePoint Online that might prevent a full-scale migration of an on-premises SharePoint installation to Office 365 or SharePoint Online:
This is a SaaS implementation of SharePoint and the user has little or no control over customization and administration.
The SaaS version would also not support third-party or custom code and applications that would be integrated into an on-premises installation.
There would be compliance-based restrictions that would prevent migrating all SharePoint documents to the cloud — as would be required in migrating an on-premises installation to SharePoint Online.
How do users benefit by using the cloud and maximizing their investments with SharePoint? Microsoft Azure, a cloud-based platform and infrastructure service, can bridge the gap and create hybrid solutions.
Let’s look at a few benefits of using Microsoft Azure:
Given the flexibility of Microsoft Azure, SharePoint server farms hosted on this platform can be rapidly scaled up and down as per changing requirements. Provisioning and configuring a server on Microsoft Azure is a well-defined series of steps and can be easily carried out by using ready-to-deploy server images. Here is a great resource to get you started on provisioning a SharePoint farm with Azure, and another one to create a testing/dev environment on Azure using SharePoint 2016.
Microsoft Azure is natively compatible with not just SharePoint but also SQL Server and other Microsoft applications. This ensures that SharePoint servers can be seamlessly deployed onto Azure and moved from Azure to on-premises environments as and when required. This is specifically of use when creating temporary staging or testing environments or secondary production environments.
Since Azure is a PaaS and IaaS, it uses a pay-as-you-consume model that ensures you use computing resources, memory, or storage capacity only as necessary. Azure is a cost-effective solution for hosting SharePoint server farms.
On-premises SharePoint installations can be heavily customized or configured. Running a SharePoint server on Azure is no different from an onsite SharePoint installation. There are no restrictions in running third-party applications or custom code. Thus, existing investments made for customizing SharePoint on-premises can be protected when migrating the SharePoint solution to Azure.