“Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of hosting, or to take arms against a sea of on-premise servers, and, by opposing, end them?” Alight, alright, I’ll quit. By now I’ve butchered the words of the great playwright Shakespeare, but by the same token I’m sure you know where I’m going with this blog entry. Here’s the real question. Are you facing the reality that your current on-premise servers are aging and evaluating replacement, or are you looking at relocating your data to the cloud? If you aren’t that’s ok, but it will be a reality at some point. This reality recently came up for a current client and I wanted to share some thoughts on the matter.  

Had a client asked me for a recommendation to stay on premise or host their data ten years ago my answer would have been quite different. As you might imagine, I would have recommended staying on premise since hosting platforms a decade ago were still in their infancy, and weren’t always scalable or dependable. Fast forward ten years and, in most cases, neither is true for cloud hosting platforms. In many cases, these hosting options bring greater reliability, with better up time, and scalability. Backups also must be a consideration when hosting data in the cloud, but that too has been solved in recent years. Let’s take a look at the option that our current client looked at, and explorer a little.  

While there are many excellent cloud hosting providers, most of our clients are houses of worship and as such, 501(c)3 organizations. Our clients already have a friendly relationship with Microsoft products/technologies and the donation/charity licenses that Microsoft extends to non-profits. Many of our clients already create/consume content using these technologies and they are familiar with them. In this specific case, the client is already hosting their email with Microsoft 365 so it wasn’t a far reach for the client administrator to inquire about moving everything else to their 365 tenancy since their on-premise servers are reaching end of life.  

Let’s look at the specifics for this client. Email is already hosted in 365. The next natural step would be to make use of SharePoint to host shared data and OneDrive to host private staff data. Each staff member would be able sync both locations with their OneDrive client. This eliminates the need for a VPN to access data located on the premises when staff work remotely. After the transition of data to 365, this client would begin to consume more of the 365 product offerings, chief among them Teams. The client would first use Teams for internal staff communications and then move forward with creating teams representing Bible studies. The church members not part of the 365 organization would be invited to their team (Bible study) as guests. Once fully transitioned, ACTS would join each staff computer running Windows 10 to Azure AD and define some policies. Next, we’d decommission their on-premise Active Directory servers, files servers, and remote desktop servers. Finally, we’d configure a small on-premise workstation that would run daily Veeam for 365 backups of the organization’s 365 tenancy. These backups wouldn’t be stored locally but instead inside of a Microsoft blob storage container.  This is a slightly over simplified plan, but it does cover all the high points.  

Does your organization host some or all your data in the cloud? If so, what cloud provider do you use? Microsoft, Amazon, Google? The client above elected to host their data using Microsoft’s 365 shared cloud model. If you don’t feel comfortable hosting your data this way, would you consider a private cloud model where your organization’s servers would exist as VMs in a data center?