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From SATA to Satya or How to Optimize SharePoint Performance

Patrick Püntener
15.01.20 17:35

The causes of poor performance are a good basis for excellent discussions, because there are plenty. Intranets also have the bad habit of being terribly slow at times - an experience that many users had to make. But SharePoint and Office 365 are often wrongly suspected to be the root cause, which can make remedial action complex and costly. But if you are prepared to make an effort, the benefits will prevail.

Arosa, January 2020 − our favorite spot for our annual CYCL Ski-Weekend since many years − and yet this time is different. We eat fondue as usual, but in a new restaurant, the Alpenblick − highly recommended. Opposite me are Des from LiveTiles in Ireland and Jess from Wizdom in Denmark − our competitors only until two months ago. Now we are under one roof and talk about our future. And the past. And current challenges.

SharePoint Performance is one such challenge, because as a turnkey intranet provider, you immediately come under fire if the customer doesn't like it − especially just before or just after an intranet launch. It's easy to imagine that we do everything we can to provide our customers with the best possible user experience. It's always been that way. And without exaggerating we can claim to have become seasoned performance experts over the years.

The many causes for poor performance we have already brought to light so far beggar description. Starting with too small a page file on the Windows servers (performance gain 100%), poorly developed custom extensions (up to 1'000%) and faulty virus scanner settings (up to 50%) to group policies that slow down IE but not Firefox (quite hard to find out when IE is your customer's standard browser and Firefox is actually forbidden...) and missing settings on the storage, which had always worked perfectly until SharePoint was installed ("this can't be because of the storage...") up to quite exotic stuff: the customer WLAN having a massive problem on the carpet floor of all places, which of course went by unnoticed as long as everybody was just reading emails, but turned into a pain even more so with the new CEO video blog.

How to Optimize SharePoint Performance

One of the most important insights we have gained from all the load tests and comprehensive analyses is: SharePoint is usually not the problem, but it does bring to light many weaknesses that were either not recognized or ignored before. The optimization process is correspondingly complex, and to achieve top results, several experts need to work hand in hand.

All this applies to on-premise as well as to the cloud. The main difference, however, lies in the possibilities to influence performance at all. So what if your on prem managed SharePoint farm runs on slow disks but you can’t do anything about it because of your multi-year hosting contract? Or what if, you need to talk to different IT teams to solve the issues on storage, network, connectivity and the server-farm? One way to minimize the number of parameters you can’t control is to move your intranet to the cloud and to Office 365 − from SATA to Satya, so to speak.

Apart from many other benefits, you’ll get a SharePoint platform that performs as good as it gets, coming right out of the plug. Thus you can focus on the surrounding systems if performance issues occur. This does not mean you shouldn’t check your network, your internet connectivity and increasingly also the browser performance on your user devices in advance. But once you made sure all these components are suitable for the cloud, you can look forward to a successful launch.

Or maybe not? Yet? Well, the answer to this final question depends on the turnkey solution you are running. There are huge differences in how the various products impact your Office 365 performance. While some neither have a positive nor negative effect, some really even can worsen things. Ideally, a turnkey intranet only aggregates content from SharePoint, either via search or the Microsoft Graph. Solutions that first nest themselves into your SharePoint pages with a ton of extra components tend to increase the page load-time, so the best is if the solution injects as little as possible. Both MatchPoint and Condense sport a platform-agnostic architecture only integrating with SharePoint Online as much as absolutely necessary, which makes for the best available foundation for a good intranet.

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