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SharePoint 2010 Six-in-One
By Chris Geier Cathy Dew Becky Bertram Raymond Mitchell Wes Preston Kenneth Schaefer Andrew Clark
John Wiley & SonsCopyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSharePoint Overview
WHAT'S IN THIS CHAPTER?
* Introducing key solution scenarios for SharePoint 2010 and how these address an organization's business needs
* Understanding the core concepts of the SharePoint 2010 platform
* Articulating the different SharePoint software titles and editions available
SharePoint is an enormous product that touches many different aspects of business functionality and IT. It relies on and integrates with a variety of systems, and its functionality and capabilities overlap with many other products. So where does one begin when considering whether or not to deploy SharePoint?
SharePoint has the potential to deliver tremendous value to an organization if it is rigorously planned, successfully deployed, and widely adopted. All of these actions are possible by understanding what SharePoint has to offer.
This chapter introduces you to what SharePoint 2010 is, how it can be utilized and deployed, and why users, administrators, and developers will be excited about the latest version of this popular tool.
Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is the fourth major version of a web server product and platform that is one of the fastest-growing server products in Microsoft's history. Microsoft's marketing tagline describes SharePoint 2010 as the "Business Collaboration Platform for the Enterprise and the Web" and explains that it will:
* Connect and empower people
* Cut costs with a unified infrastructure
* Rapidly respond to business needs
SharePoint is Microsoft's web platform. Out of the box it provides a tremendous amount of functionality, but it can also be readily expanded by integrating with client applications or external servers as well as be extended with customizations. The number of ways SharePoint can be implemented and used is endless. This section walks you through some of the more common uses to give you an idea of what it can do for you or your organization.
SharePoint is an enabling technology. Merely deploying SharePoint isn't a silver bullet that will transform your organization. But consciously building a SharePoint environment and training end users how to use the tool appropriately can and will propel an organization to a higher level of productivity.
SharePoint as a Web Platform
At its core, SharePoint is a web application — a really large and full-featured web application, but still a web application. Because of its broad feature set and flexible implementation options, it can and should be considered to fulfill several roles in a consolidated web strategy for any organization. Different entry points for SharePoint exist depending on the specific needs of an organization, but common ones include intranet, extranet, and Internet solutions. SharePoint is well-suited to fill any or all of these roles.
As a web application, SharePoint uses common web concepts to deliver its features. You learn more details of the core concepts later in this chapter, but "sites" are used by SharePoint as containers for "lists" and "libraries," which in turn contain data and documents. Security can be assigned at various levels to enable both sharing and securing of the content to the appropriate audience. All of this is delivered primarily through the web browser, but also increasingly through additional web, client, and mobile devices.
Initially, users may wonder how the storage of documents and files in SharePoint is any different than what users get out of a file share today. The differences are in the features built on top of the site, list, and library concepts and increased availability of content being stored on a web server over a file server. Some features are highlighted in Table 1-1.
Managing content in a web-server application like SharePoint broadens the accessibility of content beyond the capabilities of typical file share by making it available to other platforms like mobile devices, other applications via web services, and client applications. Although applications can and have been built to surface information from file shares, SharePoint enables these extensibility features in a simple and user-friendly way.
For users, this means there is a server somewhere with SharePoint installed on it and they will be accessing it primarily with a web browser.
For administrators, SharePoint relies on Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and IIS (Internet Information Services) as well as other core technologies on the server. This means administrators will need to understand concepts of the server OS, of web-based applications, and of basic networking, as well as how SharePoint uses the database and more. This is covered in more detail in the next chapter.
Developers and designers need to know that SharePoint is an ASP.NET application that conforms to many of the web standards in use today.
Microsoft's Web Platform
SharePoint is a platform not only for its own family of products, but for many other Microsoft and partner products as well. Within the SharePoint family of products, SharePoint Foundation is the core platform for all the other SharePoint, Search Server, and FAST server products that are covered later in this chapter.
Microsoft also has other server products that have been moved to or integrated with the SharePoint platform, sometimes overtly, sometimes behind the scenes. For example, Project Server 2010 is built on top of SharePoint Server 2010, which enables collaboration features within the context of projects. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5 is tightly integrated with SharePoint, again using the collaboration features and also acting as the document repository as needed.
Another option for integration is creating Web Parts to tie applications together. SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and Outlook Web Access (OWA) are both examples of Microsoft products that use SharePoint as another way to surface information.
Finally, in addition to the Microsoft-specific products, third-party vendors and partners also offer products based on the platform or that extend functionality via Web Parts. This model includes not only smaller solutions such as utility applications, but also enterprise-wide solutions such as document and records management vendors.
A term commonly heard is the "better together" solution. Though Microsoft SharePoint isn't intended to be the best of breed in all areas, it is intended to work with those best-of-breed products out in the market, with the products enhancing each other. Being based on a web platform enables these integrations to work well together.
Being a web platform means that SharePoint can be branded for specific look-and-feel scenarios using common industry standards. Details of branding SharePoint are covered in Chapters 4–6.
SharePoint as the Collaboration Platform
SharePoint's history is rooted in collaboration, from the initial versions of SharePoint to the latest 2010 platform. Collaboration features enable users to share information and work together on documents, files, and other content. These core features and the ease with which they can be used are among the reasons SharePoint is so popular with users and has grown so quickly.
Collaboration means "to work together" — a simple concept but one that can be done in many different ways. The features offered by SharePoint 2010 and its companion applications can be used for groups as small as two people and as large as thousands. Some of the same concepts can even be used by a single person striving to work more effectively.
Collaboration scenarios can vary widely, from two people co-authoring a document to a project team, a company department or division, a committee, a lab study group, and beyond.
One of the most common examples of collaboration with SharePoint is the team site. A team site is a SharePoint website used by a group of people, sometimes a department that is aligned with the hierarchy in an organization. Sometimes a team is an ad-hoc collection of users or a cross-departmental group put together for a specific purpose. In any case the team needs a place to organize itself and its content.
When users create a team site, they have a number of tools available, including group announcements, a team calendar, useful links, and containers for documents and files. These are just a few examples of what might be done on a site, but they are common starting points.
Announcements could be information tidbits shared within the team or shared information from the team. For example: "A new team member is starting today," "There is a new policy in place," or "There are donuts in the break room." These messages were previously distributed by e-mail. Managing them in SharePoint brings a number of advantages. First, using site-based announcements may eliminate one source of e-mail because many organizations are already overburdened with e-mail. Second, it provides an archive of announcements that wouldn't otherwise be available to folks that weren't on the team when an e-mail was originally sent out. Finally, users can also sign up for e-mail notification of new announcements or a summary message once a day or once a week if they don't want to receive notice for every announcement immediately.
Team calendars are useful resources even with enterprise-level tools like Exchange in the same environment. In fact, they actually strengthen each other. Still, teams find interesting ways of tracking, managing, or publishing team events. Some folks keep calendars in a Word or Excel document; others still rely on public folders — a technology that Microsoft has been trying to shut down for some time now. SharePoint 2010 allows users to maintain a central list of events that multiple people can manage at the same time and that can be displayed on the team site, on a mobile device, or in Outlook — even overlaying an individual's personal calendar. SharePoint calendars can also be used as a sort of host for the meeting collaboration tools that are discussed a little later.
Managing links is a relatively simple idea and has been around since browsers were introduced. A number of tools are already available for managing links both online and locally. SharePoint provides yet another option for managing links that fits right into a site, while also offering advantages of sorting, filtering, and notifications that are part of the core platform. Because SharePoint is a web application, links are also vital to its use, since every site, list, item, and document can be accessed via a link.
Finally, almost every team needs to do some sort of document management. These capabilities are covered in greater detail in the next section.
SharePoint 2010 is an excellent platform for document collaboration. From two people working on a document together to teams of people working with libraries of documentation, SharePoint has a wonderful and intuitive toolset for working on documents and files.
The first topics to consider when discussing collaboration are the availability of and access to the document or file that is being worked on. SharePoint sites provide a common repository to access and manage documents so that users no longer need to use e-mail as a method of version control and storage by sending documents back and forth to each other. This takes a load off mail servers while at the same time establishing a de facto location for content. When users access a document from a SharePoint site, they can be confident that it's the latest and greatest version of that document.
Access to documents by the correct set of users is also paramount to collaboration. Permissions can be thought of as either allowing access or denying access, but in SharePoint administrators of a list or site will primarily be controlling which users have access to content and what level of access they have. The administrators will set different users to different levels of access; some will have read-only access, whereas others will be contributors. SharePoint has the flexibility to implement a wide variety of security models and schemes, even down to the individual item if needed.
Coming back to versions, SharePoint has the capability to track document versions, both major and minor. Libraries can be configured to require users to check documents in and out when making changes to content in order to enforce versioning and manage changes cleanly. The Ribbon interface in 2010 enables users to easily manage a number of documents being checked in or out at one time. These features allow collaborative users to more comfortably edit and save documents because they no longer need to worry about "the last person who saves wins" issue where multiple people are saving versions of a document. In that scenario (typical when dealing with network file shares) when one person saves a change one minute and another person saves a change a minute later, the last person who saves retains his or her changes and the first person's changes are lost. With version control, both saved versions are captured. If both people made changes, they can then still access either version and merge the content together.
Although it's not specifically a SharePoint 2010 feature, Office 2010 has a new capability to coauthor a document or file. This takes collaboration to a whole new level. Using a combination of tools, multiple users can have the same document open, use instant messenger or Office Communications Server (OCS) to talk, or text message each other while they are working on the same document at the same time. As a user makes changes, the application alerts other users that changes have been made, where they've been made, and who made them. This notification scheme also allows for immediate access to profile information and tools for connecting with each or any user who is editing the document.
Allowing authors to edit the same document at the same time is an example of a "parallel" operation. Some collaboration use cases are "serial," where one operation happens after another. In a simple case, e-mail notifications can be sent communicating when new documents have been added or changed. In a more robust solution, a workflow can be employed to assist with the automation of a business process by assigning users to tasks and sending status updates to users along the way. Some of the workflows are out of the box, whereas others can easily be created using SharePoint Designer for more granular control. You can find more information about workflows in Part VI, "SharePoint Workflow."
One specialized use case for document collaboration is a document workspace. This is a specific type of site where a single document is the center of attention. Though this might not be used for run-of-the-mill documents, a document workspace might be used when a number of users are working on a larger, more complex document over a span of time. Some examples might include a technical or operations manual or an employee handbook.
Using the employee handbook example, a whole committee of Human Resources staff may be creating, editing, and verifying content in an organization's annual employee handbook. If the handbook effort is over the course of weeks or months, the team may want to have a calendar to track milestones. They may want to track issues or tasks to coordinate efforts. They may want to use a forum to track decisions and how those decisions were arrived at. Having a site to manage all this information while at the same time restricting access from users who shouldn't see a document until it's been fully created and approved is very relevant.
Somewhat similar in concept to a document workspace is a meeting workspace. Meeting workspaces are sites that can be used to coordinate and communicate meeting details. Rather than have a single person create an agenda, assemble any documentation, and print and distribute all the materials for a meeting, a meeting organizer can create a workspace for the team to do this together.
A workspace can be created from and linked to meetings originating from a SharePoint-based calendar or an Exchange/Outlook calendar. These "mini" sites become a container for the preparation materials and content as well as any artifacts that come out of a meeting.
Excerpted from SharePoint 2010 Six-in-One by Chris Geier Cathy Dew Becky Bertram Raymond Mitchell Wes Preston Kenneth Schaefer Andrew Clark Copyright © 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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