SharePoint 2013 For Dummies
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Using SharePoint Online instead of trying to build and manage the platform with your own organization’s resources gives you a number of benefits. You simply sign up, pay a monthly licensing fee, and access SharePoint over the Internet.

Data center and hardware benefits in SharePoint Online

If you have ever toured a data center, then you have some idea of the amount of effort and resources it takes to keep everything running. Data centers have rows and rows of computers with flashing lights, humming fans, and coils of cables running ceiling to floor. Control rooms that resemble something NASA would use to run space missions monitor all these servers.

The control rooms contain computers and monitors that report on everything in the data center, from temperature and humidity to individual fans in particular servers and everything in between. These control rooms are often called a Network Operation Center (NOC) and are the nerve center for a modern data center.

Most organizations that have the need for servers find a data center that can be used to host their gear. Hosting your computers in a data center can cost a fortune, but paying to host your own gear in an inferior environment can cost even more in the long run.

Microsoft invested a tremendous amount of money in building its own state-of-the-art data centers that house the servers that make up SharePoint Online. The nice thing about SharePoint Online is that you don’t have to worry about the various costs of hosting and managing your own gear. The price you pay for SharePoint Online covers everything, including the data center.

The servers that run SharePoint Online are state of the art and come from the leading industry manufacturers. Microsoft has modularized the set up, and the computers come in massive containers that look very similar to the containers you see on cargo ships. These container pods are sealed by the manufacturer and never opened at the data center.

When a single piece of hardware fails, the workload of that server is simply shifted automatically to other servers (possibly in other pods). When enough servers fail, the pod is taken offline and the workload of that pod is shifted to another pod without service interruption. A new pod with the latest hardware is then shipped to replace it, and the old pod is decommissioned.

Microsoft has developed this system of data centers and pods throughout the country with built-in redundancy. If a data center goes down, the workload is shifted to another data center. If a pod goes down, the workload of that pod is shifted to another pod. If a server within a pod goes down, the workload of that server is shifted to another server.

This system of redundancy is included into the price of SharePoint Online. You might care about how it works or you might just care that Microsoft has guaranteed uptime of 99.9 percent. In the end, you’re free to focus on your business and solving business problems using the SharePoint platform without having to worry about what it takes to make that platform consistently available.

Software platform benefits in SharePoint Online

The physical computers required to run the SharePoint platform are one thing, but you also have to take into account the operating systems and associated software such as the web servers, databases, and SharePoint itself that run on the server computers.

The Microsoft platform uses the Windows Server operating system, the Internet Information Service (IIS) web server, and the SQL Server database. All these software systems are just the supporting actors for the SharePoint software itself. The amount of time and resources it takes to get all these software components installed, updated, and configured can be daunting.

When you sign up for SharePoint Online, you don’t have to worry about installing and managing the software components that make up the SharePoint platform. Microsoft takes care of all of that for you, and it’s all included in the price.

In addition, when new versions of the software stack are released, Microsoft upgrades everything automatically without additional cost for the service. Microsoft also monitors the servers and logs 24 hours a day in order to make sure nothing goes awry. The monitoring takes place in Network Operation Centers.

Backup, redundancy, and security benefits in SharePoint Online

You might think that with the hardware and software in place, the rest would be easy. However, the SharePoint platform itself needs to have a backup and disaster recovery plan, in addition to being available, redundant, and secure.

With SharePoint Online, the Microsoft teams take care of all this for you, and it’s guaranteed in the contract. With the hardware, software, and plans in place, you as a customer are free to focus on developing business solutions on the platform instead of working through the process of setting everything up yourself.

About This Article

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Ken Withee is a longtime Microsoft SharePoint consultant. He currently writes for Microsoft's TechNet and MSDN sites and is president of Portal Integrators LLC, a software development and services company. Ken wrote Microsoft Business Intelligence For Dummies and is coauthor of Office 365 For Dummies.

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