Is SharePoint Free?

Why, yes it is! Provided, of course, that you use a very specific definition of “Free”, then yes, SharePoint is free.

So why is there so much confusion about the cost of SharePoint? That’s because SharePoint isn’t just SharePoint and because Microsoft is great at getting you to buy their stuff.

The Cost of SharePoint

Let’s start this off by making absolutely 100% certain that SharePoint is free. You can download it today, and you don’t even need to register. Click a link and *poof* a little while later, you have SharePoint, to use as you wish.

So why is there a license price listed on Microsoft’s pages? Why are people paying tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for SharePoint licenses?

The trick here is that, although SharePoint is free, there are a number of add-on packages that you can buy. The most prominent of these is SharePoint Server, which is a set of extended functions to SharePoint, produced and shipped by Microsoft.

When you see a cost associated with licensing SharePoint, you can be pretty sure that cost is related to SharePoint Server.

The confusion and mix-up probably stems from the fact that Microsoft owns the trademark SharePoint and is the only vendor allowed to call anything “SharePoint”. If I were to build a set of add-ons, I couldn’t call them SharePoint Addons because that would be a breach of trademark. So, the only product that extends SharePoint that can be called SharePoint is Microsoft’s own SharePoint Server.

You don’t need SharePoint Server, though. It doesn’t change SharePoint in any way. In fact, Microsoft is very good at this and follows a very commendable practice: They do, in SharePoint Server, only what anyone else can do as well. They have done it and they charge for it, but you don’t need to buy the functionality from Microsoft, you can build it yourself or get it from another vendor, if you need that functionality at all.

But enough talk about licensing. Even if you can get SharePoint for free doesn’t mean SharePoint is free in all meanings of the word.

Time is Money

A couple of decades ago, a friend noted, during one of our discussions on Linux and Windows, that Linux is free only as long as your time is worthless.

In SharePoint, things do take time, as it does with any software. That time costs someone money, and regardless of whether you use the free version of SharePoint or you pay for an add-on package,  it will take time to get to a point where you get real value from SharePoint.

If you just take SharePoint and install it, it will probably take somewhere around 15-30 minutes until you’re ready to go. That doesn’t mean you know how to use it, much less use it effectively. Just like when you install WordPress, you can have WordPress ready to go in 15-20 minutes, but that doesn’t mean you get any value from it.

In order to get SharePoint useful, you need to have an idea of how you want to use it. That requires planning. If you don’t know how to plan it, you need to learn. That requires studying. If you don’t know what to study, you need to do research. By the end of getting a free piece of software to be useful, you’ve spent days, weeks, or months of your life getting to a point where you start getting real value.

Perhaps you want to create a custom business application on top of SharePoint. SharePoint is awesome at that. However, not knowing anything about how SharePoint works, you’re back to the cycle of having to plan, learn, and research, and another few months have passed.

In many situations, it makes far more sense to just buy what someone else has built for you. In some cases, this may very well be what comes in SharePoint Server. The cost of just buying something already made is often lower than investing the time into building it yourself.

But what if you don’t even have a plan and you don’t have or want to spend months learning? Don’t worry, there are solutions to that as well. You can hire a SharePoint professional to help you with all of that, whether that is someone like me who does architecture and development or it is a trainer that can help your users understand and get more out of SharePoint. These people do nothing else but help organizations get value from SharePoint.

What you don’t want to do, though, is hope that free means valuable. You need to learn how to use it or you need to pay someone to help you use it. 

So how much does SharePoint cost? That greatly depends on a number of things, but I can guarantee you that you get more out of it than you put in if you do it right.

If you don’t, you’re just throwing money out the window for a free piece of software.


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The Big Secret to Being Interviewed for a SharePoint Position

It can seem like a daunting event. You’ve spent months looking for the perfect job, then probably days or weeks perfecting your resume and your application, and you’ve been nervous about the response for a long time too.

Then, you get the call, or email, or text, saying that the company would like you to come in for an interview. On the day of the interview, you put on your best shirt, think about all the questions you may be asked, and you’re concerned whether you’ll be deemed good enough. Your pulse starts racing, your palms are sweaty. Adrenaline pumps through your veins.

It’s not comfortable.

I’ve got to tell you, though… It’s a lot easier than you think, but there’s one thing you need to know and do, or you’ll be in for a world of hurt.

The good news is that this one thing is very easy to do. The bad news is that if you haven’t done this one thing already, it’s too late.

I’m talking about honesty.

It’s Such a Lonely Word

Here’s the gist of it. You have the easiest task in the room. Put yourself in the shoes of those that interview you for a moment.

You meet a person whom you’ve never met before and have read, at best, a couple of pages of descriptive text. Your responsibility is to determine whether your company should invest money, time, and reputation in, and risk liability for this person.

It’s not just about the salary either. In fact, that’s the least concerning topic. The cost to the company of hiring a person is often three times or more what the salary will be. The cost to the company of the person failing is far higher.

Now, you get 30 minutes with this person, and you need to learn enough about this person to put tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. Ask the wrong question and you make your decision on faulty information and *poof* goes $200K down the drain.

You think you have it tough while being interviewed? Think again. All you have to do is answer the questions with honesty.

Everyone is So Untrue

I’ve read a fair share of resumes for SharePoint people in my time. More often than you’d think, the resumes are dishonest, probably in attempts to impress those who would not know better.

A few times, though, those hiring are smart enough to contact someone with more knowledge than them in the area. The purpose of such exercises is to determine which candidates would be good, but also to spot any dishonest applicants that would make claims that are difficult for non-skilled people to verify.

If the resumes are pitched for technical positions, I can usually pick up on any dishonesty pretty quickly. And if I can’t clearly see that someone is lying in their resumes, in an interview situation, I can put most technical skill claims to the wall to figure out whether it is true.

You may think you can get a lie through, but you never know who will interview you.

Here’s an example. Once I read a resume in which the applicant claimed experience with a certain version of a certain product at a certain date. Sadly for the applicant, who may otherwise have passed even without these claims, I knew the vendor of said product very well, and I inquired about whether the claims would be possible at that date.

Turns out, there’s no chance those claims could be true. A deep and difficult to check lie exposed, a possible new career in ruins, all because of a lie and because the person interviewing could call someone to verify the claims.

But why should I? Do you really think that getting a job under false pretenses means you’re now able to do that job? You will be exposed and you will be fired. If you were working for me, I would probably mock you as well.

And no, I don’t think mockery is too harsh. You lie to me to get a few dollars for a job you can’t do? You try to put my reputation on the line, possibly making me financially liable to my customers? You deserve all the mockery you can get.

You are dishonest, unskilled, and you take money for something you cannot deliver. That’s theft on the best of days, and that’s your legacy to the world. That’s what your children, parents, friends, and family will know about you, or you have to hide from them. You suck.

Mostly What I Need from You

Let’s say you have a job, and let’s say you have a person who consistently makes your job more difficult for their own gain and at your expense. Would you like to be nice to that person in return? Would your respect for that person increase?

Of course it wouldn’t! So, why would you like to make the job of the interviewer more difficult?

Remember that the interviewer’s job is very difficult already, and the consequences for them making the wrong decision are far worse than you having to stick with your current job or being unemployed for a little while longer.

What you need to do, and this is really the only thing you need to do, is to be honest. When the interviewer asks you a question, do not for a second stop to consider what they want to hear to give you the job. They want the truth, nothing more, nothing less. If that lands you the job, good for you, if not, you are better off without the job than getting it under false pretenses.

It’s fine to consider your answer. Unless you’re hired for a rapid-verbal-response team, an employer would much rather hire someone who is mindful and takes the time required to come up with the right answer than they would hire someone who just tells them what they want to hear or attempts to do so.

It may seem difficult when you’re in the chair, but really, being hired under false pretenses or for the wrong reasons is going to cost everyone, yourself included, much more than enduring your current situation for a while longer. You’ll be miserable when you can’t do your job, your employer will hate and eventually fire you, and you’ll have to live the rest of your life knowing you are a liar.

And who knows, if you answer honestly but not what will land you the job, maybe the interviewer has other positions for which you would be better qualified and be happier?

So, just relax, be honest, and you’ll live a happier and more productive life, with a career where you can grow, and with a boss that knows they can trust you.


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I Have Uninstalled SharePoint for Good

C’mon, you’re not falling for that again, are you?

Do you use cloud VMs for your development? Would you like to?

I uninstalled my last local SharePoint machine about four years ago. That’s right, I don’t have SharePoint locally installed and haven’t had for years.

Instead, I use EC2 to host my SharePoint labs. It’s quite simply an amazing difference and it’s actually much cheaper than maintaining a laptop powerful enough to run the stuff locally. On average, when I’m working actively with SharePoint, I spend somewhere between $100 and $150 on VMs per month. That includes having and storing 10+ VMs that spin up in a matter of seconds, have virtually unlimited storage and performance, and can be scaled up and down at a click of a button. I really can run SharePoint 2013 with 244 GB of RAM or 32 CPUs, and I can do so with my workstation that I built in 2007.

Here’s the thing… It can be a hassle to get started. Lots of new stuff to learn.

I want to help!

If you’re interested in learning about how to work with cloud VMs, let me know. I’m contemplating releasing some of my existing tools that I use to manage my VM environment too, such as the four hour project I built a couple of days ago.

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Maybe I’ll run a few webinars or a recorded one-on-one session with someone and show how to set everything up and some tips and tricks for keeping everything running smoothly.

Heck, if there’s interest, I may even release the code for USPJA Labs, which is an immensely elaborate and powerful environment that we used to run hundreds of VMs during the USPJA years.

Leave me message, like, or otherwise let me know that you would be interested.

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