CLARITY: SharePoint – WSS versus MOSS

Posted on November 26, 2007. Filed under: Clarity, SharePoint |

There’s still plenty of confusion out there about SharePoint, particularly around what is included in WSS versus MOSS. Part of the problem is that there is soooo much information about SharePoint that the simple details get lost…

So, let’s go through the various options, comparing WSS with MOSS Standard and MOSS Enterprise as simply as possible. I’ll exclude technicalities (eg that you need R2 of W2K3 etc) and just focus on the main points.

Windows SharePoint Services (WSS)

Currently in version 3.0, WSS is a free add-on to Windows 2003 Server. WSS is the foundation of SharePoint. It provides a stack of features (or services), including document management & collaboration, Wikis, Blogs, RSS feeds, strong Office integration (Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint) including alerts and synchronisation, basic workflow and some search capabilities. It has the foundational elements such as security and storage services.

Many intranet requirements are completely catered for with WSS. And WSS can be used quite effectively as a web site too.

[I’ve seen discussions about storage limits within WSS being set at 4GB*, but my current understanding is that this is not the case – ie there is no set limit.]

Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) Standard

MOSS** sits on top of WSS and comes in two main versions: Standard and Enterprise.

MOSS Standard has stacks of features of course (including Enterprise Content Management, Portals and comprehensive Workflow), but the main ones to consider are:

  • Enterprise Search (which allows you to crawl a number of data sources)
  • People management (which includes all the My Site stuff, Personalisation features, Single Sign On and more)
  • Analytics (which includes all the usage and auditing functions for example: you can audit who is searching for what)

Point to note: Enterprise Search IS included in the Standard version.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) Enterprise

Moving on to MOSS Enterprise, we get everything in Standard, plus a few more features added, the most important of which are:

  • Business Data Catalog or BDC (which is a means of linking SharePoint to basically anything including SQL Servers, Oracle Servers, Microsoft CRM, SAP and more, and providing the BI functions including dashboards and KPIs)
  • Excel 2007 Services (which allow Excel spreadsheets to be ‘hosted’ and rendered, and even accessed as web services)
  • Forms server (see below)

Point to note: People sometimes confuse BDC with Enterprise Search. To clarify: BDC can be considered an extra source of data feeds into Enterprise Search.

Other versions

There also used to be various flavours of MOSS for Search, and these can best be summed up as WSS plus Enterprise Search (ie they lack some of the other MOSS features such as ECM etc). They have recently been re-branded as Microsoft Search Server 2008 and come in a free ‘Express’ version and the Standard version.

Aside: There is another SharePoint pseudo-version known as the Office Forms Server 2007 which basically allows InfoPath forms to be rendered in the browser. It can be added to just WSS if required, and is included by default in the MOSS Enterprise version.


Microsoft hasn’t gone out of its way to make all this clear I have to admit – the hype around SharePoint is usually focused on the MOSS side of things – and why not? After all that’s where the big dollars are. Speaking of big dollars, it may not be as big as everyone keeps making out.


Sure enough the Internet facing licensing is off with the fairies (at around the USD 40K per server mark!), but inside the company it can be significantly cheaper.

I don’t claim to understand the SharePoint licensing intimately, but this link will give you an overview of licensing (eg a basic intranet MOSS license is under $5K, although moving to Enterprise will get you into $60K level – Yikes!). However, the real kicker comes when you have to weigh up all the CALs you need (and for Enterprise you need to buy both the Standard CALs and the Enterprise CALS on top).

Getting confused yet? Yep, and to top it off you also need to factor in SQL Server licenses if you don’t already have those in place.

Summary: You need MOSS Server license + CALs + SQL Server licenses

Point to note: If you want to expose your intranet on the internet (eg via your web site) then you are in for a headache πŸ™‚

This barely helpful link from Microsoft attempts to make it clearer, but requires about five readings before it starts to make sense.

This Excel spreadsheet is a great SharePoint feature comparison for those wanting to get into the nitty-gritty (well worth the download).

Consider this…

Here’s the main takeaway… if you are considering SharePoint for your intranet but have been worried about licensing costs, then start with WSS. It has stacks of collaboration features and may be all you need. And it’s free. Plus you can always build on it, adding MOSS features later.

If you did move to MOSS, start with MOSS Standard and think carefully about whether you need the Enterprise features.

And think very, very carefully about making your web site MOSS based πŸ™‚


References: Inside Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 by Patrick Tisseghem


* 4GB limitation – MOSS running on SQL Express will be limited to 4GB (due to the SQL Express limitations), but WSS seems to run on a special version of SQL that is not limited. MOSS is never recommended to be run on SQL Express. Disclaimer: I am not sure of these details.

** MOSS is technically MOSS 2007, as there has not been any previous MOSS versions. The previous version of SharePoint was SharePoint Portal Server 2003, usually referred to as SPS or SPS 2003.


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2 Responses to “CLARITY: SharePoint – WSS versus MOSS”

RSS Feed for Craig Bailey on Microsoft Comments RSS Feed


Although your posting talks clinically around the differences, it misses the mark in terms of “real world” scenarios. No one we know has chosen MOSS for its pure play CMS capabilities, as organisations want much more than just CMS. They expect collaboration features, EDRMS, Workflow, Search, Web 2.0 concepts, etc… MOSS delivers this and much more.

So I think many customers would disagree (and perhaps resent) the statement around “be very, very careful around chosing MOSS for their web site”. Many organisations have and they have never looked back.

Hi Eddie,

Thanks for the comment.
I have to admit I was a little confused when I first read your comment.
After all, I’m a big fan of SharePoint, and I know, you know this (if you know what I mean πŸ™‚ ) so I was wondering where the comment about pure CMS came from… (and for the ECM stuff people need MOSS anyway)
So, I read, and re-read my post, and I think I can see how you’ve interpreted my thoughts.
So, thanks for bringing this to my attention, and for the chance to clarify…

Here’s my agenda:
Many people I speak to at user groups and events don’t understand the SharePoint versions, and as a result are missing out on its advantages simply because they think they have to spend big dollars to get started. My point is that you can actually get started for free (licensing wise) and then build up.
The line ‘think very, very carefully’ could probably have been written better. Again I am saying, ‘don’t dismiss SharePoint outright because you are caught up on MOSS license costs’ – think carefully about what you want because you may be perfectly serviced with WSS.
Now, if it is the features of MOSS they require, then great, of course use it. And in your space Eddie, I suspect the clients are much better informed than most πŸ™‚ so this won’t be a problem.

Summary: I’m a fan of SharePoint and want to see more people using it. This post is about making it an option to some who may have otherwise thought it was out of their reach.
But I agree in hindsight my wording could have been better.
I don’t usually go back and edit my posts, but I may in this case – not sure yet.

As an aside: this is a personal blog, and doesn’t voice the opinions of my employer. However, putting my Elcom cap on, (and my readers will know that Elcom develops an ECM product) we’ve just completed our technology strategy for the next two years, and integration with SharePoint is a key priority. So, to be clear, Elcom has a vested interest in and is encouraging of SharePoint being more widely adopted. I thought I’d better mention this so people know where we stand, however I am very careful in what I recommend. I would be promoting SharePoint (as well as pointing out any issues with it) regardless of what Elcom’s strategy is.


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