Thursday, 29 April 2010

SharePoint Foundation 2010 - Is It All That?

So on May 12th Microsoft will finally launch SharePoint 2010 and then 30 days later we have the real important 2010 event, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. So let me take another look at the new free version of SharePoint – Windows SharePoint Foundation 2010. We can leave worries about Rooney’s fitness, the effects of John Terry’s lovelife and England’s lack of a recognised goalkeeper for a few weeks. Although, feel free to leave any comments about the England squad just in case Fabio Capello does have a passing interest in the new SharePoint.

So what have Microsoft put into the new Windows SharePoint Foundation? Truth is quite a bit if you are a developer and they have finally put some order to the Central Admin (the bit on the Server where you manage the system), but they have not really included too many wow factors for the average end user. Mind you I don’t think they need to because the current Windows SharePoint Services (version 3) does a terrific job. It is very simple to customise and employees soon pick it up. Office Talk finds that a two hour End user course (which they provide at very reasonable rates) is all they require to get them using SharePoint. So apart from some fine tuning Microsoft decided all they really needed to do to make their leading package more appealing was to put a fancy ribbon on it. Very similar to the way Fifa have a winning product with the World Cup, but every four years will make some minor changes to the competition just to make it different to the last one.

So what do I think are the wow factors for SharePoint Foundation 2010? Well after hours of playing with it I have come up with a list of ten enhancements I like. Microsoft has their own much larger list if you want to see all the ‘New Features’. But here is my ten in no particular order;

1. SMS Alerts
Quite basic but pretty neat (even if they are probably in league with the mobile phone companies). As well as sending Alerts to Email addresses or groups of Emails you can now send them via SMS text messages to a mobile phone. Great for sending out announcements to on the road Sales staff to help keep them informed of product changes. Mind you a lot of them now have Blackberry phones so they already get their email on their mobile free of charge. It could be good also for sending offers to customers.

2. Health Analyzer
One problem with the current version of SharePoint is it is often difficult to know how it is doing and unless you are permanently monitoring the Event Logs the only time you know there is a problem is when the whole system stops. Although there are some free tools available that will let you monitor performance. So in SharePoint Foundation there is a built in Health Analyzer which automatically checks and notifies you of potential problems.

3. Enforcing Uniqueness
At first I didn’t get this new entry when creating a column but then saw the ability to check that the entry hadn’t been used before in that field was very useful. This is great for reference numbers or ranking items. In the World Cup it could be used for seeding the finalists (I know there is no seeding) and making sure each seed number was only used once. So when seed 6 has gone nobody else can be seeded 6.

4. Access External Lists
Very useful to give the free version of SharePoint some of the features available in the full Server bit. The ability to link to databases and external feeds is very useful. Helps link to other company systems like an ERP system.

5. Enhanced mobile support
In a world now being dominated my Iphones and Blackberry phones the ability to configure which webparts are displayed on mobile devices is pretty cool. I am 43 now and must stop saying ‘cool’.

6. Ribbon
Ok I am not a great fan and think it just reduces the amount of data displayed on screen, but some people (including our Marketing Manager Frank) like the ability of the ribbon to display all the functions that used to be hidden away under ‘Site Settings’. I can see the benefit and am starting to use the tabs more, but just wish I could customise it more and put icons in places that make sense to me.

7. Rich Text Editing
Now it is easy to make changes to any item on your SharePoint site and add text simply by being in ‘Edit Page’ view. You can change fonts, colours, sizes and insert images as you wish. You can even quickly add html code without the need to insert the Content Editor Webpart. This is probably the most pleasing edition to the software for the End user.

8. Central Administration – (configuration wizards)
Finally gone are the confusing ‘Operations’ and ‘Application’ sections and instead the revamped Central Admin is easy to navigate through. With sections to monitor what really is happening and easy access to backups. With the addition of a number of configuration wizards as well it is now easier to configure your SharePoint. Yes, a definite thumbs up here.

9. High Availability Fall over.
SharePoint works best when all the company data is stored on it so it needs to be available 100% of time. This is why this little extra which allows you to have a fall-over is great. It the main SQL database cannot be accessed it quickly flips over to a reserve one automatically.

10. FAST Search with Metadata
For many people the biggest disappointment with SharePoint is the searching. It promises so much but then fails to deliver (like the England football team of old). The need to buy third-party tools to enable wildcard searching has been a frustration. But now built on the FAST Search application the search is now a lot more powerful and can now easily be filtered by appropriate metadata. Oh, and yes wildcard searching is finally included.

So ten advantages of moving, but don’t forget even SharePoint Foundation 2010 requires a 64-bit server and as with all new software there will be teething problems. So maybe it is best to wait until the first service Pack is out or at least until after England win the World Cup.

To try a Hosted version of SharePoint (with free upgrade to SharePoint Foundation at any of May) just click the following link

So now to start thinking about the England 23 man squad for the World Cup and the even more important job of picking the England World Cup Song for 2010. There have been many interesting ones over the years here are some of my favourites;

1966 : World Cup Willy
1970 : Back Home
1982 : This Time
1990 : World in Motion
1998 : Three Lions (1998 remix)
2002 : We’re on the ball
2006 : Come On England

Please let me know which one was your favourite.

Oh, and just so my Scottish readers don't feel left out here is my favourite Scotland World Cup Song.

I Have A Dream - 1982

Newsflash : New amazing World Cup offer from Office Talk CLICK HERE

Thursday, 22 April 2010

SharePoint Money Saver - New Hosted Solution

Yesterday was quite an exciting day and not only because the Villa beat Hull and almost guaranteed my brother’s team Wolves staying up (meaning four West Midlands clubs in Premiership next season). Wednesday 21st April was also the launch of the unique Hosted SharePoint solution ‘Office Talk Team Portal’. OK not the most riveting of names but hopefully the extra features and applications will be its real seller. Oh, and the free upgrade to SharePoint 2010 within two months will keep it future proof.

So why have SharePoint Specialists Office Talk (that’s who I work for so please allow a little advertising here) decided to extend their SharePoint offerings to include a Hosted Solution? To explain I am going to use a football analogy (I can hear some of you groan ‘not again’ already) and let’s look at the final weeks of the Premiership season. We have an exciting title race, a race for 4th (which following last night still involves the mighty Villa) and a relegation fight between five teams. The sad fact is that when you compare the current league table with a table of attendances this season you see a very high correlation (you can tell I have got a Statistics A’Level). The higher the crowd you get it seems the higher in the league you are. The Villa are currently 7th in both the real Premiership and the attendance league. So the answer seems simple, get higher crowds and you will climb the league. Unfortunately only Manchester United seem able to keep adding seats to their ground for many of the other teams the answer appears to be to build new ultra expensive plastic grounds. This means putting the club into great debt and possible danger. Now having a big new ground means not only significant initial outlay, but many expensive running costs which is the same if you house your own SharePoint Servers. Maybe clubs should start to seriously look at ground sharing as even the top clubs do in Italy? I wouldn’t really be in favour of the Villa moving to a new supersized ground that they shared with Birmingham City (the two play each other on Sunday) but I can see the financial sense especially if the ground was owned by Birmingham Council. So ‘Hosted Football Grounds’ could save clubs loads of money.

Having your own full SharePoint Environment does not come cheap even if the business savings will eventually be considerable. Supporting any IT infra-structure is expensive with needs for dedicated server rooms, complex backup procedures, hardware support contracts and complex software licensing. For many small to medium sized companies getting started with SharePoint is just too expensive and also they just haven’t got the time. They haven’t even got time to try it out and it really takes a good day to configure and that is assuming you already have a server available to put it on. So the hosted SharePoint is now a great entry point for many companies and organisations. Either those who want to just dip their feet in without any real outlay or for those who want to securely store all their information on it SharePoint Hosted is the answer.

So what are the real benefits of SharePoint Hosting?

1. Saves Money
2. Data is Secure (multiple servers in multiple locations means complete peace of mind)
3. Reduced Support Costs (No need to worry about Backups)
4. Enhanced Security (https connections means data transmitted securely)
5. Available everywhere (with Internet connections everywhere even in McDonalds your staff can work)
6. No long term commitment.
The next question is why ‘Office Talk Team Portal’ and what makes it different;

1. A free upgrade to SharePoint 2010 within two months
2. Supported by SharePoint experts (Office Talk)
3. Designed to incorporate the best SharePoint Add-ons (Online Conference facility, CRM and Project applications already available with many more on the way)
4. Servers hosted by Rack Space one of leading global Hosted Providers
5. Access to the popular ten department templates designed by Office Talk
6. A free no obligation 30 day trial available which doesn’t even ask for your credit card or mother’s maiden name.
7. Up and running in under ten minutes.

So why not try SharePoint now whatever size organisation you are? Just click here to start your free 30 day trial of Office Talk Team Portal .

Now all the Villa have to do is win their last three games of the season and hope Spurs don’t win two. Not forgetting that Man City mustn't win three of their games. Did you follow all that?

Find Out More !!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

FREE STARTER OFFER : Pizza and SharePoint

This week despite still being depressed over the Villa’s unjust exit from FA Cup I am going to let you into the secret of two great starter offers.

Firstly, many of you will know about Orange Wednesdays when Orange Mobile Users can take a friend free of charge to the cinema, but did you know you can also take them to Pizza Express afterwards and get them a free main course? Even better you both get free starters (just click link below to find out more). So if you are a gentleman on a low budget trying to impressive a certain lady make sure you ask her for a date on a Wednesday.

What about FREE STARTERS with SharePoint? Well, Office Talk has decided to create a special Site Template that works with either WSS or MOSS to get your SharePoint Project Started. It is imaginatively named ‘SharePoint Project Starter’ and you don’t even need to buy anything from Office Talk or even have an Orange Mobile phone to get one. All you have to do is drop and email to myself with the Subject “Free Starter Please”.

The great thing about this second offer also is it is not restricted to UK like the Pizza Express Orange offer. Although, if you do find similar offers in other countries please add the link below in a comment. Oh, and you don’t have to wait for Wednesday to install the SharePoint Template.

The SharePoint Project Starter includes selecting Project Team Members, defining Scope of Project, the popular Office Talk Project Checklist, Project Issue Log, Suggest a Project Name and many more useful SharePoint Project starting tools. Best of all it gets the Project Team use to using SharePoint.

A list of all winners and runners-up in my SharePoint Awards can be found by CLICKING AWARD WINNERS.

Well done to Portsmouth for reaching the FA Cup Final. The Villa must now concentrate on the league and a win against Portsmouth on Saturday would do for STARTERS.

Email to claim your free starter.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

SharePoint Awards 2010 Winners

New SharePoint Awards 2012

What a week; a General Election called in England, a Messi master show in the Champions League, shockingly Lenny Henry split from Dawn French and now the unofficial SharePoint Awards announced. So the waiting is over it is time to reveal the winners of the Andy Dale SharePoint Awards 2010.

All the votes have been counted and four SharePoint experts from around the globe have awarded their scores. Just to clarify the scoring system follows the Strictly Come Dancing format. The first half of the score comes from the votes cast on website (amazingly over 6000 unique votes were cast). The finalist who received the highest number of votes in each category was given 5 points, then second highest got 4 and so on. The second half of the score came from four ‘SharePoint Experts’ all ranking each of the finalists in each category from 5 (the best) to 1 (their least favourite). The four scores from the Experts for each finalist were then added together and divided by 4 (number of Experts). Hope you are following this. Then the score from the voting was added to the average score from the Experts to get a score out of ten for each finalist. In the event of a draw I had the casting vote. Well, they are my awards!

So here are the Winner and Runner-up in each SharePoint category. These companies will all be receiving a special ‘Seal of Approval’ in the next ten days.


Winner -

Expert Comment –
A great site written not for developers but for real SharePoint Administrators. It really feels as if they care.
Runner Up - SharePoint Magazine


Winner - Amrein Engineering

Expert Comment -
Very easy to navigate round site. Like the variety of web parts on offer and how they are explained, lots of crowd pleasers in there.
Runner Up - Kwizcom


Winner - ControlPoint (scored a perfect 10)

Expert Comment -
Hands down the best in the industry. Very user friendly. Extremely strong permissions reporting capability – the top requirement for managing large farms as 80% of all support calls come from permissions management.

Runner Up - DocAve Administrator

Winner - Chilis

Expert Comment -
The most fun site I have seen in years! That chalk work is amazing! Great branding.

Runner Up - Swatch


Winner - Combined Knowledge CBT

Expert Comment –
Combined Knowledge continues to lead the way with SharePoint Training. You can tell they understand SharePoint.
Runner Up - CBT Clips


Winner - Colligo Contributor (perfect 10 again)

Expert Comment -
An all great round solution which is easy to use. They offer more than just Outlook integration.

Runner Up - MyDocs from Nsynergy


Winner - Column\View Permissions from SharePoint Boost

Expert Comment -
By far the most business benefit – one of the top requests I get on a daily basis. This tool is perfect to resolve that!

Runner Up - Bamboo sharePoint video Library

Winner - Google Charts

Expert Comment –
Making life simple is what we all want and this is what Google Charts does.

Runner Up - Visualizer from Equilibrium (Digital Assets)

Expert Comment -
Phwooaar, coooool. Very slick. Great way to wow your audience. End users love stuff like this.


Winner - Daily Dilbert

Expert Comment –
Start your SharePoint with a smile every day.
Runner Up - Hello User from Bamboo Solutions


Winner - ShareKnowledge – E-Learning Solution from Competentum

Expert Comment –
Brilliant ! Now businesses can really use SharePoint to train their workforce. Great for Health & Safety courses. So easy to design courses as well. Ideal for any size organisation who have SharePoint.

Runner Up - MediaRich Digital Asset Management from Equilibrium

So those are the winners but all the finalists offer terrific SharePoint products and I recommend you trial a few yourself.

Now, the Office Talk (SharePoint Specialists) management will be having their fingers, toes and everything else it is possible to cross crossed this weekend. As both Aston Villa and Portsmouth are at Wembley to try and reach the 2010 FA Cup Final. If both are successful Monday might well be declared an Office Talk company holiday.

Up the Villa.