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Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) in Windows 2008 R2

Comparing WSS with MOSS 2007

One of the questions I get frequently is “What’s the difference between the Windows SharePoint Services that comes with Windows Server and the Microsoft Office SharePoint Service (MOSS) that you pay extra for.  I pulled an excerpt from my book “Windows Server 2008 R2 Unleashed” where we clarify that exact question…

To answer this question, it is helpful to look at what the basic features of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 are, and because SharePoint Server 2007 includes Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 as part of the installation, those features are all included in SharePoint Server 2007. However, the “Server” version of the product adds a large number of features to these base capabilities, a sampling of which are listed in this section. Although these features are not explored in depth in this chapter, they give examples of the features that make the Server version of the product appealing to organizations with more complex needs.

Basic Features of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

The following list provides an overview of the standard features included in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, many of which are examined in more detail throughout this chapter. This is a very basic list, and ignores a number of features, such as the administrative toolset, management features, search features, and others, but gives a basic summary:

►           Document libraries—This basic component of a SharePoint site is designed to store and manage documents, and allows the administrator to add additional columns of data to the library (called metadata) as well as create custom views, track versions of the documents, and control access on a document level. Many other features are available in a document library, such as requiring checkout before a document can be edited or creating alerts that send email when certain conditions are met, such as a document changing. Other standard libraries include the form library, wiki page library, and picture library.

NOTE

Metadata is data about data. So, for example, a Microsoft Word document has metadata associated with it, such as author, creation date, and modification date. Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 document libraries allow administrators to de-fine other columns that can contain a wide variety of other information that is as-sociated with a document.

►           Lists—Another basic component of a SharePoint site, a list can take many forms, but is essentially data arranged in spreadsheet format that can be used to meet a virtually limitless array of needs. For example, standard lists include announcements, contacts, discussion boards, events, tasks, and surveys.

►           Web pages—Web pages include basic pages and web part pages, each of which organize navigational and design components and include web parts. These are the pages that users see and use when interacting with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 sites. Web parts are modular components that can be placed on pages and perform functions such as displaying data that resides in a document library or list.

►           Sites and workspaces—Sites and workspaces are essentially groupings of lists, libraries, and basic web part pages that provide a variety of features and functions to the users. For example, there might be a site for human resources or information technology, or a workspace that enables users to collaborate on a document or a workspace could be created for a specific event, such as a company quarterly meeting.

►           Site management tools—These come in a variety of forms, including the browser-based page editing tools, subsite management tools, and site collection management tools.

►           Central Administration console tools—These tools allow a SharePoint farm administrator to configure the server or servers to perform properly and to perform backups and restores of data.

What Is Not Included in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 but Is Included in SharePoint Server 2007

The Server product includes Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 as part of the installation and so includes all of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 features and adds a host of additional features on top of these. Many IT administrators, departmental managers, and power users are curious about what is not included in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 as they need to justify the cost of SharePoint Server 2007 and want to better understand what the more complete product includes. Bear in mind that there are two possible installations of SharePoint Server 2007: the Standard installation and the Enterprise installation.

An overview of the main features that require the purchase of SharePoint Server 2007 is provided in the following list:

►           My Sites is only available in SharePoint Server 2007. If enabled, My Sites allows users to create their own site and customize personal information that can be shared with the organization.

►           The Site Directory feature is only available in the SharePoint Server 2007 product and can be very helpful if a large number of sites will be created. Each time a site is created, it can be included in the Site Directory and categories can be applied to each site for grouping and sorting purposes.

►           User profiles are included in the SharePoint Server 2007 product. SharePoint Server 2007 connects to Active Directory (AD) and pulls in user information on a regular basis, which is then stored in the profiles database. Additional SharePoint-specific fields are added to this database creating a new database of user information that can be leveraged and customized in SharePoint Server 2007.

►           Content sources outside of the SharePoint content databases can be searched and indexed with SharePoint Server 2007. SharePoint Server 2007 can index file shares, websites, Exchange public folders, and other sources out of the box.

►           Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is very limited in out-of-the-box workflows, offering only the Three-state workflow, whereas SharePoint Server 2007 offers more flexibility with Approval, Collect Feedback, Collect Signatures, and Disposition Approval workflows.

►           If integration with Microsoft Information Rights Management (IRM) is needed, the SharePoint Server 2007 product is required.

►           SharePoint Server 2007 is required for retention and auditing policies, and for logging all actions on sites, content, and workflows.

►           If policies, auditing, and compliance features are needed, SharePoint Server 2007 allows for the creation of document retention and expiration policies, workflow processes to define expiration, tracking and auditing, and other tools.

►           If browser-based forms are required, the Enterprise Edition of SharePoint Server 2007 provides the tools needed to publish browser-based forms. More important, InfoPath is not required on the end users’ desktops to fill out forms.

►           Excel Services are only available in SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise Edition. Through Excel Services, a Microsoft Excel 2007 user can publish a spreadsheet, or portions of it, to a SharePoint Server 2007 document library so that it can be accessed via the Excel Web Access web part.

►           Microsoft offers the Business Data Catalog (BDC) only in SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise Edition. The BDC enables SharePoint Server 2007 to mine data from external databases via application definition files. A number of dedicated web parts then enable SharePoint Server 2007 to display this data to form advanced dashboards.

►           Microsoft single sign-on integration is only available with SharePoint Server 2007.

A common question revolves around size limitations of the databases that can be supported by WSS 3.0. If the Basic installation option is followed as shown in this chapter, there is no hard limit for the size of the databases. The only installation option that brings with it a size limit is if SharePoint Server 2007 is installed using the SQL Server Express Edition, where there is a 4GB limit. This is confusing to many new SharePoint users and worth clarifying. If either WSS 3.0 or SharePoint Server 2007 are connected to any full version of SQL Server 2005 or 2008 (such as SQL Server 2005 Standard or Enterprise, or SQL Server 2008 Standard or Enterprise), there are no hard limits for database sizes.

Microsoft does recommend as a best practice that the content databases that store the documents uploaded to document libraries and content stored in SharePoint lists not exceed 50GB–100GB in size, but this is for performance and maintenance reasons, and is not a hard limit.

An excellent document is available on the Microsoft website with additional information comparing the products: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA101978031033.aspx.

Identifying the Need for Windows SharePoint Services

A number of organizational needs have spurred the adoption of SharePoint technologies. Many organizations see SharePoint technologies as the next evolution in document management and sharing, where the silo is more intelligent, controls access to, and use of, documents better, tracks usage information, and alerts users of certain conditions. The files stored in SharePoint can have data attached to them (metadata) to enhance management and categorization of the files. Workflows in lists and libraries can be kicked off automatically or started manually for a variety of business processes. ; the files can have data attached to them (metadata) to enhance management and categorization of the files. The somewhat amorphous term collaboration can be enhanced with these tools, as can the ability to quickly create sites for smaller groups of users to share ideas, work on a document, or store data pertaining to a specific event. Some of the most common requirements include the following:

►           A need for better document management than the file system can offer—This includes document versioning, checkout and check-in features, adding metadata to documents, and better control of document access (by using groups and granular security). The high-level need is simply to make it easier for users to find the latest version of the document or documents they need to do their jobs, and, ultimately, to make them more efficient in those jobs.

►           Improved collaboration among users with a minimal learning curve—Although virtually everyone has a different definition of what collaboration is, a functional definition is a technology solution that allows users to interact efficiently with each other using software products to share documents and information in a user-friendly environment. In regard to SharePoint, this typically refers to document and meeting workspaces, site collections, discussion lists, integration of instant messaging and presence information, and integration with the Office suite of applications. Integration with Office applications is a key component: Most organizations do not want to force users to learn a new set of tools to collaborate more effectively because users generally resist such requirements.

►           A better intranet—Although most companies have an intranet in place, a common complaints isare that it is too static, that it is not user friendly, and that every change has to go through IT or the “web guy.” Thisese level of request complaints generally comes from a departmental manager, team lead, or project manager frustrated with their inability to publish information to a select group of users and regularly update resources their team needs to do their jobs.

►           A centralized way to search for information—Rather than using the “word-of-mouth” search engine, there should be an engine in place that allows the user to quickly and efficiently find particular documents. The user can search for documents that contain certain words; documents created or modified during a certain time frame; documents authored by a specific person; or documents that meet other criteria, such as file type.

►           Creation of a portal—Many definitions exist for the term portal, but a general definition is that a portal is a web-enabled environment that allows internal and, potentially, external users to access company intellectual resources and software applications. A portal typically extends standard intranet functionality by providing features such as single sign-on, powerful search tools, and access to other core company applications, such as help desk, human resources software, educational resources, and other corporate information and applications.

Customizing WSS to Suit Organizational Needs

If the default functionality in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is not enough, or does not satisfy the specific business requirements of an organization, the product can easily be customized. Easily customizable or downloadable web parts can be “snapped-in” to a WSS site, without the need to understand HTML code. The more basic web parts allow the site designer or administrator to choose what information from document libraries and lists is displayed on the home page, or on web part pages. More complex web parts roll up or filter data, or provide data to other web parts (for example, the user’s name or choices from a drop-down menu) to customize the data they present.

More advanced developers can use ASP.NET or other programming tools to produce custom code to work with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. Further enhancement of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 sites can be accomplished using SharePoint Designer 2007, which is a free download from Microsoft, and allows for a great deal of customization with relative ease. Later sections in this chapter give examples of some of the customization possibilities in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.

Hopefully this was a little helpful in getting a better snapshot of the difference between the various products.

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