Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Extranet Collaboration Manager (ExCM) Best Practices


When using SharePoint as an Extranet, you will have many options and decisions to make and we hope to share some insights that we have seen from several years of working on SharePoint Extranets day in and day out. Can you ignore some of these suggestions? Probably, but we only do this for a living… what do we know?

So, with that being said here is a list of our recommended best practices for installing and using ExCM. 

Separate Extranet Web Application

If your extranet will be hosted on the same SharePoint Farm as your Intranet, we recommend a separate web app for extranet. This is one of the first steps in creating a secure extranet that is also easy to use. You can follow our documentation on Setting up a Web Application for your Extranet.


Use SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate, commonly known by the name Secure Sockets Layer, is a standard security protocol that’s used to ensure the safety of transmitted data over the Internet. Basically, when you use SSL certificates, an encrypted link is created that protects the connection between a browser and a web server, or between computer systems. This means that your external user can type in a password and know that it is securely being transmitted. You would think this step would be self-explanatory, but we are including it as it has come up before. Why you should use an SSL.


Remove Intranet-related UI Elements from Extranet Sites

Not all of the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint are intended to be used in every use case. For Extranet use cases, there are several user interface (UI) elements and features that are primarily intended for Intranet use cases and therefore we recommend removing them from your Extranet web applications.

The Intranet-intended features that we recommend that you remove from your extranet web applications are:
       
* Links to Newsfeed, OneDrive, and Sites
* User Profile Service
* Links for Sharing, Following, and Client Synchronization
   
Below are some links to help you accomplish this in your environment.


Extranet Web Application

When implementing Extranet Calibration Manager (ExCM) 2016, 2013 or 2010, we recommend using an extranet web application that is configured to use multi-mode authentication (as opposed to using an extended web application, as was the common practice with SharePoint 2007/2010). Active Directory is used as the authentication provider for internal users (your employees) and the ASP.NET SQL Membership Provider is used for external users (your customer, vendor, or other collaboration business partners).


Where to install Extranet Collaboration Manager

Install and deploy ExCM 2016 or 2013 R2 on your Central Administration server AND the Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application service must be started on that server and remain started.

Best Practices After Installing ExCM

·    Create a Root site collection as a general information site collection and a landing page
·    Create a separate site collection per external engagement (subsites for separate interaction with external engagement)
·    Turn on invitations





Applying Master Pages with Extranet Collaboration Manager 2016


Extranet Collaboration Manager 2016 (ExCM) is a SharePoint add-in developed by PremierPoint Solutions that streamlines SharePoint extranet collaboration and simplifies SharePoint extranet administration. In ExCM, a master page can be applied to the anonymous pages (registration, sign-in, and password reset) to achieve the desired look and feel.  There are three options when selecting a master page:
  • ExCM anonymous master page (vanilla)
  • Site default master page
  • Custom master page

You should consider two factors when choosing the master page for your site:  branding and anonymous access.  You also need to take into account the anonymous access configuration of your Web Application and the site that will run the anonymous pages.


Option 1 – Web Application with No Anonymous Access
In this configuration, the anonymous master page provided by ExCM will be applied.  This page has a very “vanilla” look as you can see from the screenshot below.   Anonymous Access is not enabled on either the Web Application or the IIS site itself.
































Web Application





















IIS Manager

















Option 2 – Web Application with Anonymous Access (Site Default)
In this scenario, the site default master page will be used.  To make this work, Anonymous Access must be enabled on both the Web Application and the IIS site.  In addition, you will need to set up Anonymous Access on “Lists and Libraries” at the top level or root site to allow the master page to function properly.  This can be found under the “Site Permissions” menu:

Web Application

IIS Manager                             


























Notice how the sign in page now takes the look of the Team Site template which was used when this Web Application was created.  This was achieved without any extra configuration:

































In addition, if a subsite or subsite collection is using a separate master page, each page will inherit the same look and feel (registrations that occur at the http://extranet.awbikes.com/sites/acme  site will use the AWBikes master page).
The drawback to this configuration is that each subsite will need to have the appropriate anonymous access level set up to function properly (Lists and Libraries).


Option 3 – Web Application with Custom Master Page
The last option is to create a custom master page for use with your site.  This is done with SharePoint Designer and requires a little more work.  However, the page would be applied to all of the sites in the Web Application, thus preventing any further configuration.
You can either edit an existing master page or start from scratch.  If you chose to start with the master page provided by ExCM, then you would not need to enable Anonymous Access and would configure it like Option 1.  You can find our master page at the following location:
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\16\TEMPLATE\LAYOUTS\SPSolutions\ExCM















Otherwise, you would need to use the Anonymous Access levels outlined in Option 2.
Information for creating a custom master page with SharePoint Designer can be found on the Microsoft Office website here:

In summary, Extranet Collaboration Manager 2016 provides multiple options with regard to the master page you can use.  The best solution for your deployment will depend on your specific needs with regard to the overall look and feel of your site, as well as the requirements for Anonymous Access.