You can feel it happening. You see the PowerPoint presentations spreading throughout your SharePoint environment. You see the strain placed on your SQL Server. You see the numbers increasing in your budget.
It is the new normal of how businesses operate. Your file sizes once maxed out in megabytes; now they are exceeding gigabytes. Your SharePoint farm once maxed out in hundreds of GBs; they are now exceeding terabytes.
We have entered the era of Big Content, and there is no end in sight to the rapid growth of that content. Analyst estimates have pegged the total amount of content in 2020 to blow past 40 zettabytes (ZB), a figure that is difficult for even the most seasoned IT professional to wrap their head around. Because SharePoint has evolved into the content-management platform of choice, a majority of this content will be stored, managed and organized within your SharePoint environment.
When it comes to SharePoint, a myriad of problems arise when you deal with growing content across multiple farms in multiple physical locations. How can you effectively and efficiently manage terabytes of business content? How do you prevent SharePoint sprawl from infecting your farms and bringing productivity to a standstill? How do you ensure content is always available in the case of disaster?
Chalcroft, a construction company based in the United Kingdom, understands the challenges of Big Content. Within three years, its SharePoint 2010 farm grew from 0.5TB to 7TB to 25TB, a growth rate of a mind-boggling 9,900%. The average file size is 15MB, with blueprints and drawings that average 50MB and videos that regularly eat up more than 1GB.
“Our SQL Server was unable to keep up, and it was affecting our SharePoint performance,” said Claire Edgson, Group IT Manager for Chalcroft. “If we didn’t do something, our SQL Server was never going to cope. We had reached the point where it stopped being feasible to use.”
Another issue is the time it takes to back up and restore business-critical items. Using standard backup methods, it can take up to eight hours to back up just 1TB of content. In 2008, that may have been acceptable. In 2012, it is not. By 2020, it could take a month, if not more, for a company to back up all of its content.
The era of Big Content is just getting started, and it will only get worse before it gets better. Our customers have revealed an average annual growth in their content of 75%, with some customers reporting content doubling every year.
This content growth will only intensify when SharePoint 2013 is released and organizations make their upgrade to the latest version to take advantage of the exciting new features. Content is already growing within SharePoint, but what will happen when the new social features stimulate more adoption and more content creation?
The move to SharePoint 2013 will prove to be a critical period for content infrastructure management as the old ways of doing things will fail spectacularly. During any upgrade or migration to SharePoint 2013, organizations have already demanded to maintain critical metadata, versioning and permissions information. The idea that you can forklift content from one version to the next has become laughable; too much time and effort has been spent to start over.
Once on SharePoint 2013, or fully deployed on Office 365 or SharePoint 2010, the ongoing management of this massive amount of Big Content will become the key to success for any organization. A single SharePoint administrator (or a small IT staff) cannot succeed in doing so. It will be up to these administrators to allow end users to become content managers, to classify and tag their content, to rearrange sites, and to complete requests themselves instead of allowing IT to become the bottleneck.
As you examine your own SharePoint environment and take stock of your content, ask yourself if you’re ready for your content to double next year, or even quadruple in two years.
Welcome to the era of Big Content. Are you ready for it?
Jignesh Shah is the chief strategy officer at Metalogix.