Looking back over the last three years of implementing SharePoint solutions for a wide variety of clients (large and small), I would say this is the number one question clients ask me when looking to get started on their first SharePoint portal solution. I think it is definitely one of the first questions you should try to answer when planning your SharePoint solution. After all, selecting the right version of SharePoint will save your organization time and money; and ensure that you maximize the benefits realized from the SharePoint platform. In this blog, I will help you understand the differences between Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) which should make it easier for you to select the version of SharePoint that is right for your organization.
Each version of SharePoint has its place in the world. Ask yourself:
- How many people will be using SharePoint?
- What are my portal branding requirements?
- Do I need an approval workflow to manage changes to content?
- How many team/publishing sites are we expecting to create?
- How many people outside my organization will need access to SharePoint?
- Does my organization have access to .NET programming resources?
Read on to learn how the answers to these questions will help you decide which version of SharePoint is right for your organization.
Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0
Estimated Retail License Cost: $0
Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 is the most economical version of the SharePoint platform – licensing for this version of the software is FREE! For organizations with fewer than 250 users that will be implementing SharePoint for the first time, I almost always recommend that they start with at least a pilot project using WSS. Even though WSS is the entry-level SharePoint version, it is packed with valuable portal and collaboration features. Key features include:
- Document collaboration with Versioning and Metadata
- Document Indexing and Search
- Issue and Task Tracking
- Incoming/Outgoing Email Alerts & Notifications
- Wikis, Blogs, Surveys
- RSS Feeds and Discussion Boards
- Integration with Outlook 2007 and Office 2007
- “Three-State” Out-of-the-box Workflow
Using SharePoint Designer (formerly known as Microsoft FrontPage and also licensed for FREE), non-programmers can extend the out-of-the-box WSS features to provide additional workflow and project management capabilities. The possibilities for extending WSS features are almost limitless for programmers who are comfortable programming .NET solutions with Visual Studio.
Click here to see an example of how WSS can be extended to include a decision-making SharePoint dashboard that tracks your organization's key performance indicators.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) - Standard Edition
Estimated Retail License Cost: $4,451 per server AND $94 per user/device
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) comes in two varieties: Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition. MOSS Standard Edition is actually a bundle of applications and features that sit on top of the WSS version of SharePoint. Organizations with more than 250 users should take a close look at both WSS and MOSS Standard Edition when implementing SharePoint for the first time. In addition to the WSS features, MOSS Standard Edition includes:
- Enhanced Site Navigation and Look and Feel
- Enhanced Page Authoring with Content Approval Workflow
- My Sites / Enhanced User Profiles
- Audience Targeting and Personalization
- Four Additional Out-of-the-Box Workflows
- Several Portal Administration Tools for IT
MOSS is definitely the right choice for organizations that require their SharePoint portal to adhere to strict corporate branding standards (WSS does allow you to customize look and feel, but applying the look and feel to new WSS sites is not straight-forward). Organizations that desire a workflow to approve content changes should also choose MOSS for their SharePoint portal. MOSS also comes with many out-of-the-box features that system administrators will find convenient (and essential if you expect your SharePoint Portal to encompass several hundred team sites and publishing sites).
If you plan to give anyone outside your organization access to your portal, don't forget to include them in your budget for software licenses. Organizations that have many external business partners may consider taking a hybrid approach by implementing a MOSS portal for internal users that publishes relevant content to a WSS portal that external users can access. As is the case with WSS, MOSS Standard Edition can also be extended with SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio to build more powerful applications.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) - Enterprise Edition
Estimated Retail License Cost: $4,451 per server AND $169 per user/device
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) Enterprise Edition extends MOSS Standard Edition with additional capabilities that medium to large enterprise organizations are likely to find valuable (some smaller organizations will also find Enterprise Edition valuable). An organization that will have a dedicated team responsible for maintaining and/or creating SharePoint applications will likely choose MOSS Enterprise Edition. Some of the additional features included in MOSS Enterprise Edition are:
- Browser-based Web Forms and Workflow via InfoPath/Forms Server
- Business Data Catalog for Line of Business Application Integration
- Enhanced Line of Business Data Indexing for Search
- Business Intelligence (via Performance Point Server)
- Server-side Excel Services
- Web Parts to Build Dashboards and Key Performance Indicators
Organizations that do not have in-house .NET programming capabilities (or an IT partner with .NET programming skills) should take a close look at MOSS Enterprise Edition. The key features that set MOSS Enterprise Edition apart from the other versions of SharePoint are its system integration and business intelligence capabilities. It is definitely possible for a WSS or MOSS portal to have these capabilities (
click here to see a few examples), but without an IT partner or in-house .NET capabilities at your disposal, you will need MOSS Enterprise to take advantage of these portal capabilities.
Additional Food for Thought
SharePoint is a powerful platform, no matter which version you choose. However, implementing SharePoint is not a walk in the park. I firmly believe that organizations new to SharePoint need to have someone with SharePoint expertise leading the implementation effort. Planning your site taxonomy (site navigation / how your content will be structured) and establishing a governance strategy (who will be given which level of access to which content and what processes will be followed to manage your portal) are examples of activities that are often overlooked if you haven't implemented a Microsoft SharePoint Server solution before.
Learn more about DMC's SharePoint consulting services.