by February 2, 2010 0 comments

Most organizations these days have a good network setup that consists of
Internet access and a file share where the users dump their work. However, you
can really increase a lot of productivity and value to the users and efficiency
of the organization by implementing a SharePoint solution in the network.

What is SharePoint?
To put it simply, SharePoint is a portal solution that lets users
collaborate and work in an organized manner while maintaining corporate
standards all across. SharePoint currently is available in two versions:

Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0: This is the “free” version of
SharePoint that you can install on a Windows Server in your network. It contains
all the main features required for a basic intranet solution.

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Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007: This is the paid
product that comes in a Standard and Enterprise flavour. It builds upon the
foundation of WSS to provide even more functionality like CMS, Records, BI and
many more. This is required by high end enterprises who wish to utilize and
customize even more.

In either case the intranet portal part remains the same. Note that in the
upcoming version of the SharePoint release the two products are now named
SharePoint Foundation Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010. We’ll be delving
into these when they near the final release.

Implementation Strategy
One of the important things about SharePoint is that you must plan your
implementation in advance of actually going ahead and installing the product.
Typically in a small to medium organization, you’d need to have the following
servers (at a minimum):

Windows Server ADS: The active directory server will provide user
authentication and central administration of the network. This will also provide
a single sign-on to the SharePoint portal based on the user’s network login.

SQL Server: This will be useful for slightly larger installation of
SharePoint where the number of users and amount of data is expected to be very
large. WSS also works with the free SQL Express that it installs automatically
for smaller installs.

Website hierarchy
HR Staff
Admin IT Inventory Warranties Helpdesk
Projects Proj


Finance Travel
PR Images

SharePoint: This can be either WSS or MOSS. For MOSS installs you will
also need to plan out scalability and other aspects.

Once the implementation tiers are planned out, you also need to have a solid
strategy in place for the SharePoint structure as well. SharePoint allows the
organization to have an entire hierarchy of items that can be put together to
form a really cohesive environment for your users. Here is an explanation of
some of these items:

Sites: These are the basic hierarchy level in sharePoint. You can
create sites and sub-sites to any level. For instance you can have sub-sites
arranged by department — like <org>/HR, <org>/Finance, <org>/Admin etc. you can
have further breakdowns in terms of projects or specific items as well within
any level.

Libraries: These are equivalent to folders on the file system. You can
store any kind of file in these organized by folders or different columns. The
power of SharePoint comes when you utilize content types to provide default
templates for a library and columns to prompt user for additional meta-data
whenever a file is added to a library.

Lists: SharePoint comes with a number of default lists. However, you
can go ahead and create a number of custom lists as well.

Workflows: This allows automatic process flows starting on an event.
For instance you can start an approval process the moment a new expense report
is filed.

The important thing while planning a SharePoint installation is setup the
hierarchy right in the first place itself. You will need to decide on what the
top level sites are and how the users navigate to specific items within them.
You will also need to collate and setup the content type templates for all the
different standard libraries. For instance, a library that stores corporate
presentations can have a default content type of PPTX which has the company logo
already watermarked. A library that stores Expense Reports can have an XLSX
content type with the correct type of report format that the user only needs to
fill in.

A sample of a site structure given the above requirements would be something
like this (where the IT subsite has been expanded to show more libraries and
sub-sites under it:

The next thing is to make sure you have mapped each user to the appropriate
sites and libraries. Since permissions can be granted granularly to each item
type, you can very nicely control who can view, add, edit or delete items. All
of the above can be done by creating a spread sheet that maps out the hierarchy
as well as the permissions at each level and then implementing that.

You will also need to have a coherent backup strategy. Make sure that the
SharePoint data as well as configuration is backed up regularly and an off-site
or off-server backup is also taken and tested on a test SharePoint setup in your
organization. You might also want to change usage report processing on or off
depending on whether you wish to store this information.

Once all this planning is done comes the time for actual implementation of
the same. For future planning you might want to also think about integration
with other services such as Exchange, Business Intelligence and using SharePoint
as a CMS platform.

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