Enterprise software licensing is a challenge for many organizations as it is confusing and often extremely expensive. We're fortunate at Habanero as most of our clients purchase the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite (ECAL), so they are licensed for the majority of the Microsoft product stack and the cost of licensing additional servers isn't astronomical. In addition, Software Assurance means they always have up-to-date licensing, which provides licenses for the latest and greatest Microsoft has to offer.

One scenario that wasn't covered by the ECAL was when an organization wanted to use SharePoint for their customer or member portal. In SharePoint 2010 you couldn't simply use a SharePoint Server license, you were required to purchase a "SharePoint for Internet Sites" license. Microsoft provided two different editions: SharePoint 2010 for Internet Sites Standard Edition and SharePoint 2010 for Internet Sites Enterprise Edition.

Although licensing for the Standard Edition of SharePoint was reasonable, it was limited to hosting sites on one domain. As such, many of our clients didn't consider the product a good fit. The Enterprise Edition was full-featured, but a well-configured SharePoint farm for external use could cost an organization in excess of $250,000. This was a deal-breaker for many organizations that were considering using SharePoint to host their website and/or extranet.

What's different with SharePoint 2013?

I attended the licensing session at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas. If you've ever been to a software licensing talk the scene will be familiar. Licensing sessions generally don't provide good news for the people attending. Most of the time a poor sales engineer or licensing specialist has to explain to a generally hostile crowd how a new, even-more-confusing scheme is a "good thing". The crowd varies from ambivalent (if the changes don't impact them directly), to outright hostile and angry as they realize they are going to be paying a lot more for licensing.

This year was a dramatically different experience as Microsoft announced that they were discontinuing the SharePoint for Internet Sites licensing scheme and companies that want to use SharePoint for a website and/or extranet simply need to buy a SharePoint Server 2013 license for each server. This will dramatically reduce the licensing costs for organizations that were considering purchasing SharePoint 2010 for Internet Sites Enterprise Edition licensing!

Why use SharePoint 2013 for your customer or member portal?

In addition to the lower price, Microsoft has made the product more accessible for organizations that want a robust, stable, and secure platform that excels in customer and member portal scenarios where integration with other systems is required.

There are a number of other improvements including:

  • Content authoring enhancements including copy-and-paste from Word with semantically correct HTML markup. (Yes, I realize that they have said this for the last few versions, but it actually works quite well — finally!)
  • Improved image and video capabilities including a new HTML5 video player
  • Better support for multilingual site translation workflow
  • Catalog-enabled libraries and lists so content can be reused across multiple sites (perfect for knowledge bases or articles that are used throughout an organization)
  • The integration of FAST Search technologies including search driven information presentment (perfect for the display of related content, refiners and a much better search experience)
  • Friendly URLs

With the licensing improvements and enhancements to the platform's content management capabilities using SharePoint for a website or extranet should be a no-brainer, especially for companies that want to standardize on one platform for all of their portal and collaboration needs to reduce licensing, training, development, support, and maintenance costs.

I think in the next year we will see a lot more sites built on the platform!