SharePoint

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.

Comment

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.

Licensing

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 🙂

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 🙂

References

References: Inside Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 by Patrick Tisseghem

Notes

* 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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TECHED: Why SharePoint Branding and Customization?

Posted on August 11, 2007. Filed under: SharePoint, TechEd |

Why SharePoint Branding?
Answer: Because we can. Finally.

Yes, the customization ‘features’ of SharePoint have been well criticised for a while, so it is good to see that branding and formatting is now a simple combination of master page changes and CSS.

Not that it is trivial, but as Kathy Hughes covered (extremely well I might add) in her session, it is very straight forward once you know how. Getting your head around the Content database and how pages are constructed with Page layouts, Content placeholders and web parts is a little confusing at first, but soon starts making sense.
Themes are also supported, but I had to leave the session before we got to this part (a pity).

The customization tools are spread across SharePoint Designer, Visual Studio and also in browser changes.
The session covered the basic steps of Design, Coding and then Cascading down through sites.

So, to repeat my earlier answer to Why SharePoint branding…
Answer: Because we can, and we can do it reasonably easily now.

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SHAREPOINT: Beginner’s guide

Posted on July 31, 2007. Filed under: SharePoint |

A few Fox people have asked me lately about SharePoint, and how to get started with it. This might seem strange given how much push it is getting from Microsoft, but perhaps this is another case of having tooooo much information to sift through. Sometimes it can be too overwhelming.

(Note: I am not a SharePoint expert – this is early days for me too)

Anyway, here’s a few resources to get started:

Links

Mindset

There’s two things I’ve realised about SharePoint that developers need to understand:

  1. We need to get our heads around configuration
  2. We need to understand the significance of workflow

As developers we generally like to avoid all the setup stuff (eg take SQL Server), and instead concentrate on the programming (eg database design and writing stored procedures). With SharePoint we can’t do this – we need to understand all the setup and configuration stuff as well as the programming. A large part of SharePoint solutions is in the initial config, and we can’t just palm it off onto the IT Pros.

With regard to workflow, we need to grasp that the future of enterprise development revolves around workflow. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise (eg the .Net framework has a big focus on it) but it is easy to ignore (especially if you are from a database background).

Books

There’s millions of books available of course, but here’s two I’m reading:

VPC

This is excellent. It takes you step-by-step through how to build a Virtual PC of Windows 2003 Server with MOSS 2007 fully installed.

How to create a MOSS 2007 VPC

Note: this requires you to have access to licenses for Windows 2003 Server, SQL Server 2005, SharePoint Designer, and MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) 2007. For MSDN subscribers and MVPs this won’t be a problem, but for others this could be tricky. You may need to use a range of trial software. There may even be fully configured trial VPCs available too (but that kinda defeats the purpose of going through all the config).

Personal note 1: It took me approx 2 weeks to complete, as I was installing a little bit each night and playing with a few things along the way (colleagues at work have set it up in a day though). Once complete, it is a full VPC (at roughly 10GB) that you can backup easily.

Personal note 2: In light of my recent notebook reinstalls, I have come to fully appreciate the beauty of VPCs!

Blogs

There’s also millions of SharePoint blogs around. Here’s two local guys that I read:

SharePoint Tips (Ishai Sagi)

Guru Web (Ivan Wilson)

Other

Sydney also has a SharePoint User Group, but I haven’t attended it (but feel it worth mentioning since I know the company who organize it). The meeting coming up in August looks very good.

Darren Neimke’s book (ASP.Net web parts in Action) always gets great reviews, and is sitting on one of our desks at work, but so far I haven’t read it. The reason for mentioning it is because many ASP.Net developers don’t realize they are 90% of the way to being SharePoint developers – much of the coding behind SharePoint sites is all ASP.Net. And yet, I hear many ASP.Net developers tell me they don’t know the first thing about SharePoint. With the state of the SharePoint market at the moment (it’s hot, hot, hot in Australia) there’s plenty of opportunities for those quick enough to re-package themselves.

Andrew Coates points to the 2007 Microsoft Office Virtual Labs, some of which cover SharePoint.

Of interest

Microsoft is in the process of moving their entire US web site to be SharePoint 2007 based, but as of July 2007 my understanding is that this is not yet completed – please let me know if it has been completed.

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