Let me be the first to declare, officially, if prematurely, “The file server is dead!” With the release of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft delivers simple, secure, and effective support for collaboration, knowledge management, and business processes.
To understand and implement SharePoint Services 3.0 and get a feel for some of its key new features, let's create an intranet home page and a SharePoint site for the IT department of a fictional company, Windomain.com. You'll see why I believe the grim reaper is a-knockin' on your shared folders' doors.
SharePoint Services 3.0 in a Nutshell
SharePoint Services 3.0 is a free add-on to Windows Server 2003. If you're new to the SharePoint family of products, let me get you up to speed. Once upon a time, there was Content Management Server, which focused on large-scale content management issues. About the same time, Bill Gates caught the collaboration bug and SharePoint Team Services was born.
Microsoft's modus operandi seems to be to invest maximum effort when a product reaches version three, and SharePoint technology is no exception. Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 improved on the first version but left gaping holes in functionality and ease of use. Content Management Server morphed to become Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003, which built a portal “umbrella” over SharePoint sites. Now, SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server have made a significant leap: Both were completely redesigned and are now joined at the hip. SharePoint Services 3.0 is now a .NET application, leveraging all the capabilities of Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0, including workflow. And SharePoint Portal Server 2003, renamed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, has become an add-on extension to SharePoint Services 3.0, providing not only extraordinary functionality, which I'll examine in an upcoming article, but also demonstrating the robust platform for Web-application development delivered by SharePoint Services 3.0.
Installing SharePoint Services 3.0
The scenario I present here reflects a typical out-of-the-box installation of SharePoint Services 3.0 on a Windows 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) domain member server. (To give you an effective “learn-by-doing” experience in these few short pages, I'll leave it to you to read the SharePoint Services 3.0 readme file and deployment documentation, available from the SharePoint Services 3.0 Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsserver/sharepoint/default.mspx.)
Although Microsoft recommends you use a dual-processor server with many gigabytes of RAM, for a small rollout of SharePoint Services 3.0 you can get by with less, depending on what you're doing with SharePoint, so don't let the published hardware recommendations prevent you from taking SharePoint Services 3.0 for a test drive. In fact, I used a 1GB virtual machine (VM) to create the prototype used in this article. I wouldn't suggest using such scant resources for a production intranet, but even a VM can provide a functional sandbox for SharePoint Services experiments.
To install SharePoint Services 3.0, you'll need to have already installed .NET Framework 3.0. Before you launch the SharePoint Services 3.0 setup, log on to the server using an account that has administrative privileges. This account will be the initial owner of the SharePoint Central Administration site and the default SharePoint Services team site. You can easily configure the account to receive alerts related to the health and usage of the SharePoint Services server farm and sites, so you might want to use a domain user account in the Administrators group on the server, rather than the local Administrator account.
The SharePoint Services 3.0 setup will automatically configure the Windows Internal Database, a “lite” instance of Microsoft SQL Server (which is listed as SQL Server 2005 Embedded Edition in SharePoint Services), on the server. However, for a production rollout you'll certainly benefit from the scalability and manageability provided by SQL Server, and SharePoint Services lets you run with a separate SQL Server installation to host the configuration and content databases.
When the installation is complete, run the SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard from the Administrative Tools folder on the SharePoint server. The wizard initializes SharePoint Services 3.0 and creates the first two SharePoint applications: the SharePoint Central Administration site, and the default content site based on the Team Site template. You can visit the default site at the URL, http://servername, which Figure 1 shows. Take a quick look, but don't change anything until you've configured your server.
Configuring the Server
Whether you install SharePoint Services 3.0 on one server or on multiple servers, you now have a server farm. A SharePoint server farm hosts SharePoint Web applications. For many implementations, the two default applications (Central Administration and the default Web application) will suffice, as the default Web application can host an organization's hierarchy of multiple sites. The SharePoint Central Administration site, created by the SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard, lets you manage the farm and the applications it hosts. You can open the site by using the SharePoint 3.0 Central Administration shortcut in the SharePoint Services 3.0 server's Administrative Tools folder. Make a note of the port on which the site is hosted (which you can change from the site's properties by using Microsoft IIS administrative tools). You can access Central Administration from any computer via a Web browser.
The Central Administration home page reveals a task list of important, post-setup configuration procedures, which Figure 2 shows. Click each procedure to read more about it, then mark the item as complete after you've performed the operation. I would suggest making it a priority even for this simple SharePoint site to assign a second farm administrator and to configure outbound email settings for the server farm. You can perform these tasks by using Update Farm Administrator's Group and Outbound Email Settings, respectively, at the task list or from the Operations tab. You can create, delete, and manage Web applications by using the Central Administration site's Application Management tab. Using the links on that tab, set the time zone.
Within each application is one or more site collections, each consisting of a top-level site and one or more child sites. Each site contains lists, or data tables, such as task lists, contact lists, and document libraries. Each list contains items: records or documents, for example. If you're unfamiliar with the structure of a SharePoint implementation, visit http://www.MyOfficePro.com and look for the article “Windows SharePoint Services, an out-of-box learning experience.” See also the Exchange & Outlook Administrator article, “Making Sense of SharePoint Portal Server Architecture,” August 2006, InstantDoc ID 93082.
In the example we're creating in this article, we'll make our intranet home page be the default site collection at the root URL of our default Web application. At the top-level site, we'll allow any user, even anonymous users, to have read-only access to that site. Beneath the top-level site, we'll create departmental subsites, readable by all authenticated users. Users in a department will have higher levels of access to create and manage content based on the functionality and resources in their department's site. Beneath departmental sites, we'll have project or team sites for secure collaboration and document sharing. So the URL namespace will be http://servername for the home page (site collection and top-level site), http://servername/department for the department, and http://servername/department/project-or-team for collaboration.
Creating an Intranet Home Page
Opening the top-level URL (http://servername), we see the default site based on the Team Site template, which Figure 1 shows. The logon control in the upper right corner, which reads “Welcome WINDOMAIN\administrator” in Figure 1, drops down to reveal a small but welcome change in SharePoint Services 3.0: the ability to quickly log on as another user and easily access your user profile information. Because SharePoint Services 3.0 is a .NET application, it accepts any .NET membership provider for authentication. By default, SharePoint Services 3.0 uses Windows authentication, meaning that all authentication is performed by your local server and its Active Directory (AD) domain. However, you can also use other membership providers, including the ASP.NET SQL Membership Provider. Authentication for each SharePoint Services application is managed in Central Administration.
Where SharePoint Services 2.0 placed actions clumsily in a top-of-page bar, SharePoint Services 3.0 consolidates actions into toolbars and drop-down menus. Click the Site Actions menu box on the upper-right side of the window to expand the drop-down menu. Select Site Settings, which opens a significantly improved dashboard of site-administration options, as Figure 3 shows.
In Site Settings, look for the options listed beneath Users and Permissions. You'll see the Site collection administrators link, which you'll use to add an additional administrator for the site collection. Click People and groups to begin assigning access to the site. You'll see three default groups displayed: the Owners group, which has full control of the site and its content; the Members group, which can contribute to the site; and the Visitors group, which has read access to the site. For each group, navigate to Settings, Group Settings to rename each group to make it more meaningful for your users, then, on the toolbar, click New, and choose Add Users to add members. For the intranet home page, the Members group might include your communications team.
Allow Access to the Intranet Top-Level Site
While you're adding members to a group, note that you can click Add all authenticated users. For example, you'd probably want to add all authenticated users to the Visitors group so that all employees could read the intranet home page.
Alternatively, you could enable anonymous access, at least to the intranet toplevel site. To do this, open the Central Administration page, select the Application Management tab, and click Authentication Providers. Click Default and modify the authentication provider settings to enable anonymous access. Then, back in the Site Settings of the site itself, click Users and Permissions, Advanced permissions, and select Settings, Anonymous Access to determine what level of access non-authenticated users can have to the site. For an intranet, you might choose to let anonymous users access the entire site. If you choose to restrict anonymous access to lists and libraries, you'll need to continue and enable access for anonymous users to each appropriate list and library. Remember that subsites inherit permissions, so you'll want to disable anonymous access to departmental or team/project subsites, which are likely to contain more sensitive information than the intranet home page.
In SharePoint Services 3.0, you don't need to use standard IIS tools to enable or disable anonymous access. In fact, as of press time, you must use Central Administration to fully enable authentication for anonymous access. From configuring service account credentials to backing up and restoring sites, you'll find welcome new support for SharePoint Services administrative tasks within the Central Administration and Site Settings pages.
A Bit of Branding
To customize the intranet site, click the Team Site link in the upper right corner of any page to return to the Team Site, then click Shared Documents in the Quick Launch navigation bar (on the left side of Figure 1), click Upload, and upload two logos: one large (about 150 pixels wide) and one small (about 20 to 24 pixels high). When you're done, you'll see the two pictures listed in the Shared Documents library. Right-click the names of the pictures and choose Copy Hyperlink. Paste the hyperlinks into Notepad—we'll need them in a moment.
While you're still in the Shared Document Library, click the Settings menu in the toolbar and choose Document Library Settings. You can fully manage and customize all lists (and document libraries are a type of list) by using this Settings page. Use the links in the General Settings section to change the title of the document library to something like “Intranet Site Elements” and to remove it from the Quick Launch view, since users won't need easy access to the library.
Return to the home page again by clicking Team Site in the upper-left corner. In SharePoint Services 3.0, the top and left panels of a SharePoint site help you navigate. The top panel's navigation bar, which Figure 1 shows below the URL, represents the site structure by default. Initially, you'll see only one tab for the top-level site, in this case, the Home tab. But as you add sites, each site becomes a tab. Additional navigation is enabled by the site's left navigation panel, which contains the Quick Launch view by default.
You can also navigate using the “breadcrumb control,” which shows the path to the current page. Figure 3 shows the breadcrumb to the Site Settings page: Windomain Intranet>Site Settings.
Unlike SharePoint Services 2.0, in version 3.0 the Quick Launch view appears on every page, and both the top navigation and Quick Launch bar can be easily edited or hidden entirely at the Site Settings page. Click Site Actions and select Site Settings, Look and Feel, Quick Launch. Click the Edit icon and delete the headings Documents, Discussions, and People and Groups, and the Tasks list. Change the heading “Lists” to “Company.” Check out the results by returning to the home page. Alternatively, return to Site Settings, Look and Feel, and, from the Tree View link, disable the Quick Launch altogether, since the top navigation tabs will provide navigation to departmental sites.
To modify the site title and to paste in the hyperlink to your small logo as the icon, use Site Settings, Look and Feel, click the Title, description, and icon link. Experiment with color schemes by using Site Themes to find an appropriate Web-site color scheme.
Return to the home page and click Site Actions, Edit Page. The home page, a section of which Figure 4 shows in Edit Mode, is an example of a Web Part page. To modify a Web Part's properties, click the Edit link. Here is where you can change the Site Image to link to your large logo.
A Departmental Site with Version 3 Whiz-Bang
To create the site for our IT department, start at the intranet home page and click Site Actions, then Create, Sites and Workspaces. Create a friendly title for this site, such as Information Technology, but give it a short URL, such as “IT.” Configure a Team Site template and use unique permissions, so that you can more easily give IT employees access to resources on the IT site. You'll be prompted to create the Visitors, Members, and Owners groups, which you can always do later from Site Settings.
In our departmental site, let's leverage three great new capabilities of SharePoint Services 3.0. Click Site Actions, select Create, Wiki Page Library and name the library “IT Wiki.” Wikis are a fantastic tool for a capturing knowledge.
Link to another page by using the syntax page name can contain spaces. For example, you might have a message at your site: “Don't forget to bring your family to the upcoming corporate baseball games. The schedule is on the Baseball Schedule page.” Clicking the link Baseball Schedule brings the user to the existing Baseball Schedule page or, if that page doesn't exist, will create a new page called Baseball Schedule. So it's easy to create a new page from an existing page by creating a link to a nonexistent page, then clicking the link.
Blogs are another useful tool for unstructured knowledge capture. Click Site Actions, select Create, Sites and Workspaces and create a blog site named IT Blogs and the URL blogs/, also using unique permissions so that you can control who is allowed to blog to the site.
Probably one of the most important enhancements to SharePoint Services 3.0 is item-level security. From the IT site home page, click Shared Documents and upload a Word document. Hover over the document and, from its drop-down menu, choose Manage Permissions. By default, permissions are inherited from the parent—in this case, the document library. Choose Actions, Manage Permissions to configure the permissions on the document. After the document is uploaded, click the document link, and it will open directly in Microsoft Office Word 2007 or Microsoft Word 2003. Both versions of Word can also open and save directly from and to a SharePoint document library by using the library's URL (e.g., http://wss01/IT/Shared%20Documents). When you open a document from a library, unlike a traditional file share, the document is “checked out” to the current editor, and the document library itself can be configured to maintain versions.
Security also extends to the UI, with “security trimming.” If a user doesn't have permission to see part of a SharePoint site, links to that part of the site won't be displayed in the UI. For example, you can configure permissions so that an administrator of a team site can see the Site Actions option but readers can't.
Add SharePoint Services 3.0's support for workflow, Microsoft Outlook integration, offline files, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and forms—all of which I'll discuss in upcoming articles—and your business processes are now supported more completely and more securely than ever before, with a software cost of exactly zero. May the file share rest in peace.