23 Benefits of Cloud & 10 Reasons for Cloud’s Popularity

Cloud Recap

Cloud based development and deployment is fast becoming standard now days, as it let enterprises, to focus on the core business capabilities and deliver more value to their customers and be more profitable. Enterprises leverage cloud development to get rid of, most common, time & money consuming tasks to cloud, like Provisioning DEV/QA/Staging/Production virtual machines with required configurations & Permissions, Hardware, software & bandwidth purchases and maintenance. Provisioning different database, fast session/cache storage, media storage, NoSQL DB, Big data databases and elastic load balancing etc. To deliver the valuable products/functionality faster to their client companies are thinking out of the box and moving towards outcome based and collaborative approach, and that’s where cloud come to their rescue.

23 Benefits Cloud Offers to CIO, IT Managers and developers

  1. Lower costs, “Pay as you use”, Pay-as-you-go Model
  2. Free you from applying Software updates on servers
  3. Backups in multiple regions and automatic recovery.
  4. Data hosted centrally and can be used from across the world on any device
  5. Increased Scalability/Elasticity(Dynamic Scaling)
  6. Fail over/ Disaster Recovery/Business continuity/High Availability/Reliability across regions
  7. Monitoring services
  8. Data storage in multiple formats is available.
  9. On Demand compute power(1- 1000 CPU/GPU)
  10. Shared Resources(Hard Disk Space, RAM, Processor)
  11. Increased Mobility/Universal Access/Improve accessibility
  12. Less or No CAPEX
  13. Easy to Manage
  14. High Productivity
  15. Environment Friendly
  16. Less Deployment Time/ On-Demand Self-Service
  17. Reduced IT Capital cost, especially upfront cost, pay as you go model.
  18. Outcome based and collaborative development in cloud from anywhere in world.
  19. Globalize your workforce on the cheap
  20. Minimize licensing new software
  21. Scale your IT Resources up and down based on your needs.
  22. Use your existing development skills to build cloud applications.
  23. Respond quickly to changes in your business and customer needs.

10 reasons why cloud computing is becoming very popular:

  1. Scalability/Elasticity: Whenever we want to scale up and down, it’s very easy via Microsoft Azure cloud. In Windows Azure you just need to configure the auto scale service and schedule date and time when that instance will be running. You can use Microsoft Appfabric for distributed Session and caching to support scalability in your application. Azure enables you to easily scale your applications to any size. It is a fully automated self-service platform that allows you to provision resources within minutes. Elastically grow or shrink your resource usage based on your needs.
  2. Outcome and collaboration based approach: enterprises need results faster to be competitive in market and hence need outcome based solutions, which can be used collaboratively developed and accessible from any device anywhere in the world. That’s how cloud come into picture fulfilling all the requirements of CIO and IT & Product managers.
  3. Software updates: You need not bother about software updates and OS patching. These things will be taken care by Microsoft Azure.
  4. Flexibility: Cloud computing allows users to deploy applications easily and rapidly as it is required in Agile environment. Azure DocumentDB along with existing NoSQL offerings from MongoDB, Nodejitsu, RavenHQ and Redis available in the Azure Store now give customers expanded choice for these scenarios. Azure HDInsight support for Apache HBase™ generally available. Microsoft Azure VM Depot have more than 300 pre-configured Virtual Machine images spanning base operating system distributions (such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Suse and FreeBSD) through developer stacks (such as LAMP, Ruby on Rails, Node and Django), to complete applications (such as WordPress, Drupal, sharepoint and Apache Solrfor Microsoft Azure. Expanding choice for customers in technology and development platforms.
  5. Availability/Disaster Recovery: You need not worry about availability of your server as this will be taken care by Microsoft Azure. Windows Azure enables you to mitigate these risks by using multiple instances of resources. In case of windows Azure storage accounts which contain blobs, tables, queues, Windows Azure maintain multiple redundant copies. By default Windows Azure uses geo-replication to make copy of your data in another data center, using Geo-replication, in addition to the multiple copies of data held in the data center that hosts you storage account. Azure delivers a 99.95% compute SLA and enables you to build and run highly available applications without focusing on the infrastructure. Azure have built in network load balancing and resiliency to hardware failure. Azure supports a deployment model that enables you to upgrade your application without downtime.
  6. Powerful Capabilities: Azure delivers a flexible cloud platform that can satisfy any application need. It enables you to reliably host and scale out your application code. You can store data using relational SQL databases, NoSQL table stores, and unstructured blob stores, and optionally use Hadoop and business intelligence services to data-mine it.
  7. Universal Access: cloud computing can allow remotely customers/employees to access applications and work via internet. Giving maximum reach to your application.
  8. Reduction of costs: unlike on-premises hosting, the price of deploying applications to the cloud will be less due to lower hardware costs from a more effective use of physical resources, as well because of “Pay as you Go” model adopted by many cloud providers.
  9. Speed of creating or configuration Dev/Test/Staging/Prod Environments: No need to create request to your Infrastructure group for creating VM or wait on the request to get completed. Now in Windows Azure, a developer/Manager can just run through a quick wizard in the online management console and in 5 minutes, have an entire dev and test environment spun up, that may include a Linux or Windows server, SQL Server or SharePoint.
  10. Continuous Innovation: Gallery of innovative Apps to install from, in few minutes, in each of 40+ categories in Azure. Many of these apps are open source and free. These apps add value to your cloud applications. One Such app is Application Insight 360 for ASP.NET MVC applications, using this app you can monitor and pin point all performance & exception issues in your application code. Many new apps are added on daily basis to increase the efficiency, effectiveness of your cloud apps.

Cloud Composition

  • Virtual Server: Many physical servers are consolidated into Virtual Servers depending on how capable your physical servers are. For example, one physical server can contain 40-60 virtual servers. A virtual server is created by partitioning the physical server into multiple mini servers, made possible by the technology of server virtualization. Lower number of physical servers reduces hardware maintenance.
  • Virtualization: A physical server has a virtual server instance called virtualization. Virtual Servers are possible because of virtualization.
  • Cluster: Two homogenous/heterogeneous virtual servers are made part of cluster. Virtual server clustering can improve disaster recovery, load balancing, availability and management in your data center. Benefits are:
    • Server consolidation, regardless of operating systems
    • Increasing the availability of a consolidated server during:
      • During scheduled maintenance of host hardware
      • During scheduled updates to host software
    • Hypervisor: This is heart of virtualization, it’s a software layer introduced between the HOST Server OS and Hardware of physical server. A hypervisor or virtual machine monitor (VMM) is a piece of computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. A computer on which a hypervisor is running one or more virtual machines is defined as a host machine. Each virtual machine is called a guest machine.
    • Data Center: A Data Center contains computer infrastructure, servers, backup mechanism, backup power supplies and network. Thousands of cluster form together form DC.

How to automate creation of list in SharePoint 2013 in different ways ?

SharePoint lists are easy to create by any IT Pro User without any assistance of a developer. List is often the primary source of data for solutions and apps. They can be easily accessed through API’s and support full CRUD (create, read, update and delete) operations. However, there are often scenarios where it makes more sense to automate the creation of lists by using a SharePoint solution.

Declarative

New lists can be created in solutions or apps using a feature that contains a ListInstance element. The example below will create a new picture library for storing Christmas pictures

<ListInstance
 TemplateType="109"
 FeatureId = "D54C55BC-5922-4bb9-B187-1F06732B9072"
 Title="Christmas Pictures"
 Description="Trigent Christmas Picture"
 Url="List/ ChristmasPictures"
 OnQuickLaunch="TRUE" >
 </ListInstance>

 

Pros:

Declarative approach is simple as it uses tools integrates with Visual Studio 2012.

Cons:

No graceful way to handle conflicts. For example, if we try to activate a feature to create a list with the same title as an already existing one, the feature activates successfully, but the feature’s attempt to create a list silently fails due to the conflict. For apps, this is not a problem because each app instance can create its own set of lists.

Code-Based

Depending on the requirement, we can use any of the below three approaches for creating lists using code

Pros:

  • More control when creating list programmatically, we can query the list collection of the current site to check if there is an existing list with the same title before attempting to create a new list.
  • More control over configuring properties when compared to declarative. This is to support attachments and allow versioning.

Server Side Object Model:

When we can create Farm solutions, mostly for on premises implementation, the solution must be physically deployed on the server.

SPWeb site= SPContext.Current.Web;
 string ListTitle = "Christmas Pictures”;
 string ListDescription = "Trigent Christmas Pictures”;
 Guid ListId=site.Lists.Add(ListTitle, ListDescription, SPListTemplateType.PictureLibrary);
 SPList list = site.Lists[ListId];
 List.OnQuickLaunch = true;
 List.Update();

Client Side Object Model:

Provides access to SharePoint content without installing code on the server that runs Microsoft SharePoint Foundation

var ctx = new SP.ClientContext.get_current();
 var createInfo = new ListCreateInofrmation();
 createInfo.set_title(Christmas Pictures);
 createInfo.set_templatetype( SPListTemplateType.PictureLibrary);
 createInfo.set_description(Trigent Christmas Pictures);
 var newList = ctx.get_web().get_lists().add(createInfo);
 ctx.Load(newList);
 ctx.executeQueryAsync(success, failure);

REST Interface:

Allows you to integrate SharePoint capabilities into code that runs remotely in client-side or server-side applications that run on computers where SharePoint 2013 has not been installed

$.ajax({
 url: _spPageContextInfo.webServerRelativeUrl +
 "/_api/web/lists",
 Type: "POST",
 contentType: "application/json;odata=verbos",
 data: JSON.tringify(
 { '_metadata' : {'type' : 'SP.List'},
 'Title': 'Christmas Pictures',
 'BaseTemplate': 109
 })'
 Headers: {
 "accept": "application/json;odata=verbose",
 "X-RequestDigest": $("#_REQUESTDIGEST").val()
 }
 });

What are top 15 Cloud Developments in 2015-2016 ?

  1.  This year IaaS and PaaS has merged, this powerful combination of managed and unmanaged services lets you build, deploy and manage applications in Cloud, in anyway you like it for unmatched productivity and collaboration in all phases of project development.
  2. Private cloud has stopped due to cost and complexity of enterprise maintaining data center, hardware, software and whole stack in-house instead of focusing on core business capabilities.
  3. Multi cloud Management: more we build on one cloud platform more we are putting all eggs in one basket. Multi-cloud resource management software are available which are accessing the web services of different cloud service providers to give you total control on your cloud infrastructure, in multiple cloud(AWS, Windows, Google, Cloud Stack, v sphere and Open Stack etc).
  4. Mobile back end services and code deploying in public cloud to service millions of users across the world. Now you can broadcast your personalized push notifications to millions in minutes on millions of devices. Build interactive apps with real-time messaging, add corporate sign-on. Get Insight from mobile analytics. Optimize your app with cache on cloud. Gain from Auto scale.
  5. Gain Insight from big data using data analytics on cloud for faster processing of analytics on huge data sets in cloud.
  6. Earlier CIO get you hardware, software and application development vendors/developers but now they are providing cloud based services (PaaS, SaaS, SaaP) that can drive the business forward at faster pace, with outcome based enterprise development, like graphics as a service, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Exchange Online, SharePoint, Sales force, DocuSign, Google Apps, Box, Dropbox, Jira, Version One, Base camp, Rally, SQL Azure, SAP HANA, SAP Business Suite, SAP Net weaver and more on cloud.
  7. Hybrid Cloud computing: There has been debates between the merits of private and public cloud. Hybrid cloud feature an infrastructure that combine private cloud security with cost-effective, powerful and scalable public cloud attributes. Senior IT managers get more choices for personalized solutions while big data and security experts are still satisfied. So now you can connect your apps to on-premises data and have best of both worlds. Virtual Private Network in Cloud is logically separate from rest of Cloud. Virtual Private Network:  Extend your company data center to Cloud and have Virtual Private Network in Cloud which is logically separated from rest of cloud. Now you can build services that rely on cloud services and VMs. Use Azure web Role for front end services and VM for back end databases. You can combine PaaS and IaaS within your Virtual Private Network. Enterprises are feeling very comfortable in having hybrid cloud or Virtual Private network, which satisfy all the concerns and still add significant value to enterprise.
  8. Graphics as a service (GPU Cloud Computing) – typically running high end graphics applications require substantial high end infrastructure. AMD, NVIDIA is changing that by offering there GPU services on many cloud service providers. This way we can do 3D modelling, simulation, financial analysis, engineering design, games, and 3D movie development etc. much faster.
  9. Cloud Testing: General, Stress, Functional, Compatibility, Browser, Latency, Automated, Performance, mobile and load testing are being done on cloud. Cloud testing uses cloud infrastructure for testing. As your applications are in cloud it makes more sense to test them on cloud environment. As Internet become pervasive in our lives and there are multiple devices and screens which have access to online applications, testing is becoming agile teams nightmare, they have to test the application on multiple devices, hence outcome based, Automated cloud testing is taking lead.
  10. Big Compute: HPC (High Performance Computing) and Batch on demand computing is moving to cloud. This way if you need access to 1000 of cores for 2 days you can do that. So Big Compute is now meeting big data, as data sets grow larger it becomes easier to move the compute instances closer to big data sets to reduce latency and increase throughput and get the valuable results much faster.
  11. Next Big trends are IOT (Internet of Things), Mobility and Cloud. Interestingly most of IOT and mobility will be hosted on cloud infrastructure because of scalability, performance, storage, compute and bandwidth available in cloud and is very much required for IOT and mobility solutions, and will be ultimately driving cloud usage more.
  12. Big data analytics – Many organizations are realizing that it may be much simpler and more beneficial to combine big data analytics with cloud computing than to choose one over another. As data is growing at much faster rate Big data analytics as a service will offer business of small to large and fortune 500 an easily attainable and scalable tool for competing in the global marketplace.
  13. Cloud in Government organizations: Federal and state governments are standardizing on approved cloud vendors and SaaS applications list which can be used by different agencies. Fed Ramp (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is USA unified, government-wide risk management program focused on security for cloud based systems (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) vendors and applications/products in different categories. Codifying government existing applications is next big opportunity for software consulting companies.
  14. Cloud Backup and restore & Storage: Cloud backup, restore and storage are most readily commoditized services available.
  15. Codifying Existing web Applications: Enterprises want to leverage cloud for their existing applications, hence will be converting web applications to cloud based applications.

5 Ways to Business Intelligence (BI) in SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013 provides numerous ways to get Business Intelligence done. They vary from simple Excel based data presentation to PerformancePoint to Visio Services. Here is a simple overview of what is available.

Conditional formatting and charts in Excel services

Excel Services: If the data is relatively small, and you have traditionally used Excel to organize, filter and present data, then this is the easiest way to a centralized BI. Instead of distributing your Excel documents via email or central file share, publish the Excel document with appropriate security controls to a SharePoint document library. Users can easily view and interact with the workbooks and data in ways that suit their needs. These SharePoint hosted Excel documents retain live data connections and the viewer is presented with the up-to-date data. Workbooks may contain data model that combines data from Access, SQL Server, XML, etc. With Excel web access web part, you can control the view of the Excel document to a single PivotChart or a range of cells – bringing the attention of the user to a specific content within Excel. With Office Web App – either on-premises or on cloud, users can visualize and interact with the data from within the web browser.  See a brief video that shows how you can interact with data, charts, and graphs right in the browser.

As questions of data in natural language

Power BI: If you are using SharePoint Online as part of Office 365, then Power BI enables you to gather data, visualize data, and share information with people in your organization across multiple devices. You can easily collect and organize the data in an Excel workbook through Power Query and Data Model. You can use a number of visualization mechanisms (charts, KPIs in Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map, etc.) to present the data to users. Power BI for Office 365 can support large Excel workbooks (250MB). Users can use Power BI app (from the Windows store) to interact with the Excel workbooks on Surface tablets. Using Power BI Q&A, users can query data using natural languages.

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS): Many organizations have made considerable investment in building reports in SSRS. Using the Report Builder or Report Designer, IT teams, programmers and skilled users have created and used a variety of preformatted, structured reports. These investments can be leveraged by hosting these reports and distributing them in a controlled environment through SharePoint sites, and with better user experience.

Interactive filters in PerformancePoint

PerformancePoint:  PerformancePoint for SharePoint continues to be the Cadillac of BI in Microsoft world.   The deep integrations with the data warehouse and analysis cubes in SQL Server, powerful visualization and data interaction tools such as decomposition trees, KPI indicators, weightings, scorecards help users make informed decisions that are aligned with organizational goals. PerformancePoint allows users and developers to build reusable items that can be used across a number dashboards and pages.  SharePoint 2013 has a number of improvements for PerformancePoint, most important of which is the improved look and feel of BI Center and the consistent look of BI dashboards, following the theme of the SharePoint site.

BI using data graphics in Visio diagram

Visio Services: If you are in need of presenting data that is better represented in a diagram, Visio Services can help. As an example, you can easily plot the network throughput and the available bandwidth on a corporate wide-area network diagram. Visio provides number of shapes, data graphics, icons that can be added to data connected diagrams to visualize the data. The diagrams rendered are of high resolution, full fidelity and the users can view and interact with them across devices without a need for a local Visio installed. As before, data can be from multiple external sources, and can easily be configured using Data Linking Wizard on the Visio client. Visio diagrams maybe further extended using web parts connections and JavaScript on the site pages to create a compelling user experience.

In summary, there is more than one way to reach your business intelligence goals using SharePoint 2013. Here is a poster that shows all the Business Intelligence capability in Office and SharePoint

SharePoint 2010 Development: ADFS Users not syncing with Site collection in SharePoint 2010 server

We had two ADFS(Active Directory Federated Service) users not showing up in site collection although their user profile was being pulled properly from AD. We tried full synch, but it never worked. What worked for us were below steps in that order.

stsadm -o sync -listolddatabases 0

stsadm -o sync -deleteolddatabases 0

The listolddatabases <n>option will list the databases that have not been successfully synchronized the last <n> days, and the deleteolddatabases <n>option will delete the synchronization information from the databases that are not successfully synchronized the last <n> days. deleteolddatabases option will not delete the content databases.

stsadm –o sync –synctiming M:5

stsadm –o sync –sweeptiming M:5

The above two commands  will set the Profile Sync job and Quick Profile Sync job to run every 5 minutes.

The two users who had this problem had few stale entries in site collection, which we deleted before running the above command

Create Awesome Extranet Portals using SharePoint 2013

One of the areas that most of our clients have hugely benefited from SharePoint 2013 is the capability to build extranet portals that allow them to closely and collaboratively work with external entities. These range from a customer portal for an investment consulting firm to a vendor portal for a tool management company in the auto industry to a partner portal for a captive, specialty insurance company providing medical professional and general liability coverage.

A portal is not just a SharePoint site or repository of enterprise content. A good SharePoint based portal provides deep integration between diverse group of users, resources and content with rich user experience. Portals employ visually rich dashboards that present enterprise information that help users with their priority tasks.

The top SharePoint functionalities leveraged for portals are:

  • Personalized & targeted content delivery – using publishing and document libraries
  • Collaboration among internal and external users with workflows
  • Social community using Newsfeeds, Yammer and Profiles
  • Dashboards that bring content from diverse enterprise sources using Business Connectivity Services (BCS)

A SharePoint 2013 based portal with actionable live tiles

Personalized Content Delivery: Our client, an investment consulting firm uses a well-designed publishing mechanism to publish valuable research content to their clients. Outdated content are automatically removed from the portal. Clients get up-to-date contact information of all their client servicing teams.

Collaboration with Workflows: A specialty insurance firm uses workflows and task assignments to enable a number of people to efficiently work on medical malpractice insurance claims. The workflows along with secure documents associated with each step, speeds up the process and makes needed information readily available. Each user is presented with the tasks that they are assigned to and may act based on priority.

Social Community / Communication: Most businesses strongly agree that use of social tools within internal users and partners stimulate innovations. Community sites allow open exchange of thoughts and ideas with network of users – leading to transformation and increased business values. SharePoint social tools promote 2-way communications such as ask-an-expert within a peer community and 1-way communication such as corporate news and targeted announcements. Yammer brings the best in class social service to users in SharePoint 2013.

Dashboards: Rich dashboards can be presented using simple Power BI tools or with deep integration with LOB applications. Real-time dashboards help present metrics that requires immediate attention and action.

SharePoint for CFR Part 11 Compliance

Recently we had a prospect who contacted us to evaluate how SharePoint can help in meeting the requirements of 21 CFR part 11. The evaluation was done at multiple level including analysis of the regulation, evaluation of compliant environments and talks with subject matter expert. With aggressive marketing, SharePoint’s adoption is increasing in life sciences and related industries for content management.  I thought of collating the findings to save time for those who will undertake such evaluations in future.

  1. Process and Technology– The regulations main intend is to encourage organizations to implement processes that pins responsibility on individuals. This translates to two components- process and solution to supplement the process. Process are internal definitions created by organization and solutions can help in capturing metrics to verify if the process is followed. Therefore there is no IT solution that can help an organization to be part 11 compliant as process definition is at the core of the compliance.
  1. Identify the Content– Not all content in an organization needs to comply with part 11 clauses. So as first activity you have to identify the content to focus on and understand how it is being managed in the organization. Primarily the following content needs to be compliant
    1. Electronic format of documents which needs to be maintained under predicate rule

o    Where electronic document replaces physical doc

o    Where electronic document along with physical doc but electronic document is used for regulated activities

  1. Records submitted to FSA in electronic format
  1. SharePoint Features– SharePoint has enough features to build a solution with required checks and balances in place to help be compliant. The following features should be utilized
    1. Authentication and authorization- Limiting system access is one of the most important requirements. SharePoint helps in implementing claims or FBA based authentication along with user group driven authorization to content.
    2. Auditing- SharePoint can be configured to capture and report usage metrics e.g. opening, downloading or moving documents, deleting content, changing authorization and permissions. In SharePoint it can be configured at a collection, site or repository level
    3. Versioning- Document versioning in SharePoint captures the timestamp of change and also the actual change made, which helps in building traceability on changes
    4. Workflows- SharePoint workflow help in being process compliant through the implementation of BPM solutions for identified processes. Workflows automatically capture audit trail for each action taken which helps with compliance reporting
    5. Record management- Once a content is approved its important the system has feature in place that ensures that it cannot be modified. Record management feature (in place and record center) helps meet this requirement
    6. Security – the following security consideration should be evaluated and implemented in SharePoint

o    Content access- Properly planned and designed information architecture should be implemented to have user group based access to content

o    SSL implementation- Ensure communication between client and server is encrypted

o    DB level- It’s possible for a direct access and change to values in DB. This is tough to track and prevent without custom scripts. Scripts can be deployed to track changes made in DB and timer job can identify records which were modified and send them for approval

o    Right management service – Helps control doc edit outside the SharePoint environment

  1. Digital signature – Due to the tight coupling between Office and SharePoint, there are solution available to capture electronic signature in document but due to various legal requirement, digital signature issued by third party are preferred. There are numerous vendors with various solution available to meet this requirement.
  1. System Validation– The regulation also places importance on proper validation of the implemented system. This translates to use of mature development and implementation process with focus on documentation. Primarily, it requires release note, deployment note, and logging for installation, test cases, and test plan and acceptance criteria. The process should allow trace into the specific actions taken to validate the system
  1. Training– User training on the system is mandatory for compliance and therefore a more formal approach is required to meet the training requirement
  1. Miscellaneous
    1. SOP on content usage- this is the internal process that needs to be designed by the organization. SharePoint document management along with approval workflow provides a formal mechanism to maintain and access this content
    2. Governance- System implemented should have a governance plan in place for administration

When it comes to regulatory compliances, SharePoint has features to build framework for your organization. However, the eminent flexibility that SharePoint offers can also pose challenges if a wholly haphazard approach is taken. It’s always better to consult a trusted partner who have technical expertise and process maturity to guide you along the compliance journey. At Trigent, our Microsoft certified experts work closely with your team to understand compliance specific requirements and can fast track implementation. If you have any queries, do let us know for a no-obligation meeting.

3 SEO Overhauls in a SharePoint 2013 Public Facing Website

Until recently, SharePoint was widely adopted as a platform of choice for managing internal workload. Enterprises leveraged its capabilities for building intranets, search capabilities and managing records and so forth. It was with the launch of SharePoint 2007 that it started expanding its capabilities with the launch of BI and Social features.

Now, with the introduction ofSharePoint Server 2013 Internet Facing Website Model,it has developed advanced WCM capabilities and is constantly building up on WCM fora.  Among the many advanced WCM capabilities of this model, here are some features that can give you easy SEO wins.

1.   Automatic Canonical URL Generation

Canonical URLs are one of the trusted ways to help search engines uniquely identify the content of a page. It helps eliminate duplication of search engine indexes. For example, a product page for a UPS can have dynamic URLs (owing to certain sources like domains, subdomains, blogs and syndication sites, etc.)As below:

http://www.example.com/products?category=UPS&backup=30minutes

http://example.com/volt/Power?color=blackABCD

http://www.example.com/products/UPS/500MV/30minutes.html

Having a web-page indexed and registered like the above URLs not only divides the search results’ ranking of the UPS product page, but it also runs the risk of being penalized on the account of content duplication.

To keep the search engines happy you need to ensure that there’s only one URL to identify a particular webpage. Let us take some of the guidelines from Google to understand the importance of canonical URLs.

According to the Google webmaster’s SEO guidelines, the best way to eliminate these duplicates is to indicate the preferred URL with the rel=”canonical” link element. However, manually adding this link element for each URL can be time-consuming and intricate. This is where SharePoint’s SEO properties help.

SharePoint server 2013 can automatically generate the canonical URL for your webpages. All you need to do is Activate “Search Engine Optimization Site Collection Feature”. You can then set up the query strings parameters on Search Engine Optimization Settings page to automatically render the meta tag rel=”canonical” in the HTML. You can verify this by viewing your source codes.

 2. Automatic XML Sitemap Generation 

During the crawl process, it becomes increasingly difficult for search engines to identify your webpages that have Ajax elements, rich images or are poorly linked with each other. The best way to notify search engines is to use XML Sitemap. An XML Sitemap is a protocol that notify search engines about website’s URL that is available for crawling. Search engines like Google rely on XML Sitemaps to discover content on your website or to check periodic updates that need to be indexed.

It becomes increasingly difficult to create XML Sitemap manually and ping search engines regularly for periodic content updates.  SharePoint 2013 server helps automatically generate XML Sitemap daily for you and also ensure that the XML is up-to-date.

You can access this feature by activating Search Engine Sitemap Site Collection Feature. You can also use Search Engine Sitemap job timer to schedule your crawls and informs search engines of possible updates regularly.

3. Term Store to create Search Engine-Friendly URLs

Search engines value a webpage’s URL structure while ranking them in SERPs. The new SharePoint model allows us to have a greater control on URL structure and is also future proof for SEO.

The new Term Store in the managed Meta-data model is an important feature in both SharePoint 2013 and office 365. It allows us to create intuitive URLs instead of Database driven URLs and helps us to structure navigation hierarchy through taxonomy terms. This ensures that the URLs are intuitive and as well as search engine friendly.

The new SharePoint licensing model makes a compelling case to build a website on top of SharePoint from financial point of view. Trigent’s consulting offerings are designed to get you the best out of your SharePoint investment. Drop us a line at sales@trigent.com 

Three types of SharePoint customers, which type are you?

Microsoft’s most revered collaboration platform, SharePoint boasts of more than 125 million users, and its user base is still expanding. Ironically, very few of these customers truly realize its full potential. During our customer engagements, we frequently come across many qualms that decision makers have regarding SharePoint.

Most of them cite concerns like – “I already have SharePoint, why do I need you”? or “I have already implemented SharePoint, how do we proceed now”? Or more frequently – “I don’t have any SharePoint requirements”.

Most customers use SharePoint for a very specific business need and rarely go beyond the stereotype. Microsoft’s flagship enterprise platform is powerful enough to address most critical business problems spread across departments & businesses.

This article intends to highlight the different types of SharePoint customers and their maturity in adopting the platform.

Type 1: Point Solution

Organizations that figure in this phase are those who perceive SharePoint from a specific business function or immediate business need such as Sites and Communities for internal collaboration. The focus is on solving specific business challenges at hand.

Type 2: Departmental Solution

Climbing up the maturity ladder, organizations in this phase are those who are familiar with SharePoint but and maximize its usage for specific business department. The common perception organizations hold is that SharePoint is well suited for specific business functions such as Document Management, Workflow & Team collaboration. These customers make the most of those specific functions for business use.

Type 3: Enterprise Platform

As SharePoint adoption matures, users are well versed with most of its functions and capabilities. Organizations consider SharePoint in their strategic plans and even evaluate SharePoint as an enterprise platform. For instance, every time there is a new business need, they go to the drawing board to evaluate whether SharePoint can address it. Such customers are thought leaders in their own right and make the most of what SharePoint has to offer.

Trigent’s consulting offeringsare designed to address each type of customer.
Drop us a line at sales@trigent.com or talk to us on +1 (877) 387-4436.

SharePoint Saturday, Boston, 4/12/14

This year’s SharePoint Saturday, Boston was on 4/12/14 at Microsoft’s office at One Cambridge Center.   The event was packed  with over 30 different sessions by great speakers.

See the event site for a summary of the sessions.

Here are the pointers to the presentations from these sessions.

Session Speaker Materials
Achieving End-User Utopia Mike Dixon PPT
Another attempt to demystify SharePoint governance Ilia Sotnikov SlideShare
Build Custom RESTful Services for SharePoint Apps with WebAPI Scot Hillier CodePlex
Build Secure Cloud-Hosted Apps for SharePoint 2013 Danny Jessee PPT Solution ZIP
Content Search Web Part – Get it all in one place and style it! Benjamin Niaulin SlideShare
Developing Mobile for SharePoint with Windows Phone Jim Wilcox OneDrive
Fun with SharePoint, jQuery, and “jWhatever” Mary Harvey PPT
How to Build a Yammer App Naomi Moneypenny
How to Talk to Your CFO About SharePoint Mike Gilronan OneDrive
Intro to Client Side Solutions in SharePoint 2013 Jay Landrum
Introduction to Cloud-Hosted Apps Bob German
Introduction to PowerShell for the anxious ITPro Jason Himmelstein
Leveraging My Sites and User Profiles in SharePoint 2010 and 2013 Beatrice Baciu & Derek Cash-Peterson
Making The Leap – When to choose on-premises, Cloud or Hybrid for SharePoint Seb Matthews
Making the Most of Your Content Gary Lapointe
Managing SharePoint Online (O365) with PowerShell + CSOM Amit Vasu SlideShare
No Social? No Business! David Pileggi SlideShare
Optimizing SQL Server for SharePoint 2013 Brian Alderman
PowerBI – PowerPivot, PowerQuery, PowerMap, o365 Power BI Sites Dave Feldman
Reporting and Data Integration Methodologies and Mechanics for SharePoint and SQL Server Nicholas Bisciotti Blog
Responsive Design D’arce Hess
Saving Time by Building a Records Search System Tatiana Baquero
Search Topology and Optimization Mike Maadarani SlideShare
SharePoint as an Organizational Learning Tool Theresa Eller SlideShare
SharePoint Online Management and Control Chris Bortlik PPT
SharePoint Permissions Worst Practices Bobby Chang SlideShare
SPC Highlights Jason Himmelstein
SQL Server and Windows Performance Tuning George Walters PPT
The Collaborative SharePoint Community Maggie Swearingen SlideShare 
Tips and Tricks for the Yammer Power User Christian Buckley SlideShare
Tools to Expedite SharePoint Development Dimitri Ayrapetov Blog
Understanding O365 Identities and Single Signon to build modern cloud app using Azure AD Senthil Panchatcharam PDF
Up Up Up! Upgrade to SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 Chris McNulty PPT
Workflow Manager Tips Mai Omar Desouki SlideShare
Workflow Nirvana in SharePoint 2013 Patrick Keating

Data Security in Office 365 (SharePoint Online)

The concern on where the data resides goes with all Cloud solutions. The data storage as part of the agreement is at the discretion of the service provider (usually unless particularly called out). The data security requirement differs between regions and there is an array of regulations that apply to the data depending on the location of the subscriber and the industry that they belong to.
Regulations apply to particular type of data (e.g. HIPPA), so the data needs to be understood and segregated to apply required safeguard.

If your primary focus is where the data resides, then Microsoft provides data maps (vague but available) that’s shows the region where the data resides based on your subscription. It’s important that you specify the correct location in your subscription because data store is solely based on that. This also is the biggest drawback of Office 365. In scenarios where users in a single tenancy reside in multiple geography, the data is stored based on the location specified in the Office 365 setting (single location). This can lead to data compliance issues especially if a set of your users reside in EU due to the EU safe harbor clause. To overcome this you can choose a EU location and ensure that the data resides with EU thus complying with the norm but then the performance will be highly degraded for users in other region. This is one of the biggest data related drawback of Office 365

To quote from Microsoft website – Microsoft Office 365 supports the following where applicable and/or possible:

  • ISO 27001 (International Organization for Standardization)
  • FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act)
  • HIPAA, with Business Associate Agreement memorializing implementation of physical, technical and administrative safeguards, and breach notification requirements of ARRA/HITECH
  • EU Safe Harbor
  • EU Model Clauses
  • Data Processing Agreement

You have to ensure that you sign the relevant contracts to ensure your subscription covers a particular compliance. You can get further details at http://office.microsoft.com/en-in/business/office-365-trust-center-cloud-computing-security-FX103030390.aspx

Email data at rest is encrypted by default in Office 365 but other content (e.g.) SharePoint online content is not encrypted. Email encryption is also available with non-federated, enabling ad hoc encryption services with any recipient. For the other content, you can identify and set encryption using the Rights Management Service (RMS) in Office 365. Office 365 is very comprehensive when it comes to data security and compliance.

SharePoint 2010 to 2013 Upgrade – Resolving Error during FIM Key Import

During the migration of user profile service application from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 I ran into this issue, was unable to import the FIM key and were getting the below errors.

“Unable to Login to the Database”

“The Execute method of job definition Microsoft.Office.Server.UserProfiles.LMTRepopulationJob (ID f58a9431-badf-4fc5-b116-b2dd21440170) threw an exception.
More information is included below.

Object reference not set to an instance of an object.” The Farm account that we used had the required access on the source and destination DB’s of Synch, social and profile DB’s and yet we got an access denied error message. After wasting a day’s time I decided to retake the backups and restore them. It worked like a charm. The problem we faced first time was because the synch DB was backed up by our client using a windows account which had admin access on the farm and SQL. This account was not the service account and was also different from the account that we were using to create the new service apps. So be cautious of what service account you have to use while backing up the databases for SharePoint 2010 to 2013 Upgrade.

SharePoint 2013 Search Feature Updates from Cem Aykan (Senior Product Manager, Enterprise Search at Microsoft)

Webinar Recap: Roadmap for SharePoint 2013 Search and why Metadata matters?

Enterprise search is one of the non-quantifiable benefits that come with many inherit deficiencies. This is because of the human element attached to it and our tendencies to perceive and allocate things differently on our mental nodes. It is more than running queries into the search box and getting results based on keywords and metadata, but it is more of discovering contents that we did not know we were necessarily looking for.
Probably, this is the reason some of the experts term it as both art and science. While enterprise search is a broad subject in itself, the interesting elements are the advancements product companies are making to provide connected search experiences and managing information governance. In this piece, I am going to share some interesting developments.

Last year, my article “Fast Search Drives Enterprise Productivity” focused on SharePoint 2013 Fast search features and benefits. This year I would like to share some valuable takeaways from a recent webinar conducted by Microsoft and Concept Searching. The webinar was themed around “Why Metadata Matters in SharePoint 2013 and information governance” and hosted by Cem Aykan (Senior Product Manager of enterprise search at Microsoft) and Don Miller (V.P commercial accounts at Concept searching).

Roadmap for SharePoint 2013 Search

Cem Aykan, Senior product manager of enterprise search Microsoft took us to a tour of the enhanced search features in SharePoint 2013 bringing forth some contextual developments in search landscape. Here are the highlights:

Autocomplete predictions assist contextual searching

Providing similar experience as in Google, the auto complete predictions would assist users with relevant suggests. Unlike universal search engines, the new suggestions are categorized to fit well with user’s queries based on their likings and preferences. This is a great leap towards creating a connected search experience apart from saving time and allowing repeat search in an easier way as possible.

Personalized search is all about discovery

Significant development in SharePoint 2013 powered by Fast search features would now allow users with more personalized and contextual search results. This personalization would allow better room for discovery, which is one of the crucial components of today’s enterprise search. Searchers do not often get what they search. There could be plenty of reasons such as one’s cognitive ability to perceive certain things differently. The search term and search results would thus vary because of diversity of, perceptions and unstructured query terms used by the searcher.  To tackle this, the new search results would now extract significant cues fromsearcher’s profile, inferring more about their preferences, likings and patterns, thereby showing results that are contextually personalized.

Finding experts who are on it

Finding relevant experts for a topic becomes difficult in SharePoint, as people do not update their profile in SharePoint more often as they do in other professional social media sites. Hence,  information workers find it increasingly difficult to get relevant experts on a particular topic. Thanks to the latest changes that extract crucial attributes about experts. This is done by following them throughout their conversations, activities, groups and so forth to glean as much insights as possible to have a tacit profiling of experts. This profiling helps in correlating and mapping searchers’ query terms, thus providing the right subject experts to their seekers i.e information workers.

One search center for all

Since the integration of Fast search, people often wonder whether to use SharePoint’s 2013 native search capabilities, Search server express or the Fast search features. The good news is that the now the fast search feature combines capabilities of all the three and provides a single source of search.

Forward looking..

Cem Aykan, also gave a preview of coming updates that would enable search drive connected experience. Here is the roadmap for the future:

  • Gleaning insights from social interactions
  • Visually Engaging and actionable results
  • Flexible on premise, cloud and hybrid
  • Consuming diverse content and signals
  • Advanced querying options

While these modifications prophesies to make SharePoint search more powerful in terms of providing connected experience, what’s more interesting is how product company like Concept Search is taking it to a higher conceptual plane by enhancing SharePoint search features.

Don Miller, (V.P commercial accounts at Concept searching) highlighted some of the remarkable features of their products that enhanced enterprise search features and provided greater information governance and control. The most interesting aspects of it was leveraging of taxonomy and mapping structure to encapsulate content information using advanced statistical concepts rather than using manual interpretation of metadata tags.

The Path Forward

The human element of enterprise search makes it more complex and manual creation of taxonomies, categories and structures requires balanced perspectives. The automated approach bets on agreed upon Taxonomy and Mapping structure. Thus, it exposes uncertain scenarios like managing tags and ensuring better discovery in a geographically distributed team set up, with different language settings or encapsulating latest content addition. Lastly, quantified benefits of enterprise search.

SharePoint 2013 + Yammer Flashback: Why need a Social Strategy?

“Social is catching on fast with enterprises” –  has been the proverbial  phrase for the last couple of years. However, it was Yammer’s acquisition by Microsoft for a whopping $1.2Billion way back on 2012 that gave enterprise social  a new angle and much was written off about Yammer and its integration with on-premise SharePoint and office 365 to date. Jared Saptaro mentioned in his post “I want a tool that will allow me to start a conversation in a news-feed, ping one of the participants on IM, escalate to voice and video, follow-up over email, and circle back to the original conversation with an update”.
That was the vision with Yammer, but did it deliver on its promise or not is yet to be seen. However, Yammer made some considerable headway with registered user base reaching up to 8million; Paid networks reaching more than 200% and yes, there is a dedicated team sitting in Redmond.

Let us scroll down the memory lane for a while and analyze important milestone achieved by Yammer and the impact of social strategies in transforming workplace experience.

Yammer – A Social Serendipity!

What started as an internal productivity tool to enable a startup team (Geni.com) of merely 30 people stay connected, spun out and outsmarted the start-up itself by raising $142 Million against a mere $16.7million by Geni.com in funding. As Yammer evolved, its integration with BOX ( a cloud storage service provider) were gaining grounds. Yammer was climbing up the popularity ladder and incessantly building on its expertise, which propelled Microsoft to acquire it for a whopping $1.2 billion to leverage Yammer’s freemium model, tap into the existing user base and probably to curb the growing competition from BOX. End users, evangelists and consultants were quick to notice Yammer’s overlapping social features with SharePoint 2013 like newsfeeds, likes and share etc. After a year and a half, has the Yammer and SharePoint story ended or is it the beginning of the new marriage with office 365? How would social impact collaboration platforms? What are the competitive forces that would drive platform providers to offer advanced social experience? To answer these, let us have a quick recap on both Yammer and SharePoint’s social features and see how social strategies will decide the fate of social collaboration.

SharePoint and Yammer’s Social Features Comparison

Both SharePoint 2013 and Yammer have different approaches to social about end user usage. However, there are overlapping features like newsfeeds that still confuses end users accustomed to SharePoint newsfeeds. The social features of SharePoint 2013 revolve much around the processoriented, context-based collaboration, where governance and compliance are well taken care of. The Yammer model is more of an asynchronous, activity streams that allow flexible collaboration with certain dark spots in the cloud environment.

SharePoint 2013 social features like News-feed, Following, MyStuff, Sharing, tagging, Conversation etc. allow better document management, search and file sharing capabilities. on the other hand, Yammer’s similar social features allow threaded group conversation that can be leveraged for better knowledge management and instant collaboration like scheduling an adhoc meetings, quick reviews etc. For instance, if you need some information from a subject matter expert, you can post it on a group and have experts answer them in a threaded conversation. You can also glean diverse perspective from experts within your organization. In case a high-priority task pops up, one can easily assign a task to the concerned person and notify them via feeds or email alerts depending upon where the person is.  Yammer gives you a similar experience of Facebook and lets you voice your opinion across organization, and to an extent facilitates real-time collaboration. Yammer freemium model exposes governance and security threats related to intellectual property of a company. All you need is to sign up with your company account and join your company network. For a stricter governance control, one might have to choose a paid model that provides a secure environment to curb governance issues.

In a nutshell, collaboration in SharePoint 2013 is part of long-term and broader goals of businesses while Yammer can be leveraged at a tactical level to meet real time needs. However, Microsoft is constantly coming out with series of updates to bring Yammer and SharePoint via Office 365. Some noteworthy updates were message translation in a threaded conversation that would allow people from different geography to participate in a conversation using their native language. Similarly, a Yammer app enables users to embed Yammer feeds into on premise SharePoint Server 2013 sites, providing a more social and engaging platform. Other updates included improvements to the Inbox and cross-platform mobile development on Windows, iOS and Android. Which brings us to the question, how many inboxes do we need? Where do end users spend most of their time? Probably, that is the place where social collaboration starts.

While a comprehensive use case analysis of SharePoint 2013 and Yammer’s socialfeatures would be a separate topic altogether, it is important to understand social collaboration at a workplace. After all that is where the fate of “social” hangs. In addition, it is the strategies and end user approval and not the platforms or tools, that will decide the fate of enterprise social collaboration. Therefore, it is important to understand workplace experience, stakeholders and why social strategies are needed for the success of enterprise social tools.

Defining Workplace Experience and understanding stakeholders

Workplace experience (WX), call it WX, that is where collaboration strategies evolve and all trending tools reach a tipping point. Workplace experience is the key component of collaboration, which is largely influenced by people, process and culture. Even the finest collaboration platform or tools will fail if it does not align people, process and culture to meet desired business objectives. Understanding the key stakeholders and their involvement, engagement and platform usage patterns help in exploring adoption and building collaboration strategies. Understanding how tools would fit into the process to optimize operation help in providing a seamless collaboration. Understanding workplace demography and behavioral patterns help in defining collaboration strategies. Thus, a clear understanding of stakeholders helps create a defining workplace experience.

An organization’s culture largely affects social networking. The pervasive fear of bringing in an entirely new culture that could disrupt the established order constantly looms. One common concern that incurs conflict of interest between HR department,and other cross-functional departments are an instance of inappropriate content being posted in a public forum.  They fear that such instances can disrupt the workplace dynamics as the grapevine spreads like a wildfire.  Other assumptions revolve around security, regulatory and compliance, company’s internal brand positioning and most importantly social networking is a productivity killer. While these assumptions stem from valid concerns, it is too early to decide whether the social tools are a complete failure or works as a passive enabler in leveraging knowledge workers in organization. At the least, it needs a push by formulating social strategies and then exploring appropriate choices available.

Why Social Strategy?

The competition keeps organizations on their toes and propels them to try out all trending options before them. Similarly, implementing tools to meet strategic goals require investment that expects ROI over a period. However, when it is time to measure the success (aka ROI) yet another version pops up, and enterprises run around hunting for partners for upgrade services- meaning incremental investments.  Then we have an endless keynote sessions, events and seminars to justify these investments. We have seen these trends over the past few years and CIOs, tech-pundits, consultants and evangelists have racked up their brains to quantify “productivity Gains” with collaboration suites like SharePoint, Office 365. However, the bright spot is SharePoint remains a preferred choice forenterprises’ collaboration when it comes to document/record management, file sharing, search, workflow intranet portal and so on and so forth. What made this collaboration landscape more interesting was the advent or integration of “Social” that opened the floodgates of opportunities demanding a shift from a multi-pronged Intranet model to a more vivid, interoperable, responsive, interactive, engaging and intuitive- “The Social model”.

For social model to succeed, it is imperative to have a social strategy at place. Unless there is a perceived benefit for stakeholders, there is no point of embracing social tools.  Organizations which have succeeded in social adoption as part of their collaboration ballgame, are the ones who have invested time and effort building a strategy on the contrary, to the ones who are still stuck in justifying their moves.

BDC Issues Resolution: Rare Active Directory Issues in SharePoint

One fine day(or rather not a fine one) we got stuck all of a sudden. We were not able to  perform any activities in SharePoint related to BCS external lists. Every time we tried to browse the lists in central admin we got the following error.

Error: Cannot establish connection to data source. An unexpected internal error occurred in the business data connectivity shared service: the specified user or domain group was not found.

When we browsed through the external list, we found an error “The specified user or domain group was not found”. We did some analysis and came to know that we are unable to view the external content types at all. Finally we found that an active directory account (user account) got deleted which was while creating this external content type. This account was used along with two other service accounts under set object permissions. We got this information when we browsed through the table “AR_MetadatObjectSecurity” in the BDC database. We recreated the user account (used the exact user name) and then were able to view the external lists and the set object permissions popup. We then cleaned  the user name from the list of users under object permissions and finally deleted the user from AD.

So the next time you are trying to delete a user who may have been involved in SharePoint administration activities, specifically in setting up BDC you may wanna make sure that his credentials are removed from SharePoint before deleting him from AD.

[mygeo_country_code]

Exit mobile version