A better SharePoint Connector – Which version?

After spending the Christmas days with my family, I’m about to start the development of the SharePoint connector. Before I can do this I need to decide what version of SharePoint I’m going to install.

As I wrote before, the connector must be capable of connecting to both SharePoint Online and on-premise environments. For the ease of development (especially debugging ;) ) I’m going to use SharePoint Foundation 2013 instead of SharePoint Server 2013 Standard/Enterprise. In this article I’ll explain why.

SharePoint 2013 comes in four different versions.

  • SharePoint Foundation
    This is the free version of SharePoint. This version contains about 90% of the functionality of the SharePoint Server editions.
  • SharePoint Server Standard
    This version is the entry level SharePoint server, used by most organizations.
  • SharePoint Server Enterprise
    This is the full blown SharePoint server, with all bells and whistles.
  • SharePoint Online

For a complete list of features and differences, please check out the comparision chart on BLKSTHL’s SharePoint blog.

Don’t let the chart fool you

If you look at the comparision chart you’ll see a lot of “No” ticks in the SharePoint foundation column, but don’t let the chart fool you.

All essential functionality is available in SharePoint Foundation, I name a few:

  • Business Connectity Services (external lists and secure store service)
  • Browser based customizations
  • Client Side Object model
  • Javascript Object model
  • List and Library API’s
  • Inbound e-mail functionality
  • Event receivers
  • Sandbox solutions
  • Full Trust solutions
  • Workflows
  • AD synchronization
  • Alternate Access Mappings
  • Office Web Apps connectivity
  • SQL Server Reporting Services integration
  • Continuous crawl
  • Quick preview (see a document preview in the search results)
  • Document Sets (advanced document management)

In a nutshell this means that SharePoint Foundation does offer most of the tools you might need for document management out of the box. With some creativity (read: coding) you can extend the platform to become very powerful.

Looking at scalability: SharePoint foundation is very scalable. You can add servers to the farm if needed (both front end and application servers) and you can use a full blown SQL Server for unlimited storage.

Look before you leap

Before installing SharePoint Foundation, you need to plan ahead. Once installed using the wrong options you might end up having a system which is not extendable. The installation procedure might trick you in the wrong direction. The key thing during installation is to choose for an environment with an existing SQL Server.

Some final thoughts

SharePoint Foundation is often painted as a wannabe solution. Vendors often try to let you buy one of the SharePoint Server products. Frankly, for most of the customers I’ve worked for (top 200 of dutch companies) a good configured SharePoint Foundation would have done the job. Most of the bells and whistles of the server editions were never used.

In case you run a good configured SharePoint Foundation solution and you run into a wall, you always can do the upgrade to one of the server versions. That is one of the reasons I recommend SharePoint Foundation as a starting point. For my development image, the choice is clear:

SharePoint Foundation 2013