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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Justifying and Deploying Business Portals

As the cost of providing a portal structure goes down, it makes business sense to create portal-based solutions as opposed to purchasing, installing, and maintaining software on individual PCs for accessing information. Maintaining a web browser on each desk and a centralized application structure flexible enough to provide access for any set of users is generally much more cost effective and presents a means for implementing innovative solutions that might have been too costly to deliver using traditional methods. When applications or new features are added to the portal, they are instantly available to users without having to touch every desktop. Delivering information and applications via a web browser also reduces the burden on the IT department while providing them with the necessary control over who has access to the information and applications.

Leveraging Various SharePoint Components for a Portal Solution

The backbone of the business portal is Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. It provides the platform for creating an enterprise portal for centrally managing, storing, sharing, and accessing information. When appropriately designed, the portal can be used to quickly find relevant information and provide a means for team collaboration. Users can create their own customized view of the portal to meet their needs, and information can be targeted to an individual based on her role.

Team and workgroup collaboration, document management, and list management are accomplished using the Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 engine within MOSS 2007. It is oriented to facilitating information sharing and document collaboration. Its features make it easy for users and teams to work together and enable managers to coordinate content and activities. Microsoft Office 2003/2007, when used in conjunction with Windows SharePoint Services, further enhances user productivity by providing an integrated desktop that accesses server collaboration services using tools that users are familiar with.

Leveraging Full Portal Collaboration with Office 2007/2003 Technologies

Microsoft Office 2007 and the older 2003 version provide interfaces that users are familiar with and are the primary tool for creating and modifying documents. Elements of Microsoft Office 2007/2003 can also be integrated with SharePoint technologies to provide a central web-based accessibility to information.

The tightest integration for a SharePoint 2007 environment can be realized with the 2007 versions of the Office clients; however, 2003 clients are supported against a SharePoint 2007 farm. Although technically supported, using older versions of Office such as Office XP or Office 2000 in a SharePoint 2007 environment is not generally recommended to because there are major functionality limitations.

Managing Business Processes with BizTalk Server 2006

Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 and custom-developed web parts provide the means for integrating line-of-business applications into the MOSS 2007 environment. Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 includes the tools to integrate applications, whereas web parts can be developed for the integration with SharePoint. This provides end users with the ability to perform business transactions and retrieve information from business systems without having to leave the site or learn new applications. In addition, BizTalk itself centralizes access and control to disparate volumes of corporate data, allowing more intelligent business decisions to be made.

Improving Communications and Collaboration with Exchange Server 2007 Integration

An effective SharePoint environment encompasses both collaboration and communication concepts into its design. The ability to alert users of document changes, for example, takes advantage of email routing. MOSS 2007 has the capability to interface with any SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server to relay messages, but is most effective when integrating with the newest 2007 version of Exchange because multiple new integration points have been built between the two applications, both released within a few months of each other.

Using SharePoint 2007 with Exchange Server 2007 or, to a lesser extent, Exchange 2003, allows for tight integration with the various components of Exchange itself, such as shared calendars, direct access to mailbox items, task lists, and public folders. Alerts can be sent to specific mailboxes, for example, to allow them to be viewed by multiple users. A departmental calendar can be set up in Exchange and displayed in SharePoint.

Leveraging an existing Exchange Server 2007 deployment with SharePoint greatly extends the reach of both applications, filling gaps in the functionality of each product. The most functional, collaborative environments can be created by a combination of these technologies.

More specific information on Exchange 2007 and configuring Exchange to work with SharePoint 2007 can be found in Chapter 18, "Configuring Email-Enabled Content and Exchange Server Integration."

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