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Primary Uses of Windows SharePoint Services

The following sections outline some of the standard ways that organizations use Windows SharePoint Services. This is of course not a complete list but represents many of the uses encountered at clients’ sites.

Collaborating with Workspaces

Windows SharePoint Services offers two main types of workspaces: document workspaces and meeting workspaces. Additional attention is paid to describing the functionality of these items in Chapter 11, "Managing and Using SharePoint Libraries," and Chapter 12, "Managing and Using SharePoint Lists."

The standard document workspace site home page includes announcements, tasks, links, shared documents, and a list of the site members. Hyperlinks for creating contacts, events, a general discussion, surveys, and a picture library are also included in the Quick Launch bar. Once created, other team members need to be invited to the workspace, and the administrator(s) of the workspace can fine-tune permissions within the site.

Document workspaces are ideal for collaboration between a limited number of resources on short-term projects. One or more documents can be uploaded to the site, and different members of the site can check out the documents, edit them, and save them back to the document library, with comments tracked. Tasks can be assigned to different members of the site, and a calendar can be created to track key dates.

Meeting workspace sites are designed to bring all the documents and tasks associated with a meeting together into one place. Five different meeting workspace templates are included with SharePoint, each containing a different set of Web Parts: Basic Meeting Workspace, Blank Meeting Workspace, Decision Meeting Workspace, Social Meeting Workspace, and Multipage Meeting Workspace. The "basic" out-of-the-box meeting workspace template includes agenda items, attendees, and objectives. Meeting workspaces are ideal for preparing for complex meetings or events, such as a company picnic.

Many companies find that SharePoint workspaces foster teamwork and collaboration between employees and encourage employees to store their documents on the network instead of hiding them on their local drives. Workspaces also encourage organization of information, which develops good working habits and creates tools that can be reused to enhance productivity. After an individual creates a document workspace that suits her needs, she can then save it as a template and reuse it for other similar projects. Workspaces can be configured to be accessible from the Internet, and customers or partners outside the company can be given access to the workspaces to further leverage the technology. Bear in mind that external users also need valud Windows Server 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Client Access Licenses (if SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is being used), and the SharePoint External Connector License may be required depending upon the type of external usage.

Collaborating Using Team or Project Sites

For more permanent document management and collaboration needs, a team site can be created in Windows SharePoint Services that offers more administrative tools and options in terms of the construction of the site. Typically, team sites are created for longer term projects, or for a specific department. With Windows SharePoint Services a top-level site can be created, and then a virtually unlimited number of subsites and workspaces can be created beneath the structure, forming a site collection. A different administrator can be assigned per site collection to distribute the management and administration load and to allow for granular security in each site collection.

The basic template for a team site includes announcements, events, and links on the "main page" with hyperlinks to Shared Documents, Contacts, Tasks, and General Discussion links on the Quick Launch bar. The home page is generally customized with the name of the team or department and a fitting logo or image, and the default Web Parts are tuned to present the right level of information to the average user.

Documentation for the project can be stored on the site where team members can easily find what they need. Activities such as project status meetings, document reviews, and meetings with the client can be set up as events. The contacts list can be used for storing information about the customer contacts and any other outside resources involved with the project. Although there may be a detailed project plan for the project, major tasks or milestones can be pulled out of the plan and tracked in a tasks list where they are immediately accessible.

A centrally available group site encourages members to contribute to the site based on their expertise. Sharing and being able to easily find information leads to collaboration for producing a quality end result.

Searching in Windows SharePoint Services Sites

Searching is a critical function for many companies, and a requirement for most document management systems. As mentioned previously, full text searching is not available if Windows SharePoint Services is used with the WMSDE database, but it is available to a limited extent if SQL Server 2000 is installed (if full text searching with SQL 2000 is implemented).

Windows SharePoint Services searching is still limited, as outlined in the Windows SharePoint Services Administrator’s Guide, summarized in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Windows SharePoint Services SQL Searching Capabilities

Search Targets

Searched with SQL Server?

List items

Yes.

Documents

Yes.

Lists

Yes.

Boolean searches (AND, OR, Near, NOT)

No.

File types other than .doc, .xls, .ppt, .txt, and .htm

-Not by default. You can install customized SQL Server search filters to search other file types.

Searching for subsite content on a top-level website

-No. You must go to the subsite to perform the search.

Nontext list fields (such as currency, number, lookup, Yes/No)

No.

Attachments to lists

No.

File properties used by Office 2003 documents (such as "Author" and "Company")

No.

Survey lists

No.

Hidden lists

No.

Site administrators, site groups, users, or cross-site group

No.

External websites, file shares, documents

No.

Narrowing search results by searching through previous results

No.

Displaying the total number of items matching a search string

No.


So even with SQL Server 2000 installed, and full text searching enabled, the searching is limited. For example, if a subsite North America is created under a Sales site, content stored in the North America document library is not searchable from the Sales site.

Even with these limitations, the search process can quickly enable a user to find all the instances of a specific word contained in a library or list on a site.

Staying in Touch with Changes Through Alerts

As users realize the benefits of a SharePoint solution, sites can grow quickly with information, users, and applications being added and changed continuously. Instead of having to comb sites and workspaces for modifications on a regular basis, a user can set up alerts so that she is only notified of changes in the information of interest to her.

SharePoint alerts can be set to notify users of changes to documents, sites, lists (announcements, contacts, events, tasks, surveys, and links), individual items in the lists, and document libraries.

Alerts can be used by various groups within the organization. The Marketing Department can use a SharePoint document library as a repository for employee-submitted newsletter articles. The editor of the newsletter can create an alert to be notified when documents are added so that they can be reviewed and incorporated into the final newsletter. A SharePoint administrator, responsible for managing the hardware used to provide SharePoint services, can set up an alert to be notified immediately when sites and users are added, to assist in controlling resource allocation.

The Sales Department can use SharePoint Contacts for storing customer information. When there is a change to customer information, the salespeople can be alerted at the end of the day so that they can follow up and take appropriate action. Salespersons can set up alerts for their own specific customers so that they don’t get bombarded with alerts for customers who are not their responsibility.

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