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SharePoint: Take It Outside

As far as I know, my father cannot count to three. Growing up, when my younger brother and I began to fight, my dad would simply begin to count, loudly, and we would sprint downstairs. To this day, I don't think my father has ever counted all the way to three.

I bring this up because a recent Forrester report about Microsoft taking SharePoint online reminded me of one of my father's favorite phrases: "Take it outside!" Wrestling in the den? Take it outside! Fighting over the remote control? Take it outside! Facing keen opposition from services-savvy competitors? Yeah, take it outside.

My father's angry bellows must have echoed off of Mt. Rainier, because the execs in Redmond have thrown open the shrink wrap to launch online offerings like Office Live, Windows Live services and, most recently, SQL Server Data Services (SSDS).

Forrester Research recently published a report, "SharePoint Shoots for the Cloud," that makes a pretty strong case for Microsoft's new SharePoint Online offering. Typical of SaaS implementations of shrink-wrapped solutions, SharePoint Online offers a low barrier to entry, at the cost of limited features, customization and integration.

In the case of SharePoint Online, organizations get what Forrester's Rob Koplowitz called "commoditized collaboration," with a feature set that roughly mirrors that of Windows SharePoint Services found in Windows Server 2008. As an on-ramp to selling full-on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) licenses, SharePoint Online seems like an interesting strategy.

What's more, there's little opposition from IT orgs. According to the report, fully 40 percent of surveyed enterprise and SMB organizations say they already use SaaS for collaboration tasks such as e-mail, IM, Web conferencing and team workspace.

From a development perspective, SharePoint online offers a way for companies to test the waters and determine, at least in a limited fashion, what they really want to do. And if your IT management is rigorous enough, the approach can prevent wildcat SharePoint Server installations from producing integration and migration headaches down the road.

At the end of the day, however, my father's advice only gets you so far. Because it's the content management, forms handling and business intelligence features of the full-blown SharePoint Server that let corporate developers add value. And until your organization is willing to make an investment to bring all that in-house -- and to manage it effectively -- the opportunities remain pretty limited.

Is your company looking at SharePoint Online, and if so, why? Let me know at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/05/2008

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