CloudShare for the SharePoint Analyst

I have been using CloudShare for about the last year. For those of you that unaware CloudShare allows you to quickly and easily provision a SharePoint farm that is hosted in the cloud and that you have access to. In this article I will go through various options that CloudShare provides and provide my experience with the service as a SharePoint Analyst and some of the advantages that I see.
Easy set up
if you’re someone who’s new to SharePoint or need an environment to practice on, CloudShare is a great solution. In many organizations it can be difficult to get a virtual machine spin up so that you can practice various configuration options. The ability of CloudShare to spin up an environment quickly and easily is simply awesome because now everyone can have their own environment to play around in.

Practice, practice, practice
People ask how you get better with SharePoint and the answer is that you practice! For the SharePoint Analyst the need to have a good understanding of the out-of-the-box capabilities, maybe some SharePoint designer skills, some infrastructure knowledge and maybe some development skills you need to have an environment the can customize all for yourself.
CloudShare allows me to create an environment that I can essentially practice on and rip to shreds without affecting anything else. In addition I get the ability to snapshot in case I screw anything up, which is happened more than once 🙂 Unfortunately you and get the ability to store one snapshot which kind of sucks but I’m hoping that the good people at CloudShare read this article

Less cost and better back
if I wanted to run SharePoint environment consisting of more than a single server on my laptop it’d be pretty expensive to purchase, in addition to being heavy. CloudShare saves my back and cost because now I get to run around with an ultrathin laptop and then spin up an environment whenever I want.

I also love the ability the you can create a fully fledged environment within CloudShare adding multiple servers in just the same way as you would if you are running it on physical hardware. For someone who is getting into SharePoint infrastructure, or for the SharePoint analyst who wants to delve in this area, this is a great way to be able to practice.

Sharing with clients
You can also share your CloudShare environments with other people and I have done this frequently when I’m either doing a simple proof of concept or demonstrating platform capabilities of SharePoint. If I was to do this on a locally hosted virtual machine and when I walked out the door my clients would lose the opportunity to play around tinker (and who doesn’t like to tinker!). However with CloudShare I can send them a URL and when they try to access the CloudShare environment it would spin up and they can happily play around.

Now there are some limitations with this in terms of the time that external users can use a shared copy but this isn’t a bad thing since this frequently launches people into action.

Solution showcase
Part of my job is to be aware of the masses of third-party products that are out there for SharePoint. To provide my clients real value in it have an understanding of what third-party solutions may possibly solve the business issues and provide them value. However it’s time-consuming and cumbersome to download third-party products, install them and play around with them.

The CloudShare template library allows me to download a number of pre-build virtual machines that contain a number of different third-party products or solutions already built. For me this is awesome as it allows me to play around with other elements in the Microsoft stack such as exchange, check out third-party products and also view some prebuilt solutions.

If you are just getting into SharePoint and need a place to practice, we need some more sophisticated capabilities and really like CloudShare. Check it out and let me know what you think.