Fundamental Concepts at the Heart of SharePoint

 

SharePoint has several features that can be used in many differing combinations to meet business needs. At its heart SharePoint primarily addresses the need for us to collaborate to produce electronic information then to publish this to a wider audience.

The basic structure has not changed in 2010. A Server farm made up of one or more physical servers contains one or more logical Web Applications. Within each Web application there are one or more site collections. Within each site collection there are one or more Web sites. Each site is made up of lists, libraries and pages.

Having created your overall structure most users will work within a small number of sites, maybe even just one.

Lists are the fundamental data store made available to us within SharePoint. Each list is based upon a template. The custom list is the most basic of these templates providing a few simple columns. It is intended that we add our own columns i.e. customise this for our own use. There are many other list templates provided enabling us to quickly create Calendars, Announcements, Issue lists and tasks list (to name but a few).

Document Libraries are a specialised form of list that allows us to store documents or files that have been created outside of SharePoint commonly with Microsoft office products such as Word or Excel.

Like lists, libraries can have custom columns added to them. This allows us to store values with the document that can be indexed and used as search values by our users.

In addition we can use one list as a lookup or reference for use by another list. For example a tasks list being used to manage a simple project may have a look up to project No list.

Here we see a new task item being added with values in the project no rop down coming from another custom list named Project Numbers

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Having added the project number reference to my Tasks list I need to be sure that the project number record doesn’t get deleted if any tasks exist that use it i.e. I need referential integrity – a common feature found in modern database systems. The good news is that with SharePoint 2010 this has been added. When you add a look up column to a list you will have the option to prevent or cascade deletes of associated records

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One key feature that has been enhanced dramatically and moved from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint foundation is that of Business Connectivity Services, formerly the business data catalog. This feature allows us to connect to databases and line of business systems then present the data from them as if they were standard SharePoint lists.

Our users can now use the SharePoint interface across the Web to work with data held in SharePoint itself or to work with data coming from external databases and systems.

This opens up many more opportunities for us to use SharePoint as a base for building business applications. I will revisit this subject in more detail in a later post.

All of the above benefits from the new user interface options in 2010. If you have Silverlight installed you will get the Silverlight experience. If not but you have Javascript enabled you will get the nice responsive Ajax style interface. If you don’t have either of these you will get the ASP.net web form interface similar to that seen in SharePoint 2007.

Course Update

Our first version of the course load has been setup and I have connected to it from my office in the West of Ireland to the datacenter in Washington.

As SharePoint is a Web based solution I realise this is nothing new but I am always in awe at the amount of technology involved that allows this to happen. In principal I could just connect to the server and test away however part of my role is to test it as if I were taking the class. To do this I am going to use Learning Tree AnyWare technology which will allow me to log in and run a Client machine running Windows 7 which will be setup with all the necessary course files.

Dux is hard at work creating the exercise manual in a cold snowed in part of North America as I blog and drink coffee on a beautiful rare sunny morning in the West of Ireland. Collaboration is definitely working in my favour at present. However this is just the calm before the storm , time is getting closer to the pilot in April – once the material starts flowing through I will be working with Dux to make sure it all works.

Dave

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