Boost in SharePoint Storage Allocation to Move Data to the Cloud

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SharePoint Heads to Vegas

The folks in SharePoint marketing are working overtime recently as they ramp up for the SharePoint North America conference in Las Vegas later this month. Although not a Microsoft event, such is the support in terms of speakers and sponsorship, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the folks in Redmond are running the conference. I guess “co-producing” a third-party conference is marketing’s way to get SharePoint more airspace than it gets at the Microsoft Ignite conference.

As part of the run-up to the conference, the “Father of SharePoint”, Jeff Teper, published an interesting post (on LinkedIn) talking about “hitting refresh on SharePoint,” where he revealed that SharePoint Online now runs on 150,000 servers. In September 2017, Jeff said that 65% of all SharePoint seats are online. I assume that figure is even higher now, given that Office 365 has passed the 135-million mark for monthly active users.

Where the Growth in SharePoint Online Comes From

My theory is that much of the growth in SharePoint Online is propelled by the popularity of Teams and Office 365 Groups. Every new group (or team) means a new SharePoint site collection with a document library to hold the group’s files.

Microsoft says that Teams is now used by over 200,000 organizations. Microsoft’s crusade to move Office 365 tenants off old-fashioned distribution lists to use Office 365 Groups instead generated 10 million monthly users by April 2017.

Although some of the Groups user base have possibly moved to Teams, the combined number for people using Groups and Teams for collaboration is well north of 10 million, possibly even treble.

Microsoft knows exactly how many team-enabled sites exist inside Office 365 today, but they’re not saying. In the absence of hard data, I bet it is a very large number.

More Storage for SharePoint Users

Which then brings us to Microsoft’s decision to increase the allocation of SharePoint Online per-user storage by a 20x factor from 0.5 GB to 10 GB beginning in July 2018. Microsoft says that customers “want to put even more content into SharePoint to take advantage of new team collaboration and enterprise content management experiences.” That’s the influence of Teams and Groups right there.

It’s curious that it has taken Microsoft so long to make this change. After all, storage costs are low, especially when you buy disks at the scale that Microsoft does to provision Office 365. Microsoft loves using telemetry as the basis for product decisions, and maybe the data tells them that customers are approaching the limits of their storage allocations because of the effect of Teams and Groups.

After all, people use Teams and Groups to store documents almost without knowing that they are using SharePoint. This is very different to the structured document management approach often seen in traditional SharePoint documents. The new paradigm means that people store everything online because it is natural to do so.

Moving Off Old Stuff

The second part of Microsoft’s rationale is also true. Customers want to move off “on-premise servers, file shares, and 3rd party cloud offerings.” [Note to Microsoft: the correct term is always “on-premises” and never ”on-premise” when referring to servers.]

In this case, it’s on-premises SharePoint servers and Windows file servers, plus third-party document management servers. The attraction for customers in moving the data into the cloud to SharePoint Online is that it becomes much easier to use compliance technologies to manage documents. Given that GDPR is just around the corner, the topic of information governance is high on the minds of many CIOs right now.

But you can’t move data into the cloud unless it can go somewhere, and the economics of the new location works. The old base tenant storage allocation of 1 TB plus -0.5 GB per licensed user was simply too small. For a 5,000-user tenant, the allocation was (1 TB + (5000 * 0.5GB)) = 3.5 TB. Now, it’s 51 TB. (In their examples quoted in the post, Microsoft divide gigabytes by 1,000 to get terabytes). This is the free allocation. If tenants want more storage, they can buy it from Microsoft.

Exchange Increased Storage Too

Exchange Online has been through a similar exercise and increased its default mailbox quota to 100 GB for enterprise Office 365 plans in December 2016. Exchange also has expandable archives to hold terabytes of mailbox data for those who need this kind of storage (the largest expandable archive in production is well over a terabyte).

However, even the combination of massive mailboxes and expandable archives has not stopped people using PSTs to store email data. PSTs are long past their prime and should now only be used for purposes like exporting eDiscovery search results for the review of external investigators.

How Much Storage Do You Need?

If asked how much storage a tenant needs for SharePoint, its administrators would probably want more than Microsoft now gives. Given time, as storage costs reduce, Microsoft might allocate more free storage. For now, we’ll just have to get by with our 20 x per-user increase.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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