Balancing apps against cloud storage limitations

This is a guest blog post by Jeremy Thake, enterprise architect and Microsoft Sharepoint MVP at Avepoint. In this guest piece for the Computer Weekly Developer Network below, Thake discusses the importance of balancing application functionality against the storage parameters associated with SharePoint.

On 28th June 2011, Microsoft released a significant upgrade to its cloud services portfolio – Microsoft Office 365 – an online collaboration and productivity tool, which includes Microsoft SharePoint Online. While on-premise versions of SharePoint 2010 still offer a richer feature set than its online counterpart, many businesses are looking to take a hybrid approach to SharePoint that utilises cloud as well.

With this in mind, there are certain considerations that businesses must make to optimise SharePoint, whether that be online, on-premise, or a combination of the two. One consideration is how to balance your applications against the limitations of the cloud storage model, whether it is through Office 365 or cloud-hosted storage.

While SharePoint Online offers core collaboration and document sharing tools, there are some limitations when relying on an internet-only version without the support of on-premise infrastructure. For businesses wanting to deploy more complex scenarios for application development or enterprise content management, SharePoint Online might not be the most economical or effective option due to storage restrictions and the associated costs with exceeding those parameters.

Without proper planning, businesses can easily find themselves storing unnecessary, unused data in the cloud. SharePoint Online is bound by specific limits in terms of storage. It comes with 10 GB of storage per tenant and 500 MB of shared storage per user. If more storage is needed, it can be purchased at an additional data charge per gigabyte (GB), per user, per month.

Sandbox serendipity

While storage and bandwidth are key considerations for businesses using SharePoint, the kind of applications that businesses choose to host on collaboration platforms can also determine whether they are best suited to an online or on premise environment. As a multi-tenant model, businesses will find that the only form of custom coding supported by SharePoint Online is sandboxed Solutions.

NOTE: Sandboxed solutions enable permitted users to upload custom solutions through the web interface based on technologies such as Silverlight, jQuery and Client Object Model. However, these solutions are limited by security restrictions and governed by the farm infrastructure, whereas the Full Trust solutions – which are only available on premise – have fewer limitations in terms of functionality, scope or code access security.

Nevertheless, the scalability of the cloud platform coupled with the quick set-up and low cost of start up means that SharePoint Online is perfectly suited for SharePoint development, testing and proof of concept. By using SharePoint Online as the development and testing platform, businesses can evaluate and experiment with applications before opening them up to the masses and incorporating new tools into their on-premise environments.

Whether businesses decide to use SharePoint Online, on-premise, or a mix of the two, they must ensure that they have carefully considered the limitations and restrictions surrounding storage and application development.

Businesses can easily find storage costs spiraling out of control if they do not acknowledge the storage restrictions and associated costs with exceeding storage parameters. As well as the storage limitations associated with SharePoint Online, businesses must also contemplate what applications they require. If it is a necessity to run Full Trust complex applications, then SharePoint Online will not facilitate this ability.

Business reality

Many businesses are looking for a balance between the fast set up, scalability and flexibility of the cloud coupled with the full features and complex application solutions which are only available in on-premise environments…

… with this in mind we will see more businesses taking a hybrid approach as they look to balance application functionality against the storage parameters associated with SharePoint.