Monday, December 22, 2014

New White Paper Addresses Extranet Security Best Practices

In using SharePoint as an extranet platform, one of the first decisions that IT pros face is where to store the extranet user accounts. Which alternative makes the most sense?

This is the topic which our new white paper, The Case for Using Forms-Based Authentication (FBA) and the SQL Membership Provider for Implementing a SharePoint Extranet, addresses.

The paper can be downloaded from the PremierPoint Solutions website.

An extranet is like an intranet which can be accessed from anywhere on the Internet.

Because the extranet is accessible from the Internet, the need for iron-clad security is paramount. Just as important is the need for users to be able to access and use the extranet easily.

But can both of these seemingly opposing goals really be achieved?

According to the white paper, these ostensibly conflicting goals can be achieved by using FBA and the SQL Membership Provider in on-premises SharePoint.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Special Holiday Pricing on SharePoint Training

It's the most wonderful time of the year for SharePoint training!

PremierPoint Solutions is making it more affordable than ever before to get quality SharePoint training.

We have never, in the 10-year history of our company, made the kind of offer on SharePoint training that we are offering right now! $700 to $900 off the regular price of 3- and 4-day classes.

It’s our holiday gift to you.

Every December and January class is just $995.*

Register from now to December 31st, 2014, for any 3- or 4-day December 2014 or January 2015 training class, and pay just $995! That’s $700 to $900 off the regular price for these classes, thanks to our Special Holiday Pricing (SHP)!

You must use the Promo Code “MYGIFT” when you register online to get the special pricing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How can I use InfoPath to get KPIs in my library?

This post is an extension of a previous post about creating and using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in a SharePoint library, based on a calculated column. The follow-up question is, “Can I use InfoPath to set KPIs in SharePoint?”
The answer is “Yes, but... it takes a little bit of work.”
The problem is that neither SharePoint nor InfoPath is set up to enable users to simply click a couple of buttons and make KPIs magically work. (Sometimes, a calculated column can be a better choice. Read about that solution here.)
We can work around this deficiency, though, by:
  1. creating a SharePoint column to display pictures
  2. finding or uploading KPIs we want to use
  3. creating an InfoPath field to store a link to our KPIs
  4. promoting the InfoPath field to the SharePoint column  
In this post, we will use SharePoint 2010 Enterprise and InfoPath 2010, but it should work the same way with SharePoint and InfoPath 2013. 

The Best Way To Get A Correlation ID Error Out of Your ULS Logs

One constant in the SharePoint world is that there are always multiple ways to do almost everything.  I can't recall the number of times I've heard someone in a meeting say "there's many ways we can skin that cat" when asked how to do something in SharePoint.  I'm not real well versed in cat skinning, but I get the point.

I work with clients and customers all over the world.  It's interesting to see all the different ways and free tools used to figure out what that pesky correlation ID that popped up is trying to tell us.  There are definitely a lot of ways to skin that particular cat.  The one I use unequivocally in every situation is merge-splogfile.  This is definitely not a brand new concept but it is new to most of the SharePoint professionals I speak with.  I'm not the first to blog about it but since it is still relatively unknown with those I speak with, and this blog has good viewership, I feel compelled to share.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

New White Paper: Cost-effective, Enterprise-ready SharePoint Extranets

A SharePoint extranet gives an organization’s employees, partners, vendors, and clients access to the specific information they need, when they need it.

In fact, the same things that make SharePoint a great intranet platform also make it a great extranet platform. But there is a problem.

While SharePoint is built for collaboration and contains built-in collaboration tools, IT professionals who attempt to implement SharePoint as an extranet quickly find out there are many hurdles to overcome.

In SharePoint, Microsoft’s extranet platform does not provide an easy way to: 

      Deploy an extranet
      Secure an extranet
      Manage an extranet
      Empower users to solve simple login issues or perform simple administrative actions for themselves
      Facilitate simple user-friendly access

A new white paper, “Providing Enterprise-ready and Cost-effective Extranets with SharePoint,” examines the kinds of business problems a SharePoint extranet can help an organization overcome and explains a way to overcome extranet hurdles, making extranet management and use secure, easy, and affordable.

Monday, October 27, 2014

SharePoint BI Basics: Set a KPI Column in Your Lists and Libraries as a Visual Reference

Business Intelligence is a hot button with most managers and executives these days, because the immediacy of having real-time data turned into actionable insights is priceless for strategic decision-making. In a recent class on “Business Intelligence Training – The Microsoft Self-Service BI Toolset,” one of our most popular courses, a student asked me an excellent question. With a little research, I came up with a better answer than I was able to give in class off the top of my head. So I thought I’d share it with you.
The question is, “How do I set a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) column for every object in my SharePoint list or library?” Our answer will be applicable to SharePoint 2010 and 2013, but I’ll be using screenshots from SharePoint 2010. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Is Microsoft Pressing the “Delete” Key on InfoPath?

What is the future of InfoPath?

I frequently get asked variations of that question in my SharePoint training classes.

Microsoft’s official guidance released earlier this year declared that InfoPath 2013 will be the last version of InfoPath.  This led to widespread panic (not the band) on the part of many individuals, and numerous rants about how InfoPath should be avoided at all costs and how migration to alternatives should be initiated immediately.

Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The same could be said for InfoPath.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Configuring Global Registration Fields in Extranet Collaboration Manager (ExCM) 2013

Registration is one of the core concepts in Extranet Collaboration Manager 2013. There are two types of registration; Anonymous and Invitation. The most common, by far, are the Invitation Registrations. You send an e-mail to a potential new user, they click on the Registration link provided and they are taken to the custom Registration Page on your site. Here is an example:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Configure ExCM Password to Meet Corporate Complexity

One of my favorite help desk stories is the lady that was attempting to use “DocDopeySneezySleepyGrumpyBashfulHappy” as her password. When asked about it she stated, “Because it had to include 7 characters.”

These days, you would at least need to throw Snow White in there as well because most places require at least 8 characters… and do not get me started on alpha numeric and at least one special character with no repeating characters!
As an IT guy, I have been the recipient of a tongue lashing from a few “less-than-happy” end users, when I informed them that the password they were attempting to use does not meet their companies’ complexity policy. I have also spent the better part of 20 minutes informing a user that the word “Window” does in fact have a repeating character in it. Wouldn’t it be easier if we did not have end users passwords? But I do not think that either is going away anytime soon, so the best we can do is make it as easy as possible (or, at the very least, less likely that users will call us with password issues).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Create Random String in InfoPath Form

     A question came up in class this week during our SharePoint InfoPath and Workflow Deep Dive.
     How do we create a random string in InfoPath?  The background is that one of the students wants to use an InfoPath form for access requests.  The form would submit to a SharePoint Library which would then e-mail the approver.  A confirmation code would be created by the form and forwarded to the user once the request was approved.
     Well, unfortunately there is not a function that will allow us to magically create a random number so we're going to have to put some effort into creating a pseudo random string.

SharePoint Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant Free Edition 5-minute Feature Video

Aaron Wood, our Manager of Software Engineering and Support, created a 5-minute video to highlight the features you get with SPGA Free Edition.

(FYI, there is truly no "catch" with SPGA Free Edition.  We would like to see more companies benefiting from automated SharePoint site provisioning (with proper governance) and have decided to adopt a "Freemium" model from here on out with the product.  If the Free Edition features are all you need, then you can install and use the product on-premises with free permanent license key(s), forever.  And yes, you can run it on multiple servers in a farm.  And yes, we do sell annual support agreements, for professionally-staffed ticket-based technical support, for those companies that desire to have paid support on the Free Edition.)

Here is the video:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Using SPGA’s Governance Features – Automating Change Requests, such as Adding Users to SharePoint Groups

The letters SPGA stand for Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant. There is certainly a lot of governance that is covered in the initial site provisioning process, such as always having proper approvals, and having the sites stamped out to your exact specifications each time without failure. To paraphrase something SharePoint MVP Dan Holme said at SPC 14:

If a policy isn’t enforced by the technology, it’s not a policy, it’s a guideline.
This is exactly what SPGA does, it uses technology to enforce your governance standards. While most purchase SPGA for its ease of site provisioning, while maintaining those governance standards, what about activities that occur post-site creation (i.e. end user change requests)?
The single most important post-site creation item that comes to mind for most organizations, would be adding users to groups. If you care about governance in your environment, you probably have some policies regarding who gets access to what. If you allow your users access to maintain their own groups, how is the technology enforcing those policies? It’s probably not, so they are just guidelines.

Here are a few top benefits of using SPGA to manage your group membership:
  • Your SharePoint environment will be more secure than ever because you can now easily ensure that you’ll never have unauthorized access to a site
  • For the first time ever, you can use approval workflows to approve security modifications.
  • You can finally answer the previously unanswerable question, “how did user X get access to the HR site?” 
This article will detail how to create a SPGA Request Profile, for adding users to groups on their site.
Besides the governance process mentioned above, I’ll give you two more benefits of using SPGA to add users to groups. First, how many times are your SharePoint administrators called because a site owner has removed their own access to the site trying to modify permissions? I’ve been there, I know it happens. Managing permissions in SharePoint can be complicated to those that don’t manage permissions frequently.

Monday, July 07, 2014

SharePoint Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant (SPGA) Free Edition - Installation and Demo Video

A couple of weeks ago, we released the Free Edition of SharePoint Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant (SPGA 2010 and 2013).  You can read about it here if you missed the announcement.

We also recorded the webinar that we recorded last week about the new product.  Here is a 30 minute excerpt that we uploaded to YouTube that gives you a quick overview of the product and an actual installation and usage demo.  The live demo starts 3 minutes and 10 seconds into the clip:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Synchronizing SharePoint Managed Metadata with External Business Data

The primary gap in SharePoint 2010 and 2013 Managed Metadata Service Application is the lack of ability to synchronize the Term values in a Term Set with an external business data source (No, you can't do this with the out-of-the-box Business Connectivity Services feature).

For example, if you could automatically on a schedule, synchronize a Vendors Term Set with the Vendor names that exist in your Purchasing system's database, this would allow you to:

  1. Assign the appropriate Vendor name to a SharePoint document, such as a contract, that relates to that vendorAs I noted in my article earlier this week, assigning metadata values to documents in SharePoint can really improve findability of documents.  (If Vendor names is not the best example for your organization, how about Customer names, or Product names, or Facility names, etc?)
  2. Rely on the existing business process to keep the Term values up-to-date because the external system (Purchasing system in this case) is maintained by the appropriate individuals that handle that part of the business.

Enterprise-ready SharePoint Self-Service Site Collection Creation for FREE

In previous posts, I discussed the pain involved with creating new site collections in an enterprise environment.  There was a tease in my last post about a free solution for this.  We've been excited about this for several months and it's finally here.  Site Provisioning and Governance Assistant - Free Edition is now available from PremierPoint Solutions.

Enterprise ready SharePoint self-service site collection creation for free
SPGA Free fills all the deficiencies with both manual site collection creation and SharePoint's self-service site creation.

With SPGA Free, administrators define the types of sites available for request, along with other optional parameters, such as who to assign as site collection administrators, where the site goes in your farm, and which quota template should be used.  Those optional parameters can also be directed by the information completed in the request form if you choose.  Your users have a place to easily fill out a form and start the process.  Standard SharePoint approval workflows may be used to ensure proper approvals are obtained prior to provisioning.

This is very exciting news for SharePoint administrators.  Best of all it is completely free, and you can get it installed, configured, and provisioning sites in less than an hour.  

I really think this could be a real game changer for SharePoint administrators and users everywhere.  Give SPGA Free a try and let us know what you think.

SPGA Free Edition Quick FAQ
  • Where do I get more information on the new free edition of SPGA?
  • What is the difference between the SPGA product PremierPoint Solutions has sold for years and this new free edition?
  • How can I get support?
    • SPGA Free has a full set of documentation, including articles, to help you in installing, configuring, and using the product - click here to view.
  • What if my company requires or desires a formal support contract for this product?
    • You do have the option of utilizing PremierPoint Solution's professionally staffed support engineers to receive the same level of support available with the Premium Edition of SPGA.  Click here for more information on obtaining formal support.
  • I'd like to use the free edition to start.  What if I decide to upgrade to Premium or just want to try the premium edition out at some point?
    • The installer is the exact same.  The features that are active are based on your license key.  So you may start with the Free Edition, and then trial or purchase the Premium Edition and simply update your license key.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Enterprise Ready Self-Service Site Creation

In my previous article, What process do you use to provide new SharePoint site collections to your users, I made mention of SharePoint's out-of-the-box self-service site creation process not being an enterprise ready solution.  This is a widely accepted opinion for very valid reasons. 

Working as a SharePoint Administrator, and with other administrators, there are two main reasons self-service site creation is not a viable enterprise solution.  The first is lack of approvals.  There should be someone, or some team, that ensures the request makes sense for your SharePoint environment.  Without approvals, there is no way to do so.  Everyone I have worked with required some sort of approval process, usually a business owner over an area and an IT approval as well.  You don't want the approval to become a bottleneck, just a brief stop along the way that ensures the integrity of your SharePoint environment.

How Much Value is Your Organization Getting From SharePoint Managed Metadata? – and, My Top 5 Benefits

SharePoint Managed Metadata Term Store ToolI can remember sitting in the session at SPC 2009 in Las Vegas where the Microsoft Program Manager in charge of the SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata Service Application proudly proclaimed that Managed Metadata was the best new feature of SharePoint Server 2010.  Normally, I don’t care for braggarts, but after seeing how the features worked and how good it was, I really felt like this guy truly had a license to brag on himself and his team.  They did a great job!

We will soon be coming up on five years of organizations having the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of Managed Metadata.  How much value has your organization got out of this feature set?  Have you even started to use it yet?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What process do you use to provide new SharePoint site collections to your users?

SharePoint Site Collection Creation Process can be frustratingA better way to create SharePoint sites is a topic that has been around as long as SharePoint itself.  There are many pain points to the process that any SharePoint administrator, and user for that matter, go through.  Let’s just start off by making the assumption that you want a little more control than what self-service site creation offers.  Some SharePoint experts have commented that self-service site creation in SharePoint is not an enterprise ready solution My next my post will go into more details on that topic and offer a solution that is enterprise ready, but in this post I’d like to share some of the problems from my experience and give our readers a chance to chime in. 

So let’s discuss what you do based on the above assumption that you require something better than SharePoint’s out-of-the-box self-service site creation.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Customizing SharePoint Log in For ExCM - Part 2 HTML Edits

In the first part of this series, we showed you how to make a copy of the default SignIn.aspx and copy it into a new folder for editing purposes. We also showed you how to change the text from "Sign in using Windows Authentication" to "ACME Employees Click Here To Sign In." We have many customers that would like to further customize the screen to more closely match their companies' branding. Using this guide, you too should be able to customize the sign-in screen with graphics, links and finishing touches to truly personalize your sign-in page.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Customizing the SharePoint Sign-in Page For ExCM in SharePoint 2013 - Part 1

There are products you buy and they are perfect just the way they come. Then, a SharePoint Admin gets their hands on it and makes it more perfect (yes, I said more perfect) by adding their personal touches to it. For an example of this, let me introduce you to the default SharePoint Sign In page:

Friday, May 02, 2014

SharePoint Extranet on Office 365, Part 2 - Building an Extranet with Azure

I won’t be discussing using Office 365 and SharePoint online for your extranet in this post. This article will focus on an alternative if your management is pushing for a solid extranet and is pushing for it to be in the cloud.  

In larger companies there can often be a fairly wide chasm between IT management and the IT Pros on the frontline.  Bridging that gap isn’t always easy.  I am seeing more and more large companies looking to move as many services as possible to the cloud.  This can be a good decision in many cases but each technology needs to be evaluated to determine the fit for your specific needs.  Whether a large or small company, some services might make sense to be in the cloud and some on premise.

In part 1 of this series I explained why Office 365 isn’t a great solution for an extranet if you have many requirements around security, user management, and flexibility (among other reasons).  But what if you want the management that ExCM provides for a robust extranet solution, but have the edict to host it off site?  

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Advanced SharePoint Extranet Management: (ExCM) 2013 Advanced Features - User Automation

A couple of problems that SharePoint Server Administrators regularly encounter are:
(1) How can I know when an extranet user from a partner company leaves the company, and
(2) How can I avoid accumulating inactive accounts for users that no longer exist, which are just "sitting out there?"

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the "comings and goings" of extranet users who are employees of partner companies.

But Extranet Collaboration Manager 2013 (ExCM) contains within it the capability of helping our clients with specific extranet user security needs like this.

The ExCM User Automation (UA) feature can be used to apply recurring policies to accounts residing in the ExCM user database. These policies are applied by a SharePoint Timer Job, which periodically inspects each account. UA can be used to expire user accounts based on attributes such as periods of inactivity or failure to update their password within a specified period, solving the problem of user "housekeeping."


You first need to enable the SharePoint Service object, which is used to provide farm-wide services and configuration data. To activate the service, open the SharePoint Management Shell and typed the following command:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Filter SharePoint People Picker to Increase Extranet Security

You have successfully configured your secure extranet (using Extranet CollaborationManager (ExCM)) ensuring that all permissions were set correctly and even configuring separate "roles" to keep your external users from being added to SharePoint Groups. Now, there is no way that an external user can gain access to anything they are not supposed to see, right? Wrong!

 If Samantha from your Human Resources Department needs to add Bobby Jones, from her Marketing Department, to a document and she uses the SharePoint People Picker to find the name, that external user could still show up and be given  permissions to the "internal eyes only" report. See the image below displaying both the intended internal Bobby Jones and the external

Friday, April 18, 2014

SharePoint Extranet on Office 365 – Part 1

So you want to use SharePoint for an Extranet.  First, let’s briefly consider reasons you would want an extranet in case you are still on the fence.  Simply put, if you have a need to collaborate with people external to your company, such as clients, vendors, and/or customers, you need an extranet.  A surprising number of businesses still “collaborate” and share documents by emailing back and forth.  
I recently purchased a new home and the number of documents that had to be shared (and re-shared) via email was astounding.  What if they had a website we could just post the documents to, and track what was left for me to send, and have a calendar of all the important dates?  You get the idea.  SharePoint works great for collaborating and sharing information with non-employees of any kind.  It’s not just documents, it’s tasks, calendars, and so many more of those out of the box SharePoint features you can take for granted.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I can’t get the date for [Today] in SharePoint 2013

In my SharePoint 2013 Power User Fast Track class last week, a student asked if she could make a column display today’s date in SharePoint 2013.

This seemed simple enough using a calculated column, but then I discovered there is a restriction on calculated columns that forbids the use of the [Today] and [me] functions.  There are whole discussions on why this is the case, similar to this one. 

The simple explanation is that calculated columns don’t update until the individual item is updated. 

So what is the solution to this problem?  Well, the answer to that relies more on what your end goal really is.  If you want to be able to see items within a certain date range, then a view can work around this by using a simple filter like “deadline is less than [Today] +3”. This will show everything with a deadline of 3 days from now or less.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Automatically Assign Users to SharePoint Roles or Groups - Set Up Security Policies in ExCM

Frequently, an organization would like to be able to automatically assign extranet users to an Extranet Role as part of the ExCM invitation and self-service registration process.  ExCM includes a feature named “Security Policies” that is designed to make this possible.

Follow the steps below to take advantage of this capability:
1.       From Site Settings, click on Extranet Settings from the Extranet Management group:

Monday, March 24, 2014

SharePoint Conference 2014 - Site Provisioning and Governance Always Hot Topic

Site Provisioning and Governance Vending MachineAt the recent SharePoint Conference, held at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, there were several sessions on site provisioning and governance.  These sessions were highly attended, which shows that these remain hot topics and have been since the beginning of SharePoint really.

Why after all these years is there still such an interest in these topics?  The fact is, if there were a universally great way to provision sites and enforce governance, there wouldn't be the interest in these sessions.  My theory is that this is something everyone wants, but most have simply not found a way to achieve adequately.  Even those who have some subset of this in place, realize there is still quite a bit of room for improvement.

The problem: Self-service site creation is simply not an option if you care at all about governance.  That leaves provisioning new site collections up to IT, via Central Administration.  Creating uniform sites, with proper approvals, appropriate controls, and proper logging is quite cumbersome.  It involves many people and manual work, which leaves a lot of room for human error, and takes a considerable amount of time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Course: InfoPath and SharePoint 2013 No-Code Workflow Deep Dive

Beginning with our 2007 “Mission: Automation” course on InfoPath and no-code SharePoint workflows, our courses on designing digital forms, and automating business processes through SharePoint workflows have been some of our most popular and effective courses ever!

Friday, January 24, 2014

New SharePoint Training Course: SharePoint 2013 Power User Fast Track

More and more companies are coming on board with SharePoint 2013 and more and more of their employees need to be trained to use it effectively.

PremierPoint Solutions is pleased to announce our newest course, a course that can take you from Power User to SharePoint Power User in just 3 days. Take it at our Nashville training center or Live Online right at your desk – your choice. Either way, it’s just $1695. And our engaging and interactive atmosphere makes learning fun!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It’s a New Year’s Revolution!

It’s a New Year’s Revolution! Out with the old and in with the new!

Old what? New what?

PremierPoint Solutions Training Class Prices!
In our ongoing efforts to remove every obstacle to helping everyone receive high-quality SharePoint training, PremierPoint Solutions has dealt a death blow to 2013 prices.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Do you really need .NET experience?
by Robert Schley
As a SharePoint training instructor, I occasionally run across postings for SharePoint positions as I cruise the Internet reading up on SharePoint information in general.  This sometimes inspires me to take a look at what kinds of positions are out there and what the current trends are for hiring.  I look through job postings, not necessarily for myself but because I’m curious about what companies are interested in.
I’ve noticed that a lot of SharePoint positions out there have a funny little sentence in them.  I’m not just talking about positions that are marketed as programming or development positions – this requirement seems to be in about 95% of SharePoint positions I look at:
“.NET experience”

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Performance-Enhancing Skills: They're Legal

By Randy Moody

It’s kind of ironic, in a way.

In sports, performance-enhancing substances are a huge no-no.
But, in the workplace, performance-enhancing skills are exactly what you’re looking for!

What’s the difference between an office worker and a Power User?
Performance-enhancing skills.