Collaborative System: Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server-Part 2

Technology Review

The system of Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server is specified in Table 1.

**Table 1: SharePoint System **

Windows Internal Database /

SQL Server 2000

ASP.NET 1.1

IIS 6

.NET Framework 1.1

Windows Server

Â

Â

Data storage

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server stores its data in the Windows Internal Database, registry, and SQL Server 2000. The organization does not have to buy SQL Server; SharePoint Portal Server comes with SQL Server Desktop Edition which allows the company to have a database up to 2 GB for 10 concurrent connections. The SQL Server Desktop Edition will be enough for many organizations. Although the users can be stored in the database, the default users’ storage is the Active Directory of Windows Server Operating system. When the organisation adds users through the SharePoint interface it is automatically added to the Active Directory.

Programming languages

Windows SharePoint Services are built from the ground up using .Net Framework technologies. It has been developed with C# using ASP.Net. Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server is built on top of the Windows SharePoint Services. As a result, SharePoint Portal Server provides all the facilities SharePoint Services providing.

SharePoint Portal Server is built with the consideration of providing extensibility. For extensibility, they are some special types of web user controls, called Web Parts. Web Parts enable the developers to assemble a view of information from many sources. Developers can integrate the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, file shares, Web sites, Web Services in the Web Parts. Web Parts can be developed in any .Net language. With web parts, the end users will get drag and drop design features, connection features ready.

Operating Systems

Windows SharePoint Services requires Windows Server 2003 with the latest service packs installed. As a web server, it requires IIS 6.0 with .Net Framework 1.1 components installed. Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server requires Windows SharePoint Services installed on the system. Active Directory Service of Windows 2003 should be installed for the user database and the computers within the organisation should be in the same domain.

Web Generation

In SharePoint Portal Server 5th Generation Web is used. JavaScript is heavily used for giving the user a good user interface (like drag and drop features). It provides many web services for accessing the internal data of SharePoint. Although modifying data directly from SQL Server is also possible, it is not an easy task to do because they are many dependencies in the database. With SharePoint Web Services many tasks, that can be done using menus in the portal, can be done programmatically like adding users or modifying a list.

Improvements

Better Support for Teamwork

Microsoft SharePoint Portal provides some basic mail alerts for the sites changes. The alert system should be optimized, make more configurable. There should be alarms for the inactive sites in the system, so that the administrator could delete the sites and increase the system performance. This would affect the users to open only the active sites. There might be some specific alarms for particular events in the lists or in the sites. The alert system should not be only through mail, it might have some in-site alerts recommending the user what to do.

SharePoint Portal Server can track the changes to the documents, but it is only limited to Microsoft Office documents. Many organisations use different type of software and documents, it should be give support to different type of documents. Also, SharePoint Portal does not include a form tracking facility. There are some third party solutions for providing that facility, but it would be better to support the form tracking inside the SharePoint Portal.

The folder system of the directories is sometimes not enough for classifying the documents. A tagging system should be implemented inside the SharePoint Portal Server. Then the users can set different keywords for a document.

Better Support for Individual Work

Workflow is a need for collaborative systems and it is not supported on SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Workflow should be implemented in a document library, in the designer or in the web services that SharePoint provides. Workflow should be easily implemented using the web interface of the portal or should be programmatically accessed to workflow libraries, as a result it would be possible to develop Web Parts that follows the workflow.

SharePoint does not have an internal backup solution. A backup can be done using SQL Server backup solutions; it should have a web based scheduled backup and restore system for different types of data specified by the users.

The system should link into other university systems if there is a need for collaboration with the university. This can easily be done by developing web parts or web services talking to the university server.

Another functionality/tools

In SharePoint Portal Server, it is impossible to track change within the portals because everything is stored in Microsoft SQL Server database. Sometimes it is needed to track for the activities going on the portal in terms of security. This information can be queried using the IIS logs or SQL Server transaction logs; however they will display all the going operations in the servers. It is rather difficult to analyse those data. SharePoint Portal Server should have a separate activity tracking mechanism to analyse and report.

Other points

SharePoint Portal Server is a good collaborative system; on the other hand it depends on many technologies. It should be separated from other components like SharePoint Services, SQL Server to enable the upgrade easy. It should be loosely coupled to the other systems.

Conclusion

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server is enterprise level collaboration software providing services for the organisation and customers. Although, there are some problems with SharePoint Portal Server in terms of compatibility with other systems, SharePoint Portal Server is a unique solution in collaboration environments. It is Windows based, but is accessible from any other platform using a high-end web browser. The installation and administration of the system is very easy and works without any extra configuration. As a result, the users will get high security options, great collaborative environment for sharing documents, easy to manage system, and great team integration.

SharePoint Portal Server is also great development environment for programmers. It can be personalised within the organisation based on needs. It can be integrated with any other application without affecting the system’s security. Many software vendors were also providing web parts for SharePoint Portal Server which makes the integration very easy with their product.

Workflow is a definite need for a collaborative environment. That issue will be solved internally with a new framework in the coming version of SharePoint which is Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2007.