Survey: Organizations Underestimating SharePoint Costs
Organizations are underestimating the costs and personnel requirements for maintaining SharePoint, according to a recent industry-sponsored survey.
Issues include ballooning storage requirements, low staffing levels and poor plans for implementing Microsoft's business collaboration platform, according to a survey of more than 110 respondents, which was conducted by Osterman Research in September and early October. The study was sponsored by Azaleos Corp., a Seattle-based company founded by former Microsoft employees that provides consulting and management services associated with Microsoft Exchange, Lync and SharePoint. Azaleos also works with IBM, Verizon Business, Savvis and CDW, which resell Azaleos services via their datacenters.
Organizations still seem mostly happy with SharePoint, with 67 percent of respondents saying that it has improved their information management capabilities. However, about 30 percent cite feelings that SharePoint has either had no impact, a doubtful impact or just made things worse. Most respondents (87 percent) in the Osterman survey used SharePoint either on-premises or in private clouds. It's not clear from the survey which on-premises SharePoint versions were used.
The main uses of SharePoint, according to survey participants, were for housing document libraries and collaborating (88 percent), document repositories (77 percent), business records (56 percent), discussion boards (47 percent), shared calendars (42 percent), MySites (35 percent) and social media (32 percent).
Expectations Not Met, Costs Up
The study found that just 14 percent of participants thought that SharePoint met their expectations when initially deployed. In comparison with an August 2011 Osterman survey, it seems that organizations feel that SharePoint apps are too costly or too complicated to buy or build. SharePoint was also seen as lacking templates or applications for specific business needs. There also was difficulty in finding IT personnel with the qualifications to manage SharePoint. Total cost of ownership increased between the two surveys, from $45.77 per seat per month in August 2011 to $48.47 in the September 2012 survey.
Storage growth appears to be one reason why organizations have underestimated the costs of deploying SharePoint, along with poor governance plans for maintaining the massive amount of data housed. About three quarters of companies in the survey either had no governance plan at all or they have one and aren't following it. The Osterman study found that there's about 1.25 GB of content being managed for the average SharePoint user. About half of organizations surveyed are maintaining more than 1 TB of data in SharePoint, which can balloon over the years.
The Osterman study pointed to the rapid growth of SharePoint, with 40 percent of respondents indicating that it had grown "more rapidly than they had anticipated," as one factor in the IT personnel shortage. The study also speculated that cutbacks in IT departments represented another factor. Mean SharePoint administrator staffing had dropped from three people in the August 2011 Osterman survey to two people in the September 2012 survey.
The personnel drop, as noted by the new survey, is somewhat unexplained, according to Scott Gode, vice president of product management and marketing at Azaleos. However, he pointed to the requirements of data management and governance as a possible explanation.
"I think it was more of a case where there's not enough data around how SharePoint needs to get governed and how the overall SharePoint platform in a given organization is growing," Gode said. "With [SharePoint] 2013, there's a potential for a lot more apps to go onto that platform because of the whole SharePoint Marketplace that Microsoft is creating. And so you are going to need more personnel or if you don't need more personnel, you're going to need a much tighter system of governance within the SharePoint platform to enable them to get along with less people. Maybe what companies are saying is we are in the process of putting in tighter governance systems and procedures, and, in anticipation of those taking hold, we are going to drop out some of our personnel right now. Or maybe they are in the process of hiring companies like Azaleos to fill the gap."
Even with Azaleos' services in place, Gode said that Azaleos recommends that a company have one-third or up to two IT personnel working with SharePoint. Azaleos has three parts to its services. It offers architectural guidance, including designing storage. It has a deployment service addressing issues around SharePoint migrations. And its core business is monitoring and management for SharePoint server installations and the overall health of the ecosystem. The company currently supports SharePoint 2013, which was released to manufacturers this month
SharePoint Apps Considerations
Microsoft's SharePoint Marketplace promises to keep apps for SharePoint running separately from the SharePoint server, which will improve performance and security. But organizations may have some considerations if moving to SharePoint via Microsoft's public cloud. Gode said that Microsoft has done a "very meticulous job" in isolating and sandboxing processes with Office 365. However, tapping the public cloud can be "a roadblock" for some companies if they are rebuilding apps for SharePoint online as it is sometimes too onerous to move apps into the cloud. It's mostly a problem for "old school" SharePoint application vendors, he added. Still, the apps situation is a consideration for companies looking at Office 365.
"If they want to migrate from an on-premise or private cloud to Office 365, then that's more onerous from an application standpoint," Gode said. "If it's just migrating from [SharePoint] 2007 or 2010 to 2013 [on premises], then there are still some issues involved there in terms of making sure the apps work correctly across the new platform in an on-premise or private cloud scenario, but it's not as complicated as it would be if you are moving to the public cloud."
One benefit that SharePoint 2013 brings is Microsoft's integration of FAST search into the server. Gode said that previously, IT pros would have to perform a "scheduled crawl" of the data and it would leave gaps if the crawl hadn't taken place before the search was performed. Now that gap is miniscule, he said. This capability can potentially improve the storage situation in SharePoint because if it's quicker to find things in the system, then storing older data becomes less important. Gode added that FAST search also works across Exchange and Lync, too.
The Osterman study, "SharePoint Census 2012," can be accessed via Azaleos' site here (requires filling out a sign-up form).
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.