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Do You Know Your SharePoint?

Like it or not SharePoint has become part of almost every enterprise.  The ease in which collaboration can be performed and with which sites can be deployed makes it very user friendly.  The free entry level product supports adoption too.  Interestingly IT lets it grow without the arguments for controls they placed on products like Groove and eRoom.  Some are ignoring the warning signs.  Anyone remember Lotus Notes? 

The buzzword being thrown about in IT these days is governance.  Governance is a series of controls placed around a process to ensure its overall effectiveness in an organization.  While highly regulated process may be mandated, good governance rules need to be in every process.  But do you need to be worried?  Don’t ask me you, should know.  Well ok, let me ask you a few questions.

How many SharePoint sites do you have?
To me the biggest shock is how few organizations really know the number of SharePoint sites in their organizations.  The fact that it is easy to build and work with SharePoint along with its buzz has made it something everyone wants to look into.  Once you try one you find yourself creating more.  The real question is; are they going back and getting rid of those they no longer need.

If you don’t know how many sites you have, take a look.  You’ll probably be surprised.  While you are looking take a look at the number of sites named “test site”.  This uncontrolled growth while good in the short term adoption is bad in the long run when you look at support, backup and migration.  What do you do with all these old inactive sites?  Can you simply just get rid of them?

What mission critical data is in your SharePoint farm?
I recently had a conversation where an argument was made about an archiving solution needed to track when a document in SharePoint was read.  Policy documents were being stored inside the system and audit requirement meant they needed to be tracked.  After fifteen minutes of debate, I asked a simple question.  “Does SharePoint track who read a document?”  (If you don’t know the answer is no.)

In the beginning, people may use SharePoint in ad hoc ways but over time they may want to use it for more mission critical information.  So back to a previous question, can you simply get rid of old inactive sites?  Unless you know what’s in your SharePoint site, I think not.  If you have mission critical information in SharePoint do you have the appropriate controls around them?  Is this the right place for them?  How many copies are out there?

How much content is in your SharePoint servers?
SharePoint is a great place to share office documents.  The ease in which a team can create a collection of documents they need in one place makes it so.  Often very similar team will create very similar collections of data.  These sites then duplicate the information taking up large amounts of space on SQL Server.

Here’s an interesting quote:

… a large proportion of data in a typical enterprise deployment of SharePoint Foundation is stored as unstructured, binary data streams associated with SharePoint files. These binary streams, or BLOBs, which correspond with SharePoint files, often comprise a majority of your data.
The problem, however, is that SQL Server is not the best option for storing unstructured binary data streams because unstructured binary data does not expose itself to the rich SQL query environment. … Therefore, because BLOB data is not able to leverage one of SQL Server’s most useful features, its query engine, its value as a BLOB store is limited.

That quote is from Microsoft.  Storing too much content with the out of the box storage model is not a good thing.  There are solutions, using External Blob Store framework.  But can your organization still use SQL Server efficiently or do you need to be using EBS?

SharePoint is Growing Like Weeds
Last year I found my self having a backyard for the first time in years.  We have three mango trees that shade the back fence line making it impossible for grass to grow and weeds were taking hold.  I tried to fight them but they kept winning.  Then one day I noticed they actually didn’t look bad when they were flowering.  I went through and pulled out the ugly weeds, the one’s that had no value.  Put in a border to cut off the weeds from groing into the grass.  I put in a lawn ornament (a tiki statue) to put some focus on the area.  My fiancé thought I was crazy, or maybe it was lazy.  We just had our first spring rain and she asked me when I had planted all the flowers.  I pointed out those flowers were last year’s weeds.

Microsoft’s strategy around SharePoint is to be a replacement for Lotus Notes.  With a few controls in place SharePoint can fit into the enterprise well.  Without them SharePoint will become Lotus Notes.

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