Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You THINK you know backup

When Hurricane Irene was taking aim at our Huntington, NY, headquarters in September, we, like many companies, had the chance to review our disaster recovery plans. One thing that became apparent is that while backing up and recovering data and files is a job for IT, there is a business perspective that cannot be ignored.
All users know is that they were working on a PowerPoint that they need to have back to finish in time for an upcoming meeting. IT, on the other hand, takes a global look at the system and might not necessarily know that a particular document is stored in a particular place.
Sean McDonough is an expert in DR, and one additional thing he pointed out is that SharePoint Server presents unique challenges that overall IT plans do not take into account. We had a chance to talk at Microsoft's SharePoint Conference, and he pointed out that in SharePoint, content and configurations are stored across databases, but you can't back up in piecemeal fashion. "It's a real challenge to get to the data and restore it in a way that doesn't break things." SharePoint requires a granular backup that's different from what's involved in backing up a full farm.
He co-wrote a book on the subject that looks at backup and recovery from the business perspective first, and then backs into the IT view. It's an interesting look at a critical topic.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The beauty of records management

When SharePoint first came out, ECM (enterprise content management) was a big driver for adoption. Users were now able to organize emails, PDFs, Word files and all manner of content. SharePoint 2010 introduced metadata, allowing users to tag content so it could be found again from massively growing content lists and libraries.
Now, organizations want to understand WHY they save documents, and HOW LONG should they be kept. Enter the records managers. I had an interesting interview with ARRAY's Mike Miller on the topic, and today I got a chance to speak with Colligo Networks' Barry Jinks on the subject. The company is introducing Colligo Briefcase, for browsing, viewing and storing SharePoint content on tablets (iPads for now, Windows-based tablets down the road, Jinks said), and Colligo Email Manager and Contributor Pro software. You can read about those here.
Jinks was talking about the expanding definition of records, and how everyone in a organization is creating records all the time. About how, in fact, EVERYTHING -- a blog post, a Wiki entry, an email attachment, even a TWEET -- is a record. So in-place records management becomes critical, and users must be empowered and trained to use SharePoint to choose content types, and create metadata tags at the time the document is created. SharePoint, he said, offers centrally managed compliance, but the hard part is getting users to do it. "The value of applying metadata is seen in search," he said, "so they get why they're doing it." And the organization gets the value of retention policies that work.
-- David

Greetings from SharePoint Conference! A live blog

I'm here in Anaheim for Microsoft's SharePoint Conference. Walked past a marching band, cheerleaders and some guys dressed in football uniforms on the way to the keynote, promoting collaboration software called "Huddle." A slideshow in the keynote hall featured a mock Metro interface as a DJ dropped some beats in the background while a crowd estimated at 7,500 attendees by Microsoft's PR legions filed in.
Microsoft senior director of SharePoint product management Jared Spataro opened the event with the theme "Productivity Delivered." He reflected on the 2009 event, which featured Steve Ballmer, Huey Lewis and the News ... and the release of SharePoint 2010. It was the "unveiling of our baby to the world," he said. What happens next is what customers and partners do with the product.
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Some stats: sold more than 125 million licenses of SharePoint. If SharePoint were a standalone business, it would be one of the top 50 software firms in the world. Millions of customers using SharePoint Online and Office 365.

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Spataro introduced a funny video of the Microsoft team going to Hollywood to find a good keynote to discuss SharePoint. It featured "teen heartthrob" Luke Perry, Carmen Electra ("How are computers in the cloud? Won't they just fall through?"), Alan Thicke (who thought it was a reality show where he could discuss his innermost feelings about the girls from 'America's Next Top Model' ) and Florence Henderson (who, yes, sang 'The Brady Bunch' theme). The ultimate passionate SharePoint spokesperson they finally hit on? Microsoft vice president Jeff Teper.

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Teper explained the SharePoint team's guiding principles: redefine collaboration,unleash the ecosystem, build a world-class platform. Self-service business intelligence is one area that Teper said was a critical focus, as part of the self-service experience for rich collaboration. A social fabric that enables people to move from one group to the next, with permissions that carry over, using different communications tools, is another powerful feature that Teper cited.
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Collaboration needs to include customers and partners outside the organization, and this is done via SharePoint for extranets. This breaks down the walls of the organization, Teper said. Office 365 takes this to another level, he added.
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11:59 AM local time. First reference to Bill Gates.

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Teper hinted that SharePoint team is working on the next release, then went on to say he won't be talking about it.

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Second guiding principle: the developer ecosystem. There are 700,000 developers working on SharePoint around the world, and 1,162 books on SharePoint available on Amazon, Teper noted.
Visual Studio integration, binding to external line-of-business or database data with read-write, search and take data offline -- those were breakthroughs in SharePoint 2010, he said. First update of Office 365 will have BCS functionality, including read-write data access for cloud-based applications.

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New certification: Microsoft Certified Architect. More info to be published today on microsoft.com. A credential that shows greatest level of depth in the SharePoint community, Teper said.

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Scale, performance and high availability. Richard Riley, SharePoint director, discussed hardware and deployments. VERY technical, discussing racks and clusters, NEC and EMC2 servers. Check out the configuration on microsoft.com/visio.

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FAST search. More than 107 million items returned on a search in 0.23 seconds. Impressive.
High availability. Riley also demonstrated the failover capabilities of a server farm, with 14+ terabytes of data and 7,500 concurrent users. The SharePoint deployment was restored in about 40 seconds. Very impressive.

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Kurt Del Bene, president of the Microsoft Office division, came on to discuss building businesses on top of SharePoint. He said the Office division is betting on SharePoint. Nature of workforce is changing. More stats: 84 percent of businesses have people working remotely. Sixty-five percent are deploying at least one social software tool. Four MILLION millenials are entering the workforce each year. Seventy percent of IT budgets are spent maintaining inflexible and siloed data center solutions. This, he said, is why moving to the cloud has great appeal.

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Del Bene showed a video of NetHope, a charitable organization that uses SharePoint to collaborate, train, manage funds, data and donations. They are working in Haiti to rebuild lives after the devastating earthquake of a few years back. Microsoft is also providing a site where people can donate to NetHope. Unfortunately, as I was going to their site to get the link for you, dear reader, the network here crashed. It failed over quickly, but Microsoft's SharePoint Conference site was corrupted. Unbelievable!