Tag Archives: Central Administration

Installing SharePoint 2013 Foundation

Come along with me on a small adventure into the world of free SharePoint. Yes, free! SharePoint Foundation 2013 is technically free (well, included in your existing Windows licenses) and can do a whole lot for you without needing to spend significant amounts of money on Server editions. I am going to walk through a mini-series around SharePoint Foundation: installing (this post), what features it contains (and does not), how it can fulfill some use cases and finally a wrap up discussing if Foundation is a viable solution for companies both large and small.

Downloading SharePoint Foundation

Finding SharePoint Foundation was not as easy as one would expect. Going to www.sharepoint.com, and clicking Try or Buy didn’t render a link. I clicked Try Now under SharePoint Server 2013. Then off to the right under Related Downloads is a link for SharePoint Foundation 2013. Wait, that doesn’t have SP1 which is required for Windows Server 2012 (but SP1 has been retracted, hasn’t it?), so I searched some more and found it. Lucky for you, you can download it from: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=42039. If you’re running Windows Server 2008, you can download it without SP1: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35488. Looks like Microsoft doesn’t necessarily want to show off this free version is readily available.

Requirements

Requirements for Foundation are similar to the Server versions. Check out the hardware and software requirements here.

My Setup

I am installing it in VMWare, with 8GB RAM and 2 cores. It’ll be slow but that’s okay for now. I already have Windows 2012 R2 Standard installed, and I have SQL Server 2012 Standard with SP1 installed on another VM. SQL has been configured with a named instance SPF2013A for this specific instance of SharePoint.

I need SQL too?

SharePoint runs on Microsoft SQL, period. Sorry, you can’t run on MySql or any other variation out there. If you don’t have access to SQL server, you can either install SharePoint in a single server instance which includes SQL for you, or better yet, download and install SQL Express (free). Note there are limitations, but if you’re doing a quick POC or trying out SharePoint, SQL Express will probably be fine. I recommend installing SQL separately as it’ll allow you to expand on your new SharePoint farm in the future. Even if you don’t have plans to expand this farm, install SQL separately, as your production farm will be using this model. I do not cover installing SQL, as there are many flavors and options.

Service Accounts

SharePoint utilizes Active Directory for permissions and such, starting at installation. You cannot install it on a server without AD. You shouldn’t install it on a server that is the AD domain server, though it will probably work, it’s not supported by Microsoft.

Create the following AD accounts for your SharePoint install. You can go crazy and use a service account for every service in SharePoint, allowing for an incredible amount of security separation (and maintenance) but being realistic, I prefer to use the following. Each account has to be a domain account, not a domain admin, just a domain user.

  • Farm admin account, i.e. spfarm.
    • This account will be the installation account, and SharePoint will setup the permissions for the rest of the accounts.
    • Needs local administrative rights to your SharePoint server, excluding SQL.
    • Account must be setup with dbcreator and securityadmin roles in SQL.
  • Application service account, i.e. appsvc. This account will be used to run your service applications in SharePoint.
  • Web service account, i.e. websvc. This account will be used to run your web sites services and application pools.

Prerequisites

Prior to installing SharePoint on your server, you’ll need to setup your server to handle a web site. Add the Application Server and Web Server (IIS) roles. Also include Application Server Role Services Web Server (IIS) Support.

Check your SQL Server’s properties, specifically the Max Degree of Parallelism of a value of 1. Check out http://www.sharepointpitstop.com/2013/04/max-degree-of-parallelism-error.html for more details, I ran into this issue myself ;).

Installing SharePoint Foundation

Now that you’ve found and downloaded SharePoint Foundation, got SQL setup, let’s install SharePoint! First, log in with your  spfarm account, and then run the install file you downloaded, and you’ll get the lovely blue splash screen.

SharePoint Foundation 2013 Splash Screen

Click Install software prerequisites, under the Install section. This installs all the stuff SharePoint needs to run.

SharePoint Prerequisite Installer

Just accept defaults and walk through this wizard. This wizard will probably require your server to restart. It may need to reboot a couple of times depending on how many updates it has to do.

Log back in and rerun the installer. Back at the blue screen, press Install SharePoint Foundation. Most of the installation will be pretty basic: accept the terms, press continue. For Server Type, select Complete and press Install Now.

server type

When done, you can go ahead and press Close.

install done

So far so good? The SharePoint bits, the binaries and files, are installed! Now onto the fun part and configuring SharePoint!

The SharePoint Products Configuration Wizard will appear next. Click Next then Yes to the warning. On the next page, select Create a new server farm.

create

 

On the next screen, enter your details for the SQL server, and use your spfarm account for its credentials. I have the \SPF2013A because I installed SQL with another instance, you can probably leave yours as the server name.

sql

Specify a passphrase. Important! This passphrase will be needed if you want to add another server to your farm in the future. Keep it safe!

passphrase

 

On the next screen, you can leave it as default, or specify a port number. If you decide to specify your own port, do not specify any of the standard web ports like 80, 443, 8080, etc. This should be a unique port number as central administration is the core of SharePoint, all configuration, permissions and such occurs here.

 

central administration port

Click Next a couple more times and the configuration will run. It may take a while depending on hardware and what not. Let it run. It will error if there’s a problem, otherwise, no news is good news.

successful

Success! Click Finish and Central Administration will open.

Configuring SharePoint

After a successful installation, Central Administration should open. If for some reason it doesn’t, you can open it from the Programs menu.

When Central Administration opens first, it’ll ask if you want to help make SharePoint better. Do as you wish, it’s your conscience.

So you have an option to here to use a wizard to configure SharePoint.

wizard

I prefer not to use the wizard, I’m a hands on kind of guy. The wizard is ok, and if you’re going to do a quick and dirty proof of concept, I guess you could do that. I will, however, carry us through the entire process, I’m going to press Cancel. That will bring us out to Central Administration:

central administration

Before we make any new sites, we have to continue to configuring SharePoint to get ready. Click Security in the left quick launch, and then click Configure managed accounts.

register account

 

Add your service accounts. In my case, I added the 2. What’s nice is if you fat finger the password, it will prompt you. This is nice since that will not cause issues down the road.

 

added svc accountsOnce added, click Application Management, then click Manage Service Applications.

service application

If you click new in the top ribbon, you’ll see a few options. We’re going to add each of these. Start with the App Management Service. Fill out the following in the dialog:

  • Name. I go with something clear, like “App Management Service”
  • Database. This should default to your SQL server, and you can leave it as is.
  • Failover Server. If you have one, you can specify it, otherwise continue on.
  • Application Pool. We do want to create a new application pool.
    • Application pool name, specific Application Services.
    • For the security account, select Configurable and select the appsvc account from the picker.
  • Create App Management Service Proxy. Keep the Create option checked.
  • Click OK.

Next up, create a new Secure Store Service.

Why did I skip the Business Data Connectivity Service? Because we don’t need it. This service allows SharePoint to connect to external data systems, like another SQL database. If you want to use it, go for it, but for most POCs, we don’t need it.

Ok, back to the Secure Store Service.

  • Name: Secure Store Service.
  • Database. Again, this should default, let’s move along.
  • Failover Server. Ya, again, move along.
  • Application Pool. This time, let’s select an existing application pool, specifically the one we made before, Application Services.
  • Enable Audit. Keep that checked.
  • Click OK.

Outgoing Email

Couple more small things. Click on System Settings, then Configure outgoing e-mail settings. Specify your outgoing email server. You can simply put your Exchange server here. You’ll have to allow relaying from the SharePoint server IP address. SharePoint does not authenticate with the outgoing email server.

If you want, you can validate the outgoing email by setting up a relay on the SharePoint server. This works well with Exchange or any cloud based email service. Check out my other post on Sending SharePoint emails through the cloud.

Services

Click System Settings then Manage Services on Server.

services on server

Now we have to turn a bunch of stuff on. Turn on the following:

  • App Management Service.
  • Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Subscription Settings Service.
  • Secure Store Service.

Create your first site

Now that SharePoint is configured and ready to go, let’s create a site. The site itself will be what your users access. Click Application Management then Manage web applications.

web app

Brief overview of SharePoint’s architecture

The SharePoint farm is what we have now. It’s SharePoint, installed and configured. It can be installed across multiple servers. Note we didn’t have to install SharePoint on SQL. SQL simply stores the databases, however SQL is still considered part of the farm.

Web applications are the top level of data collections. As you’ll see, Central Administration has a web app. A web app is a collection of Site Collections.

Site collections are a collection of sites, and can contain one to many sites.

Sites are the interfaces your users go to to access SharePoint. Sites contain lists, libraries and all the user data.

Create your web application

Click New in the ribbon. Fill out the page as follows:

  • IIS Web Site. SharePoint will create the following IIS web site on your farm. Keep port 80, specify a host header. For quick and dirty, you can specify your server’s name, in my case spf2013a. If you want something more meaningful, specify a valid name which has been setup in your DNS.
  • Security Configuration. You can leave this as is.
  • Claims Authentication Types. Leave it.
  • Sign In Page URL. Move on.
  • Public URL. Ditto.
  • Application Pool. We’re going to create a new one, keeping the default name is fine. Under the security account, select your websvc.
  • Database Name and Authentication. You can leave the database name as is, however I generally append the site name to the database name so I know what database goes to which site.
  • Failover Server. Ya, you know.
  • Service Application Connections. Move along.
  • Customer Experience Improvement Program. Again, up to you.
  • Click OK.

Create your site collection

When the web application finishes, the confirmation window will have a link to create a site collection, click that.

If you were so excited to have setup your web app that you closed that confirmation window. Click Application Management, then Create site collections.

In the Create Site Collection dialog, specify the following:

  • Title and Description. The title is the name of the site, what your users will see. This can be changed at any point later. Not as stressful as naming your kid, but close. You can leave description blank.
  • Web Site Address. Keep the / selection.
  • Template Selection. Select a Team Site. This is a basic site, a great starting point.
  • Primary Site Collection Administrator. Select the smartest person you know, yourself! Specify your user name in here so you can easily get into the new site.
  • Secondary Site Collection Administration. Select the other administrator of the site. You can specify more later on.
  • Quota Template. Leave with No Quota.
  • Click OK.

You’re ready to go!

new site

That’s it! You should be all set to go! We didn’t have to create a site, as a site collection always has a default root site within it.

If you try to hit the site from the server console, you may have an issue, check out this post for an easy fix.

Quick tips:

  • Click the cog, or the gear, or the little circle looking thing in the top right, then go to Site Settings. This is all the behind the scenese including permissions, Look and Feel, search settings and a whole lot more. Familiarize yourself with what’s here.
  • Click the cog, then Add an app. This is how you add new lists and libraries.
  • Click the cog, then Site Contents. This shows all content on the current site. This is also where you can create new sub sites, scroll down and you’ll see a link for new subsite.

Til next time, Happy SharePointing!

Looking for the next part? Sorry I’m a  slacker! Leave comments below and I’ll finish it off. 

 

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My Users Don’t Like SharePoint because they can’t find what they’re looking for! Part 1

This is Part 5 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

I’ve actually heard, at a customer site, while the speaker was unaware their SharePoint consultant was in the next cube, the following:

Don’t put it in SharePoint, you’ll never find it again.

It broke my heart… A fairy somewhere lost its wings… The clausometer dropped…

Clausometer

Credit Elf, the movie. (3rd best Christmas movie ever!)

I wasn’t saddened because my solution for the company failed, nay, we were there to fix these issues. Instead, I was saddened because SharePoint was being thrown under the bus due to a poor implementation.

The older I get, the more I forget. I use to use bookmarks a lot, tracking everything I could. This worked great for a while, until I started to forget that I bookmarked something, so I’d go searching for it anyway. Nowadays, I only bookmark something if I want to reference it, say for a blog post, otherwise I rely on the search engines to find it for me. This has bit me in the butt a couple of times, as the item I’m searching for was difficult to find the first time, and proved to be even more so a few months later. Otherwise, this method of tracking my stuff via searching has worked well for me.

I even do it with Windows, I rarely use shortcuts, I just hit the Windows key and start typing to get my app. This is even more prevalent with Windows 8. Search is a big piece of Windows 8, and is by far the fastest method of finding apps. So obviously Microsoft is onto something…

Set it and forget itSharePoint Search: Set it and Forget It

Search within SharePoint is often a feature that’s turned on, and forgotten about. Unfortunately, this will work. As long as services continue to run, search will function: it will crawl and index your data and return search results. But there is so much more you can do with search to greatly improve your user’s experience (and drive up adoption).

In addition to search, users find their data in a few other ways:

  • Healthy navigation and taxonomy is crucial. We covered this some in a previous posts (a complete mess), and we won’t revisit it here. If you taxonomy is a mess, users will rely on search even more.
  • Paired with search is the concept of good old data, or rather good old CLEAN data. I’ve split this post into two parts, the latter will cover making sure your data is clean for search. Maybe I should cover that first… naah.

We’re going to jump into Central Administration now. If you don’t have access to Central Admin, that’s okay, read on, there’s more down below. Send this to your IT dept to get the info you need.

One more important note. Improving search will require a search center site, based on the search site template. This template includes the best bet functionality which we’ll leverage.

Search Administration

Within Central Admin, go to your Search Service Application (Application Management > Manage service applications > Search Service Application).

SharePoint Search Service Admin

First, let’s start with what we can see on the first page, Search Administration. Under Crawl History, note the start time and duration of your jobs. Make sure these are running optimally. If the duration is under 5 minutes, and the start time is every hour, then I’d say you can set your start time to run more frequently. Maybe every 15 minutes. If the duration is 15 minutes, and start time is every 15 minutes, then I’d say you should set the start time to run less frequently.  There may be some performance considerations when the crawl is running, so make sure you monitor performance across your servers if you do modify the start time.

What’s a crawl? Crawling is when the search service looks at your sites, one page at a time, and reads each page and loads the content into the index for searching. There’s a full crawl, which will index everything, and then an incremental crawl which will only index what’s changed since the last crawl.

Also under Crawl History, look at the Errors column. If you see anything over zero, 0, take a look and resolve the issues. Errors can impede performance and could be related to user data. Click that row’s Content Source link to find out more.

What are your users searching for?

Next, let’s click on Web Analytics Reports in the left quick launch, near the bottom. (Click here for info on the Administration Reports). These reports will provide some insight into what your users are searching for, and how successful they are. Going down the list on the left:

These reports are by default showing the last 30 days. Click the Change Settings link in the status bar above the report to change the date range. I’d recommend looking at the preceding 90 days, depending on the amount of data and searching in your farm.

  • Summary. This report shows a basic summary of what’s going on, and how much search is being used.
  • Number of Queries. This report shows the number of searches performed. Use this to identify trends and when search is used the most and least. This may not directly benefit your users, but with this information you can know when users are in SharePoint, and actively searching.
  • Top Queries. This report shows the most popular words searched within your farm. Write down what is most frequently searched for, we’ll use this info a little later.
  • No Results Queries. This report shows searches that returned no results. Write down the top handful of search terms, we’ll use this info a little later.

Now armed with your Top Queries and No Results Queries results, let’s improve your users’ experience with search. Let’s make it a tool they can use to find everything they want. Yes, let them find what they want, which may be what’s not available  on your sites (ala the No Results Queries report).

Search Result Analysis.

Don’t let the word analysis scare you, this is really simple. Taking the list you collected from the search analytic reports, figure out what results you want users to see. Analyze your results and determine what users are really searching for. This might require you to chat with a few users to understand the terms and how they fit into your organization, ok, that might be the scary part.

A few examples:

  • The word ‘review’ was used a lot, usually regarding employee performance, but didn’t return any results. The ideal target for ‘review’ is the HR site.
  • The phrase ‘telephone numbers’ was searched for but returned no results. This is kind of an old phrase, nowadays it’s called ‘contacts’, so we’ll want to search for ‘contacts’ whenever ‘telephone numbers’ are searched for. Also, we want to target them to the customer contact list.
  • Searching for product name (if you’re a product company) or a service offering can be improved by specifying where to target the result. Maybe to the product site, if there is one, or to a marketing site.
  • You may find that a target location doesn’t exist. Encourage users in those departments to create the content, maybe HR should make a FAQs page that can answer when reviews occur, and marketing should move the product information into SharePoint so users can find it.

Update Search.

Plain SharePoint Search Results

The above illustrates a typical search result page. Searching for the word review returned a PowerPoint file and some other files, but nothing about employee or performance reviews.

Now that we know: what users are searching for; when they’ve been successful or not; where they should go; let’s spruce up the search results to get something a little more useful.

Go to your SharePoint site, specifically the home site, the root site in the site collection. Go to Site Actions > Site Settings.

Under Site Collection Administration, if you see Go to top level site settings, click that, then continue.

Click Search keywords under Site Collection Administration. Click Add Keyword.

SharePoint Search Keywords

  • Keyword Information – enter in the keyword or phrase users have searched for (from the reports above). If you want to offer an alternative keyword, like searching for ‘telephone numbers’ offer up ‘contacts’, specify these values in the Synonyms box, separating your keywords with a semicolon. These will appear under Related Searches.
  • Best Bets – click Add Best Bet to target they keyword to specific pages in your site. You’ll specify the target URL, title and a description. This information will be available to users in the search results.
  • Keyword Definition – Optionally, you can specify additional information to help the users make an informed decision by defining what the keyword means to the company. Also, you can add a contact and some dates to publishing, expiring and reviewing this keyword.

Click OK. That’s it! Go and search for the keyword and your search center should show your best bets, like:

SharePoint Search Results with Best Bets and Keywords

Pretty neat, eh? You should notice two big changes: First, at the top of the search results is your keyword and best bet. Secondly, on the right is related searches. Click a related search to perform another search.

Want More?

Check out TechNet’s article on how to Manage settings to improve search results. There’s a lot more tuning you can play with like custom dictionaries, thesaurus and stop words.

Stay tuned for the next post as we’ll discuss ensuring your data is ready to be searched.

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

Finding a security management solution for SharePoint

I had the opportunity to assist a customer in their decision making process as they looked for a SharePoint security management tool. Basically, I was the middle man, which lets me get all of the sales and marketing emails, and protects the customer from getting harrassed by sales people ;) .

The customer’s requirements were simple:

  • Report on all users who have access, and level of permission, to a site.
  • Report on all sites a specified user has access to.
  • Include details on how the user is gaining their access: direct access, SharePoint groups and/or Active Directory groups.
  • Site owners had to be able to access these reports.
  • Integration with SharePoint is preferred.
  • Delete a user from everywhere in SharePoint, multiple web applications, site collections, etc.
  • Clone user permissions to a new user.

There were some secondary “nice to haves”: activity reporting, storage/content reporting, move libraries and keep metadata.

I did some initial research and narrowed down our results to AvePoint’s DocAve and Axceler’s ControlPoint. I threw it up on Twitter as well, and got some good feedback for both sides. We then reviewed any and all materials we could find on their web sites including a recorded webinar. Funny enough both of their webinars were for SharePoint 2007 (they both said the 2010 videos are coming soon) . We liked what we saw on both, and decided to get someone on the phone for a conference call and a live demo. This is where the key decisions were made.

Both systems handled the reporting requirements and the deletion and cloning of a user well. In addition, the “nice to haves” were there as well. Like I said, requirements were simple.

The biggest difference is how they each interacted with SharePoint.

DocAve:

  • Has a separate web interface, their enterprise management console. This utilized a separate authentication login, however did authenticate against Active Directory.
  • Required agents to be installed on the SharePoint servers and would discover and index the farm on a periodic schedule.
  • Reports can be pulled up on the fly or can be scheduled, but the scheduled reports had to be emailed or saved to disk.
  • There was no SharePoint integration.

ControlPoint:

  • Sits inside its own web application within the SharePoint farm, on an alternate port.
  • Imports your sites owners as users within the application. Along with activation of a site feature, admins can access their site’s reports via a link to the Site Actions menu and Site Settings page.
  • Reports are also available on the fly, or can be scheduled. The scheduled reports can be emailed, saved to a SharePoint library or saved to a SharePoint list (I loved this as we can now build some PowerPivot reports and PerformancePoint KPIs based on security!)
  • Reports can pull from cache or use current live data.

Axceler’s ControlPoint’s tight SharePoint integration made it the perfect fit for our needs!

We initially installed ControlPoint on a MOSS farm, which gave us a slew of headaches (several issues around the farm configuration and the ControlPoint application). Axceler’s support team was amazing. Daily they worked with me to resolve the issues around our farm, provided new DLLs, and everything. I hate to have to call support, but when I do, it’s awesome to have a great, responsive support team available!

I look forward to using ControlPoint as we move forward with new a new farm and migrating data and users from the old to the new!

Effectively reading SharePoint Logs

I don’t think anyone actually enjoys reading the SharePoint logs. It can be overwhelming. I’ve found a few techniques to mastering the logs and finding what you really want, fast.

First, you need to crank up diagnostic logging in Central Admin. The default logging levels don’t do a good job of reporting everything. So hop in there and crank it down to log everything. MAKE SURE TO REMEMBER TO SET IT BACK! Especially on a production farm, these logs can get big, fast.

There’s a great free application called SharePoint LogViewer. It starts up slow, but once it’s running, it’s great. It monitors all logs on all servers within your farm, providing an almost (2-3 seconds behind) real-time look into what’s going on. SharePoint LogViewer is a very powerful tool for troubleshooting issues on your server and farm.

By default, it only keeps 500 lines on the screen, which depending on your farm might only be a minute or two of entries. Click the settings gear icon and you can ramp that up, I throw it up to 5000, giving me closer to 5-7 minutes of entries. Again, this will depend on the amount of traffic your farm is experiencing.

If the constant streaming is tough to manage or if you’re ready to stop the log to read through some of the entries, click the little pause button and you can now look through the entries and perform some searching and filtering. As you analyze your logs, and narrow down to a subset of records you can save the log entries, giving you a small log with just the records you want.

SharePoint LogViewer takes up a minimal amount of resources on the server. I ran it on a 6 server SharePoint 2010 farm on one of the application servers, and it averaged 10% of the processor and the memory used reached 60MB. This resource usage is very reasonable for our farms.

As great as that app is, I find myself jumping to another app for a quick read. I’ll use the above when I need to really analyze and troubleshoot when something isn’t obvious. The other tool I love is Notepad++. It works a lot like NotePad, but has some added features. With NotePad++, you can open multiple log files and search against all of them at once. This is helpful if you need to open the last week of logs to find an issue a user complained about. It also provides keyword highlighting, which is helpful when searching for a page or correlation ID. Double click or search for a word and all instances of the word will highlight right in the page making it easy to find your references.