If there wasn’t a good reason before, you might now have a reason to consider rolling out Windows Server 2003 with the release of the new Windows SharePoint Services (WSPS). A smaller sibling of the full blown SharePoint Portal Services, WSPS provides you with the ability to easily set up a variety of shared resources for workgroups in your organization. With WSPS, you can create a Web-based document-collaboration solution and knowledge management system for your users.
First and foremost, WSPS requires Windows Server 2003 and supports all editions of the server operating system including the Web Edition. Second, a SQL Server 2000 instance of some type is required. For this, you can use SQL Server 2000 Standard or Enterprise, or the SQL Desktop Engine (known as MSDE). As for hardware, the installation target should have 512 MB RAM, 550 MB of disk space available, and a processor of at least 550 MHz. Finally, you must have the Internet Explorer 6 component installed. On the client side, a browser is also required. Internet Explorer 5.01 SP2 and higher and Netscape 6.2 and higher are supported.
For this article, my testing system is running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition with 512 MB RAM.
Getting and installing the software
Windows SharePoint Services is available as free download from Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 site. The download is called STSV2.EXE. To install WSPS, simply double-click the downloaded file.
The first screen of the installer is the ubiquitous license agreement. Click Next on that screen to continue with the installation. Then, you will be presented with the option that WSPS can be installed on either a single server or into a Web server farm using front-end Web servers (Figure A). For this example, I’ll be installing WSPS on to a single server.
|WSPS can be installed on to a single server or into a farm.|
That’s essentially the only decision that you need to make. Click Install on the next screen to perform the installation. If you don’t have a version of SQL Server 2000 installed, the installer will provide you with the desktop engine so that you can make use of the SharePoint services. The installer will also configure a SharePoint site for you.
SharePoint Services Manager
Once installation is complete, Internet Explorer automatically opens up to the team Web site (Figure B) that was created during WSPS installation.
|WSPS default site opens after installation.|
This is what your users will see when they connect to the system. To configure WSPS, you need to start the administration tool at Start | Administrative Tools | SharePoint Central Administration. That will open the Windows that you see in Figure C.
|The SharePoint Central Administration tool is where you configure the system.|
The purpose of WSPS is to provide your users with the ability to create shared workspaces. You can enable the ability for your users to create their own sites by enabling “self-service site creation.” This is accomplished by selecting the Select From Default Virtual Server option on the main administration screen. Next, click the name of your virtual server, in this case, Default Web Site, as shown in Figure D.
|Click the default virtual server to continue.|
This actually opens up the Virtual Server Settings window (Figure E) where you can configure all options for this particular virtual server and the related Web site collections.
|Here is the virtual server configuration screen.|
Click the Configure Self-Service Site Creation option on this screen to allow users to create their own top level Web site.
|Here is where you enable the Self-Service Site Creation option.|
On the screen shown in Figure F, select the radio button to turn on this feature and click OK. Enabling this option adds an announcement to the selected site indicating that this feature is now enabled (Figure G). A link is added to allow users to carry out this operation.
|An announcement and a link is added to the Web site.|
When a user follows the link provided, he is asked to fill out a form with details about what the new site will contain.
Windows SharePoint Services administrative overview
The top level SharePoint window has a number of options. Tables A-Dprovide an overview of what you can accomplish with these options.
|Extend or upgrade virtual server||Allows you to make enhancements to a virtual server|
|Create a top-level Web site||Creates a new top level SharePoint site|
|Delete site collection||Deletes a top level site and all subsites of the selected site|
|Configure virtual server settings||Configures the settings related to the virtual server that is selected on the next page; security, collection management, e-mail settings, databases, and more are configurable from this option|
|Set SharePoint administration group||Allows you to specify a group in addition to the local Administrators group that can administer this SharePoint server|
|Manage site collection owners||Views and changes the owners for a site collection; in addition to having site collection administrator privileges, the selected users will receive quota or autodeletion notices|
|Manage Web site users||Adds new users to a SharePoint site|
|Manage blocked file types||Defines file extensions to restrict; SharePoint can be configured to disallow files of certain types to be stored in the collection|
|Configure antivirus settings||Configures the option that scans files being added to the collection (if required), if you have antivirus software installed on the server|
|Configure default e-mail server settings||Provides e-mail server settings that will be used for all virtual servers|
|Manage Web server list||Manages servers in the farm using this page; you can remove servers from the list or click on a server name in the list to start the management process for that server|
|Set default content database server||Specifies which SharePoint server should be responsible for content management; content databases are created here unless otherwise specified|
|Set configuration database server||Specifies the server that will be responsible for storing SharePoint configuration information|
|Configure HTML Viewer||Configures service that allows Office files to be displayed in HTML; some SharePoint components require the use of the HTML Viewer|
|Configure virtual server for central administration||Changes the IIS application pool used by SharePoint|
|Configure full-text search||Enables full-text searching if you are using a version of SQL Server that supports it|
|Configure usage analysis processing||Enables and configures usage analysis based on the log files|
|Manage quotas and locks||Limits the number of users allowed to access a site collection and the locks (quotas) on the collection|
|Configure data retrieval service settings||Allows you to configure data retrieval services such as OLAP and SOAP to access the SharePoint site|
Team Web site overview
The default site installed by SharePoint provides a good glimpse into how this service works. Back in Figure G you can see the options in the left hand column: Documents, Pictures, Lists, Discussions and Surveys. Each option is aptly named and describes the function that it performs.
The documents option provides you with pseudo-document management capabilities. From here (Figure H), you can upload documents to the site repository, sign documents out, edit documents, discuss a document, view a document’s version history, and much more. Document workspaces can also be created for simplified collaboration.
|SharePoint has various document management capabilities.|
Likewise, a picture album can be created and the images manipulated, discussed, sorted, downloaded, mailed, etc. Pictures are uploaded using the Add Picture button and new folders are created with New Folder. Figure I shows a look at the Pictures screen.
|You can also manage Pictures in SharePoint.|
SharePoint is a powerful way for workgroups to keep up with what’s going on. If the document management features weren’t enough, the lists section might convince you. In this section (Figure J), you can create new announcements that will be shown on the site home page; create a list of contacts used by your team; create events, calendar items and tasks for your team to focus on; and create a list of links to Web sites frequented by the team.
|Here are the lists available in SharePoint.|
Discussions are essential to meaningful team communication. SharePoint includes discussion board capability. You can add as many discussions as you like on any topic and use it to keep the ideas flowing between team members. Figure K shows an example.
|Discussion board functionality is also included.|
Discussions are great but sometimes you’ll want quicker feedback and want to get input from your team members on a specific topic. A survey is a great way to do that. WSPS includes the ability to create completely custom surveys with many different types of questions. Survey responses can be in the form of a free text field, multiple choice, rating scales, currency, date and time, database lookup, yes/no questions, and more.
As a free add-on to Windows Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services provides a compelling reason to move to this operating system. With team work features such as document management, surveys, lists, and discussions, there is a lot of great stuff that teams can use to collaborate more effectively. Overall, this is an excellent system and is easily extended for greater functionality.