20 April, 2012

Key Improvement in SharePoint

Microsoft Share point technologies have matured to great extent since its beginning back in 2000’s. Throughout these years Microsoft provided a step further in every release of the SharePoint version and the technologies relating to the SharePoint services are converging and integrating to the current time.

In 2001 Microsoft provided the Version 1 of SharePoint services knows as “SharePoint Team Services v.1” along with “SharePoint Portal Server 2001”. The team services and portal server were managed as different entities.

In 2003 Microsoft released another server solution known as “Content Management Server 2002” along with upgraded release of SharePoint technologies  such as “Share Point Portal server 2003” and a renamed version of services known as “Windows SharePoint Services v2”. The Windows SharePoint Services v2 and SharePoint Portal Server 2002 were closely integrated while Content Management Server 2001 was a stand alone.

In 2006 Microsoft released another increment to the its Windows SharePoint Services with Version 3, with lot of new advancements and on the top of these SharePoint services are built the new SharePoint Servers. Microsoft released the first (beta) version of the new office system code named as “Office 12”.  Office “12” suit includes a range of SharePoint Servers of which Content Management Server and Portal Server are an integral part of the suit. The SharePoint Servers of office 2007 suit are called MOSS 2007.An Overview of MOSS 2007

MOSS 2007 provides the so many features to an organization’s enterprise level computing requirements. The feature set is divided into the following categories:

1.    Platform Service.    
 Platform Services is the core for the MOSS 2007 architecture. All the features of MOSS 2007 are based on the advancements in the platform services. Platform services component of the MOSS 2007 architecture provides these listed features.
-- Workspaces Management
-- Security
-- Storage
-- Server Topology Management.
-- Site Model

Microsoft Share point technologies have matured to great extent since its beginning back in 2000’s. Throughout these years Microsoft provided a step further in every release of the SharePoint version and the technologies relating to the SharePoint services are converging and integrating to the current time.

Collaboration feature area of MOSS 2007 provides rich support for various kinds of communication and collaboration needs across the enterprise, within departments and among teams. The feature set under collaboration includes the following.
-- Documents/tasks/calendars
-- Blogs
-- Wikis
-- E-mail integration
-- Outlook integration
-- Offline documents/lists

2.    Portal.
 Portal Area of the MOSS 2007 architecture provides support for integrating different types of web sites and site collection into one Portal. There can be as many portals as required by the enterprise. The Portal features provide a lot more advancement and easiness for creating these site collections and portals. The features provided in this area are:
-- Enterprise Portal template
-- Site Directory
-- My Sites
-- Social networking
-- Privacy control

3.  Search.
 The search area of the MOSS 2007 architecture provided improvements by the following features:
-- Enterprise scalability
-- Contextual relevance
-- Rich people and business data search          
-- Content Management.

As discussed earlier that content management was provided in earlier version of SharePoint technologies as a different standalone server, but in MOSS 2007 this functionality has been provided as an out of the box feature. The Content Management provides the following improvements to the SharePoint Experience.
-- Integrated document management
-- Records management
-- Web content management with policies and workflow

5. Business Forms.

With the advent of Windows Workflow Foundation, it was needed that the business process forms used in the workflows produced by the WWF be saved and routed with an engine kind of mechanism. Therefore the MOSS 2007 included a Forms Server which is solely responsible for managing the business forms across enterprise in a workflow. The business forms area provides the following features:
-- Rich and Web forms based front-ends
-- Pluggable Single Sign-On (SSO)

6. Business Intelligence.

Since the SharePoint servers have been very successful in the enterprise wide aggregation of communication and information there needed such services which can display the business related data to the related departments and teams. So that everyone having appropriate rights to view the business related data can access and analyze the various kinds of information on the portal. The Business Intelligence feature area provides exactly the required things. This includes:
-- Server-based Excel spreadsheets
-- Server-based Excel data visualization
-- Report Centers
-- Business Intelligence Web Parts
-- Key Performance Indicators (KPI) / Dashboards
-- Key Improvements in MOSS 2007 / Limitations in SharePoint Portal Server 2003

Let’s talk in details about the major improvement in MOSS 2007 (the limitations and pain points in SharePoint Portal Server 2003). The following list is a brief overview of which features the SharePoint Portal Server 2003 does not provided, but are now provided as Part of MOSS 2007.
-- Multi-Lingual
-- Authentication
-- Extranet portal addresses/aliases/maps
-- Fine-Grained Access Control per list item permissions
-- Workflows
-- Backup / Restore
-- Aggregation of information and lists
-- Navigation usability
-- Report Center and Dash boards
-- Tasks & Calendar Sync with outlook
-- Site Customization
-- Offline documents and lists.
-- Search improvements.
-- Metadata Management
-- Usage Reporting
-- Listings Usability

These limitations/paint points have been addressed with the help of improved and integrated MOSS 2007 architecture. These limitations have been addressed by different feature areas (as discussed earlier) of MOSS 2007. The following sections elaborate on the few of the major improvements which are made to counter these limitations. These are discussed per Feature Area.
Platform Services

Platform Services is the core advancement in the MOSS 2007 and many of the improved features are provided in this category. From the above mentioned list. The improvements provided by Platform Services are.

Supports installation of multiple language packs to the same server so that each web can have its own language, thus providing support for multilingual web sites as well

With the help of ASP.Net 2.0 the Platform Services provides features such as ASP.Net pluggable Authentication and web form authentication.

Deployment of extranets with the help of Reverse proxy support and alternate access URLs is made possible.

Fine-Grained Access Control
In SharePoint Portal Server 2003 only Document Library (List) level access was supported where as now there is a per item level security defined.
Platform Services provides support for Windows Workflow Foundation. 

Backup / Restore
Improved backup / restore including wastebasket and VSS support

Aggregation support by the help of Cross-web list parts is provided.

Improved Look & Feel and navigation by using master pages and Security-trimmed UI is provided.

Site Customization
Customization enhancements with the help of templates, feature extensibility and ASP.Net Master Pages are supported.

 The feature set provided under the category of collaboration have some very important improvements in MOSS 2007 as compared to the SharePoint Portal Server 2003.  The core improvement areas are Document Libraries and Outlook Integration and synchronization.

 Document Library Improvements
In the Document Library Improvements, it now supports the
Checking out of documents from document library to local folders
Major and minor version tracking
Version management
Multiple content types within same document library, and
A tree view of Document Library

Outlook integration improvements
In the Outlook integration improvements, it supports
reading and writing to SharePoint objects such as calendar, tasks, contacts, discussions, and documents from within outlook client.
Moreover it supports for synchronization with offline documents which have been checked out for edit in Microsoft outlook from SharePoint Document library.
Also it supports for calendars and Task’s two way synchronization.


The feature area of portal also has a bit of good improvement which includes the following.
Portal Site
-- Integration with Windows SharePoint Services
-- Intranet Portal Template – Topics, Site Directory

 People and Expertise Search
-- People specific search “tab”
-- Social network support

My Site
-- Improved Public Page, Personal homepage
-- Targeting and personalization
-- Easier targeting – Distribution lists and Security Groups

Profile store improvements
-- Scalability, flexible schema, LDAP synchronization

Business Intelligence (BI)

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server technology didn’t provide any support for the enterprise or business related information to be shared and viewed on the SharePoint portal sites. In MOSS 2007, Microsoft have envisioned and achieved the goal of improving organizations by providing business insights to all employees leading to better, faster, more relevant decisions with the help of new improvements and new features of SharePoint Portal Server.

MOSS 2007 provides these supports with the help of the following features:
-- Excel client/Excel Services
-- Dashboards & Key Performance Indicators

Excel Client is used for creating the spreadsheets and then is published to the MOSS 2007 document libraries. The Excel Services provides features of displaying the Excel files as reports in the web browser.

Dashboard Enables guided and optimized analysis of data by the user/employee. This data is stored in the Dashboards in the form of Aggregate workbooks, reports, scorecards, etc. the Dashboards make the information relevant within in the reports etc. also it annotate data with additional information

Content Type in SharePoint 2010

Content types and site columns are the foundational elements of SharePoint, but they often get misused. Whether it’s creating too many content types, not enough, or recreating site columns that are already available out of the box, it is critical to remember some key aspects when instituting and managing these items:

Content Types
Content types are a core organizational feature of SharePoint 2010. They are designed to give users the ability to organize SharePoint content in a centralized and meaningful manner. Site columns (metadata) can be encapsulated within a content type to allow for reusable structure or independently added to sites and lists.
At its most basic level, a content type is a collection of settings which can be applied to content. They are reusable since content types are independent of sites and lists. A content type includes site columns to define the desired information. Example: The Task content type includes site columns for Task Status, Start Date and Due Date where the Schedule content type includes site columns for Location, Start Time and End Time. Using these content types as a template when a new task or event list needs to be created is much more efficient than rebuilding separate lists from site columns.

Site Columns
Site columns are similar to content types in that they are centrally managed and can be added to sites and lists. They differ in that the information in a site column is focused to a single definition of data while content types encapsulate multiple site columns and definitions of data. Example: A site column named Department is created as a single line of text for users to enter their department name and a content type is created named Projects which include the site columns of Department, Project Name and Project Due Date.
Site columns can contain multiple types of information, ranging from a Single line of text to Managed Metadata. It is important to note the difference between metadata and managed metadata. Site columns are referred to as metadata since they represent an attribute a user wants to manage. Example: The site column of Department is an attribute that can be reused in multiple lists.

Managed Metadata
Managed metadata is collection of centrally managed terms that can be used as attributes for SharePoint items. Defining a site column to use Managed Metadata for information is a powerful tool for assigning attributes. Example: Creating a Department site column, based on a managed metadata term set containing all of the department names in an organization, allows users to select the correct department and reduces typographical errors and non relevant data. It also provides for the proper tagging of documents for routing and search purposes.

Content Type Hub
Content types can also be stored in a Content Type Hub for centralized management of content types across Site Collections and Web Applications. This feature utilizes the Managed Metadata Service and allows Site Collections to subscribe to any published content types. Any changes to published content types will be updated in the subscribing Site Collections. Since managed metadata can be created as a site column within a content type, terms can be globally syndicated across Site Collections and Web applications.

Content Type and Site Column Suggestions
Centrally creating and managing relevant content types and site columns is critical to ensuring consitent attributes across SharePoint. The following points offer guidance on maintaining an organized content type and site column structure:

Review the built in content types and site columns before creating new ones
SharePoint 2010 comes with many built in content types and site columns that may meet the needs of your structure. In planning your SharePoint structure, review the built in options before creating any new content types or site columns. New content types will be based on content types that already exist (parent content types). This allows for a pre organized template to begin the content type creation process. Example: Creating a new content type of “Proposal Document” based on the parent content type of “Document” will provide the necessary settings for referencing a document template and include the site columns of Name, Title and Keywords.

Carefully plan the information contained in content types and site columns and be prepared to refine metadata
Creation of new content types and site columns should not be done on an ad hoc basis. Take the time to discover what metadata is relevant to your organizations data collection and referencing needs. Creation of underutilized site columns (metadata) and content types places an unnecessary data entry burden on users which can lead to poor adoption of SharePoint and creation of non-relevant data.

Centrally manage content types and site columns
Site columns (metadata) can be created at the list or document library level. Site columns created in this manner exist only at the list level in which they were created and not within the confines of content types or the centrally managed Site Column Gallery. This becomes problematic when managing consistent metadata as these site columns cannot be reused. It is highly recommended to create new site columns within the Site Column Gallery and add these site columns to the content types associated with the preferred list or document library. Changes made to centrally manage content types will propagate down to the list and document libraries they have been added to.
A SharePoint implementation with multiple Site Collections or Web applications would benefit from the use of a Content Type Hub. This will allow for central management of “global” content types across the Enterprise for Site Collections that are subscribed to published content types. Leveraging this feature in tandem with managed metadata creates globally syndicated terms. Example: A content type containing a managed metadata site column, based on a product term set, is published. The list of products can now be reused as an attribute across the organization.

Content types and site columns are core to ensuring a strong SharePoint foundation. While determining this component of the logical Information Architecture may seem like a mundane task, the rewards of a strong and manageable foundation cannot be understated.