Have you recently decided to embark on the SharePoint journey but are not sure what’s required from a licensing and infrastructure perspective?

The first step is to choose between the cloud option and a traditional on-premise deployment. Microsoft has an all-inclusive user-based cloud option called SharePoint Online as part of its Office 365,Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. This option eliminates the need to buy and maintain various licenses, or the infrastructure mentioned above; and Microsoft will also take care of the upgrades and feature updates for you.

There are several plans available for SharePoint Online, including Plan 1 or Plan 2 (you can mix and match these plans across your user base), or you may wish to consider the enterprise bundles that include Exchange, Lync and Office subscriptions in various guises. There are even specific Non Profit plans for registered charities.

Whilst Microsoft is working on a ‘cloud first’ strategy, we still come across organisations who feel more comfortable keeping their data on-premise. If you are ‘not yet drinking the cloud kool-aid’, here is some handy information for you to get started with:

  • Windows licenses – First and foremost you will need multiple Windows servers to build the SharePoint farm and, depending on the number of users and complexity of the solution, this  can range from anywhere from two to more than five. Two is the bare minimum to keep the web front server and application server separate and five is generally recommended for large organisations where separating the roles increases the performance. For example, dedicated web front end, application, Office web apps and database servers instead of combining these on one server. Although we recommend deploying the latest Windows server version,SharePoint 2013 only requires Windows Server 2008 R2 as minimum. This means you can probably get away with not purchasing new Windows licenses if you already own Windows 2008 R2 Data centre licenses. The new VM’s will fit on your existing (and licensed) host.
  • SharePoint licenses – Similar to the Windows Server licensing structure you need a SharePoint Server license and a SharePoint CAL (Standard CAL with or without and additionalEnterpriseCAL) to implement SharePoint 2013. While Microsoft offers a SharePoint Foundation server included in most Windows Server licenses, its features are very limited.

Key points regarding SharePoint licenses

    • A SharePoint server license is required for each running instance of the software with the exception of the Office Web Apps Server.For example, if the recommended SharePoint server architecture includes a separate web front end and application servers, you will need two SharePoint server licenses (plus your SQL database licensing – server and CAL or processor licensing).
    • SharePoint Enterprise CALs are a cumulative purchase to SharePoint Standard CALs – which means that to access the Enterprise edition features of SharePoint, a user must have both the SharePoint Standard CAL and the SharePoint Enterprise CAL. It is not mandatory for quantities of both Enterprise and SharePoint CALs to be the same, however if you get audited by Microsoft the onus is on you to prove that only Enterprise CAL users are accessing Enterprise features and not others.
    • With SharePoint Server 2013, it is far less costly to deploy SharePoint-based Internet-facing sites than was possible under the previous versions. Microsoft has abolished the need for internet-specific licenses. Traditionally most organisations deploying SharePoint have used the product to construct intranet sites, accessible to internal users only. However, with the increased demand for SharePoint‑based websites, the changes to licensing requirements in SharePoint 2013 provide an opportunity for a single content management engine for intranet, extranet, internet and mobile sites at no additional license fee.
  • SQL licenses – SharePoint uses SQL as the backend to store data and unless the planned solution includes business intelligence components it is likely that you will only need the Standard edition of SQL licensing. This can be purchased under either a user and CAL model or a per processor core model.
  • Server infrastructure – SharePoint, if correctly configured and properly planned, can rapidly become a critical business platform integrating with other line of business applications and automating major business process. As such, it is recommended that you configure highly available virtualised infrastructure with guaranteed uptime, disaster recovery and remote connectivity options built in. The table below can be used to get flavours on virtual machines required for a typical 200-300 users SharePoint 2013 implementation.
Roles CPUs minimum RAM Disk for system drive
Web front end server 64 bit, 2 cores 12GB 80GB
Application and search server 64 bit, 2 cores 12GB 80GB
Office web apps (OWA) server 64 bit, 2 cores 8GB 80GB
Database server 64 bit, 4 cores 8GB 80GB


When you think you have mastered SharePoint on-premise licensing, the next decision you need to make is whether to buy the license only or if you are going to include Software Assurance (Microsoft’s value packed software maintenance) and if you are going to buy it with two years up front, over three years with equal annual instalments or as a subscription. And don’t forget if you are a not for profit organisation there are discounted offerings as is applicable to organisations with more than 250 seats where a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement may make sense.

Does all of the above look like more than you can handle?

All this can be a minefield and that’s where we can help guide you to the plan that will best meet your needs.

Professional Advantage has worked with organisations ranging from 10 users to thousands of users and understands that every business’s requirements are unique. If you need assistance, feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements with one of our SharePoint specialists and we will be only too happy to help.

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