The New SharePoint 2013 App Model Should Be Included In A Business Case for SharePoint 2013 As An Opportunity to Reduce Support Costs

SharePoint 2013′s App Model is designed, in part, to insulate application servers from one of the most common sources of Tier II and II support calls — custom solutions. So SharePoint stakeholders preparing a business case for implementing SharePoint Server 2013 may want to include references to the new development model as a method of reducing operating costs for the platform.

Readers with an interest in researching this topic may want to read a blog post on MSDN authored by Ed Hild back in February, 2013. This post is titled A Perspective on SharePoint 2013′s App Model – Part 1.

As Hild notes in his post, with reference to the traditional SharePoint application development model prior to the release of SharePoint 2013, “[t]he problem comes when these SharePoint applications are deployed to production and are now the responsibility of IT to maintain. Focused on keeping the lights on, this group is change adverse. Any custom code deployed onto the SharePoint servers complicates things. Does it change the way they do backup and recovery? How well was the code written and will it bring down the farm? Does it change the capacity planning activities that were done for out-of-the-box functionality? For these reasons there is a struggle as to how to effectively support these types of applications that are built leveraging SharePoint.” (quoted from a blog post on MSDN authored by Ed Hild. I’ve provided a link to the entire post, above).

By diverting custom application development for SharePoint 2013 away from a typical reliance on dot net code, and over to a reliance on client-side development for today’s universal thin clients (web browsers) via an extensive reliance on JavaScript and HTML, Microsoft® has created an opportunity for organizations characterized by silos to implement the computing platform as a method of delivering custom solutions for LoBs, albeit without the big support cost associated with this kind of effort in the past.

We have offered an extensive set of training content on the new App development model since 2013. Steve Fox, a Director of Services for Microsoft authored our SharePoint 2013: Beginning Development video tutorial set. Yaroslav Pentsarskyy authored our SharePoint 2013: Development set. Finally, Marc D. Anderson authored our SharePoint 2013: JavaScript and jQuery DVD video training set.

If your organization would like to piece together a realistic opinion on the SharePoint 2013 App model, and what it can, or cannot do for your SharePoint objectives, please contact us.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Implementing SharePoint as a Records Management Solution to Lower Operating Costs

Building a business case for a law firm to implement SharePoint 2013 as a records management solution should be a straightforward proposition. SharePoint 2013 includes a new E-Discovery feature targeted to law firms, and more. In a video tutorial titled How Litigation Holds and E-Discovery Work in SharePoint 2013, John Holliday, JD, explains how litigation holds and E-Discovery work in SharePoint.

More information on the new SharePoint 2013 E-Discovery feature can be found in an article titled eDiscovery in SharePoint 2013 on Microsoft’s MSDN site.

On June 10, 2013 Gartner released its Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software. Excerpts from this study are readily from a number of the 24 market participants included in it.

Quite a number of analyses of the cost of E-Discovery processes are also readily available online. A review of any of these should quickly provide readers with an appreciation of why implementing SharePoint 2013 as a Records Management solution, complete with an optimized E-Discovery feature, can represent a substantially less expensive project than opting to proceed with a branded, proprietary solution from someone else.

The video tutorial mentioned at the start of this post is one of nineteen video tutorials comprising our SP13-309 SharePoint 2013: Records Management Course. This course includes approximately 3.5 hours of training.

A law firm with SharePoint Server 2013, Enterprise, already implemented on premises, stands to benefit most from the comparative cost savings of building an E-Discovery function for the firm on the SharePoint 2013 platform. Our video tutorial set is available for unlimited enterprise viewing at a one time purchase cost of $1995.00.

SharePoint stakeholders can use our content, along with our VisualSP Help System for SharePoint, to expose context-specific help, directly to participants in the project, whenever they need it.

As an added benefit, any law firm opting to implement our Records Management video training content, along with our ribbon tab help system will also benefit from our SharePoint 2013 end user training content, which is included with VisualSP at no additional charge.

If your law firm would like to learn more about using SharePoint 2013 to build an efficient, comparatively low cost records management solution (including an E-Discovery capability), please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

A Business Case for Including a Security Plan for SharePoint 2013

No review of the business case for correctly planning for the administration of SharePoint 2013, on premises, would be complete without a look at security. In a video tutorial, nearly 9 minutes in length, titled SharePoint 2013 Security, Michael Noel makes a case for including security in an implementation plan for the computing platform.

Noel organizes security administration for SharePoint 2013 into four containers:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Data
  3. Transport
  4. and Rights Management

These four containers should work equally well for stakeholders considering a business case for SharePoint.

1) Infrastructure

Stakeholders should be aware that every service added to SharePoint includes an account. Malicious individuals can assign privileges to any of these accounts, so security review policies should include controls over just how privileges are added to any service account. As Noel explains in his video tutorial, the Kerberos authentication method must be enabled to ensure adequate access controls for users, accounts, etc.

2) Data

Noel presents the case for implementing a Roles Based Access Control (RBAC) method. Stakeholders can also find a report on Role Based Access Control (RBAC) and Role Based Security on the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology web site. The content included on the U.S. NIST site on this topic includes a presentation on the Economic Benefits of Roles Based Access Controls. My quick scan of this document revealed an authoritative opinion on the importance of RBAC and its value as loss deterrent in any plan for data exchange between users, and even machine-to-machine data communications.

Noel includes an example of how a RBAC method might be applied to a set of users in this last video tutorial in his set on SharePoint 2013 Administration.

3) Transport

Transport security amounts to safeguarding the TCP/IP stack, which is the layer in the OSI network packet model providing the basis for data communications over the Ethernet protocol. Web pages, which are published as HTML documents through a variety of methods, are presented at the application layer, above the transport layer. Encryption technologies, including SSL, which Noel presents in this video, amount to methods of securing the transport layer from malicious, subversive activity.

If, for no other reason than the current concern over a security hole found in the Open Source version of SSH, any business case for a SharePoint implementation must include a presentation of a transport security model, along with the controls intended to manage this network layer.

Rights Management

Noel presents the Rights Management Service (RMS) as a component of Active Directory Rights Management (ADRM). This security feature, which is unique to Microsoft server architecture, offers stakeholders a method of safeguarding content stored in SharePoint 2013 shared document libraries, etc. This feature, alone, may provide an implementation plan for SharePoint 2013 with enough value to assure its acceptance for an organization.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

When Does It Make Sense to Choose Virtualization for SharePoint Server Infrastructure?

In a video tutorial titled Architecting the farm in SharePoint 2013 – part 2, Michael Noel makes a case for virtualization as a serious option for providing hardware infrastructure to support SharePoint Server 2013. But what are the pros and cons, from a business perspective on virtualization?

Business Case for Using Virtualized SharePoint 2013 Servers

The real benefit of including some proportion of virtualized servers in a business plan for implementing SharePoint Server 2013, SQL Server, Windows Server, etc. is the flexibility this approach provides from a cost management perspective.

Implementing virtual servers prior to launch is the most sensible approach for communities of SharePoint users. Why invest in server hardware, and licenses before ascertaining whether or not SharePoint Server 2013 presents the best possible solution to the unique requirement for your community? Virtualization is even a better option than renting, or leasing physical machines. Virtual servers can be acquired and dispensed with via a few clicks of a mouse. There is neither a need to physically install any equipment, nor is there any need to take the equipment down following a proof of concept phase.

It also makes sense to implement virtual servers where resource demands fluctuate; for example, for a partner extranet characterized by substantial turnover, or during either a platform migration or a physical relocation of offices.

Why Not to Use Virtualized Servers, from a Business Case Perspective

A visit to Azure lead me to calculate a likely annual cost for virtual Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for SharePoint Server 2013, of $3,216.00 for a Large (A3) Compute Instance with 4 Virtual Cores and 7 GBs of RAM. This cost may make sense for larger communities of SharePoint users standardized on HP’s Blade Servers, or directly comparable hardware. But Small to Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs) comfortable with Xenon Powered servers like Dell’s PowerEdge line, can actually purchase hardware at about 60% of the annual cost of the Azure A3 Compute Instance.

Another reason for SMBs to consider on premises server architecture is the opportunity of implementing “private cloud” virtualization services like VMWare’s vSphere on one’s own hardware.

Conclusion
Virtualization is an option worth careful consideration. Within the parameters I’ve briefly laid out in this post, communities of SharePoint users should carefully consider the pluses and minuses, from a business case perspective, of deciding to follow this route before rushing to a conclusion.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Several Improved Administrative Features Make SharePoint Server 2013 an Attractive Option for Communities of Users

In a 14 minute video tutorial titled What’s New in SharePoint 2013 for Administrators – Part 2, Michael Noel presents a number of administrative features of SharePoint 2013. Noel considers each of these to be important. SharePoint stakeholders considering either a first-time implementation of SharePoint, or a migration from an earlier version to the current server platform, will want to take the time to view this video tutorial. Noel’s list of features, and my thoughts as to why stakeholders should think about them, follow below:

  1. New Features for User Profile Sync: As long as the security of the overall SharePoint platform, as implemented for a specific community, is kept at a maximum, but still operable, level, the improved ease of use reflected in the User Profile Sync service for SharePoint 2013 should be considered a substantial improvement. If, as Noel notes, breakdowns in earlier versions of this feature were the most frequent complaint of users, then migrating up to SharePoint Server 2013 if, for nothing more than gaining access to this feature makes sense, especially if user adoption is a clear objective for stakeholders.
  2. Claims Based Authentication is Now the Default for Any Web Application that is Created. Any community planning on a migration from SharePoint Server 2010 to 2013 needs to note the default type of authentication for web applications, once the content of each application is added in, post migration, will no longer work in the 2013 environment. As Noel points out, the “default” setting for authentication for 2010 was “Classic Mode”, which is no longer supported in SharePoint Server 2013. Noel does mention a handy PowerShell commandlet administrators can use to hasten the migration of 2010 web applications, complete with a change in authentication type
  3. SharePoint Server 2013 Implements a “Shredded Storage” method of storing data. This new feature is very similar to the concept of incremental change backups. In contrast to earlier versions of SharePoint Server, where unstructured data (reposed in Binary Large Objects, or BLOBs) was duplicated, in entirety, as activity occured, the “Shredded Storage” feature handles this better, actually adding only the changed content. Stakeholders can leverage this feature to plan on smaller storage infrastructure. Caveat: the “Shredded Storage” method is only applied to new content, and not, retroactively, to content migrated into the new server platform.
  4. Entire SharePoint Sites can be Added to Exchange as Team Mailboxes. Stakeholders after a solution lest end users not respond to adoption efforts can look at this new feature as a method of accomodating dependence on email file exchange, etc. within a SharePoint computing model.
  5. Fast Search is now part of SharePoint Server, and delivers a much improved search experience for communities of users. Stakeholders after a modern search feature, delivering comparable results to popular search engines, will want to implement SharePoint Server 2013 for this feature, alone

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Revisiting Michael Noel’s Video Training Set on SharePoint 2013 Administration

Last year we devoted several posts to this blog to a set of video training content authored by Michael Noel on SharePoint 2013 Administration. This set is titled SharePoint 2013: Administration. You can learn more about Michael Noel on the “People” page of SharePoint-Videos.com. More information about Michael is also available on a page of the SharePointProMag website titled Michael Noel – SharePoint Pro.

It makes sense, now, to revisit the same set of training, but from a different perspective. Continuing our 2014 of promote the SharePoint value proposition, and how our video training content enables stakeholders to better exploit opportunities to capture this value, it makes sense to look at how this set contributes to our effort.

The first video tutorial in this set of 3.5 hours of training depict the history of SharePoint Administration. But the second tutorial provides a lot of content about the computing prerequisites for a successful implementation of SharePoint Server 2013. So stakeholders can use this video to cross check infrastructure and tools, already in place, to make sure they will support the implementation plan.

Some of the important points covered in this video include the following:

  • Communities need to have either Windows Server 2008, R2 SP1, or Windows Server 2012 in place. Older versions will no longer support the new server platform
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 w/SP1 is required, or SQL Server 2012
  • Organizations may want to proceed with Windows Server 2012 as the results of better virtualization services. The version of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 is much improved from earlier versions of the server
  • If possible, communities will benefit most when they choose to implement SQL Server 2012. This version of the server includes some very important features for SharePoint Server 2013, including an expanded set of tools for gathering business intelligence
  • The amount of hardware server computing ability required to run SharePoint Server 2013 has gone up, considerably. For example, communities planning on an “All-in-one” DB/Web/SA server will need hardware with at least 24GB of Memory and 4 CPUs (cores)
  • The new set of Service Applications for SharePoint Server 2013 includes Access Services App (2013). For communities committed to no-code processes and SharePoint forms, it will make sense to gain as much familiarity with this new Access App as quickly as possible. The new Work Management Service is also important as it coordinates multi server updates about tasks for SharePoint, Exchange and Project Server. The Distributed Cache Service is also a new addition targeted to very large farms
  • The Request Management feature is also something new and worth studying. Any implementation including more than 2 SharePoint Servers can be optimized for traffic performance with this feature. The only method of administering this feature is via PowerShell

Clearly, any large organization planning on either an implementation of SharePoint Server 2013, or a migration up to it, with a distributed base of SharePoint users, can benefit by distributing this particular video to SharePoint Farm and even Site Collection administrators across the community well in advance of scheduled implementation dates. The short 12 minute presentation quickly communicates important requirements for a successful implementation.

As well, stakeholders planning a test environment will want to ensure VMs realistically reflect planned specs for the production server environment.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Testing SharePoint Processes and Features in a Cloud Development Environment is a Comparatively Low Cost & Low Impact Method

It makes sense to test SharePoint implementation plans with a cloud-based IaaS offer. A service like CloudShare, or Microsoft® Azure can be used as a development environment at a fraction of the cost of building comparative functionality on premises. An added benefit is the minimal impact this type of testing approach will have on production environments.

Any of the video training content we offer on SharePoint 2007, 2010, or 2013 on SharePoint-Videoscan be reliably used to put together test scenarios with either CloudShare, or Azure. CloudShare’s Team Labs offer is the less expensive option, coming in at an approximate savings of $50.00 per month vs. a comparable offer from Azure.

Since none of the processes will run on premises, there should be zero unintentional negative impact on local production environments if a decision is made to proceed with one of these services. The process of testing a set of implementation scenarios will also proceed faster, and at lower cost. It’s simply substantially less demanding on an organization to rapidly put up, and tear down infrastructure with either of these services than would otherwise be the case if local resources were committed to the task.

These development environments can be kept running once implementation plans are finalized. Organizations shouldn’t take on the risk of systems not working, as planned, after a decision is made to proceed with an implementation, without the assurance represented by a fallback mechanism already in place. Retooling a set of procedures is simpler when the entire set is already running in a separate environment.

Another very good reason to use this approach is to avoid incurring software acquisition costs before testing application performance in a simulated computing environment. There is no reason to purchase licenses for SharePoint Server 2013, for on premises installation, unless and/or until a representative group of users have been exposed to the platform over a testing interval.

If your organization is either considering implementing SharePoint for a first time, or your SharePoint implementation plan is impeded by low rates of user adoption, please contact us to discuss your specific needs.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Use a Page of Links to Add Context Sensitivity to Enterprise Subscriptions to On Demand Training Content

SharePoint-Videos.com offers two types of subscriptions for large communities of SharePoint users — Group ID and Multi-User. More information on this topic can be found on our Multi-User Licensing web page. But to ensure these subscriptions deliver the intended benefit, stakeholders should develop a useful perspective on the important differences between training SharePoint end users vs training users playing a role managing, administering, architecting, SharePoint, or developing applications for it.

End users benefit most when they can access training content directly within their computing workspace. Administrators, developers, architects, and designers benefit most when they can access a training resource rich with curated content. I’ve referred to the latter as an “immersive” training experience. The added benefit of in-context access for end users results from the relationship between these users and the SharePoint computing experience. They are using SharePoint as a method of, hopefully, successfully completing their daily computing tasks and not much more. Therefore, expecting them to dive into an immersive experience like our web site, which presently offers 836 video tutorials on SharePoint is an overly optimistic assumption. End users will have little patience with an immersive experience.

But how can one of our Multi User or Group ID subscriptions be configured to satisfy end user appetite for in-context training? We think a promising way to fabricate some of this experience can be achieved by putting together a SharePoint site page of links to specific video tutorials on our site. So it makes sense for subscription stakeholders to curate our content into supporting material for scopes, like the announcement list, or a calendar list, or a wiki page for a team site, etc. This curated content around scopes is an important feature of our VisualSP help system for SharePoint. The method I’m describing will include some of the in-context power of our VisualSP system and apply it to our enterprise SharePoint training subscription offers.

The page of links should include titles and descriptions for each of the video tutorials. SharePoint’s Search service will index this text content. End users should be able to use SharePoint search to access the specific video tutorial they need to use to master a technique and overcome an obstacle to success arising directly within the SharePoint work context.

We will shortly unveil an example of this system working in one of our demonstration environments. If you would like to be notified once we debut the working system, please let us know.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Asif Rehmani to Present on No-Code SharePoint Solutions and SharePoint Adoption at SharePoint Fest-NY

We’ve devoted this blog, since January 1, 2014 to providing our readers with an ongoing series of examples of our notion of the broad value proposition for SharePoint stakeholders. This general overview of the benefits to communities of SharePoint users, inherent to a decision to implement specific SharePoint features, has been complemented with some specific examples of high value applications. Several posts have focused on the imperative of driving healthy levels of user adoption for SharePoint computing methods. So a pair of scheduled presentations by Asif Rehmani, for SharePoint Fest-NY, in June of this year provides a fitting complement for our online editorial content efforts.

Our effort to publish editorial content, via this blog, on these themes, and Asif Rehmani’s schedule of public presentations are designed to promote and support our line of training content and in-context, on demand training delivery solutions. Our VisualSP help system is the best example of a delivery method for training content optimized for SharePoint users across a wide range of skill levels. The in-context capabilities of this system can be found in the SharePoint ribbon tab our system creates. When SharePoint users are working with shared document libraries, or lists, the VisualSP help tab is always available to them. Simply clicking on “help” on the left hand side of the ribbon will expose context-relevant training content to the user directly within the scenario of SharePoint operation.

The “on demand” features of the system are to be found in the video tutorials, documents, screen shots, and more, which make up the content of the system. All of the content can be used whenever users have a need for it. All of the content can be re-used as often as users require. Our customers have let us know the value they’ve derived from these two important features of our help system.

But a very important point about VisualSP, and its features, is the value it brings to SharePoint adoption campaigns, or attempts to extract substantial benefits from SharePoint by exploiting no-code workflows as a method of producing custom applications for LoB needs, and more. Therefore, we encourage anyone who will be in the New York area during the dates when Asif Rehmani will present at SharePoint Fest-NY to attend.

If your organization would like to learn more about VisualSP, please contact us.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved