This content is part of the Essential Guide: An introduction to SharePoint 2013
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SharePoint licensing is becoming simpler -- and cheaper

Microsoft has made some changes to its SharePoint licensing requirements, potentially saving customers a lot of money.

It is no big surprise that the latest version of Microsoft's SharePoint server is jam-packed with new features. What might be surprising is that Microsoft has made some changes to its SharePoint licensing requirements, and these changes have the potential to save customers a lot of money.

Internet Licensing: One of the big pain points for organizations using SharePoint 2010 was that exposing SharePoint to the Internet was often cost-prohibitive. Among the many questions SharePoint inspires is whether it is possible to configure a SharePoint server to act as a Web portal for an organization's customers. Although this sort of external connectivity is easy to configure, it hasn't always been cheap to do.

Microsoft has also made some changes to the way that searches work in SharePoint 2013.

If an organization wanted to use SharePoint 2010 as an Internet-facing customer portal or member portal, it was required to purchase a SharePoint for Internet Sites license. This license was available in either the Standard edition or an Enterprise edition. The cost of these licenses varied from one reseller to the next, but a Standard edition license typically costs at least $10,000, while an Enterprise edition licenses can easily cost $30,000 or more. Needless to say, these prices prevented smaller organizations from being able to use SharePoint as an Internet-facing portal.

Believe it or not, Microsoft has done away with the SharePoint licensing requirements for external users in the 2013 version. Although organizations that adopt SharePoint 2013 must still purchase server licenses and Client Access Licenses (CALs) for internal users, there is no longer a requirement for organizations with Internet-facing sites to purchase Internet Site licenses.

According to Microsoft's licensing requirements for SharePoint 2013, no Client Access Licenses are required for external users. Microsoft defines an external user as those who are "not either your or your affiliates' employees, or your or your affiliates' on-site contractors or on-site agents."

This means that if you wanted to build a SharePoint portal that allowed anonymous access to SharePoint data or that allowed customer access, then you would not be required to license those connections. You would only be required to purchase the necessary SharePoint server licenses and CALs for your internal users.

FAST Search: Microsoft has also made some changes to the way that searches work in SharePoint 2013. Although this is not technically a change to the SharePoint licensing model, it will undoubtedly have an impact on licensing for some organizations.

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In SharePoint 2010, Microsoft provided two different search engines. The regular search engine provided users with basic SharePoint search capabilities, but those who wanted a more robust search experience were forced to use FAST Search, which was only available with the Enterprise edition. This meant that some organizations were faced with the cost of purchasing an Enterprise edition license, just so they could have premium search capabilities.

In SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has done away with the FAST Search feature. Rather than including a premium search feature in the Enterprise edition, Microsoft has created a brand new search feature called SharePoint Search. SharePoint Search has all the capabilities of FAST Search (and more), but you don't need an Enterprise edition license to use it. The full capabilities of SharePoint Search are included in both the Standard and Enterprise editions.

Basic Licensing: Beyond the changes previously discussed, Microsoft has left alone the basic SharePoint licensing model. Microsoft still offers both a Standard edition and an Enterprise edition. Each SharePoint Server will require either a Standard edition or an Enterprise edition server license.

Furthermore, Client Access Licenses are required for internal users. If the organization is using SharePoint 2013 Standard edition, then each internal user will require a Standard CAL. If the organization is running SharePoint 2013 Enterprise edition, then internal users will also require an Enterprise CAL.

Brien Posey is an eight-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Brien worked as a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the nation's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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