Planning for Hybrid Cloud Deployments

For organizations that don’t have any immediate strategic plans for a full migration to the public cloud but want to leverage some of the innovative cloud service offerings, there is a hybrid alternative available.  The hybrid cloud provides companies with a higher degree of flexibility without forcing a choice between either an on-premises or cloud model.  With minimal configuration, an organization can integrate their current enterprise on-premises applications with their choice of a la carte cloud services and products.  The time and infrastructure investment it takes to move to a hybrid cloud model is minuscule compared to the sheer value-add that Office 365 and Microsoft Azure bring to the table. 

Typically, Microsoft will release a new on-premises product every 2-3 years.  Compare that to a 3-6 month release cycle in Microsoft Azure or Office 365 (O365), and organizations quickly begin to see a product that is continually evolving.  In this post we are going to discuss why a move to a hybrid cloud model is a good first step in your organization's cloud adoption strategy.  This post is geared towards organizations who have already made on-premises investments in SharePoint 2013 / 2016 but want to leverage cloud services where it makes sense for the business.

Enabling the SharePoint Hybrid Cloud

Moving to a hybrid SharePoint environment will provide additional enhancements and integration points for on-premises installations of SharePoint 2013 and 2016.  In fact, Microsoft is now releasing on-premises feature packs for SharePoint 2016.  These feature packs contain cloud features and capabilities that can be deployed into your SharePoint 2016 on-premises environment.  This means that on-premises customers can enjoy product updates based on all the current innovative cloud service offerings happening in Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Enabling the hybrid cloud doesn’t require lengthy investments or migration efforts.  It can be thought of as an add-on enhancement to your existing SharePoint implementation.  This is a win-win for organizations who are new to the cloud and would like to see what the cloud has to offer.  In most cases, companies can continue to leverage existing on-premises application deployments (SharePoint, Exchange, etc.) and cloud service add-ons together without impacting current SharePoint deployments.  If down the road you decide to begin migrating some on-premises workloads to the cloud you will already have positioned yourself to make that move more seamless.

The hybrid cloud is the integration of on-premises resources with cloud resources.  Organizations today with on-premises SharePoint 2013 / 2016 investments that are wondering how they can begin adopting the cloud should first think about adopting a hybrid cloud model.  With the hybrid cloud organizations can leverage the strengths of both on-premises and cloud workloads.  All the while providing a robust and consistent user experience for the users.

Planning Your Move

When planning a move to the hybrid cloud for SharePoint there are a few key areas that require special attention.  Your trusted Cloud Service Provider has the experience needed to guide your organization to the hybrid cloud model.  They should have the right questions lined up to ask in order to match the proposed SharePoint hybrid solutions to the business requirements.

With the proper planning, and with some of the new advancements from the Azure AD Connect onboarding tool, getting through the initial hybrid cloud setup is easier than it has ever been.  Listed below are a couple of important topics that should be discussed when planning and configuring on-premises hybrid connectivity:

  1. Azure / O365 tenant deployment planning
    1. Which Azure / O365 plan works best for my organization
    2. Domain name planning / routing
    3. Tenant name and administration delegation
  2. Integration of on-premises directories with Azure AD
    1. Will user passwords be synced up to Azure AD?
    2. Pass-through Authentication (PTA), provides the same corporate credential access to cloud based services.  This does not require a ADFS deployment.
    3. Is single sign on (SSO) between O365 / Azure and on-premises resources a requirement?  Integrating your on-premises directories with Azure AD makes your users more productive by providing a common identity for accessing both cloud and on-premises resources. 
    4. Is Active Directory Federations Services (ADFS) deployed currently?  If not Pass-through Authentication (PTA) w/ SSO enabled is a new option that should be evaluated.
  3. Authentication topology planning
    1. One-way Inbound
    2. One-way Outbound
    3. Bi-Directional Authentication
    4. Server to Server Authentication
  4. SharePoint hybrid cloud integration points
    1. Centralized user profile deployment
    2. OneDrive for Business deployment
    3. Hybrid search deployment
    4. Extranet website deployment
    5. Seamless on-premises disaster recovery environment in Azure
    6. Hybrid self-service site creation
    7. Enhanced hybrid auditing capabilities

In the next blog post of this Hybrid SharePoint series, I will begin to dive into each of the higher-level planning items mentioned above.  The first one up will be planning your organization's O365 tenant and choosing the best integration option for your organization's on-premises directories.

To assist in your planning process, be sure to download your free copy of the Hybrid SharePoint research report, sponsored by Microsoft, B&R Business Solutions, and other leading partners. And if you'd like to learn more about how B&R can help your organization move to the cloud, please contact us.

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B&R can help you evaluate and plan for hybrid deployments!

Hybrid IT: A Journey Worth Exploring

In recent years, the cloud has emerged as the leading technology for delivering services across industries.  How have cloud technology-as-a-service solutions come to dominate the market so quickly?

  1. The internet continues to improve and is the backbone of delivering cloud solutions anywhere.
  2. Cost-effective, high-speed networks and broadband used by individuals, small businesses, and enterprises.
  3. Server virtualization has dramatically reduced the cost of powerful computing (possibly to a tipping point for #2)

Now, massive and extremely cost-effective datacenters around the world are hosting all the software that drives “as-a-service” apps. Businesses of all sizes and their employees can access these datacenters for services from around the world via reliable and affordable high-speed networks.

All cloud all the time? Not so fast…

Despite all the powerful advancements, we are living in a hybrid world where there is a mix of on-premises and cloud technologies. 

Though cloud computing is here, organizations and their Modern MSPs need to approach cloud computing as a journey from on-premises technology to cloud computing.

During the transition, a hybrid model is a great (and often recommended) next step to gain the flexibility, scalability, and affordability of cloud computing while getting the full life and utility from existing on-premises IT.

A Modern MSP with expertise in both traditional on-premises technology and cloud computing can help customers build an intelligent solution now that will help an organization transition in the future. The right partner will help to make every investment in the cloud an investment that addresses immediate needs as well as long-term goals.

How? It’s all about the business outcomes you have in mind.

Just as moving to the cloud is a journey, so are the long-term business outcomes you hope to achieve. Combine the two goals and you create a powerful feedback loop to drive your IT and your business forward.

We’re here to help you grow. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss your unique needs and see where the cloud fits into your IT and business planning.

'Cloud First' MSPs and How You Should Think About the Cloud

Why does the Modern MSP think ‘Cloud First’ for its customers?

Let’s be honest – say and think what you want, but the cloud is here to stay. It provides enormous benefits to organizations that have never been realized in the technology world before.

But, what is the cloud? Quite simply, cloud computing means that on-premises-based IT systems, applications and databases are hosted in one or more state-of-the-art datacenters managed by a cloud services provider. Examples include Microsoft Office 365 for email and collaboration, Microsoft Azure for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Microsoft Dynamics for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

There are huge benefits to having a cloud-driven business

For many reasons - productivity, security, accessibility, costs, etc. - cloud services have become enormously popular for companies of all sizes from the SMB to large enterprises.  The cloud is universally believed to represent the future model for the delivery of almost all IT services. 

Through advanced virtualization technologies, an experienced technical support staff, and a major investment in hosting facilities, a cloud services provider can operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in delivering hosted IT services than a company which owns and manages their own dedicated, on-premises datacenter.

Cloud services come in many forms - sometimes as point solutions and sometimes as fully integrated applications and services that solve a range of business challenges.

Let’s explore a simple example: hosted email

By moving a company’s email service from an on-premises system into the cloud as a hosted service, many benefits are immediately realized by the customer.

First, the server itself is eliminated. No longer will a costly and complex device require floor space, electrical power, cooling, system upgrades, software patching, maintenance, and repair. Email service in the cloud removes this costly overhead and replaces it with a hosted service; heavy and unpredictable capital and operating expenses associated with an on-premises solution are replaced with a predictable monthly or annual service fee that dramatically reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Even better, the simplicity of a hosted solution and the reach of the internet enable untethered, universal access to the service for users located anywhere, using any device. The cloud is not only a cost saver, it’s an enabler of mobility, information access and device independence.  

Now imagine that all the benefits (and more!) associated with our simple email example are applied to any and every application or service that migrates to the cloud. Savings and organizational benefits are greatly multiplied.

Customers today have an extremely broad range of cloud services available to them. Think of them as a collection of building blocks that you can use to solve problems and enable business objectives. The Modern MSP must have a “cloud first” mentality to de-mystify the cloud and help customers reap the rewards.

Want to learn more about what’s available to you in the cloud? Contact us today!