Posts Tagged ‘Sharepoint’
It is doubtless that both SharePoint and Windows Azure can each work well on their own, but when put together, the doors open for developers to extend the features of SharePoint by leveraging the infrastructure that is the Cloud.
So let’s have a look at the advantages of using these two technologies together and new opportunities for expansion.
SharePoint document libraries can store files. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should store all of your files, or every type of file. For example, a document library is not an ideal home for big video files. Such files are better suited for a hard drive or a file system. Further, the premise of document libraries in SharePoint is to share and as a result, the more users there are using SharePoint, the more they are sharing, and subsequently, the more files accumulate.
The more files that accumulate the more room they take up. Whether it is because of an accumulation of files or because files are large, you encounter a need to be able to store data on an infrastructure that can keep up with your growing data needs and shrink when files are removed. This need is easily serviced by Windows Azure’s Storage Services, specifically Blob Storage. Rather than using SharePoint to store files, Blob Storage can do the job, expanding and shrinking as your demand requires. Blob Storage is also ensuring that your files are stored secured and are replicated to another datacentre in the unlikely event of a datacentre disaster.
Large Data Sets
You can store and work with data in SharePoint using lists. But the more complex the data becomes, the more inefficient lists become as storage mechanisms and the more difficult it becomes to work with the data. With Windows Azure in the mix, you can outsource your data needs to Azure, specifically SQL Azure.
From a storage mechanism perspective, using SQL Azure gives you the power of SQL Server with the elasticity needed to keep databases growing with data and prevent performance degradation of your SharePoint cluster. From an ease of use perspective, using SQL Azure also allows you to work with the data as you would with SQL Server, no longer needing complicated code and interactions with SharePoint’s APIs to get at and work with the complex data. Once the data is in SQL Azure, you can connect it to your SharePoint solution either through direct calls to the SQL Azure database, or through a web service hosted in a Windows Azure Web Role connected to SharePoint via BCS.
Chances are your SharePoint environment is locked down pretty well in order for your IT folks to keep the environment highly performant, scalable, and secure. But being locked down can also limit the type of solutions you can build for SharePoint. Let’s say you wanted to build a solution that uses SharePoint as a front end, but then takes the actions and data from the user and goes off to do something else, or perhaps feed the information into different systems. That code needs to run somewhere. A natural inclination would be to have SharePoint run the code within a solution. However, if you’re environment is locked down, and let’s say you’re only able to deploy Sandboxed solutions, you’ll be constrained as to what you will be able to do.
Working with Windows Azure as a backend system also allows you to work with the restrictions imposed by sandboxed environments. To do so, you outsource the “work”, your code that does stuff, to a web or worker role in Windows Azure, have those instances run the code for you, and then expose the result via web services that can then be read back into SharePoint or SharePoint Online. Keep in mind that this can be two-way. By using SharePoint or SharePoint Online’s web services or client-side object model, you can reach into SharePoint to return or save data.
Integrating with SharePoint Online
There’s also a great story of SharePoint Online and Windows Azure working together to enable working with internal systems and/or protecting sensitive data that you don’t feel comfortable storing in SharePoint Online (but do feel comfortable having it in your own data centers). A hybrid solution is in order here. Have SharePoint Online as your front end. It will then talk to a Windows Azure service that will then communicate with your internal and securely transfer the result/information back to SharePoint Online.
When you see the cloud as a place to deploy applications, your reach naturally widens. For example, deploying your services and applications in Windows Azure, they are available to many SharePoint clients. By leveraging the Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket or deploying your own custom WCF services or ASP.NET applications, you not only are able to better monetize on optimization, but the opportunity to take advantage of your Windows Azure applications and services can be extended to your customers as well. This is a tremendous opportunity for you because it means you can write once, sell many times, and let Windows Azure worry about scale.
The cloud is about reusing your existing skills and your existing code; it’s not all about reinvention and multiple code bases. With .NET, you are able to reuse already-built .NET applications in the cloud, or reuse your existing skills to build new ones. Further, the cloud provides the opportunity for service layers that enable cross-device (e.g. phone, web and PC) connectivity and cross-platform integration.
As you can see there’s a natural fit between the two technologies to fill in gaps and make better solutions possible.
Read more here.
When thinking about electronic document management system, firstly, expensive solutions from famous vendors, such as Microsoft, EMC, 1C etc. come to our mind. But there is an alternative to closed source – Open Source Enterprise Content Management System Alfresco.
A number of world famous companies, such as Toyota, KLM, SNCF, La Poste, FOX, SAP AG and others have begun to practice systems based on open source Alfresco. In the list of those who use Alfresco there are also administration of Catalonia (Spain), administration of Nebraska and Louisiana states (USA).
Alfresco peers are closed source software, such as EMC Documentum, Open Text, Sharepoint. The Alfresco developers themselves say about their rivals like about 90’s heritage that is:
- too expensive
- too difficult to use, to unwind, to scale
- too difficult to be modified to your needs
- too proprietary
What is actually Alfresco?
Initially Alfresco was planned as a Microsoft Sharepoint alternative with an open source. But during the development process Alfresco has taken the sideline and now perform some unique functions that are exclusive for other similar systems. It’s enough to say that Alfresco sustainably works with Sharepoint protocol through HTTPS.
The main advantage of Alfresco I see in its open system: there is no lock-in for some vendor, the system itself is free. Another Alfresco advantage, as far as I see it, is that it is built with the help of modern Java technologies, such as Spring Surf, JSF, Hibernate, Lucene.
Users work with the system through browser. It is also possible to work with the files through Windows explorer, as with a usual network folder (CIFS protocol) or through FTP.
Alfresco provides you with the possibility of creating, storing, modifying documents and many others. You can create a document right in the system, an empty one as well as based on your company patterns. The system allows content based retrieval, supports document version control. Change history is stored, you can always look it through and see, who has made the changes, when, and which changes exactly.
Is Alfresco suitable for your tasks? Expandability.
Alfresco is fully ready to use. You can download free Community Editiion, install and start using it right today. It’s all very easy. There is also commercial Enterprise Edition. The main difference is technical support availability.
The delivery includes built-in OpenOffice to convert between various types of documents, extract of text data for indexing and the possibility of full-text search. Also, there is Tomcat in the package that can be replaced if needed with any suitable web-container.
Although Alfresco has its own users database, it is possible to practice users auto-creation while the first logging on or reconciliation with an external source: LDAP, Microsoft Active Directory, company domain etc.
Already accepted in the industry ECM standards are supported. So, the system of data storage slips smoothly from its own realization of JSR-170 to data access through CMIS, consequently removing the last limitations for using the deliverable storage from Alfresco.
The system works with all the document formats: Microsoft Office, Open Office, pdf etc. If there is no needed format in the list, you can add your conversion module to one of the supported ones, and conversion strings to all the needed formats in output will be built.
The advantage of Alfresco as an open system is a full access to source codes, the possibility to change any part of the system, as the license allows this.
It is also possible to refuse from standard web-interface and realize your own. In this case Alfresco will be used only as storage.
Various types of authentication are supported to be integrated with other software; and it is also possible to catenate them. For example, a user can get into the system with the help of single sign-on. If the user comes unauthorized, Alfresco will try to authorize him (will ask for login and password, or the certificate – it depends on how the system is set).
There is a very flexible data model in Alfresco, many possibilities for its extension, but this is a topic for another article . Shortly, it is worth mentioning that the model supports multiple inheritance (with the help of aspects). The inheritance is dynamic which means that some aspect can be added to any object, and the object obtains all the characteristics of this aspect.
Access to the data and functionality can be flexibly set. Authoring system operates with such notions as: data object, authorization, user, group, role. Roles are appointed to users and groups while the application works. Besides, you can appoint the roles factorably, for the whole data subtree.
There are a number of ready Alfresco extensions as well.
The number of users. Scalability.
Due to the openness and free-of-charge Alfresco basis you are not restrained by the quantity of client access licenses. It’s more likely that you are restrained by your servers and databases productivity, possibility of system scalability.
Basing on our experience, a server Intel Core 2 – 2,4 GHz with 8 GB will be enough for maintenance of up to 1000 registered active users. When the quantity of users grows, it is necessary to analyze which parts of the system are mostly loaded. The system works securely in cluster, ensuring data completeness and relevance.
Alfresco is a good base for building up the company’s document system. I think in the nearest time Alfresco can substitute many obsolescent systems. As in all the other systems there are still some unsolved problems, and its hardly possible that Alfresco will capture the whole world, but, in my opinion, it is fairly possible for it to occupy essential part of the corporate document storage market.
It would be great to see your Alfresco implementation experience in the comments!
I’ve found that people have a general idea of what SharePoint is, but many have no idea how to apply it to their own business. I’d like to share with you the top ways that SharePoint can solve common business needs. And I want to emphasize that these are only a few of the many ways to utilize the SharePoint Services. Once you start using it, you will begin to realize the many other valuable benefits that can easily be accomplished by the everyday user. Hope you’ll find a few productivity solutions here.
With SharePoint you can:
1. Store all your emails on a secure and centralized Website for easy archive.
2. Keep a central task location for assigning tasks to team members. These tasks will also link to your projects so you can easily find out what tasks are still open for each project.
3. Organize large events and store the related documents, assigned tasks, and generally post anything and everything related to the events. It will also integrate with Outlook for added efficiency.
4. Collaborate with team members on all documents and stay on top of who did what. Earlier versions can easily be restored in case someone has made too many mistakes. Projects can also be linked to related documents.
5. Assign tasks to your team members, and automatically notify them that they have a new task. Alerts are sent when there have been updates to the tasks.
6. Quickly manage all projects for your team or organization so there’s no need to explore buying an expensive project management solution.
7. Use the efficient check-in / check-out management feature to sort your documents.
8. Implement a help ticket resolution for your organization or team without breaking the bank.
9. Start a private company blog to communicate and share ideas with your team that’s viewable only by those you give access to.
10. Gain more control over your company’s documents with the content approval function.
11. Offer training materials to your teams, clients, and/or partners in a password-protected Website that can be accessed anywhere in the world.
12. Offer a secure and private place to share documents and other information with clients and/or partners.
13. Access and work with your data using your Internet-enabled mobile phone for added convenience while traveling or out of the office at client meetings.
14. Create better team communication and brainstorming sessions where everyone can participate when their schedules permit.
15. Centralize where company and team project announcements are posted. Everyone will receive a notification via email or mobile phone automatically, anywhere in the world.
16. Work offline on the files, project tasks, tasks, discussions, contacts, calendars, blogs, etc. and then sync the updated information later on.
17. Create “central” documents (and synchronize), so all team members, clients, and/or partners are able to work on the same document and make changes. Updates are accessible with a click of a button. Everyone can then sync back to the “central” document and have all edits merged into that single document.
18. Easily add custom fields to any area and capture the information that’s most important to your company, all without the help of a web designer or IT person.
19. Pull up and update Microsoft Access database from a local desktop and sync information to a central location that can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
20. Create a project dashboard where on one page you can view and filter on common project elements, such as: project details, project documents, project tasks, project issues, project calendar, project milestones, project lessons learned, project risks, project change orders, and more.
Keep in mind that a little training goes a long way in increasing productivity in the products you use in your business.
Altabel Group highly recommends taking the time to learn this efficient and effective tool and watch your productivity, along with your profits!
During the course of 2011 Windows8 was presented to the. Could the current proposed – ‘Windows 8’ – provide the basis for major future changes to Microsoft SharePoint?
SharePoint has been an enormous success for Microsoft in recent years.
Let us take a speculative look at three areas where SharePoint can learn from Windows 8.
The User Interface
Implications for SharePoint are twofold. Firstly, Metro apps aren’t a huge logical leap on from web parts. Could Metro apps form the basis of a “next generation” web part? Could approved Metro apps even run natively on SharePoint? Certainly this could give Microsoft a head start if it did decide to create a SharePoint specific store. Changing the underlying architecture of web parts to something more web based would open up the developer base to a wider audience and bring the technology inline with the majority of other similar widget platforms available.
Secondly, the Metro interface (the idea of functional hubs, full bleed canvases and the typeface) is very likely to inspire the general direction of the SharePoint 2012 interface. How much of this is practical to implement is currently only known to Microsoft. SharePoint will surely retain its current content management system elements, elements that many users customize to provide the exact look and feel they require. On the other hand, the out of the box site templates are starting to feel tired and the administrative interfaces didn’t really change after the 2007 release. Whatever the outcome, there is certainly an appealing argument for Windows 8, Windows Phone 7 and SharePoint 2012 to share a common look and feel.
The “Windows Store”
Could the launch of the Windows store for Metro apps and other software influence the similar launch of a new SharePoint store where web parts and third party add-ons could be purchased?
The Windows store is set to be the key digital distribution platform for Windows, likely offering both Metro apps and more traditional Windows software. Seen as a direct response to the Apple Mac software store, and of course inspired by the original iPhone app store, this feature will probably change forever how Windows software is purchased and maintained.
The next version of SharePoint seems almost certain to feature a similar offering. Two elements of the current SharePoint experience make this likely. Firstly, SharePoint is extremely well supported by third party suppliers and developers. A whole host of add-ins and tools are already available for purchase, and it would make perfect sense to centralize the distribution of this software. Secondly, one of SharePoint’s key features, web parts, makes almost the perfect store item. Web parts are generally small pieces of software, tightly focused in functionality and low in price. They are very much the app of the SharePoint world.
The “Ribbon” Interface
A respected commentator envisages a greater use of the Microsoft ribbon in any new SharePoint version; in the same way that the ribbon is expected to be integral to Windows 8…
Yes, the Microsoft ribbon can already be found in SharePoint 2010, but SharePoint 2012 will surely see it used to a much greater extent. The often controversial ribbon, which debuted as part of Office 2007, was used sparingly in Windows 7 but forms a more integral part of Windows 8. It is now integral to the operating system as part of Windows Explorer. Whilst this hasn’t been met with universal acclaim by those that have used it, Microsoft looks unlikely to backtrack.
As a result I expect to see the ribbon used much more extensively in the next version of SharePoint. Settings screens and central administration are obvious candidates for an overhaul. It would also seem likely that its use for list, and in particular web part, configuration will see an improvement.
Thank you for attention and you are always welcome with your comments!