There seems to be an assumption by some that Basic install is “Good enough.” Some have followed guidance and “best practices” to avoid the basic install. I know Shane Young (“a puppy dies every time a Basic install is done”), Todd Klindt (Just say no to Basic install), and I have all continued to preach that basic install on both WSS and SharePoint Server continues to be a poor decision. Todd’s article goes into the step by step in avoiding that install type. I say that basic install was written for the analyst, easy with few clicks, but those who fall in the trap of basic, will have a nightmare deployment when they find they need to troubleshoot or later move into a larger farm.
Recently I was in South Africa at Teched Africa and polled the audience of 200 SharePoint Admins to discover how many are using Basic install or SQL express for SharePoint. No hands.
As well in Penang, yesterday I polled the Tech Insights audience of 90 how many of those with deployments which was more than half, how many were using SQL express or the basic install. The answer again. None.
Despite this, I was in Rochester Ny earlier in the year, and was sitting in a session by a consultant who was saying the basic install was good enough for small deployments and it would be easy to later upgrade to SQL standard edition. I was floored.
This is false. Here’s 5 reasons Basic install is the wrong decision. For clarification today in WSS 3.0 the basic install with give you Windows Internal Database engine, a locked down enforced schema run with a command line interface to manage with no limits, but also no real effective solutions for backup and manageability. The SharePoint Server 2007 installs SQL Express with a 2GB limit and really no effect management interface as well. I do find if people are simply looking at the interface, it’s an easy proof of concept, but how many proof of concepts turn into production environments???
1. Lack of Manageability – the most difficult installs are those with a single server, with virtually no management tools. (See reference to SQL express below for recommendations on SQL Express Express) If you’re trying to make SharePoint easy to administer because you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it, don’t install a basic install. You’ll find it’s extremely difficult to manage. The SQL management UI is that good. It gives you a bunch of tools for scheduling, running tasks, and real visibility for managing your databases. This is only going to be more important as we move forward.
2. Authentication is a half baked Kerberos install – If you install the basic install you’ll find your deployment is kerberos, but not really. The SPNs aren’t setup. It feels and behaves a lot like NTLM, but it’s kerberos, but you don’t get all the advantages of kerberos, because without the service principal names, you’re not getting the benefits of what Kerberos would provide for you. Again difficult to troubleshoot or to understand what’s been done. Essentially the product team prefers to see kerberos installs, and with the basic install it doesn’t need to talk to other servers so they can do the install without needing to setup the AD settings around the accounts. It’s a mess, and this is the insight for you if you’re ever trying to figure out what’s gone wrong.
3. Service accounts – There are none and the setup is wacky. With the basic install there’s no opportunity to provide service accounts. It’s all about speed. You’ll end up with Network service and Local Service with funky permissions that are very difficult to later replace.
4. Moving from a single server to a farm is a nightmare – Refer to 2 and 3. Your auth is messed up, and your accounts are not domain compatible and neither is setup for server to server communication. I know this is high level, but it’s a fun one to test your consultants on. Ask them what the steps are to move from a basic install to an advanced install going from a single server to 2 or more. If they don’t say backup your databases, and wipe and reload, you’ll know they are either going to give you a mess or they are an expert at replacing the accounts in the local groups and various places on the file system… don’t believe it. Wipe, reload, new config db with a database attach into a clean advanced deployment is the right answer. It does mean downtime, but it will pay off.
5. SQL Express has serious limitations – you don’t want to wake up and find out that your SharePoint farm is down because it ran out of space. Moving drives is very difficult using the osql interface, not intuitive. Sure it’s free, but not what you really need. Todd in his post “Just say no, to basic install” says you can install SQL express first and then install SharePoint in advanced install. That might be true, but when are you going to hit the SQL Express limits? Like it limits to 1 CPU, 1 GB of RAM max, 4GB storage limit.
If you’re going to go with Express for whatever reason, maybe it’s a 2-5 user deployment use SQL Express 2008 which is free and has some management UI not the one in the SharePoint basic install. If you’re hobbling along on the WSS Windows Internal Database engine, you should seriously consider an upgrade to SQL Server Standard or Enteprise based on your needs.