Free is not always best.
Since Microsoft launched SharePoint over a decade ago there has always been a free version. There are actually three licences under which SharePoint can be obtained:
- SharePoint Foundation – the free version, for customers with a valid Windows Server licence
- SharePoint Server – available with either a Standard or Enterprise licence.
Many SMBs opt for SharePoint Foundation as it’s free, and who can beat free, right? SharePoint Foundation follows the freemium model where customers get a taste but must buy licences to unlock more features.
A key limitation of SharePoint Foundation is that the default database server (SQL Express) is limited to 4GB per database. That doesn’t allow organisations a great deal of space for document storage.
Even if organisations choose to use the free version there are other hidden costs:
- Server resources (CPU, RAM, hard drive space)
- Backup agents + space
- Certificates (to encrypt traffic for remote access)
- Consultant time
What do you need a consultant for when setting up SharePoint? A variety of initial and ongoing tasks:
- Site collection and content database planning
- Database maintenance
- Server management
- Updates and upgrades
- SharePoint customisations
For a small business they could expect to look at costs of several thousand dollars before they can even begin to use the features.
So how does this stack up against SharePoint Online? Simply purchase the licence subscription and start using it within moments. No consultants, no servers, no resources, just log in and begin. Security, updates, upgrades and maintenance are included as part of the subscription.
A few key features that really stand out to me about SharePoint Online when compared to SharePoint on-premise:
- It can scale up to 25 terabytes per customer on the Enterprise plan (think about the database maintenance, disk storage and backups required for that!)
- The E1 and E2 plans are comparable to the SharePoint Server 2010 Standard user licence, whereas E3 brings the level up to SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise user licence
- It includes on-premise user licences as well, allowing customers to have a mixture of cloud and on-premise environments
So when SMBs think about taking up the “free” version of SharePoint they really need to look at how much time they want to spend running and supporting the environment compared to just getting down to business.
If you think that SharePoint Foundation 2010 is free, then your time is worth nothing.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.