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PHOTO: Nana B Agyei

For those enterprises running older versions of SharePoint and looking to upgrade, three questions are probably top of mind: 

1. Do you upgrade to SharePoint 2013 or wait for SharePoint 2016? 
2. How much will it cost to upgrade? and 
3. Will the upgrade be worth it?

Migration expenses largely depend on the individual organization’s capabilities, requirements, farm topology and future plans. 

What follows then are a few factors to keep in mind when debating a SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint 2016 upgrade, in terms of the total cost of ownership (TCO) (i.e., sum of the costs incurred in purchasing the license, installing the server, training the users and managing it).

These estimates give a rough idea of pricing and are not intended as an exact cost.

Since the SharePoint 2016 IT Preview is already here and the next preview version is on the way, IT departments face some tough decisions on which version is likely to be affordable in terms of cost, time and resources.

SharePoint 2013 vs. SharePoint 2016: The Cost-Effectiveness Meter

1. Hardware Expense

Hardware requirements will depend on the kind of deployment your organization is planning. At first, consider the minimum hardware requirements of SharePoint 2013. Upgrading to this version typically requires a single server with a built-in database or a single server that uses SQL server with eight GB RAM for small deployments, 16 GB RAM for medium deployments, and 24GB RAM for large configurations plus a 64-bit, 4 core processor.

However, SharePoint 2016 may need more hardware than SharePoint 2013 as that has been the trend in the past for new version releases. In SharePoint 2016, RAM requirement is in the range of eight to 24 GB along with an I5 processor (64 bit, 4 core) on all servers.

As per Microsoft’s indications revealed in TechNet, the SharePoint 2016 deployment model will require installation of a secondary drive on all SharePoint and SQL servers. While this may improve the server performance when accessing information from the drive, it also points to a slight increase in hardware cost, especially for mid-sized and large enterprises with a high headcount. That may not be the case for SharePoint 2013 deployments where space in the primary drive (>80GB) is enough for deployment.

2. Licensing

A major portion of any implementation will depend on licensing. And as there is not (as of this writing) any news on if or by how much licensing will increase with SharePoint 2016, the jury is out on this point. 

3. Administration Cost

SharePoint 2016 already shows signs of considerable improvement over SharePoint 2013. With an enhanced user experience and better management scenarios, the 2016 version will be easier to upgrade to, probably with zero downtime (yes, SharePoint can be upgraded while remaining online without letting the SharePoint services go off).

However, the administrative staff responsible for SharePoint 2016 may need training to familiarize them with the new version and to provide support to run the domain environment. You will (obviously) incur additional costs here. Also, from the beginning it is advisable to invest in consulting technical experts so you have the required technical support in the unlikely case of any significant failures during the process.

In essence, it comes down to the following equation:

SharePoint Administration Costs = Cost of training involved for the SharePoint professionals and IT administrators times those employee's salaries + Overhead costs of maintenance and support.

Though administration costs won't be clear until SharePoint 2016 arrives in Q1 of next year — it is expected that they will be comparable to what SharePoint professionals invested in SharePoint 2013.

The Final Verdict?

If you are deciding solely on the basis of affordability, signs point to making an upgrade now to SharePoint 2013. However, analyze both the options and the trade-offs before making the big move. If you don't already have a migration to 2013 planned, it will probably be worth the wait for SharePoint 2016's release. Microsoft's promise of new features and enhancements in SharePoint 2016 — including the new hybrid scenarios, fast site creation and MinRole — will likely make it worth the wait and cost.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Nanagyei