SharePoint 4x4: 4 Rules for Steering SharePoint in 2014

SharePoint 4x4: 4 Rules for Steering SharePoint in 2014

By Chris McNulty

Saddle up!  SharePoint 2013 is not your father’s Oldsmobile.  (Pontiac?  Saab?) 

Fig. 1: Also not HIS father's Oldsmobile. Copyright 2014 Christopher McNulty

Okay, that cliché’s as tired as “trust but verify” or “SharePoint is a Swiss Army Knife.”

Our goal here is to give you four rules to steer SharePoint in 2014.


SharePoint in 2014: Let's Have a Winning Year

Think of each technology year as a sports season. 

Each year, some teams are the Cinderella darlings, and some are perpetually doomed to lower echelons.  But some teams are playoff perennials with burgeoning trophy cases.

The same is true in SharePoint. 

For every enterprise that uses SharePoint as the centerpiece of mission critical collaboration, there’s another that tells you “We have it, don’t know how much it gets used, but…”

What’s the difference? 


So herewith, four guiding principles to shape your SharePoint work in 2014. 


SharePoint : Big.  Simple.  Decentralized.  Up.

#1 SharePoint Rule: Think Big

Big data and SharePoint should be synonymous.  In 2012, the total monthly rate for data traffic exceeded the total size of the known Internet in 2000.  And that growth rate is only accelerating – some industry projections show a ten-fold increase in data usage by 2017

If you’re running up against the fabled 200GB content database limit now, be ready – what will it look like in 2017?  Project the same rate and you’re looking at 2TB content databases.  And when users can buy 2TB of personal storage for less than $100, how much demand will they put on your enterprise systems?

And if the median SharePoint on-premises farm has about 1,000 users, expect those numbers to skyrocket when the potential user pool explodes with cloud-connected access.  By the end of 2014, I project at least 50 percent growth in the average content size and user population for most midsized SharePoint implementations. 

But that 200GB per content database support guideline remains in place.  How can you adapt to these demands?  A few quick tips:

  1. Upgrade to 2013 – SharePoint 2013 stores updates to files in a far more efficient manner, using a techniques called “Shredded Storage”.  In Shredded Storage, only the portions of a file that have been changed are saved from version to version, yielding slower growth rates for content databases.
  2. SQL Server engineering – The performance of SharePoint is directly correlated to the performance of SQL.  A full inventory of SQL optimization is beyond the scope of a single blog post – but visit my article in SQL Server Pro for more details.
  3. Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) – RBS allows you to move files from your content databases to alternate storage – file shares, NAS, SANs.  This gets around the 200GB limit and can allow essentially limitless content capacity.   RBS requires either the free FILESTREAM addin from Microsoft (which has limitations) or third party tools (e.g. AvePoint, Dell, Metalogix) for effective management.

#2 SharePoint Rule: Think Simple

Microsoft has given us many ways to do the same things in SharePoint:

  • Taxonomy or social tags
  • Native social or Yammer. 
  • InfoPath or customized ASPX
  • Full trust code or CSOM or code free solutions.
  • Workflow or information management policy to curate documents
  • PerformancePoint or SSRS or Power Pivot or any of Microsoft’s other BI toolsets

Many SharePoint farms use a combination of all these techniques.  But they’re not all equally well suited to all tasks.  And the combined burden of supporting multiple patterns is taxing to most IT support staffs. 

The most forward-looking SharePoint implementation – on-premises or cloud – will simplify the technical complexity of their farms.  Choose one technique – codefree, CSOM, REST, not InfoPath – and make it preferred.

#3 SharePoint Rule: Think Decentralized

Ten years ago, most SharePoint farms were rigidly hierarchical.  In the past few years, we’ve seen a few trends:

  • Multifarm SharePoint information architecture
  • The ‘Share” function
  • Granular permissions that minimize the need for hierarchies
  • More sites created for cross-departmental projects or teams
  • Hybrid multicloud designs

As a result, SharePoint farms are becoming much less driven by centralized portals.  Some farm designs only maintain a central corporate page that runs enterprise search, with personal pages and links driving to multiple sets of physical farms.

Below are some graphics illustrating the change in farm designs, from 2003, to 2007, to 2014.

Fig. 2: 2003 Farm Organization

Fig.3: 2007 Farm Organization

Fig. 4: 2014 Farm Organization

Trying to corral the sprawl of sites is a great challenge, and probably irreversible.  There’s a right way and a wrong way. Common look and feel, shared navigation, the use of My Sites, and enterprise maintained site directories can help.

Here’s another tip for a decentralized world: Search can help. And there’s a reason that Google, Bing, and Yahoo all make search central on their home page. 

You don’t need to bury search several levels below a default team site home page – just add the search web part (see screen shot below).

Fig. 5: Search Web Part

#4 SharePoint Rule: Think Up

If you’re already on SharePoint 2013 or Office 365, congratulations. If not, get ready for upgrades. 2014 is shaping up to be a huge year for SharePoint upgrades.

When Microsoft staged its collaboration story in the second half of 2012, they gave IT a lot to digest.  In 2010, I saw a lot of organizations move swiftly into “upgrade mode.”  Although 2010 was released in May 2010, by September the last of our client projects had shifted into 2010 upgrades.

However, the simultaneous news about SharePoint 2013, Office 365, and Yammer gave IT a lot more to digest than usual.  Not a surprise that upgrades have moved a little more slowly.  Lately I’ve heard from a lot of CIOs and IT managers who’ve figured out their reference architecture moving forward:

SharePoint 2013 on premises, as the key integration point for selected cloud technologies – Salesforce, SkyDrive, Yammer.

Interest and rollouts are definitely way up for “pure” Office 365 solutions, as well as traditional data center all on-premises designs.  Regardless, 2014 is a big year for upgrades and migrations.


Chris McNulty is CTO Windows Systems Management at Dell Software, where he oversees the strategic product direction of the SharePoint business.  Chris is a Microsoft SharePoint MVP, Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), and a member of the Microsoft Solutions Advocate and MVTSP programs. A frequent speaker at events around the world, Chris is the author of “SharePoint 2013 Consultant’s Handbook,” and many other titles.  He also blogs at and SharePointForAll.  Prior to Dell, Chris led the SharePoint consulting practice at KMA, a New England-based Microsoft Gold Partner. He holds an MBA in investment management from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, and has more than 20 years of experience in financial services technology with John Hancock, State Street, GMO, and Santander.

TAGS: Office 365
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