Where does Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2001 fit in your computing environment? With SharePoint Portal Server's official launch last month (the product has actually been available since March), Microsoft entered an important new market segment that I think will be extremely successful. Let's discuss how Microsoft is positioning SharePoint Portal Server and how this product can complement your Exchange 2000 Server deployments.

SharePoint Portal Server is Microsoft's attempt to address the knowledge-management product category—specifically, application and content integration. Most organizations keep content in a variety of places, including file servers, Web sites, internal repositories, and even Exchange public folders; this dispersion makes the information difficult to access and manage. In addition, how users access this information varies according to the applications the users employ and the information source. (For example, you use Microsoft Outlook to access Exchange public-folder content, your browser to access Web site content, and Windows Explorer to access file shares.) SharePoint Portal Server provides one flexible portal solution that lets users find, access, publish, and share information over a corporate intranet (SharePoint Portal Server is for internal deployments—rather than a replacement for Internet-facing portal servers). You can completely customize this portal according to your organization's needs.

SharePoint Portal Server has three key features: a flexible intranet portal, an enterprise search engine, and a basic document-management system. With SharePoint Portal Server (and its junior partner, Microsoft Office XP's SharePoint Team Services), Microsoft gives users and small teams the ability to publish and manage information and helps the organization provide wide access to corporate information and intelligence.

As Exchange administrators, we need to consider SharePoint Portal Server a powerful companion to our Exchange deployments. The product can help us manage public folders and provide a better experience for users accessing public-folder content. Many of us must deal with huge public-folder hierarchies that contain all forms of corporate documents and information. Publishing, managing, and controlling user access to this information is difficult using only Exchange. By deploying SharePoint Portal Server with Exchange, you can index and catalog these hierarchies and create a more user-friendly interface for accessing this content. You can turn public folders into a business-information repository that users can search and access using any Web browser.

SharePoint Portal Server is a version 1.0 product, but I think Microsoft got this one right. My organization already uses SharePoint Portal Server extensively and offers consulting services to help our customers develop knowledge management solutions. By leveraging various Microsoft technologies, including Exchange (many of the SharePoint Portal Server development team members originated from the Exchange development team), SharePoint Portal Server provides a versatile knowledge-management solution. The solutions that you can build from this product are endless. If you haven't looked at SharePoint Portal Server, visit Microsoft's Web site and discover what this new Microsoft product can offer your organization.