SBS and SharePoint Decisions

We have a number of customers that ask about SharePoint and SBS.  This might be a bit surprising as SharePoint has been an integral part of SBS since SBS2003 (Companyweb, anyone?) but it is a very good question nevertheless because of the nature of SharePoint.

Microsoft has always pushed the use of SharePoint as an integral selling point of SBS and I would not disagree. BUT, and this is a big BUT, you need to think carefully about what your needs are and what it is that you want to accomplish with SharePoint before you decide on using Companyweb out of the box.

Companyweb is built on top of SharePoint WSS3 (SBS2008) or SharePoint 2010 Foundation (SBS2011).  Both are the “free” SharePoint products built on top of “restricted” versions of SQLserver.  These immediately impose upper limits on what you can do in terms of storage and/or performance as all SharePoint objects and files are stored within a SQLserver database.  SBS2008 Companyweb is built using the “SQLserver Embedded Edition” (SSEE) which has no size limit but does have severe performance caps.  SBS2011 Companyweb is built using SQL Express that has either a 4GB size limit (2008 version) or a 10GB size limit (2008 R2).  This is not to say that Companyweb is in some way unusable because that would be patently false; you can do quite a lot with Companyweb.  Rather, the problem is really one of scalability, overall performance and features.

Companyweb (SharePoint) is hosted on and runs from the SBS host itself.  This means that SharePoint is competing with all the other services that run on the SBS box for server resources.  An under-sized SBS server can result in sluggish responses from SharePoint.  A properly sized SBS server can provide decent SharePoint performance but it can never match that of SharePoint running on a dedicated server or, for that matter, on the second server of an SBS Premium installation.  In an SBS Premium environment you can migrate the backend of the SBS SharePoint service to the SQLserver Workgroup Edition that is installed on the second server and immediately take advantage of the increased performance and storage provided by licensed SQL.  Keep in mind that you would still be running within the preconfigured parameters of Companyweb that may not line up with your actual needs.

In an SBS Premium environment you do have the option to bring up another SharePoint environment that is independent of SharePoint on the SBS server.  This would entail installing either SharePoint 2010 Foundation or SharePoint 2010 Server on the second server and utilizing the SQLserver Workgroup installed on that server.  The assumption here is that you would NOT bother to migrate the Companyweb database to the SQL Workgroup as the “heavy lifting” in terms of SharePoint would be handled by the SharePoint/SQL combo on the second server.  You could even go so far as to add a third server to the mix (Server 2008 R2) and install SharePoint on it pointing back to the SQL install on the second server.

The point to all of my rambling to here is that almost without fail SharePoint use will shoot past anything you envision up front; you will find ways to use SharePoint to solve business issues and process issues that don’t seem apparent as yet.  We see this all the time within our SharePoint practice and the more you understand this up front the less enthusiastic you will be about accepting the limits of the basic “free” SharePoint/Companyweb installation in SBS.  At the risk of giving away my age, if you “grok” StarSharePoint (what it is, what it can do) then you will “grok” the reasons for trying to build what you need up front rather than retrofitting things down the road.

In terms of a “good, better, best” model it stacks up like this:

Good:  SBS2008/2011 SharePoint/Companyweb

Better:  SBS2008/2011 Premium, two server install with SharePoint 2010 Foundation installed on second server utilizing the SQLserver Workgroup Edition.

Best:  SBS2008/2011 Premium, two server install with SharePoint 2010 Server installed on second server utilizing the SQLserver Workgroup Edition.

Funnily enough, the capability/performance scale stacks up the same way, as well.

SBS Premium gives real bang for your licensing dollar and it makes a great platform for a full SharePoint installation that can extend far beyond the constraints of the “free” SharePoint that ships with SBS.  What’s the right path for you?  Well, every organization is different but a little planning now can provide you with very large dividends down the road AND save you some headaches and dollars.  If you are serious about making SharePoint fly in an SBS environment then I’d recommend giving serious consideration to the “better” or “best” options above.

Star See; “Stranger in a Strange Land”, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961

9 responses to “SBS and SharePoint Decisions

    1. Robert:

      Very true. However, the point of my post is really about those organizations that want to “push” SharePoint. In those cases a hosted solution does not offer the flexibility that an on-premise installation provides in terms of add -ons like Nintex or add-on webparts and so forth. However, if these are not required then Office365 is an extremely attractive offering and should be investigated. Thanks for the reminder!


  1. Robert:

    Good point. However, I was really pointing my commentary at those organizations that want to “customize” SharePoint with things like Nintex Workflow or add-ons from companies like Amrein Engineering or Bamboo. The hosted/cloud provided SharePoint solutions are very good (Office365 gives a really broad feature set) BUT they don’t allow for a lot (if any) customization due the the constraints imposed by multi-tenancy in SharePoint. Therefore, if you want to really make SharePoint fly you probably need to look at on-premises SharePoint with appropriate add-ons. SharePoint is a framework, first and foremost, and it is the add-ons that truly make it shine. Believe me, if you need workflows an add-on like Nintex can make your life so much better than using the Microsoft-supplied tools.

    Robert Dick

    1. Agreed but many smaller businesses are only just getting into SharePoint and it is a very good option to get them into the ‘enterprise’ game. The expectation is that SharePoint via Office 365 will grow in features and also in production integration. I believe it going to give you the most bang for your buck going forward. You’ll see integration with CRM and other MS online services. May not be here yet but going forward we’ll see in the the cloud before we see it on site. However, I agree that it is not for everyone but believe that is becoming less and less a case every day.

      Robert Crane

      1. Robert:

        We are going back and forth when we really should be shaking hands! You have very good points and I agree: Office365 already offers more in SharePoint than the SharePoint Server on-premise does; it is almost SharePoint Enterprise. And, yes, there is or will be the integration with CRM and other products. All of this is excellent and worthy and if that is what you need then, by all means, embrace it. On the other hand, we do a lot of SharePoint consulting with a lot of customers, small to large, and almost all are using on-premise because the framework is wonderful but the third-party add-ons are what makes it really fly for them. So, the bottom line from my point of view is people need to do their homework (as I stated in my follow-on post) and go with the appropriate model that works for them — hosted or on-premise. Both are excellent choices and both prove that SharePoint rocks!

        Thank you for your comments, I appreciate them as do other readers.


        1. Totally agree. SharePoint onsite or hosted can be a fickle beast but at the higher end it is even more fickle on site in my experience.

          The other benefit from Office 365 is getting products like Lync which is really too difficult in smaller installs but this is a conversation about SharePoint and as you say, SharePoint rocks!

          Robert Crane

          1. Yes, SharePoint requires care and feeding BUT, if you have the right help (like from itgroove … hey, it’s my blog so I can give plugs ..) it shouldn’t be “fickle”. 🙂 Anyway, thanks again for your comments, always appreciated!

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