Friday, January 20, 2012

That pesky 10GB Limit


As I have always foreseen, the 10GB database limit for SharePoint Foundation 2010 is becoming more and more of an issue as installations start to grow. I really see this more and more, especially when it comes to SBS 2011 Standard which includes SharePoint Foundation 2010 which many people simply know as Companyweb.

Background

All forms of SharePoint require some form of database storage to store their content. SharePoint uses Microsoft SQL Server for this storage. There are however many different versions of Microsoft SQL Server all with different capabilities and limitations.

In the days of Windows SharePoint Services v3 (WSS v3) the SharePoint content was saved into SQL Server 2005 Express Edition (SSEE). This version was not only free but supported unlimited database sizes. The downsides where that it wasn’t upgradable and it was a 32 bit database.

When SharePoint Foundation 2010 came along it had the requirement of 64 bit databases. That immediately ruled out SSEE. The initial choice was SQL Server 2008 Express. This version is 64 bit and is free but has a 4GB database limit. If you download and install SharePoint Foundation 2010 as a stand alone package and accept the default installation you’ll also get SQL Express 2008 and thus a 4GB database limit.

As you can appreciate, a 4GB database limit is pretty restrictive so when SBS 2011 became available it shipped with SQL Express 2008 R2 for SharePoint storage which upped the database limit to 10GB. Problem is now that is still not enough.

Options

So what happens if you have SBS 2011 and you are approaching the 10GB limit? What are your options? Here are some suggestions. They all come with compromises so beware.

1. Create a new SharePoint site and site collection move some of the data here. Doing this will give you new 10GB database into which you can store information. Given that companyweb is a web site you can link to another SharePoint site fairly seamlessly. The down side is that things like the search database are still limited to 10GB and if your data keep growing you are going to hit the 10GB limit again at some point. Also, it can be a little more confusing for users.

2. Do an in place upgrade of SQL 2008 Express R2 to a version that doesn’t have database restrictions. This can be achieved via the SBS Premium add on however don’t forget that there are other applications that use SQL on SBS including monitoring and reporting. This in place upgrade option also places more strain on the single box and is generally not recommended as best practice.

3. You can move the SQL databases to a second server running SQL. This can be achieved again with the SBS Premium add on that provides a Windows Server 2008 license and an SQL license. downsides include the fact that this requires additional hardware, setup, configuration and maintenance. It also means that things like the standard SBS wizards no longer work because it is now a custom installation. You also have to work out how to backup the second server as it is not generally covered by standard SBS backups. If you do want to do this then Microsoft has a Technet article you can follow at:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg616007.aspx

4. You can implement Binary Large Object (BLOB) storage. This basically allows the storage of file data outside the SQL database into the file system. Although this gets around the 10GB database limit (as files are generally your largest storage item) there are trade offs which I have detail in previous blog posts. Personally, I don’t think it is a good move, especially in an SBS environment for the simple reason is the added complexity amongst other things but it can be done. My advice if you are thinking about moving that way read my previous post.

5. Move Companyweb to Office 365. Here you’ll get access to SharePoint Enterprise Server 2010, you’ll get 10GB database limits as a starting point, you won’t have to worry about upgrades and you’ll get Office Web Apps to boot which you won’t get with Companyweb on SBS. You’ll obviously have to pay for suitable Office 365 licenses, migrate the data and help users understand what differences Office 365 provides. 

So you do have options but they all come with a cost. Personally, if your users are really getting into SharePoint then I’d be looking at Office 365 simply because of the added functionality and reduced hassle. Failing that, there is always the option of pruning your data, removing old files and versions but sooner or later, chances are you’ll hit the 10GB limit again.