Microsoft SharePoint is a powerful collaboration technology that lets an office or department organize, manage, and share information and documents over the Web. A SharePoint server provides users with shared document libraries, discussion boards, announcements, calendar and scheduling functions, notifications, contacts, and task lists.

SharePoint servers come in two versions to fit the size of your organization and the number of users who require collaborative capabilities. SharePoint Portal Server is an enterprise offering for groups or departments with more than 75 users. SharePoint Portal Server offers enterprise search capabilities across servers, multiple portal site support, and sophisticated document-management capabilities. Document-management capabilities include check-in/check-out, versioning, routing, and publishing.

SharePoint Team Services is an office- or department-level solution that supports up to 75 users on one Web server. In fact, one server can host several SharePoint Team Services sites. SharePoint Team Services lets you use Microsoft FrontPage to customize default HTML pages and add themes and shared borders, a feature that SharePoint Portal Server doesn't support. However, SharePoint Team Services limits search capabilities to the local team site and subwebs and limits document management to basic publishing and notification.

SharePoint Team Services is actually a superset of the new FrontPage Server Extensions 2002 and includes all the features of that software. FrontPage Server Extensions adds new security features to support the function of roles in SharePoint, as well as server health monitoring and Web site statistics. FrontPage Server Extensions also adds HTML administration pages, Web site management forms, additional search tools, and server error tracking. In addition, FrontPage Server Extensions improves Microsoft Office XP's Web integration by offering online document editing and the ability to upload and add documents to a SharePoint site.

Let's discuss department-level SharePoint Team Services and how to install and configure a basic SharePoint team site. SharePoint Team Services lets you install a powerful collaboration site and bring it online without any manual coding. Nearly all SharePoint configuration and administration, as well as all user information sharing, occurs through a Web browser interface.

Installing and Configuring SharePoint Team Services
After deciding which SharePoint technology solution will address your needs, you must verify minimum hardware and software requirements before installing the software. In addition, some features, such as enhanced document integration with the Web and online editing, require Office XP. Microsoft recommends that your server run IIS 5.0 or later and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 or later to store the SharePoint configuration and site content. However, if you haven't installed SQL Server, you can use the less robust Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) to store the site. MSDE is the SQL Server 2000 desktop engine and is intended for lower volume workgroup servers. If the SharePoint installation doesn't detect SQL Server, it installs MSDE automatically. You can find the complete list of SharePoint Team Services hardware and software requirements at http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/sharepoint/sysreqs.htm.

Insert the FrontPage 2002 CD-ROM or the Office XP Developer Edition CD-ROM, which includes the SharePoint Team Services software. Run setupse.exe from the SharePt folder. Setupse.exe "extends" the existing virtual server by installing FrontPage Server Extensions and SharePoint Team Services. The installation wizard asks a few basic questions as part of the installation, including the SharePoint site type you want to install. You can choose from four site configurations:

  • SharePoint-based Web site—Choose this option to install a new (blank) SharePoint Team Services site. Don't choose this option if the site has existing data that you want to preserve.
  • SharePoint-based Web site (preserves home page if one exists)*Choose this option to install a new SharePoint Team Services site but preserve any existing home page.
  • SharePoint-enabled blank Web site*Choose this option to install SharePoint Team Services with no Web content. You can use this option to create SharePoint subwebs so that each department or division can have its own SharePoint site.
  • Blank Web site (FrontPage Server Extensions only)*Choose this option to extend an empty Web site with FrontPage Server Extensions. The site will have no collaboration options.

(On a fresh server installation*or if only one virtual server exists*you don't see these options, and a default SharePoint installation takes place.)

After the installation wizard finishes, your browser presents the active SharePoint Team Services home page, as Figure 1 shows. If you didn't choose one of the above installation methods or if you're extending an existing virtual server, an HTML administration page appears. One more note about FrontPage Server Extensions: Although the SharePoint Team Services installation process installs or upgrades the extensions, you should always check the Microsoft Web site for the latest available version. You can view the version of FrontPage Server Extensions from the HTML Site Settings page. Refer to the Microsoft Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnservext/html/fpse02win.asp to determine whether to upgrade.

Manually Extending with HTML Administration Pages
When you extend a server, the HTML administration pages give you more control over the SharePoint configuration options than you get with a default installation. You can select which virtual server to extend (if more than one exists), the SharePoint database name, the Web document discussion settings, and the Web subscription settings. To begin, click Site Settings on the SharePoint home page to open the Server Administration page, then click Extend. If an earlier version of FrontPage Server Extensions is present, you'll see an Upgrade option next to the virtual server. You can also right-click any virtual server in the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Internet Information Services snap-in and select All Tasks, Configure Server Extensions 2002. On this page, select an administrator username, the database this virtual server will use, and the site type. After you select one of the four site types, click Submit to accept the SharePoint settings.

If you have only one virtual server or if this is the first server you're extending, you can also select the SharePoint database connection name. All SharePoint subwebs on a server share one SQL Server or MSDE database that stores all SharePoint content and settings. All SharePoint subwebs also share the same Web Discussion and Web Subscription settings, so only a user with SharePoint administrator privileges can make these changes from the root Site Administration page.

Web Discussions lets users post and contribute to discussions in a central forum. Inline document discussions let users make suggestions and comments about shared documents, without having to modify the documents themselves. When configuring Web Discussions, you can turn the feature on or off, permit Web Discussions on documents anywhere on the Web or on the local server only, and delete stored documents after a certain number of days.

Use Web Subscriptions when users want to receive notification of folder or document changes, including the addition of a new file to a document library. Subscriptions also apply to discussion groups, so users can receive notification when new content appears in a discussion folder. To enable notifications about a discussion group, library, or folder, users must navigate to the object and subscribe to it. As an administrator, you can manage subscriptions by setting the content that users can subscribe to and setting notification intervals. You can set immediate notification intervals from 1 to 59 minutes, but you can also specify when daily and weekly notification messages go out. You can extend the notification interval so that users don't receive too many messages. However, if a site contains crucial or realtime data, consider short notification intervals to keep users up-to-date about important changes. You can turn Web Subscriptions on or off, enable Web Subscriptions on folders and documents or on documents only, determine when email notifications should go out, and set the reply-to username and address that appears on email messages.

Managing Security, Users, and Roles
After you set up the basic SharePoint Team Services site, you can configure site security, specify roles, and add users. As with a typical IIS Web site, you can configure the SharePoint site for anonymous browsing, which means that users don't have to log on to view pages. Anonymous users assume the identity of the IUSR_ComputerName user account you create during the initial IIS installation. As Figure 2 shows, when you enable anonymous access, you must assign a role to the anonymous user. The role defines that user's privileges and capabilities when using the SharePoint site. You can give anonymous users Browser, Contributor, Author, Advanced Author, or Administrator roles, as I discuss later, or you can create a custom role that includes any combination of these privileges. You can enable anonymous access to a SharePoint site that doesn't contain sensitive data, but you should limit this access to the Browser role, or you won't know who has posted data because all users will assume the same identity. You should disable anonymous access to sites that contain sensitive data. Turning anonymous access off forces all users to enter a username and password to enter the SharePoint Team Services site, and you must grant specific users roles for site access.

You use the HTML administration pages to add users to the SharePoint site. You can add preexisting users from any domain that the SharePoint server can authenticate with or add new local user accounts. To access the administration pages, open your SharePoint Team Services home page, click Site Settings, then click Go to Site Administration. If you logged on as a site Administrator, you see the Site Administration page, which Figure 3 shows, on which you can change the site name and description, customize the layout of the home page, manage user accounts, send invitations, create subwebs, and customize Announcements, Contacts, Events, Discussions, Links, Shared Documents, and Tasks. To add, modify, and remove users from the site, select Manage users. Click Add a user to add a new user to the local server or add an existing user from another domain. When adding a user, you must also specify the user's role. You can select a preexisting role from among the following choices:

  • Browser*has rights to view pages, Web document discussions, and lists
  • Contributor*has Browser rights, as well as the right to participate in Web document discussions and subscribe to content
  • Author*has Contributor rights, plus rights to edit pages, directories, and lists
  • Advanced Author*has Author rights, plus the ability to apply themes and borders, link style sheets, and recalculate a Web site
  • Administrator*has Advanced Author rights, plus rights to configure roles, create local user accounts, manage source control, create subwebs, manage Web document discussions and subscriptions, manage server health, and manage usage analysis

After you enter the user information and select a role, click Add User to submit the page and add the user. You can also customize a role by adding or removing tasks that a role can perform. For example, you can add a task typically reserved for a higher role or remove a task so that only the Administrator can perform that particular function.

To customize a role, open the Site Settings page and click Site Administration. When you customize roles and configure Web Discussions and Subscriptions, you do so for the entire server and all subwebs, so be careful when you change the default settings. SharePoint stores these settings and all SharePoint Team Services content and documents in the MSDE or SQL Server database that supports the SharePoint site.

Analyzing Server Health and Site Use
The root Site Administration page also lets you configure server health and site-use analysis settings. Click Change server health settings to turn the server health feature on or off and specify how often server health checks should occur. You can specify daily, weekly, and monthly checks, and you can choose a specific hour of the day for each selected period. Turning on the server health feature lets SharePoint Team Services and FrontPage Server Extensions perform the following functions:

  • verify existence of Web sites—check for subwebs on a root Web.
  • check role configuration—check that user role settings are enforceable and check for problems with the role. Checks include ensuring that users' assigned roles exist, that a role for the anonymous user exists, and that users in a list have a matching user account.
  • reapply file system security—
    check user and role permissions created for the Web site and apply those settings to NTFS. Note that if you manually check the NTFS file or directory security, you will see the OWS—user role groups that SharePoint Team Services added.
  • tighten security—check that all necessary Web site files and directories are present and that only users with the proper permissions have access.
  • check anonymous access—check the anonymous user access rights for the site and all subwebs to make sure that anonymous users don't have rights they shouldn't have.

Finally, SharePoint Team Services and FrontPage Server Extensions let you track activity on your site—including the total hits on a site, the top page by hits, browser types, and the top referring site—and generate reports. These reports come from the plaintext log files that IIS generates, so you must configure the WWW Service log format for the data you want to capture. You can configure the WWW Service to use the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Extended format, which provides the most detailed results, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) common log format, or the IIS format.

Now that you've configured the basic SharePoint Team Services settings, you can begin to add content to your site and alter page layout and appearance. SharePoint Team Services lets you use an HTML editor such as FrontPage 2002 to make modifications, and you can further customize the pages and add graphics to match a common theme or corporate appearance. You'll find that you can easily customize the product to meet the changing collaboration needs of your department or workgroup.