A few clients of mine are seeking to build extranets — collaborative online environments that cross corporate boundaries. These sites will be used for password-protected sharing of documents, discussions, calendars, and other types of information. Although it’s possible for a small company to host its own extranet on Small Business Server, it’s not advisable. There are licensing, security, and reliability concerns.
Because these clients have access to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 for internal use, though, it makes sense to me that they should build their extranets on the same platform. Why should they have to learn two different interfaces?
There are probably dozens of SharePoint hosting companies to choose from. A Google search for “hosted sharepoint” yields 42,800 hits. Here are some providers that I’m aware of, along with their advertised features and prices as of September 7, 2007:
|Company||Plan||Users||Disk Quota||$ / Month|
|Own Web Now||20 users||20||500 MB||$29.99|
|Own Web Now||50 users||50||500 MB||$49.99|
Some of these vendors have more expensive plans as well. Microsoft has its own version of hosted SharePoint (not surprising, since they wrote the software to begin with), known as Office Live Premium. It runs $39.95 a month for 50 user accounts and 2 GB of space. I didn’t include above because it includes more than just hosted SharePoint, so it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison.
I don’t see a clear winner in the table above. If you think you’ll have a lot of users but disk space isn’t an issue, then Mail2Web’s offering looks most attractive. If space is more of an issue, though, 1&1 offers the best $/GB ratio (but see update below). The Webhost4life Business plan seems to offer a good compromise between the two (but see this update).
There are a couple of important features that are not shown in this table: ease of use (in terms of building a new site, adding users, and so on) and quality of technical support.
My company’s web site is currently hosted at Mail2Web. However, it is built in SharePoint 2.0, and there does not seem to be an easy way for me to migrate it to SharePoint 3.0. I originally picked Mail2Web because I imagined that I might want to give a user account to every one of my clients’ employees. So the unlimited user account option was particularly attractive. However, that hasn’t happened — not yet, anyway. So if I had it to do all over again, I might go with a different hosting company.
Do you have any other hosted SharePoint providers who should be added to the list? Any particularly good or bad experiences with site administration or tech support? If so, please post a comment.
*Update, 9/20/07: I learned today that 1&1 will not let you host a SharePoint site as a stand-alone subdomain. You must host your entire account there in order to get a SharePoint site. What I wanted to do is create sharepoint.mydomain.com with a SharePoint host while leaving www.mydomain.com untouched at its existing host. This is possible at Mail2Web and WebHost4Life, but not at 1&1.
**Update, 10/20/07: Mail2Web has recently increased their monthly hosting price from $14.95 to $22.95. This is partly a result of the recent decline of the American dollar (which they use to bill their customers) vs. the Canadian dollar (which they use to pay their bills).