Category: Administration

SharePoint Administration related posts

Site Requests, Provisioning, and Governance

Yesterday I posted a link to Michael Sampson’s survey on Site Creation Rights which is intended to collect information on the process and governance around who can request new sites and how they are provisioned or “actioned.”  This is an important topic, so I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

This is a topic I have had to put a lot of thought around recently in my current organization.  Like all things Governance, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Instead there are topics that needs to be discussed in the context of the organization to determine an appropriate path.

 

Some items to consider:

Who can create a site; Anyone, Project Manager, Manager and above?

True collaboration doesn’t always happen based on a mandate from above.  Whenever possible, it is good to encourage and accommodate requests from anyone that will use the service.  Some of the most innovative sites I’ve seen were lead directly by information workers sometimes even without the knowledge of their supervisors.  If there is a charge to the site, this may not be possible.

Does a site request require approval?

Does a site request require approval from a manager of the requestor’s group or from IS/IT?  If so is it for financial reasons, or does the scope and purpose of the site need to be validated?

What types of sites can be created?

Are there only certain types of sites supported like Division, Department / Functional Area or Project?  What if somebody wants to setup a site to organize the Bowling League or discuss Social Media’s place in the organization?

Where are the sites placed and how are they organized?

Are all sites placed into the generic “Sites” path or are they logically grouped in containers that represent the org structure or purpose?  This can definitely have an impact on the process if sites are automatically provisioned. 

If they are logically organized, you need to make sure you have a plan on how to move the sites and content if the purpose of the site or the organization changes.  These sites need to be dynamic and adapt to change.

Does the site need to be logged somewhere like a Site Directory?

If one or more Site Directories are used, the provisioning process should include steps to list the new sites. 

Does anyone need to review the site’s Design, Structure or Security?

This question is pretty central to the Governance process.  If you establish standards or guidelines you want to ensure people follow them, but it is also a good idea to have some form of a review available so that advice and best practices can be exchanged to help maximize the value the group derives from the site and system.

The scope of this review can run the gamut, I’ll save that as a topic for another day.  I will however say that it is important to the overall success of the platform unless the capabilities and understanding of the site owners/administrators are very high.

 

Site Requests and Provisioning in the Small Organization

In small organizations it is pretty easy to handle things manually.  Site provisioning really doesn’t take that long so it is easy to help the site owners/administrators along and get things organized correctly so that it meets the group’s information architecture objectives and is easy to use.

If the process is automated in a small organization it is likely to be a pretty simple process.

Site Requests and Provisioning in a Large Organization

In larger organizations it quickly becomes apparent that manual processes cannot scale and at least portions of the process need to be automated.  Depending on some of the topics above relating to charges, approvals, and topology the process can vary quite a bit from organization to organization. 

If the Governance model is properly though through it should be easy for people to request sites, and they should be provisioned in a way that offers additional value. 

 

End Notes

Thoughts, feedback, critiques?  I’m always eager to hear other people’s thoughts on this topic and eagerly await the results of the survey.

Social Computing – Communities

I was very excited when heard that “Communities” was going to be one of the pillars for SharePoint 2010.  I think the Social Computing and Communities aspect is where SharePoint has the potential to really revolutionize business collaboration and computing.  Administrators and Developers don’t have to wait until upgrading to SharePoint 2010 though to start taking advantage of some of these concepts.  By making the adjustment now you and your end users will be better positioned to leverage these concepts sooner.

 

Key Features and Recommendations

Collect Feedback – Find ways to gather community feedback on content.  Take advantage of features like Content Rating and Comments, develop Surveys, and make it easy to access user contact information.

Notifications – Show the members how to take advantage of the Alert features so that they can receive timely notifications for relevant information.  In my experience, most know the Alert Me feature is there, but few know how to configure it to only get the notices they want to see.

Tagging – In the past few years tagging has been a popular way to describe and categorize content.  While it is not built into SharePoint 2007 (MOSS /WSS 3.0) there are a number of custom or add-on features available.

Show Related Content – Find ways to show related or relevant content.   If you are currently running MOSS, now would be a good time to dig in and learn how the filtering web parts work, as well as the search web parts.  If there is related data on the page, be sure to filter views.  Configure some search results web parts that can automatically show results based on what is being viewed.

Use Content Types – Using content types will help you better aggregate and work with the data.  This also simplifies the process of identifying the data in search.

Content instead of Documents – Think in terms of content, not just documents.  Most traditional information workers still think in terms of documents, but long time users of the SharePoint platform are starting to come around. 

 

Advantages

Member Involvement – These solutions get people involved which can lead to a self-sustaining effort.

Easier to find golden nuggets – Following these concepts will let the good content rise to the top.

SMEs and Knowledge Management – This gives you an opportunity to better utilize your SMEs in a group setting instead of one on one communications.  This can also be used to identify and develop new SMEs greatly increasing your Knowledge Management capabilities.

 

2007 Add-Ons and Solutions

SharePoint Tool Basket V2 – A number of features that can be enabled for collecting user Rating and Comments feedback on all types of content.

Community Kit for SharePoint (CKS) – Templates and features that extend the standard SharePoint feature set.

SharePoint Search-As-You-Type with jQuery – Instant search results by adding in jQuery.  Always an end user favorite!

 

Things to Consider

While I think that it a good idea to leverage these features now it is important to consider the upgradability.  In some cases the features may be built into the next version of SharePoint (Content Rating, Tagging).  If you add those features in now, you will likely loose that data during the migration process.  When approaching a version upgrade for a Knowledge Management or community application it is almost always best to build a new solution and migrate the existing content anyway though.  This gives you the chance to take advantage of the new features. 

 

Wrap up

Any questions, comments, or other solutions that you would like to recommend for extending the current 2007 platform? 

 

Related Posts

Reworking SharePoint Security – Fixing a Bad SharePoint Implementation

This is the first in a series of posts relating to topics that may need to be addressed to recover from a bad SharePoint implementation.

SharePoint security continues to be misunderstood by many SharePoint power users and some Administrators. It was designed to be flexible, and in doing so can lead people down a road to ruin. One of SharePoint’s greatest assets is that it enables site and content owners to maintain their own permissions. Gone are the days that every request has to be routed through a central IS/IT group. Unfortunately I have yet to see this reach its potential. There are numerous reasons; some site owners do not receive the proper training, some are too busy, some just do not buy into the ownership, and others inherit previously built sites.

To take full advantage of the platform’s capabilities owners need to understand and be committed to following through.

Reinforce the Site Owner Contract
Make sure that Site Owners know what is expected of them. If they are responsible for maintaining security for their site(s), then reinforce the specifics since in some cases this may not be fully understood. This should also carry into that group’s resource planning. If people are informally assigned the ownership tasks it may not be figured into their normal work schedule. If it is not part of the resource planning shortcuts will inevitably be taken. Furthermore, I have seen a few site administrators cut during downsizing without any visibility to those responsibilities. What is worse, in many cases nobody assumes that ownership after the resource leaves the organization.

Training
When developing Site Administrator or Site Owner training, be sure to address proper security. Show examples of where it is done correctly, but also where it was done horribly wrong. Be sure to provide different types of training; in person, written, and interactive.

The Microsoft Office site has a great overview that is easily consumable: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointtechnology/HA101001441033.aspx?pid=ch100649861033

Perform and Audit
The best way to get a handle on what the current issues are and to generate a plan to resolve those issues is to start by performing an audit. Look at the site collection and subsites and determine what is set to inherit and what is set to be unique. Then look at the individual lists and libraries to review the same.

Most of the issues I’ve seen come from site administrators breaking inheritance at the list/library level without understanding what that means. I have also seen issues in libraries where multiple levels of folders are in place with security being set differently at each folder level. Hopefully groups are used to control the access, but in many cases it is individuals. The easiest way to resolve these issues is to just start over. Work with the site owner/administrator to understand the intent and set it to inherit from the parent object and then go back through the steps to setup the specific permissions required.

Groups versus Individuals
Wherever possible, use groups to provide access to the securable objects. Adding individuals directly to an object does not promote reuse or central management. This creates many of the maintenance issues that lead to problems as sites and content evolves. Using SharePoint Groups versus Active Directory Security Groups has been widely debated so I will not cover it here. Use what is appropriate for your environment.

Summary
Following these recommendations will help transition the system from chaos to something that meets the site owner’s requirements and promotes maintainability. The next post in this series will cover navigation and Information Architecture issues.

THE SharePoint PowerShell Module (SPoshMod)

The first release of THE SharePoint PowerShell Module (SPoshMod) is now available on CodePlex.

As I mentioned in a previous post, PowerShell is a great tool for SP Admins and Developers to learn. It can really make administration and content deployment tasks easier and repeatable.

Take a look and provide feedback to the team!

PowerShell and SharePoint

I come from a development background but the past few years I have been at lot more time on system administration with applications like SharePoint. While there are some good command line tools, I am not a great command line scripter. Getting proper code flow when writing batch files leaves a lot to desired when you have the developer’s mindset. Until recently the only alternative was to write .net code which seems like overkill for most operations. I think PowerShell really fits this gap well, providing access to managed code APIs and assemblies while also offering the nimbleness of scripting and interactive sessions.

The past month or two I have been working on scripts that can do everything from creating a new web application to deploying solutions and content types. These scripts can make deployment a whole lot easier and more effective.

After I get a chance to fully test my scripts I’ll be sure to post them here or on CodePlex. If you have not yet dived in, now is a good time.

Resources:
CodePlex PowerShell Resources
The PowerShell Guy
Windows PowerShell Blog
SharePoine Dev Wiki – Scripting

SharePoint Quota Management

SharePoint ships with a decent set of Quota Management tools. Many of the people I talk to are not familiar with the tools because they do not believe they need quotas. I think the tools offer valuable information that can be used to help maintain a well run farm even if strict quota management is not needed. Without the tools, you increase the likelihood of excess content being stored which leads to longer backup and recovery times and additional storage needs.

If sites really do not need to be limited, I would advocate setting the quota limits very high as opposed to not enabling them or turning them off.

Storage Space Allocation Report
The tools are available to Site Collection Administrators from the Site Settings page at the root of the Site Collection.

The tools will list out all of the content in the Site Collection. You can review Document Libraries, Documents, Lists, and the Recycle Bin.

Document Libraries – I find it helpful to know which libraries have the most content. By reviewing this list you can get an idea of which Document Libraries to target when reviewing the information architecture and taxonomy issues. This may also provide the information needed to make decisions on restructuring sites and site collections so that they are smaller and nimbler helping to reduce recovery time during disaster recovery.

Documents – It can also be informative to know how big the bigger documents are. This report will actually roll in prior versions as well so if there are a large number of versions you can review and clean up as needed. In the prior version of SharePoint it was not possible to set a maximum number of versions to save so I used this to review and manage prior versions. I had one case where there were some financial spreadsheets with over 100 versions at 75mb each. That is just wasted space unless there is a real business need.

Lists – List size can be very difficult to figure out without this tool. The number of records is important to know, but if there are attachments the list size can grow very quickly. This report will detail both the number of items, as well as the storage space consumed.

Recycle Bin – It will also report out what is in the recycle bin. There is nothing too exciting here.

How to Manage Quota Templates
The quota templates are available in Central Administration under Application Management, Quota Templates.

If you do not really want to manage quotas you can set this to a large value. If you have a charge back system in place where groups pay for the storage they use, try to identify a few different standard categories and assign a warning and max level. Here are some categories that I have used before.

• Personal Sites
• Personal Sites – Executive
• Medium Document Storage
• Heavy Document Storage
• Light Collaboration
• Medium Collaboration
• Heavy Collaboration

How to Enable Quota Management
The screen to enable quota management on a site collection is available in Central Administration under Application Management, Site Collection Quotas and Locks.

Note: If a site goes over its configured quota it will be set to locked. Even if you adjust the quota size you will still need to remove the lock.

Supporting Multiple Active Directory Domains

In many environments there is more than one Active Directory forest with users that need access to the SharePoint farm. Setting up support for users on multiple domains is pretty easy and can provide new collaborative features for users throughout the extended organization.

Trust Relationship
The only prerequisite is that there has to be a trust relationship between the forests. Users from the other domain(s) will need to be able to authenticate and access resources on the host domain.

If that trust is not in place, here is a good resource: Support for Cross-forest deployments

Setting up the Import
The Profile import settings are in the Shared Service Provider’s User Profile section. Setting up the primary domain, the domain the server is on, is pretty straight forward and the default settings should be fine.

To setup an import for additional domains click on the “View import connections” link from the main User Profiles and Properties page followed by the Add Connection item in the toolbar. Fill in the domain information and click the Auto Fill Root Search Base button. If the SharePoint Administration account does not have access to read from the target domain you will need to supply an account to read the directory.

People Picker Control
If there is a one way trust, or there are duplicate accounts (display names) on different domains it may be a good idea to set some additional properties. In the article Select user from multiple forest domains it provides a path to specify which forests to search, and allows the passing of credentials if the SharePoint Administration account does not have the required privileges.

Summary
The platform does a good job of supporting cross domain collaboration, and it is a lot easier to setup than many enterprise systems. In one environment I had to support over thirty domains so the information included above really came in handy.

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