Collaboration

Let users share the workload with a SharePoint Team Services site

Are your users not talking? Collaboration is made easier with a Microsoft SharePoint Team Services Web site. Steve Pittsley gives an inside look at how to set it up and the features your users can employ when working on special projects.


As companies expand, the need for easy access to shared information and documents becomes crucial. I’m sure that Microsoft is acutely aware of this necessity and developed its SharePoint Team Services with these needs in mind.

Microsoft SharePoint Team Services is an easy-to-use suite of Web applications that provides a format for ad-hoc document collaboration, group calendars, and other functionality. I’ll show you how to install SharePoint Team Services on your Windows 2000 server and how to use them to share documents among users.

Cost considerations
If you want to purchase SharePoint Team Services for your organization, you’ll need to buy the SharePoint Portal software to run on the server and an additional SharePoint Client Access License (CAL), which allows team members to connect to and use SharePoint Team Services on the server. The base server license will run $3,999, plus an additional $72 for each CAL. You can also purchase the SharePoint Portal Server with five CALs for $5,199, and another bundled package that has 25 CALs for $6,999.

SharePoint Team Services features
There is much more to SharePoint Team Services than file sharing. You can organize files in document libraries that make it easier to locate documents on your team Web site. Since communication is a key element to effective teamwork, SharePoint Team Services also provides discussion boards, Web document discussions, and subscriptions that alert you with e-mail to document and other changes to the Web site.

For those of you who are security conscious, SharePoint Team Services provides user accounts for all team members and prevents any unauthorized users from accessing the Web site. Using a system of predefined roles, administrators or project leaders can assign varying levels of access to individuals based on their needs. For example, you may decide that some team members will be able to view documents but not change them, while others will be given full access to change documents and even the Web site itself.

Using SharePoint Team Services makes creating an ad-hoc team Web site easy. If you’re a little more advanced and want to design your own team Web site, you can use Microsoft FrontPage to incorporate advanced features into the site.

Requirements for SharePoint Team Services
There are basically no hardware requirements for using SharePoint Team Services on a user’s workstation. All the user needs is a Web browser or a computer running Microsoft Windows XP. A few hardware and software requirements must be satisfied before you can configure and use SharePoint Team Services on the server. The minimum hardware requirements for the server should pose no problem whatsoever. The computer must have at least a Pentium 200-MHz processor, and the system must have a minimum of 128 MB of RAM. You’ll need a minimum of 70 MB of available hard disk space and an additional 5 MB of disk space for each Web site.

The minimum software requirements are a little more involved. The server must be running one of the following operating systems: Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, or Windows 2000 Datacenter Server. Regardless of the operating system, SharePoint Team Services requires the server to be running Office 2000 or later, IIS 5.0 or later, and either Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 or later or the Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE). If you don’t have SQL Server installed on the server, MSDE will automatically be installed when you configure SharePoint Team Services. The server must be running either Internet Explorer 5.0 or later or Netscape Communicator 4.75 or later.

Installing SharePoint Team Services
Microsoft has made installing SharePoint Team Services very easy. First, you must log on to the Windows 2000 Server as the local or domain administrator.

Note
If you’re installing SharePoint Team Services on an Exchange Server, you must log in using the domain administrator account.

Then, insert the Office XP Professional with FrontPage CD into the CD-ROM drive and navigate to the SHAREPT folder. Select SETUPSE.EXE to launch the installation routine, as shown in Figure A.
Figure A

The installation program will ask you to enter the user information and Product Key, as shown in Figure B. After you click Next, you’ll be asked to read and agree to the Microsoft End-User License Agreement. Click Next to continue. At this point, the installation routine will be ready to begin copying files and installing the application. As shown in Figure C, Microsoft SharePoint, Front Page Server Extensions 2002, and the Microsoft Data Engine will be installed. If your server is already running Microsoft SQL, MSDE won’t be installed. To begin the program installation, click on the Install button.

Managing users
For users to collaborate with others on shared documents, project tasks, and other group functions, you must first allow the users to access the SharePoint Web site. To begin this management task, you must access your Web site. For the purposes of this example, we’ll be using a Web site called http://localhost, as shown in Figure D.
Figure D

Click on the Site Settings option. The Site Settings, shown in Figure E, allow you to perform many tasks: managing the Web site settings, performing various Web administration tasks, modifying user information, and working with the content of the Web site. Under the Web Administration heading, click on the Manage Users option. You’ll then be able to add users or remove them from their roles, as illustrated in Figure F.

After you enter the new user’s name and password, as shown in Figure G, you must select a role for the user:
  • Administrator – A user can view, add, and change all server content. This role also allows the user to manage the server settings and accounts.
  • Advanced Author – A user can view, add, and change pages, documents, themes, and borders. This type of user can also recalculate hyperlinks.
  • Author – A user in this role can view, add, and change pages and documents.
  • Contributor – A user can view pages and documents, as well as view and contribute to discussions.
  • Browser – This type of user is limited to viewing pages and documents.

Once you’ve entered the user’s information and selected their role, click on the Add User button to create the user.

Working with Shared Documents
Sharing documents is one of the best features of using Microsoft SharePoint Team Services, and doing so is relatively easy. To begin, the user clicks on the Share Documents option, which is located on the left side of the page shown in Figure D. The user will see the Shared Documents page, shown in Figure H, which provides the options for creating, uploading, and managing the group’s collaborative documents.
Figure H

Users have two options for viewing the documents on the Shared Documents page: All Documents, which is the default, or Folder View.

The documents that are listed on the Shared Documents page are actually hyperlinks to the actual documents. To work with a document, the user clicks on the filename. The application, such as Word, will launch locally and the user will be able to edit the data just as if they were working with a document that was saved on their computer. When the user saves changes to the document, the file will be saved to the server where the shared documents are stored.

To create a new document, the user clicks on the New Document function. Word will launch, and the user will be able to create and save a new document to the Web site. When the user saves the document, he or she needs to specify the correct location on the server to save the document to.

If the user creates a document locally and wants to save it to the Web site, he or she can upload it by clicking on the Upload Document function. This will display the Shared Documents: Upload Document page, as shown in Figure I. To upload the document, the user browses to it and then clicks on the Save And Close option located near the top of the page. Then the user will be able to access and share the document using the Shared Documents page.

The Filter option provides the user with the prospect of displaying documents in order of the last modified date or by user. As shown in Figure J, clicking Filter gives the user two drop-down boxes that let them select the filter to employ. The user can toggle the filter display on or off.

The Subscribe option allows a user to be notified via e-mail when someone modifies a document, event, contact, or discussion on the Web site. Users can also specify the type of event to be alerted for, such as when something is added, changed, or removed. They can indicate whether they want to be notified of changes once a day, once a week, or whenever a change occurs. As a project leader for network administration tasks, these notifications can help you monitor the progress of your project.

To configure these notifications, click on the Subscribe option and complete the information on the New Subscription page, shown in Figure K. Your notifications will be e-mailed to you in the manner that you specify.

Assigning tasks
Managing the tasks of a project can be a time-consuming and difficult endeavor. SharePoint Team Services provides an easy-to-use Tasks function that allows you to keep track of the tasks your group is working on. While other specially designed project management software provides much more functionality, the Tasks page shown in Figure L will afford you decent functionality for small projects.
Figure L

The Tasks page is very similar to the Shared Documents page. Each task is a hyperlink to the information contained in the task, and adding a new task is as simple as clicking on New Item and completing the information shown in Figure M.

You can filter the information displayed on the Tasks page by information displayed in each column, just as you can on the Shared Documents page. For instance, you can filter based on assignments, priority, due date, or status. As illustrated in Figure N, the filters are once again accessed from drop-down menus. Depending on the size of your project, these filters can be quite useful in giving you an overview of the project.

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