Have you ever noticed how information seems to be scattered around in even the most well-organized companies? For example, your company might have several shared network folders containing various documents. Likewise, documents might also be stored within Exchange public folders. Adding to the complexity is e-mail. Often, an employee will e-mail a document to someone for review and the document will be returned through e-mail with changes made to it.
With this in mind, imagine that employees in your own organization were asked to quickly retrieve a specific version of an obscure document. How long do you really think that it would take them to find it? This is where Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services comes in.
What is Windows SharePoint Services?
Windows SharePoint Services is the little brother of Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server. Although Windows SharePoint Services isn't quite as powerful as SharePoint Portal Server, it can really go a long way toward helping your company become better organized.
In addition to helping to archive documents, this Windows Server 2003 component also allows employees to build their own collaborative Web sites. Employees can use these Web sites for retrieving commonly used documents, discussing things going on within the department, and having online meetings. Perhaps the best part of Windows SharePoint Services, though, is that it's free for anyone running Windows Server 2003.
Before you begin
As you can see, Windows SharePoint Services is as powerful as it is useful. Before you can install the component, however, you need to do a little prep work.
For starters, you must locate a suitable server. The server must be running Windows Server 2003 Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter, or Web Edition. The server must also be running Microsoft's ASP.NET and IIS 6.0. As you may know, IIS has a lot of optional components. You must therefore verify that the common files, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Service, and the World Wide Web services are all installed and running. None of these components is installed by default.
It's very important to note that you should not install Windows SharePoint Services onto a server that is already hosting a Web site or running a Web application, including Microsoft Exchange. Previously existing Web applications will be disabled during the SharePoint Services installation. Furthermore, the installation process will also disable Kerberos authentication for IIS. Windows SharePoint Services uses NTLM authentication in lieu of Kerberos.
To install the necessary components, select the Add/Remove Programs command from Control Panel. When you do, Windows will display the Add Or Remove Programs dialog box. Click the Add/Remove Windows Components button. When you do, the Windows Components Wizard will appear.
At this point, scroll through the list of components until you find Application Server. Select Application Server, then click the Details button to reveal the individual Application Server components. Select ASP.NET. With the Application Server screen still open, select Internet Information Services (IIS) and click the Details button.
You'll see a list of the various IIS components. The Common Files and the World Wide Web Service should be selected by default, but you'll have to manually select SMTP Service and click OK to return to the Application Server screen. Click OK again to return to the Windows Components Wizard screen. Click Next, and Windows will install all of the necessary files.
Another requirement is that the server must be running a version of SQL Server 2000. Before you stop reading the article, I should tell you that Windows Server 2003 comes with it's own SQL Server engine. This means that smaller organizations don't have to go out and buy SQL Server. The built-in engine is called MSDE (Microsoft Database Engine). It is just like SQL Server, but it has some major limitations.
First, MSDE is designed to slow down significantly if it's used by more than five users simultaneously. In this way, it will work well for small offices, but bigger organizations will want to use a full-blown version of SQL. A second limitation is that it doesn't support databases over two gigabytes in size. This may sound like a big database, but if your users index a lot of documents, the database can grow to be larger than two gigabytes fairly quickly. The final limitation is that MSDE does not offer any administrative tools. If you want to do any administrative work at all on MSDE, you'll have to do it from either a command line or a script. As you can see, MSDE is great for small offices or for development environments, but larger organizations should use SQL Server. For the purposes of this article, I'll use a normal copy of SQL Server 2000 running Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition with Service Pack 3A.
Once SQL Server or MSDE is installed, there are a few other minor requirements. The server must be a part of a Windows NT, 2000, or 2003 domain, although it doesn't necessarily have to be a domain controller. The server must also have a Pentium III or higher processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 550 MB of free disk space.
Keep in mind, however, that these are only the requirements for installing Windows SharePoint Services. There is a good chance that the databases could grow to be several gigabytes in size, so plan your disk space requirements accordingly.
Finally, the clients will be accessing Windows SharePoint Services through a Web browser. It is therefore important that the clients are running a supported Web browser. Supported Web browsers include:
- Internet Explorer 6
- Internet Explorer 5.5 with Service Pack 2
- Internet Explorer 5.01 with Service Pack 2
- Netscape Navigator 6.2 or higher
Netscape Navigator is based on Mozilla 1.0, so Mozilla and Mozilla-based browsers such as Firebird may work. However, because Microsoft doesn't specifically support them, you may be on your own.
Acquiring Windows SharePoint Services
At the time that Windows Server 2003 was released, Windows SharePoint Services wasn't finished, so Microsoft decided to make the Windows SharePoint Services a downloadable feature pack. You can download Windows SharePoint Services from Microsoft's Windows SharePoint Services Web site. The download consists of a 34-MB, self-extracting executable file named STSV2.EXE.
Installing Windows SharePoint Services
Now that you've finished the necessary prep work, it's time to actually install SharePoint Services. To do so, copy the STSV2.EXE file that you downloaded earlier to an empty folder on your server and then double-click the file. When you do, Windows will extract the Setup files and launch the Setup program.
The Setup wizard's initial screen simply asks you to accept the end-user license agreement. Accept the agreement and click Next. The next screen asks whether you want to perform a typical installation or a server farm installation. If you choose to perform a typical installation, Setup will install SharePoint Services, configure IIS to make its default Web site a SharePoint team site, and install the SQL Server desktop engine (WMSDE, a version of MSDE). On the other hand, if you choose to perform a server farm installation, IIS will not be altered and WMSDE will not be installed. It will be up to you to manually set up the various Web sites and to specify the path to the SQL Server. For the purposes of this article, I'll be performing a server farm installation.
Click Next and you'll see a summary of the options you have chosen. If the summary appears to be correct, click Install to begin the installation process. On my 2.8-GHz Pentium 4 test server, the file copy portion of the installation took less than a minute to complete. After the files had been copied, Setup ran a script to reconfigure IIS and then launched the configuration screen for the Windows SharePoint Services. In all, the entire process took about a minute and a half to complete.
Configuring Windows SharePoint Services
When Setup completed, it should have opened the Configure Administrative Virtual Server screen, shown in Figure A. This screen allows you to select which IIS application pool Windows SharePoint Services will use. Since this is a fresh install, I'll configure my test server to use a brand new application pool.
|You must either select or create an application pool for IIS to use.|
To create an application pool, select the Create New Application Pool radio button and enter a name for the pool. You must then tell SharePoint to use a predefined security account or you must specify the credentials for an account. Click OK to create the new application pool.
After creating the application pool, you'll see a message indicating that the application pool has been created, but that IIS must be restarted. Prior to clicking OK on this screen, you must open a Command Prompt window and enter the IISRESET command. IISRESET will stop and restart the IIS services. When the process completes, close the Command Prompt window, return to the Application Pool Changed screen, and click OK.
The next screen you'll see, shown in Figure B, allows you to configure the connection to the SQL database and to the Active Directory. Begin by entering the name of your SQL Server. In this particular case, I've installed SQL Server 2000 onto the same server that I'm using to run SharePoint Services, so I would enter that server's name.
|You must provide SharePoint Services with some database and Active Directory information.|
The Configure Database section also asks for the name of the SQL Server database. Windows SharePoint Services tends to have problems recognizing any databases that you might have created ahead of time, so it's best to just let the configuration wizard create the database for you. Fill in the database name, but don't select the check box indicating that the database already exists. Just below the database name field, the configuration screen asks which type of authentication you want to use. I recommend using Windows authentication. SQL authentication is less secure and is typically used only by applications that don't support NTLM authentication.
Now that you've filled in all of the database-related fields, let's look at the Active Directory Account Creation section. I'm assuming that your server is already a part of a domain as outlined in the requirements earlier. If this is the case, the users should already have Active Directory accounts, so you can simply select the Users Already Have Domain Accounts radio button and click OK.
You'll now see the Windows SharePoint Services Central Administration screen, which is shown in Figure C. Make a note of the URL for this screen, because you can use this URL to access the Central Administration console in the future if you need to make changes to SharePoint Services.
|The Central Administration screen is used to configure virtually all aspects of SharePoint Services.|
The Central Administration screen is broken down into several sections:
- Virtual Server Configuration
- Security Configuration
- Server Configuration
- Component Configuration
Generally speaking, the Virtual Server Configuration section is used to do things like installing SharePoint Services on a new virtual server, configuring settings across all virtual servers, or creating a top-level Web site. The Security Configuration section allows you to manage SharePoint users and administrators, block specific file types, and configure antivirus settings. The Server Configuration section lets you specify the e-mail, database, and Web servers. Finally, the Component Configuration section lets you manage components that work across all virtual servers, such as full-text searches, usage analysis, quotas, locks, and data retrieval services.
Creating a SharePoint Web site
In the real world, you would normally create a corporate-level SharePoint Web site. This would typically serve as your corporate Intranet, offering employees access to things like company news, HR forms, and maybe a calendar of events. You would then set some permissions that would allow individual departments to create their own collaborative Web sites. A full-scale deployment is beyond the scope of this article, but I want to at least show you how to create a corporate-level Web site and set some permissions.
Setting administrative permissions
Begin the process by specifying the SharePoint Administrator. You can do this by clicking the Set SharePoint Administrators Group link. Then enter the domain and user name for the user that you want to have administrative control over SharePoint Services. For example, I want to give administrative control to the Administrator account in the domain TEST, so I would enter TEST\Administrator into the Group Account Name field and click OK.
Creating a top-level Web site
The next step in the process is to create a top-level Web site. This corporate-level Web site should be accessible to all authenticated users. Begin by clicking the Create A Top Level Web Site link. A screen will prompt you to click the virtual server that you want to perform the task on. By default, the list will be empty, so click the Complete List link to populate it.
At this point, click the Default Web Site link. When you do, Windows will display the Extend Virtual Server screen. Verify that the virtual server name is Default Web Site and then click the Extend And Create A Content Database link. You'll now see the Extend And Create Content Database screen, shown in Figure D.
|The Extend And Create Content Database screen allows you to configure the virtual server.|
The first thing you'll have to do is select or create an application pool for the virtual server. Just select the application pool that you created earlier. Now scroll down to the bottom half of the screen, shown in Figure E.
|This is the bottom half of the Extend And Create Content Database screen.|
The next section is the Site Owner section. By default, the site owner is the local Administrator. You might want to change this to a domain administrator. You must also specify the site owner's e-mail address.
In the next section, you must enter the database server and database name, if appropriate. By default though, the Use Default Content Database Server check box is selected. If this check box is selected, you aren't required to fill in any of the fields in this section.
Next is the Custom URL section. Normally, you would have a main site name with sites created beneath it. For example, if your main site was called POSEY, and you wanted to create a new site called SITE1, you would enter /SITE1 into the Custom URL Path field. The URL for the new site would then be http://POSEY/SITE1. Since this is the default site, however, just enter / as the custom URL. You will enter real URL names only for future sites that fall beneath the default site.
The final two sections are the Quota Template and the Site Language sections. Leave the Quota Template set to No Quota and leave the Site Language set to English. Click OK to create the site.
After a couple of minutes, you'll see a message saying that the new site has been successfully created. Click the link in the message to open the site within a new browser window. When you attempt to open the site, you'll be asked to enter logon credentials. Enter the user name and password for the site owner and click OK. You'll now see the Template Selection screen, shown in Figure F. This allows you to select a template that will govern the overall look and feel of your Web site. (You can also exit the site on your own, but this is beyond the scope of this article.) Select a template that works for you and click OK.
|Select a template and click OK.|
After you select a template and click OK, you'll see the Web site that you've just created, as shown in Figure G. As I mentioned earlier, everything that you see in Figure G is customizable, including the site name and logo.
|This is the newly created Web site.|
I'll discuss site customizations in a future article. For now though, I want to show you how to grant access to the site that you've just created. Select the Modify This Workspace link in the site that you've just created, then select the Site Settings command. You'll now see the Site Settings page. Click the Manage Users link to view the Manage Users screen, which allows you to add or remove users and groups.
As you add users and groups, you can select the role that they are assigned. For example, an Administrator has full control of the Web site, while a Reader has read-only access to the site. A Contributor can add content to the site, while a Web Designer can create lists, document libraries, and even alter the pages within the site.