Collaborative System: Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server-Part 1

Abstract

Microsoft SharePoint Products are Web Based Collaborative System that facilitates the collaboration within the organisation and customers. There are two types of SharePoint products, SharePoint Portal Services and SharePoint Portal Server. SharePoint Portal Server is built on top of SharePoint Portal Services.

Using SharePoint Portal Server 2003, users can create, manage and build collaborative Web sites. SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is built on top of Microsoft SharePoint Services. Although SharePoint Portal Services are free, SharePoint Portal Server provides more facilities to work collaboratively. This paper will focus on Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server rather than Microsoft SharePoint Services

Web Evolution

Usability

    SharePoint Portal Server is scalable, secure, and enterprise level portal server. Using SharePoint Portal Server 2003, users can add, manage, and organize news and topics, sites with different views, and information. They are also able to search across files shares, Web servers. They can make notification alerts based on the changes of the information, documents or applications. There is no need for administrators to create a site. It can be used for the team workspace, contact list, meetings, tasks, document sharing and collaboration. Moreover, it can be used for customized shared and collaborated solutions within the organisation and customers.

Many organizations use shared folders among the network and e-mail for collaboration. A user creates a file in the shared folder, and then e-mails the link to the reviewers of the document. Windows SharePoint provides a Document Workspace site for shared documents. It stores the document and tracks the changes if needed. Users are also able to see the different versions of the document.

Accessibility

    SharePoint Portal Server is accessible through the network or through the internet using the most recent web browsers. The workers or teams in an organisation can access it through the Intranet. Some companies provide some portals to their customers, in that case they might open some or all part of SharePoint Portal Server to the Internet.

    SharePoint Portal Server is also accessible through web services for third party programs or for developers. They are many web services that the users can query the system for different lists, documents.

SharePoint Portal Server has a Meeting Workspace for managing meetings. It can be accessed from Outlook 2003 for scheduling a meeting. This way, the users can request a meeting from their mail program.

Security

    The authentication is provided by IIS (Internet Information Services) using the Kerberos authentication to NTLM authentication. The organisation can also add SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to the SharePoint virtual directory to make the portal encrypted.

    The authorization is done internally. SharePoint Portal Server 2003 provides user based and role based security to access the content. Users can be the users of the active directory or can be created using SharePoint Portal Server. There are five types of roles administrator, web designer, contributor, reader and guess. Administrator can assign rights to different lists, web parts, documents for the users or the roles. The user and role data is stored on the database encrypted. SharePoint Portal Server also provides single sign-on.

Pro’s of the system

The architecture of SharePoint Portal Server is very extensible and secure. A developer can link web services to the SharePoint Portal Server as list of objects or can develop web parts easily Single sign-on provides great security for the system. Single Sign-On Service provides sign on to multiple enterprise applications (like SAP, Siebel) using a single set of credentials even if they use different types of authentication methods. Each Web Part in the site can use the credentials that the user provided once to access different resources in the system without prompting the user. Having a web part talking to external systems has been greatly done.

Windows SharePoint Portal is integrated with Microsoft Office Products. Users can use the menu commands from the Office family to add or modify different parts of the system. Beside that, the user interface of adding web parts to the site and organizing them using drag and drop is a good thing in a web interface without needing the administrator.

The search engine provided by Windows SharePoint Portal server can query most of the objects of the system like lists, documents, meetings, contacts, surveys. Sites are also indexed in the SQL Server in an indexed table which makes the text queries to perform fast. The track versions of the documents are also stored in the database, the users can easily rollback a document to previous version or update the current document. It helps managing the document creation and editing.

Con’s of the system

The users can build their own sites without administrator help; however this might result to inactive sites after the project has finished or the users decide to change the site. The sites take space on the server and it can decrease the overall performance of the system or it might result in an unmanaged portal unless the administrator continuously checks the active sites.

SharePoint Portal Server is platform and application dependent. If the organisation is not using Microsoft Office and Servers it will not be the best solution for them. Beside that, SharePoint Portal server is not a future proof product. Migration or upgrade will not be easy, because it depends on other products like Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server. When the company want to upgrade SharePoint, Microsoft might force them to upgrade the other servers as well.

The SharePoint Portal Server lacks the workflow support for the operations. Workflows can be done by using some other components, like BizTalk Server, again the company need to pay for that. Although BizTalk Server and SharePoint Portal Server offer a powerful and integrated platform, without workflow support it might not be considered as a true collaborative suite.