SharePoint Extranets – SPS or WSS

August 29, 2006

So recently I’ve been asked several times about using Sharepoint Services as an extranet to securely exchange documents with customers and business partners – think about retailers looking to collaborate with partners and suppliers over merchandising decisons.  The short answer is that this is very possible with Windows Sharepoint Services.  However, you must be familiar with the licensing considerations, and how those apply to vanilla Windows Server compared to Small Business Server . . .

First, Windows Sharepoint Services is a free add-on to Windows Server 2003 – and as such, access to WSS is bound by Windows Server licensing for the product it is installed on.  With vanilla Windows Server, we have two licensing modes – Per Server and Per User / Device.  It is also important to note that while you can enable anonymous access to WSS sites and bypass licensing considerations, for the purposes of enabling a secure extranet, we’re assuming that anonymous access will not be enabled.

With Per Server mode, you are using a concurrent licensing model – so you can have an unlimited number of users accessing the server (and thus any WSS sites) just as long as the maximum number of concurrent connections does not exceed the number of installed CALs.

With Per User / Per Device mode (formerly Per Seat mode), you must have a User or Device CAL for each unique User or Device that connects to the server.  Therefore, if you wanted 100 separate users to access the server (and thus any WSS sites), you would need 100 User CALs. 

Now, for vanilla Windows Server, you can also purchase an External Connector – which allows for an unlimited number of external users to connect to your server (and thus any WSS sites).  Note that an external user is defined as “a person who is not an employee, or similar personnel of the company or its affiliates, and is not someone to whom you provide hosted services using the server software” – so you would still require the necessary CALs for internal users. The challenge that i have faced is that the External connector Licence in a scenario where SPS is being used with a resilaint architecture is that its is quite expensive – blowing most business cases out of the water. (is charged per front end server)

So – to use Windows Sharepoint Services as an extranet solution on vanilla Windows Server, the licensing structure that works best is dependant on the number of concurrent external connections that you are anticipating, as well as the licensing mode you’re using for any other Windows servers in your domain.  For a stand-alone server, you would probably be best served with a Per Server licensing mode and a smaller number of CALs – as you would only need to license the maximum number of concurrent connections (whether internal or external users).  For a domain member server where the rest of the domain is using a Per User / Per Device mode, it makes sense to use the same Per User / Per Device mode on the WSS server, since your users / devices are already licensed.  In this scenario, you would then need to purchase User CALs for each named external User.  Once an organization is looking at more than 40 external users, then the External Connector makes sense (as Windows CALs are ~ $50 each, and the External Connector is ~ $2k).  Again, the External Connector only licenses external users – so you would need CALs for internal users.

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2 Responses to “SharePoint Extranets – SPS or WSS”

  1. Eric White said

    Thanks for the article.

    If I want to grant access to our WSS Intranet (which is available to the outside via ISA Server)to external users, is the External Connector the tool that facilitates creating user ID + password credentials that are not based in Active Directory?

  2. Have you had a chance to see Epok’s Extranet Extensions for MOSS 2007? Take a look:

    http://www.epok.net/flash/demo/epokEdition/epok_edition_preso.html

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