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SharePoint in the Cloud – a real world experience using BPOS

Recently we had a call from Mesynthes, a company based in the science complex at Gracefield, Wellington. These guys are doing seriously cool stuff with manufacturing artificial tissue substitutes. Their CEO Brian Ward confirmed that this could have been used for the skin graft on my hand which instead contains a piece of my leg, but the applications are much wider and include internal tissue repair. Another example of Kiwi awesomeness.

Mesynthes wanted a SharePoint site for the partners and prospective partners they are working with to share specific information. At first the idea was to open up an internal installation of SharePoint, however the complexities around ensuring access to the internal platform was controlled and secure quickly put the team off this idea. We soon got talking about an externally hosted solution.

While Intergen hosts a number of SharePoint sites and even has a dedicated shared server for similar sites, Mesynthes’s requirements were a great candidate for using Microsoft Business Productivity Online (BPOS). As we’ve posted before, Microsoft provides online access to a number of its core business applications (including SharePoint, Exchange and Office Communications Server) for a monthly fee; for this particular requirement, the SharePoint licensing was priced at $36.25 per month for five initial users.

The BPOS solution is one of a growing number of “cloud” services – that huge cloud of connected servers called the Internet. Your system is not running in your corporate data centre – it just lives out there in the cloud. In a way cloud computing is nothing different to what you already do if you have a personal email account such as Windows Live Hotmail or Google’s Gmail.

The big difference is instead of talking about personal email, we are now taking the corporate data centre to the cloud.

You don’t even know where your system physically lives, you don’t need our experts to install it, and you don’t need an IT department to service it. Also this Microsoft hosted service is more rock solid than many data centres in terms of reliability, security and scalability. Sure there are a few constraints – the SharePoint installation has a few adapted features for the BPOS environment, reducing its capabilities in some areas. For many small and medium businesses, though, especially at a New Zealand scale, the total cost of ownership has to be astounding.

The next few years will be interesting as the number of online offerings increases, and businesses realise that for some applications, they don’t necessarily need to invest in hardware and infrastructure – they can let third parties, who are experts in this area, manage this.

For Mesynthes we were able to get them up and running, including training, within a day. The result: Mesynthes have a simple but secure and fully functional site that they can manage themselves or with assistance from us. The new wave of application delivery is here and it’s real.

Posted by: Philip Plimmer, Practice Lead, Portals, Content and Collaboration | 05 October 2009

Tags: SharePoint, BPOS, Cloud

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