Cost benefits of migrating to SharePoint 2013It’snew year (2013) and a fresh start for a lot of us on a lot of fresh initiatives. So here’s wishing youall folks out there a Very Happy and Progressive New Year and good luck with your new initiatives.Starting with this blog I will try sharing my experiences and thoughts with SharePoint 2013 in non-technical terms as much as I can with the intention of enabling business engineers / system analyst /people wanting to learn SharePoint the non-technical way and SharePoint newbies understand thisnew version of a versatile and feature heavy platform.Having fiddled with SharePoint 2013 for a while I am beginning to believe that SharePoint 2013could very well be the inflection point of SharePoint as a platform. There are a whole new plethoraof features that hopefully excites organisation to move to this platform which I believe has found itsmaturity model. Five key points that kind of sticks out among the various direct and indirect costbenefits that an organisation could derive by migrating to SharePoint 2013 in no particular order ofimportance are 1. Search built into the platform 2. Incremental storage for documents 3. Mobile space 4. Social computing 5. User LicensingLet’s explore each one of them in detail.
Search built into the platform nowThe advent of SharePoint2013 saw the demise of FAST as a product that’s available separately. WithSHAREPOINT 2013 Microsoft has integrated the features that were available in FAST into SharePointplatform itself. For those wanting to know what FAST is, FAST is a super search engine that Microsoftmade available for organisation that had loads (typically running into millions of documents andcontents) of artefacts to search through and wanted some top end features like people search,visual search, context based search, tuneable relevance model to suit individual organisation needs .Microsoft’s own search engine BING users FAST. If FAST search excites you have a look here.It was good thinking on part of Microsoft to understand the importance of getting the niceties ofFAST search to a larger audience and include it as part of the platform itself. This should really jumpstart an organisation in leveraging on the niceties of search which I think is one the most importantand complex features of SharePoint. Things like thumbnails preview, browsing an entire document ina search result’s preview are now available out of the box making it a really rich set of features thatwere previously not available to organisations not subscribed to FAST search.Having said that it still remains that organisations have to tread a fine and difficult path of gooddiscipline and standards to fully reap the benefits of these new features of search in SharePoint2013. If search enhancements in SharePoint 2013 excites you feel free to read more here.Mobile ComputingThe weakest link for SharePoint 2010 or I feel the Achilles heel of SharePoint was its lack of descentsupport for mobile devices. With mobile computing growing at a bizarre rate and showing no trendsof cooling off in the near future it was a shame that SharePoint as a platform was quite weak in thethis space. Glad that Microsoft took a hard look at this and have done something noteworthy to talkabout.SharePoint 2013 offers good support for mobile platforms now with facility to render sitesdepending on the user agent. In other words depending on what device (user agent) is requesting asite, SharePoint 2013 will render a contemporary, classic or full desktop view of a site. Thecontemporary view is rendered in HTML 5 and is optimised for mobile browsing experience. Ofcourse this requires that the requesting agent is a smart device and also the Mobile browserredirection feature be activated. This feature is by default is not activated.Another good feature is the push notification. When this feature is activates SharePoint can nowsend alert notifications to applications on mobile devices that have subscribed to alerts/notificationsin a site. Also possible is the ability to send SMS (Short Messaging Service) notifications to mobiledevices.One other exciting feature albeit limited to only being available programmatically is the locationfeature. SharePoint allows for applications to use geolocation data and thus now becomes aware ofuser location data and can leverage this on say Bing maps. Geolocation is now a new data type inSharePoint that opens a new flavour of applications on SharePoint. This means with SharePoint 2013organisations no longer need to make special effort and development robust support for SharePoint.To read more about mobile computing changes to SharePoint visit this place.
SocialSocial features in SharePoint 2013 has been enhanced and now has some laudable features. Tobegin with SharePoint 2013 has a new site template for Community sites. In other words it nowallows for a dedicated site that has features built specifically for social communities like discussionthreads, allowing for building community members to build reputation based on their contributionsto the community, earn badges that indicate the level of reputation a community member carriesand a whole lot of other features. What this means for organisation is that with SharePoint 2013they can launch a fairly feature rich community site and enhance their workplace social computinginfrastructure without additional cost. In areas like tagging the experience is similar to twitter andadoption is much easier. To know more about social computing changes in SharePoint 2013 visithere.User LicenseOver the last few years what I have observed invarious SharePoint ecosystems I have come across isthat not every user in an organisation using SharePoint would use all the features of SharePoint (likethe case of Microsoft Office, only 20% of the users of Office use 80% of the features the rest use only20% !). But organisations even though were aware of this fact were constrained to buy either thestandard or enterprise user CALs (Client Access License).Let me illustrate this with an example. Assume that if 50% of the users in an Organisation used theEnterprise edition features of SharePoint and the other half used only the features in standardedition the organisation still had to buy Enterprise license for the entire user base as SP2010 did notallow for mixing of these licenses within a farm (a SharePoint installation is usually called a farm) .The only other option was to set up a separate farm for the Enterprise user base and the standarduser base defeating the very purpose of using SharePoint as a collaboration tool and also incurringadditional cost for the SharePoint server licenses.All this changes dramatically with SharePoint 2013 in which Microsoft has re-architected the UserLicense Enforcement capabilities. What this means is now within a single farm organisations can mixlicenses and assign users to a license group. So in our example we would have two license groups“Enterprise” and “Standard” and organisation would buy only as many as they need of the Enterpriseand Standard licenses. This feature is not turned on by default but needs to be turned on explicitly atthe time of installing SharePoint.I see a lot of Organisations lapping up this feature and hopefully saving a lot on license cost andbudgeting the savings to do more on their SharePoint ecosystem. To have a full immersion of thisfeature have a read here.Incremental / Shredded storagefor Document storageOrganisations typically start with SharePoint to leverage its Document Management System(DMS)features. SharePoint as a DMS allows for version control, publishing, content management and muchmore .Before we start discussing Incremental / Shredded storage let’s have a quick look on how SharePointstores documents. SharePoint maintains multiple versions of the document and each change to the
document creates a new version. Each new version is actually a new complete copy of thedocument/artefact itself. To illustrate this concept let’s look at an example. Say you have adocument of 4 MB size and you edit and save the document twice. SharePoint would have threephysical copies with different version numbers. In essence SharePoint would need a minimum of 4MB * 3 times (we saved three times) 12MB of space. Note that the numbers are for illustrativepurposes only. Also by saving three times I mean you would want to have three versions of thedocument from a version control perspective.With SharePoint 2013 the way artefacts are stored has changed and is now incremental or shredded.What this means is the document is shredded into pieces and stored as XML and any changes in anew version of the document are captured and only the changes to the document are stored insteadof the entire document. This would mean much lesser storage requirements. While storage costsmight not be a big part of the budget for a SharePoint farm this new feature does significantlyreduce the storage requirements. More detailed information is available here if you want to knowmore on DMS related changes in SharePoint 2013.Closing NoteWhile not all changes mentioned above might lead to a direct and significant cost savings for anorganisation albeit it does add to an IT budget “radar blip-able” number. The migration toSharePoint 2013 makes even more sense to organisations that are entitled for an automatic upgradeto SharePoint 2013 as part of their license agreement. This year I expect to see quite a significantpart of the organisations running SharePoint 2010 wanting to migrate to SharePoint 2013considering the huge benefits an organisation could reap. Also I believe Microsoft has done enoughjustice to this product for an Organisation’s SharePoint teams to cost justify and show better ROI inmigrating to SharePoint 2103.Having said that the SharePoint 2013 migration project is not without its own set of challenges orpitfalls. I intent to write a separate blog on migration as a logical continuation of this blog next. Feelfree to leave your comments and your experiences with SharePoint 2013 in your organistaion.