Content Aggregation in SharePoint 2010

One of the areas I continue to see companies struggle with is sharing and reusing content.  Many will cram everything into a single site collection, or worse yet a single web so that everything is in one spot and available.  A little over a year ago I wrote an article titled “The Importance of a Content Syndication and Aggregation Plan” where I covered a few of the method used in the 2007 version.  There were a lot of limitations with the out of the box toolset, many relating to the site topology boundaries.  The 2010 version brings a few important improvements that I think will benefit most companies.

Capabilities in SharePoint 2010

Things are vastly improved in 2010.  All of the features from 2007 are still available, and some of them have been improved.  They include:

  • Content Query Web Part (CQWP) – with SharePoint Server
  • DataView Web Part (DVWP)
  • RSS
  • Content Deployment – with SharePoint Server
  • Content Types (promote common definition and reuse)
  • Custom Web Parts

Some of the new features include:

Calendar Overlays – One of the most common requests I have received in the past is to aggregate multiple calendars.  Whether it is for doing a roll-up on the teams or groups in a department or for pulling together dates across multiple projects, people need to be able to merge calendars.  With 2010 you now have the ability to aggregate up to ten calendars in a single view.  These calendars can be in any site collection, and can even be from exchange.  This makes it super easy for example to pull together a main company calendar with the entries being managed by different departments like HR and Marketing or across divisions.

Check out Bjorn Furuknap’s blog for details.  He did a great walkthrough on how to View Multiple Calendars in SharePoint 2010 here.

Managed Metadata Service – As the name suggests, this is a centralized service that enables you to manage your terms and content types.  Previously Content Types were bound to a specific site collection and working with them in more than one site collection meant manually keeping them in sync.  Having content described consistently across an organization makes aggregating that content a whole lot easier.

Here is the documentation on TechNet for the Managed Metadata Service.

A Word of Caution

An important word of caution; just because a feature is supported does not mean it will meet your needs.  In previous versions some of the aggregation features that were available, like the ability to connect to another list in the site collection with a DVWP or CQWP, worked fine when working with a few data sources but did not scale well.  I have heard of cases where hundreds of data sources need to be aggregated into a central source.  Be sure to perform both functional and performance testing to ensure that it meets your needs and if not, look to a custom solution that fine tune the process and perhaps implement a special caching mechanism.

Think About Content During Topology Planning

As part of the site topology planning or review, it is important to think about the content that will be stored and where else it might need to be used.  Make sure that the team is familiar with the different aggregation or roll-up options and what the pros and cons are to each.   

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