Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tips for Shared Hosting Plans for SharePoint Services

Sometimes a shared hosting account is a good solution for a cost-effective collaboration portal or public web site. The monthly fees incurred are substantially lower than the dedicated server plans. There are always things to consider when hosting in a shared environment, such as: security, performance, up-time guarantee, backup and restore capabilities, degree of customization allowed, traffic reporting capabilities, etc. While these same considerations apply to hosting SharePoint Services in a shared environment, there are additional things to consider as well. There are many more SharePoint hosts today than a year ago, so consider these points when selecting the host that is right for you.

  • Which version of SharePoint Services is installed? WSS 3 Service Pack 1 is the latest version.
  • Does the account allow for unlimited users or enough users to cover your anticipated growth?
  • What customizations are allowed? Can you change the look and feel? Can you access the site with SharePoint Designer?
  • Since this is a shared account you will probably not be allowed to install your own server-side web parts or SharePoint features, so what third party web parts are already included with the account?
    Note: If server-side customizations are not allowed, putting client-side scripts in a Content Editor Web Part may do the trick. Joel Oleson recently published a great blog post on the topic.
  • What is the backup/restore process for this account? Since multiple sites are hosted on the same server, oftentimes only a SQL Server backup is performed over the entire content database. If you want a backup of only your site using the STSADM command, for example, additional fees may apply as the provider will likely have to run it for you.
  • For public-facing sites you may want to purchase a nice template from a company such as PixelMill. They have a new series of templates designed to make content management more user-friendly.
  • Use the webmaster tools in SharePoint Designer for updating your design, checking for errors or broken links, traffic analysis and backup/restore. Note that there is a bug related to the amount of data that can be backed up through SharePoint Designer. This MSDN forum post should help.
  • If you need more detailed traffic analysis than what SharePoint Services will provide, it is often beneficial to run reports against the web server access log files. Some hosts may not allow access to the raw log files if it is a shared account. A workaround for this is to use Google Analytics for traffic analysis. Once you set up an Analytics account, you will be given some script to put in the bottom of your web pages. The script can be added to your master page using SharePoint Designer. Another advantage to using this approach is that if you decide to change SharePoint hosts, your traffic history will all stay intact on your Analytics dashboard so long as the script is included on the new pages.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Top 10 Take-Aways from the SharePoint Best Practices Conference 2008

I recently had the opportunity to attend the first ever Best Practices Conference for SharePoint. Microsoft’s own Tom Rizzo was the keynote speaker. His talk provided insight into the role that SharePoint plays within the Microsoft organization and some possible directions for SharePoint in the future. SharePoint MVPs, Microsoft product team members, and industry experts provided thought-provoking ideas and valuable insights to help the audience take their own SharePoint environments to the next level. The audience was a good mix of large and small organizations, demonstrating that SharePoint really does fit into all sizes and types of environments.

There was so much information that it really is hard to choose my top 10 points, but the common theme running throughout many of the sessions was to focus on end user experience for a successful implementation, so here are 10 key points to help you do that:
1. If you have My Sites available, seriously consider looking into this feature. My Sites is an often overlooked and underutilized feature, but it can do a lot to speed end user adoption within your SharePoint environment. In particular, look into using Personalization Site Links to help make My Sites a user’s one stop shop for doing their job.
2. When implementing document libraries, remember that SharePoint is a collaboration tool. Plan document libraries around groups who need to share and collaborate on documents.
3. Capacity planning is not a suggestion. Go BIG on your SQL Server box to avoid poor response times for your users.
4. Life Cycle Management isn’t a suggestion either. Visit sites like and to check out tools that you can use to manage the growth and direction of your SharePoint environment.
5. SharePoint is a “disruptive” technology. Many SharePoint implementations fail due to people problems, so plan for the changes that need to occur in your processes, and make sure the end users have plenty of training. Train early and train often.
6. Above all, SharePoint is an end user product. Business areas must be involved in governance and taxonomy discussions in order to insure that the SharePoint environment will work for everyone.
7. Know what’s available out of the box before you write code. Nuff said!
8. Know when it’s time to write code. Remember – this is all about user experience. Out of the box functionality that doesn’t really meet the user’s needs makes for a poor user experience, and poor user adoption.
9. Long term success is a series of quick wins that solve problems. Use SharePoint to transform the way your end users do business, and give your end users a voice in what matters to them.
10. Attend the next Best Practices Conference! Sign up to receive emails with details on the next conference at and plan to attend.

Monday, October 6, 2008

IndyTechFest Presentation

Last Saturday I was honored to speak at the IndyTechFest event in Indianapolis. I kicked off the well-attended SharePoint track with "SharePoint: When to Develop on a Platform." The premise of the presentation was to give guidance for when to consider SharePoint as a development platform versus developing applications from scratch or even starting with a MVC framework. The slide decks for all of the presentations will be available soon on the IndyTechFest site. I want to thank the organizers (Brad Jones, Dave Leininger, John Magnabosco and Mark McClellan) for putting on a superb event two years running and for allowing me to be a part. This event is a "must attend" for any Microsoft developer in the area.

This Wednesday (October 8) Keller Schroeder will host the Evansville SharePoint Users Group at our office at 4 pm. Presenters will summarize our top takeways from the SharePoint Best Practices Conference last month in Washington, DC, followed by our top findings from the SharePoint sessions at the IndyTechFest conference.