Small SharePoint Deployments

One thing I haven’t posted about is the small deployments.  Yesterday I talked to someone deploying SharePoint for 15 users.  Now that’s a different set of challenges.  I ran into them after going through my Governance deck, which I’m sure overwhelmed them a bit.  By default I think in terms of enterprise scale and perspective.  That’s actually one reason I have enjoyed co-presenting with Shane Young (who’s moved on to presenting with other people lately, but he is an early founding member of my fan club.) for that reason.  Shane deals with the small businesses all the time.  I enjoyed getting his perspective as it applied to the SMB.  A question was asked yesterday about a default preconfigured installation of SharePoint for small business.  I had no idea.  If there is such a thing I would be interested in it.  I hope they aren’t running basic mode, otherwise I would have a hard time suggesting it’s usage.

Issues with the small deployments

So I was in this session in Rochester yesterday and I couldn’t shut up.  It was hard to sit in the audience hearing someone suggest small farms by default.  In all my years I’d never heard of *Real* production environments in the small mode with the exception of those shadow apps we hear about (those under the radar some small department doing something without IT’s approval or knowledge).  I have heard of Small Business Server, but rarely did I run into people at conferences in this config.  To my surprise 5 people raised their hands as currently running in that config (in a crowd of 35)!  Whoa, it did shock me just a bit.  Going to these smaller more local events has given me a bit of a different perspective. 

Later in the session the instructor was talking about how .DOCX isn’t indexed by default.  What!!! I’ve never heard of that.  I had to think about this for a while.  Of course WSS and MOSS both index the Office 2007 file formats by default for the most common apps like DOCX, PPTX, and XLSX.  Is there something in a SQL express or Basic Windows Internal Database Engine deployment where search is off?  Obviously the 2003 or WSS 2.0 doesn’t have those extensions and there’s a KB on that one  This KB tells you to install Office on the Server.  Don’t do that!!! Install this… The Microsoft Ifilter pack which does includes docx, .pptx, .xlsx, Office 2007 extensions plus many you DON’T get out of the box with WSS 3.0 and MOSS like .zip, .one, .vdx, .vsd, .vss, .vst, .vdx, .vsx, and .vtx.  I see this as an important step.  You want Visio and One note indexed right?

What can a small farm do?

It is not unreasonable to suggest that a small farm could handle 5000 unique users over a months time with a few hundred concurrent connections (essentially thousands of .NET requests per minute) and millions of page views per month.

While a small farm with one web front end and a back end full SQL server deployment could service up to 5000 users with periodic access for a departmental publishing site, but I haven’t encouraged it.  Why?  It’s the time to setup and reconfigure and having to mess with database connections and so on that discourages me.  With Virtual Images with VMWare or HyperV, I’m much more encouraged from a hardware perspective that you can do a lot with 2 physical boxes, but I still avoid the single image SharePoint deployment.  Those that do will find things run perfectly ok, until they have an outage and then they are down, and they are down HARD.  That first farm restore will be a nightmare, and you WILL curse SharePoint.  Not just for failed search index, but trying to get your databases back to the way they were, all sorts of decisions you won’t know how to weigh out.  Disaster Recovery on SharePoint is not easy and having one SharePoint server actually DOES make it harder, not easier.  Those of us doing this longer realize that.  We realize failures will happen, and the way to mitigate failures is to make sure we are fault tolerant.  Not only accounts and services, but all the things you don’t learn about timer services, deployment packages, and maintainability.  These things won’t come up with your single box deployment, and you’ll be missing out on many best practices.  I would suggest that you will spend more time in supporting your single box than you would 2 or 3 SharePoint boxes.  Crazy?

Check out this TechNet article on HyperV that compares performance of a small farm that’s physical verses virtual.  How did that sneak out?

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