Category Archives: Third Party Tools

Is Dropbox vs. Office 365: The Next IT Battleground?

 

Editor’s note: Follow contributor Mark Fidelman @markfidelman

A big mismatch is looming today between how CIOs view the world and how most employees view the world — and it’s creating an even deeper gap between the two.

For many of today’s employees, IT is the equivalent of the roadblock department in charge of slowing productivity and causing unnecessary headaches. Employees expect instant access to their work-related data and services and data from their personal tablets and smartphones – but, in most cases, IT is unable to support them. In today’s mobile world, employees are not waiting for IT anymore. They are taking matters into their own hands and bypassing IT altogether. That’s dangerous.

In fact, according to a newly released uSamp survey of 500 mobile business users (commissioned by my client harmon.ie) four in ten mobile business users happily ignore IT restrictions proclaimed by their slow-moving, draconian IT departments to try out file sharing services such as Dropbox. Its simple experience is a huge draw, and unlike SharePoint, it works just as well on Android and Apple phones as it does on tablets, PCs and Macs. So what’s the issue?

Its infamous security flaws, for one. Ask just about any CIO you know and they’ll tell you that Dropbox is a huge security risk.

In this August 2013 security research report, Dhiru Kholia of Openwall and Przemysław Wegrzyn of CodePainters detail various methods to bypass Dropbox’s authentication, intercept SSL data and use a combination of code injection and ‘monkey patching’ techniques to hijack Dropbox accounts. What’s more, according to the uSamp survey, one in four workers (27%) who shared a document using Dropbox and other unsanctioned cloud services suffered negative repercussions, ranging from lost business to law suits and financial penalties.

That’s a problem.

And it gets worse: 38 percent of respondents to the uSamp survey said that a document shared using an unsanctioned service such as Dropbox reached an unintended recipient in the past 6 months, and 27 percent reported a data breach and negative consequences as a result. So chances are uncomfortably high that if your employees are using Dropbox at their discretion, they’ll make a big – and potentially costly – mistake. Adding insult to injury, SharePoint customers waste nearly $1 billion a year in duplicate Dropbox file sync and sharing services, harmon.ie reports in this infographic :

2013-09-17-RogueITSurvey-01.jpg
The High Cost of Mobile Business Users’ Rogue IT Behavior

You can download the full report at http://harmon.ie/rogue-it-report-register.

So how can peace between IT professionals and their business users be restored? The de facto Dropbox and SharePoint co-existence solution is an expensive one. Can a clean cut be made? And if so, how?

One obvious solution is to deliver secure, full featured access to Office 365 and SharePoint from corporate-owned and personally owned iOS and Android devices, in addition to Windows. Given Microsoft’s reluctance to offer its prized productivity and collaboration suite directly to customers with multiple operating systems, five MDM vendors – Airwatch, Citrix, Good Technology, MobileIron, and Samsung KNOX – have taken matters into their own hands and offer secure access to Office 365 and SharePoint document collaboration and social features from iOS and Android devices, in partnership with harmon.ie.

That’s one potential solution; built-in data encryption for document collaboration is another. What additional mobile security solutions would you like to see over the next two to three years?

How to Add a Custom Logo in the Title Section of a SharePoint Site


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Alexandru Dionisie is an Internet Professional and Technical Writer. Follow him @AlexDionisie

In the site settings menu you will find options to add a custom logo, title or description.

If you want to add a logo somewhere else, you won’t find any option that allows you to do that.

Fortunately, all you have to do is edit the master page and add a custom code that will include a new table column with a logo, description and a link.

How to do that

  • upload a logo in the Site Assets library and copy the link;
  • go to Site Actions – Site Settings – Master Pages and download a copy of v4.master;
  • use a browser that has Developer Tools or Firebug (for this example I used Chrome with Developer Tools)

I will add a logo on the right side of the social tags.

  • right click on that area - Inspect Element.

2013-06-17-SharePointCustomLogo-01.png

In the Developer Tools panel we see that the class of the social tags area is <td>

2013-06-17-SharePointCustomLogo-02.png

Open the v4.master with a text editor (I propose Notepad++) and locate s4-socialdata-notif.

Add the following code:


<td><a title=”ITSpark – Your IT Adventure !” href=”http://itspark.ro” target=”_blank”><img style=”border:none” src=”https://officetube.sharepoint.com/SiteAssets/ITSpark_Logo_Header.gif” alt=”" width=”150″ height=”46″ /></a>
</td>

2013-06-17-SharePointCustomLogo-03.png

Save the file and then uploaded tothe Master Pages site.

Now, return to the home page and you will see the logo.

2013-06-17-SharePointCustomLogo-04.png

If you want to add a logo above the ribbon, locate the ID s4-workspace

The code will like this:


<div id=”s4-workspace”>
<div id=”s4-bodyContainer”>
<div id=”s4-titlerow”>
<div>
<div>
<img src=”https://officetube.sharepoint.com/SiteAssets/ITSpark_Logo_Header.gif” width=”1280″ height=”116″ />
<table cellspacing=”0″>

The bold line represents the extra line that will add an image in the background.

What SharePoint can learn from SurveyMonkey (and vice versa)


You may also be interested in: Free SharePoint Plugin for Outlook


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Ellen van Aken is an experienced intranet adoption manager. Follow her @EllenvanAken

I have always hated SurveyMonkey. Not that I knew it well, but out of principle: I try to help my colleagues work with SharePoint, and the more SharePoint they see, the faster they will get familiar with it. Using a survey on another platform is downright confusing.

But some time ago I looked at SurveyMonkey, to find out the reason for its popularity. The Basic (free) version will be the largest competitor for SharePoint in organizations, so I have limited my comparison to that version.

What is good about SurveyMonkey?

It is a very nice tool, if only because the larger font and sharper contrast are easier to read for me.

There are more options in terms of design (themes, images between the questions), they have a few different question types (a.o. ranking), you can draw from a reservoir of example surveys and “bias-free questions” and you can randomize the answer options.

That may not be a surprise, since SurveyMonkey is a “one trick pony”, focusing on surveys, while SharePoint is more of an “all-rounder”.

Which functionalities should be in SharePoint?

Still, there are some useful SurveyMonkey functionalities that I would expect in SharePoint:

  • SharePoint knows the date and time, so why does it not have a “cut-off date/time”, after which it is no longer possible to fill in the survey?
  • SharePoint can count, so why is there no option to stop responses when the number of replies exceeds a certain number? How useful that would be for registrations for events or trainings with a limited number of places!
  • Why can’t you add a description to the questions in SharePoint? You can do that in any list or library, so why not in a survey?

One point where SharePoint could make a big step forward is in the multiple-response questions. SurveyMonkey allows you to show the answers in columns, which need less vertical space.


Input for a multiple-choice question in SurveyMonkey

In SharePoint, answers are all in one column.


Input for multiple-choice question in SharePoint.

Now, let’s take a look at the way the results are shown. SurveyMonkey provides you with a nice, clear graphical overview.


Results of a multiple-choice question in SurveyMonkey

While SharePoint is a mess, so you always need to do a manual scoring afterwards.


Results of a multiple-choice question in SharePoint

Does anyone know if this has improved in SP2013? If not, would someone please forward this post to Microsoft so they know what to work on for SP2016.

In favour of SharePoint.

SharePoint also wins on a number of points:

  • You can use any number of questions and receive any number of responses. (Not that your audience will be too happy with too many questions). The free account of SurveyMonkey allows you up to 10 questions and 100 responses.
  • You can send respondents to a “Thank you” or “Next steps” page after completion, by configuring the link you send to your audience. (described in this post-scroll to 2f) SurveyMonkey offers that in a paid version only.
  • You don’t have to log in to make a survey or to see the results.
  • You can use a “lookup”(existing content in the site), currency and select “People and Groups” as answer options.
  • SurveyMonkey allows you to export to spreadsheet per question only. Exporting the complete survey needs the paid version.
  • SharePoint allows branching (the next question depends on the answer you gave to the previous question), while SurveyMonkey only provides that in the paid version.
  • Your survey has more context if it is in your own Team Site.
  • The data are stored in your own environment.

If you know other good arguments in favour of the SharePoint survey, please add them below!

What is the verdict?

I understand the attraction of SurveyMonkey. It is easy to use and it has more visual possibilities. (Now that comes as a shock) It also does the multiple-choice questions much better, and it has a ranking question type.

However, for the average in-company survey, SharePoint will do the trick. It will be one step forward in providing employees with their “daily dose of SharePoint”.

And in those cases where I have found that the SharePoint survey was too limited for a certain purpose, the free SurveyMonkey tool was not an option either.

Sometimes the demands of the business required a SharePoint list or an InfoPath form to collect data, or even an Excel file, because there were too many dependencies or people wanted to have too many different slice-and-dices. In those cases, the Basic version of SurveyMonkey provided no solace. We would have needed a paid version or an even more advanced tool.

Does this sound familiar? How do you handle surveys in your SharePoint environment?

What can SharePoint analytics tell you about your intranet


You may also be interested in: SharePoint Smart Notifications by KWizCom


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Andrew Gilleran is a SharePoint Power User, based in Dublin Ireland. Follow him @agilleran

Ah metrics. Who looked at what and when. Not really why as such but you have to think about that.

In SharePoint, like any intranet or web site, seeing who looked at what is obviously essential to understanding whether your intranet works or not. Compared to, say, an ecommerce site, an intranet doesn’t have commercial or sales related goals as such. But it should have goals, you should be able to determine outcomes from your intranet. Otherwise what’s the point of having one? ROI is crucial of course and metrics can go some way in helping that.

In SharePoint 2010, the web analytics can be useful to provide some metrics for a site collection or team site. The most useful are page views to see what people are looking at and unique visitors. For a large intranet site with multiple site collections, it’s pretty useless as you can’t get a decent overview of activity.

There are a few detailed guides to SharePoint analytics and you can find the links at the end of this article.

One of the main aspects of the analytics is that you can only get them for a connected site collection or a team site. On our intranet, we have multiple site collections in our web content management (WCM) area of SharePoint so we don’t get a full analytics picture of our site. We use Google Analytics (GA) for that.

Good bits about SharePoint analytics

  • you can get access numbers (clicks) for non HTML pages such as Office files and PDFs
  • it’s far more accurate on unique users than GA as it is usually based on the logged in user via Active Directory and not JavaScript code (this depends on your set up though). Seeing who, by their log in name, is accessing a site is a bit Big Brother-ish alright but we don’t use that information internally.

Bad bits about SharePoint analytics

  • It will pick up every access to a page including those of publishers creating and editing content which is not what you want. But you can see these easily enough as the URLs have the editing ASPX code.
  • The example (Figure 1) below which just adds up figures in a column to give an inaccurate total.
  • The dashboard summary also makes little sense (see Figure 2 below). The two Value labels and trend tell me what exactly? I assume it means that we have more page views for this 30 day period than for the previous period and that it is up 37%.
  • Referrers. Again a total number which is useless. Only by going into the referrer’s section do I see anything useful because it shows me that many people clicked from links in emails to our intranet which is relevant.

2012-12-18-Analytics-01.jpg
Figure 1 - Number of unique visitors

Anyway, have a look at the image (Figure 2) for which the number of daily unique visitors over a period of time and a grand total of 5,292. Which is of course, completely useless and misleading. It’s just a total of the column, not actual visitors.

2012-12-18-Analytics-02.jpg
Figure 2 - Dashboard summary

So what do you do?

  1. Extract it out to Excel.
  2. Remove the weekend figures. Nice to know some sad people are looking at your site over the weekend but it distorts your averages.
  3. Get the average figure so you can report that the average number of unique users over a set period of time is about 200. That means something; not the 5,292 figure.
  4. Plot the daily visitors on a chart and see the trend over time which in this case is fairly constant except for a spike on April 19th.

That’s your simple report. The average number of visitors and the trend over time.

So overall the figures themselves aren’t too bad, it is the collation, presentation and the dashboards which are weak. There are many changes, of course, in SharePoint 2013 which will improve the metrics. Certainly being able to see popular documents in a document library is very useful.

Google Analytics is also used on our intranet and it’s pretty good expect for a few glaring exceptions. Visitor numbers, visitors and even visits are problematic as many people when using an intranet close the browser window and open it again each time they access the intranet. You will always get multiple visits from the same people. This of course shows multiple visits in GA and you have no idea whether these are different people.

So I don’t measure visits or visitors on an intranet. I stick to unique page views for our communications analytics which gives me a flavour of what people are looking at. Is it 100% accurate? Hell no, but it is as good an indicator as any as to the popularity of certain pages. And that is what stakeholders want.

Incidentally, Google Analytics real time view shows quite a fairly accurate view of current users based on cookies but you can’t build reports from that. But it is cool to look at. Especially when a company wide email newsletter goes out and you can see the traffic impact immediately.

From looking at SharePoint 2013 so far, Microsoft has certainly taken a good look at it. Opening it up to 3rd parties should also make a big difference in allowing others to provide tools and apps just as Google does.

Notes

The Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF) produced an excellent report for members called ‘Measuring intranets: A guide to intranet metrics and measurement’ which goes into much detail about intranet analytics. This is a member’s only report I’m afraid but if you have an large intranet you should be involved in the IBF anyway.

Links

SharePoint 2013 analytics features
Google Analytics Real Time overview
Introducing Web Analytics in SharePoint 2010

Head-to-Head: SharePoint Migration Tool Cage Match

 

Update: Register to view the event live online!

To the migration tool vendors

Hey, SharePoint Migration Tool Vendor, do you have what it takes to do a killer 15 minute presentation and convince people you’ve got the best migration tool on the market? If so, leave me a note below, trash talk your competitors and let’s get this thing rolling.  EUSP Head-to-Head for SharePoint Migration Tools is October 10, 2012, 1:00pm EST.

History of the Head-to-Head EUSP Challenge

About two years ago, we ran one of the most popular web casts of our much spotted career: Head-to-Head Migration Tool Demos. I’ve had multiple requests to run an updated version, so it’s time to lay down the challenge: Who has the best migration tool on the market for your needs?

We’re laying down the challenge to the usual suspects:

The Rules

As with any cage match, there are no rules other than no eye gouging, no hitting in the throat and cover yourself at all times. I will be online to keep things on schedule, but other than that, the participants each have exactly 15 minutes to show their solutions. I will give a warning 3 minutes before the conclusion of each session.

We will be using one of the online meeting platforms such as Lync, Live Meeting, WebEx, etc, so the vendors can give live demos.

Viewing the Proceedings

This is a great chance for the SharePoint Community to get a look at all of the major migration tools within a short amount of time. We’ll have a registration form up next week for the first 250 people who would like to view the proceedings live, plus we’ll be recording the sessions for review afterwards.

Conclusion

It should be a great match up. Mark your calendar: October 10, 2012, 1:00pm EST.

See you at ringside.

Community yammering on about SharePoint


You may also be interested in: SharePlus Office Mobile Client - The Universal Mobile SharePoint App


 

Another social network, another day, seems to be my thoughts on the introduction of Yammer for the SharePoint community. Already we have Twitter, LinkedIn groups, Facebook, the MSDN Forums, Stack Exchange and then a plethora of Portals such as TechNet/MSDN, NothingButSharePoint.com, SP365.co.uk, and many more individual blogs out there…plus SharePointPodShow.com and The MOSS Show.

Google+ was something myself and a bunch of other guys tried to encourage and it really never took off because “I already have enough networks”, “it’s the same as facebook” etc.

I do love the concept of Yammer and the freemium model is certainly why it has been so viral and therefore successful in organizations. I believe this is the main reason Microsoft bought it.

I think its great that the SharePoint community have created a Yammer hub for everyone to see how this platform works. From reading around the blogosphere it looks like Joel Oleson is taking the iniative for starting this up, please correct me if I’m wrong in the comments.

So check out SPYam and leave your thoughts there…

Yammer has its faults, the fact it is viral means that just like facebook and linkedIn, any user can create a group…and… guess what, there are already concerns in SPYam that there is no way to control who creates them (a gateway drug that forces you to the premium paid for subscription at $15 per user).

Another big annoyance is you have to sign in to SPYam with your personal GMail account and can’t re-use a corporate account you may already be using to log into Yammer for work. So the model is a little short sighted there.

The permissions model for Yammer is…if you’re in…you’re in. So no concept of security. There is a concept of a “private group” that you can be invited to join. But no concept of a permission model like SharePoint.

The integration with SharePoint is pretty bleak and obviously this is an area that Microsoft will focus on with the acquisition. The appointment of the Yammer CEO reporting to Jeff Teper is a huge deal, as that ensures that SharePoint team have a big say in the future of Yammer in Microsoft…hopefully.

I’ll keep an eye on Yammer, but to be honest, I can see this becoming another duplicate posting place for twitter and facebook much like Google+ was. It’s a nice sandpit to see how the user interface works though.

Use SharePoint on an iPad


You may also be interested in: SharePoint Solutions In-A-Box from Alcero


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Neil Barkhina is a SharePoint Architect at Gig Werks.

A common question I get from clients is “what is the experience of using SharePoint on an iPad?”. So I decided to write a blog post on that very topic. I recently purchased an iPad and was curious as to how I could use this device to work with SharePoint. That being said, my main computers are still PC’s and I use a Windows Phone, but as a person who works in technology it’s difficult to ignore the iPad as a device since it is getting a lot of buy in not just in the consumer space but also in the enterprise. What I found is that you can actually get by with an iPad, and while the experience isn’t as elegant and integrated as it is on Windows Phone, I was still able to use most of the functions of SharePoint.

Safari

The browser experience I found was a bit lacking. Though the site will render, interacting with the Ribbon and Grids did give me a lot of problems. As an example, just clicking on documents sometimes doesn’t register so what you have to do is actually click and hold a link and then click on open. Office web apps I found were decent for viewing but not so much for editing. Excel Services ran pretty will with Slicers and pivot charts.

Another grievance is Safari doesn’t save user credentials for windows authentication. This brings me to my next recommendation of using 3rd party Apps

Third Parties

The best experience I found was by using 3 apps from the App store: SharePlus, QuickOffice HD, and Pages. One of the nice things about SharePlus is that it will store your credentials so that when you go to any SharePoint Library or Document you can click on “View in web” which will go to the SharePoint site via Safari and use your stored credentials which is really nice:

Viewing and Editing Documents

SharePlus comes with it’s own office document viewer which I found to be decent. By using SharePlus you can actually open documents for editing using QuickOffice HD. Then once you are done editng the document in QuickOffice you can then “Save them Back” to SharePoint:

QuickOffice did a pretty good job of loading the documents though some of the formatting did get messed up. For the most part I would use the SharePlus/QuickOffice combo for editing light documents which you won’t be sending to clients. Any heavy duty editing I would still do on a computer using Microsoft Office

Creating New Documents

While you can view and edit documents using SharePlus and QuickOffice, sometimes you also want to just create a new document. To do that I use a technique where I upload a local document template in SharePlus and then rename the file. Here is how it’s done. First you will need to have a template, for me I just called it Blank document:

Then go to your document library and click on Add Document:

It will ask you to select a document so just pick that document template:

Once it is uploaded I rename the file to what I actually what, for example “Quarterly Report”:

Then I click to view the document and click on Open In. Make sure you pick QuickOffice since your iPad may have several Apps registered that can open up the DOCX format:

Now you can go ahead and edit your document using QuickOffice. When you are done click close, and then make sure you click on “Save Back”:

Then click on Open In “SharePlus” which will send the doc back to the App so that it can save it to the server:

Once it’s back in SharePlus, click on “Update Item”:

iWork

While QuickOffice does the job of editing and saving documents back to SharePoint, I found the interface a bit lacking and also sluggish. Pages (which is part of Apple’s iWork suite) is very elegant word processor and it performs very nicely. However it’s SharePoint integration is very limited and it also doesn’t work well with SharePlus. That being said, if you just want to create a document in Pages and Save it to SharePoint, it does support webdav:

Once you click on Copy to WebDav, if you have saved a previous SharePoint location it will default to that. Simply click on Word:

This will then bring you to an interface where you can browse your SharePoint site via a file browser interface:

This has several caveats. First of all this will only save to the .DOC format not .DOCX, so it will be more limited later for using in Office Web Apps and Windows Phone. Also, while Pages is an elegant App, it does not handle formatting very well on very large Microsoft Word Documents, so again I would only use this for light formatting and nothing that you would be sending professionally to customers.

Other Points

While QuickOffice does do Word, Excel and PowerPoint it doesn’t yet do OneNote which I found a bit disappointing. OneNote in the Office Web Apps did not perform very well. Microsoft did release a OneNote App on the App Store however it only supports SkyDrive and doesn’t have any SharePoint support as of yet. Let’s hope they release one in the future.

This article was originally posted on Gig Werks blog The SharePoint Blog.net

Use SharePoint to Build an Org Chart - The Options


You may also be interested in: O’Reilly - SharePoint 2010 at Work


 

Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Wright is the founder of the Scribble Agency. Follow him @scribbleagency

In these days of recession the humble org chart is making a bit of a comeback. Companies need data to be able to resize, reorganise, and generally ensure they are operating with an optimal workforce. The org chart of yesteryear might have shown names, reporting lines, and little else, but enterprises now have access to an incredible amount of data about their staff - all of which can be put to good use. Used in the right way, this data can help turn the org chart into a really useful tool.

Let us look at the options for building and displaying org charts in SharePoint.

MySites and the ‘organisation browser’ web part
Out of the box functionality

SharePoint 2010 comes with a feature called the ‘Organisation Browser’ to display org chart style information. By default the web part is located on every user’s ‘My Profile’ tab on their MySite, but it can be added to other pages if required.

The Silverlight driven web part uses the ‘manager’ field from user profiles to build up a hierarchy of people. Users can then navigate around this structure in an easy to use manner, viewing a wide range of information pulled from user MySites.

The interface is nicely done, and it does provide a good way of navigating between individuals profile information. If your company has already deployed MySites then you should really look at making use of this component - you have done most of the hard work.

Visio Services
Microsoft Visio

Many org charts are already stored in Visio, and using Visio services within SharePoint (Enterprise) this information can be published to a page on an Intranet system. Changes to the Visio file will be automatically published directly to the page, and end users do not need the Visio client software to view the resulting diagram.

Visio can also be connected to various data sources (such as SQL Server and SharePoint lists). By connecting a diagram to an appropriate source of employee data, and then publishing it using Visio services, a ‘living’ diagram can be created.

SharePoint Org Chart web part
TeamImprover - www.teamimprover.com

The SharePoint Org Chart web part is compatible with both SharePoint 2010 and 2007. Unlike any out of the box solution it does present information in a traditional easy to read hierarchical tree.

Data can be pulled from a number of sources, including the SharePoint user profile service, and includes photographs, MySite content, and even presence information. The component also includes a search tool, allowing users to be searched by name and job titles. The charts themselves are well laid out, clean and colourful. They can also be customised if required.

All in all this tool provides a nice, more traditional, alternative to the out of the box ‘Organisation Browser’. It looks the part and is easy to use and maintain.

User Directory web part
Bamboo - www.bamboosolutions.com

Bamboo are well known makers of a number of SharePoint web parts and addins. Whilst they don’t offer a direct ‘org chart’ webpart, they do have a number of ‘user’ based tools. The ‘User Directory’ web part is one example.

This provides an easy way to build a self service user directory, with a (albeit it very basic) tree view option for looking at the data as a traditional org chart. The key selling point here is users can maintain their own data, which minimises the workload on HR or admin resources. This goes further than any out of the box solution, such as updating MySite information, by allowing users to up their own Active Directory data in addition to their SharePoint profile.

Advantages and Disadvantages of LINQ to SharePoint over CAML Queries


You may also be interested in: SharePoint Hosting by Fpweb.net


 

Editor’s note: Contributor SC Vinod is a SharePoint Developer at Hexaware Technologies. Follow him @scvinod

2012-03-05-LINQtoSharePoint-01.pngThe LINQ to SharePoint functionality which was available as a third party tool for free in codeplex for MOSS 2007 is available as an inbuilt functionality in SharePoint Server 2010.

I’m not going define what LINQ to SharePoint is as it is out of the scope of this post. I’m going to list out the advantages and the disadvantages of LINQ to SharePoint over CAML queries that I have encountered (though there are lots of blogs covering this topic). Let us review the advantages first.

Advantages:

1. As is mentioned often, it provides strongly typed objects, which when using we get intellisense while coding. So, our code will be more bug free unlike the CAML Queries where the result will be known only in the run time.

2. One advantage not mentioned generally is that we can compare two columns (fields) of a SharePoint list in LINQ queries which is not possible in CAML queries.

3. We can also use LINQ to SharePoint to generate some complex CAML queries as shown in this blog

Disadvantages:

1. During the run time the LINQ query itself gets converted into a CAML query, which is an extra step ahead that takes more time . This can be avoided if we write a CAML query itself straight away.

2.  Also, we generate a DataContext class using the SPMetal.exe. This class is the one which we use in our project to generate LINQ queries. This class is not generated dynamically. So, if we do any changes in any of the lists or libraries in our site it is not reflected in the DataContext class. We have to generate a new class whenever we make any changes in the site.

3. Unlike CAML queries, LINQ to SharePoint has no use if we are going to access SharePoint data in Silverlight using Client Object Model.

4. Fields like Created, CreatedBy, Modified and ModifiedBy of a SharePoint list are not created by SPMetal to be used in the LINQ queries.

5. LINQ to SharePoint cannot be implemented for an External list.

Instant Messaging in SharePoint 2010

 

Being the social butterfly that I am, I have an account with every IM Service out there. So it seemed natural that I would be tasked with discovering what options, there are as far as IM in SharePoint 2010. This post is a high level overview of what’s out there.

But first some definitions:

1.) Consumer IM: Consumer IM is IM that is not contained within the security envelope of a single organization. It may include many protocols. The features here are all dependent on the service, but today very robust to the point of video chat, group conferencing, and file transfers. It requires that one make an account with the service. These services are delivered via a thick chat client, or web based. Web based clients will facilitate anonymous chat, but this is not the norm. Examples of this include MSN, Yahoo, AIM, Facebook, the evil devil GTalk etc.

2.) Commercial IM: Commercial IM, I refer to as the many-to-one conversations that happen in the browser as a part of sales and support activities. These services allow for anonymous communication from a customer or prospect to a select few internal representatives. It’s great because it’s in the browser and very convenient for customers. For organizations, they get better response time for customers and good tracking. It’s not designed for one-on-one peer conversations. It’s usually sold as a month-to-month service. The integration is with HTML object’s embedded in a site.

3.) EIM: Enterprise IM (EIM) / Unified Communications (UC). While the providers of these solutions make it seem like something way more then it actually is, for the most part consider this nothing more than Consumer IM inside a corporate firewall. They talk about presence engine (ability to see if someone is available to talk or not), video chat, and group meetings. For the most part consumer IM has all of this, but it’s not as tightly governed and in some few instances less advanced (in areas of group and Telephony). So don’t let the fancy talk fool you, this is expensive controlled consumer IM. Because of that, Gartner makes fancy graphs for these guys. The top players are Microsoft, Avaya, and Cisco. These services are delivered with some minor exceptions in a thick client ONLY.


Source: Gartner “fancy graph” research 2009

There is a concept of integration between these three use cases but this is the foundation. Alright so how can we get this stuff in SharePoint?

Out-Of-The-Box:

I’m reluctant to call this IM, but it’s important to look at what you get OTB with SharePoint ( Standard or Enterprise ) to facilitate IM chat type functionality. Your option here is really Chatterbox if it’s SharePoint 2007 or Note Board in SharePoint 2010. The benefit of note boards is that you can configure it in minuets, and it has really tight integration with AD and SharePoint. The downside is, it’s not really transactional based chat, as we are used to in IM. This would be for internal communication only primarily. One thing to be aware of is conversations are tied to a URL, and anyone with access to a site page will see the conversation.

Out-Of-The-Box + Consumer IM:

If the IM service has created Flash based HTML embedded objects, there is a very good chance you can use it with SharePoint. What this gives you is in browser chat. Most of the time conversations are many-to-one, very similar to the approach in commercial IM. The web user may be anonymous (usually required to dignify themselves), with an internal user assigned to receive the conversations. This allows the receiving internal user to keep their “buddy list” and receive chat request from the site. Examples are MSN, Meebo, Yahoo. Like the OTB note board feature, this will take moments to setup with the Content Editor Web-Part. A very good example of this in action is my blog ————>

Out-Of-The-Box + Commercial IM:

This integration is HIGHLY variable. There may be very little effort, similar to consumer IM. If the service has Flash based HTML embedded objects OR code to launch a separate resized browser window, integration is as easy as pasting the proper code in the Content Editor Web-Part. This will most likely be the scenario. In this situation, there are two administration points, first your SharePoint site, which allows external users to create a request for internal conversation, then the service site where internal users will partake in and manage conversations. Some companies may want (they will find out quickly that they don’t want) to make this type of solution work for internal IM as well. This is quite the task. It requires a service with an API and some very extensive development to integrate with internal active directory. This I DO NOT recommend at all. The final solution is also highly dependent on the service provider you choose, and there are many. This solution is great for customer facing sites where you want to have an option of live chat for sales and support.

Out-Of-The-Box + Lync / Office Communications Server (OCS):

Intermission: I am talking about Lync here because you will see in a moment that it’s the only solution in the category of EIM that makes sense with SharePoint.

As far as EIM goes, I would say the integration with SharePoint is not very mature, but the best option, here is Lync, formerly OCS or Communicator. The reason for this is the key pivot point of Active Directory AD. One of the primary requirements of EIM is to pull users from an internal user list. Because both Lync and SharePoint pull from AD and Cisco and Avaya do not that I’m aware of, this alone makes Lync the best solution. The amount of effort it would take to integrate a Cisco and Avaya system with SharePoint would be huge, and the result the same. I digress. What you get when you integrate Lync with SharePoint, only two things, first presence engine. Using the web parts for Note Board, Site Users, and Members, you will get a nice little indicator next to each user if they are online, available, idle, or busy. This is the magical presence engine. Next you will get the ability to, in the browser, launch a chat dialog from the thick Lync client for a particular user. Oh neat! This solution installs quickly. It might be a little pricey as each user needs a CAL, but will be minimal cost on the setup end. For the individual users, they can also add users from other protocols in their individual chat clients, thus combining with consumer IM services.

There is a web app for Lync, but it’s limited to text-based chat, and invitation only. It runs on Silverlight, and will require the user to install a plugin. My hope is that more advancement comes in this area, making Lync the ideal solution.

There does not appear to be a perfect solution of EIM or just IM in SharePoint, perhaps an opportunity for the third party market to create some cool web-parts or integrations with AD. However, the above three paradigms cover the vast majority of requirements an organization would have. My advice is to stick with the features you can get from the described solutions, and avoid as much customization as possible for the simple reason that more customization alienates upgrade paths when more robust features surly come.