SharePoint has on occasion had a bit of reputation for being hard to manage. In its simplest form, it occupies one server and delivers some very useful out of the box (OOTB) features, but most organizations need a solution that has been customized to some degree.
On-Premises implementations may also require a complex infrastructure of services to run on, especially where the user base is large or geographically distributed. Even if the nuts and bolts of the SharePoint server are hosted by a private cloud provider or within Office 365, there's still a lot to take care of.
This blog will give you an overview of the essentials you need to know in order to achieve an efficient SharePoint management.
Security has the potential to be your number one administration headache. This isn't because SharePoint is insecure; it can just be hard to keep it that way.
To start with, the SharePoint security model is conceptually more complex than the NTFS model used on Windows file servers, which can make it hard for new administrators to get to grips with.
It doesn’t help that each aspect of security needs to be managed via a different web page or tool, or that SharePoint is designed, perhaps more than any other Microsoft product, to allow the delegation of security management to users.
Allowing users to manage security for their own sites, libraries and documents can be empowering for them, but it also creates significant security risks which must be mitigated by training users properly and then keeping an eye on what they do. As we’ve already mentioned, SharePoint doesn't have a unified security management interface or easily accessible reports, so third party tools like Sharegate, can become handy.
Content and Structure
User empowerment is one of the main selling points of the SharePoint platform. Apart from the security concerns already discussed, letting users create and manage their own sites potentially creates many problems.
For example, they may not always follow basic best practices like checking to see whether someone else hasn’t already created a similar site before creating a new one. Site proliferation is confusing and frustrating for users. You end up with duplicate sites, and dormant sites show up in search results. Not good.
It’s not only the sheer number of sites that can be problematic but each site has a plethora of settings that need to be configured and maintained for the site to work as required, including the creation of lists and libraries to organize the content of the site.
Once again, the solution for a great SharePoint Management is proper training and diligent monitoring of the sites’ structures and their respective content. Keeping track of your environment manually is possible if it’s small and only has a few users making changes.
In busier environments, you’ll often need the help of third party SharePoint management tools to help you visualize your architecture and keep track of changes with reporting features that do not exist natively within SharePoint.
If you have any experience in IT, nevermind managing SharePoint, you’ll know that business requirements are a moving target. Organizations are always evolving, whether it’s something simple like a new department name or a disruptive restructuring.
Any change will have some impact on SharePoint, whether it’s security or structure, so it’s important to continually evaluate whether the existing SharePoint solution is serving the business.
Of course, it’s not just the business that changes, the SharePoint product also evolves. Your environment may gain new functionality when service packs, cumulative updates or patches are applied, which gives IT the opportunity to offer the business something new and innovative to improve collaboration.
All of the points covered in this post so far hold true for both On-Premises and Cloud based implementations of SharePoint. While Office 365 takes away the pain of managing the physical infrastructure of the SharePoint farm, the tradeoff is that Microsoft controls the upgrading and patching of the servers that host your sites.
Microsoft releases new features into Office 365 almost on a weekly basis so it's vital that SharePoint administrators stay up to date on what’s happening. Updates typically do not have an option to opt out; you need to have a clear idea of what the update does and how it will impact your users so that you can prepare for when it goes live.
Fortunately Microsoft provides a variety of communication channels: depending on your preference you can visit the Office 365 Roadmap site, follow the official Twitter account or subscribe to the RSS feed on the Office 365 updates blog.
The need to stay ahead of the curve is most urgent if your SharePoint lives in Office 365, but even On-Premises administrators should adopt an independent attitude to improving their knowledge and skills.
Official training from Microsoft can lead to certification which is beneficial to those trying to secure a new role or better rewards, and those with more modest ambitions and budgets can learn a lot by themselves.
Administering SharePoint is a dynamic role that will evolve as new features are made available, as the organization’s use of SharePoint matures and business needs change. Even more with the new SharePoint / Office 365 hybrid scenario.
At first, it might seem a bit overwhelming, but the right knowledge and tools will help make it manageable. Hopefully, these points will steer you in the right direction.
If you’d like to share any other management tasks that are important to your role we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.