Friday, 25 June 2010

World Cup 3 - SharePoint Support

What do the England football team and SharePoint have in common? The answer is they both need support. I suppose if we hadn’t beaten Solvenia last night the answer could have been very different. Mind you it is possible that by the time you read this posting England have been knocked out of the World Cup (hopefully not after losing on penalties to the Germans) or maybe even the record breaking tennis game on court 18 might even have finished.

The support England have had in South Africa has been immense and during the vital last group game they even made more noises than the vuvuzela.

Many companies seem happy to invest money in implementing SharePoint but then gamble by not having support. SharePoint is quite an easy to maintain system, but things do go wrong so it is best to think about Support. If you use a SharePoint Consultancy like Office Talk then it is worth asking what kind of support options they offer. Alternatively make sure that somebody in IT has completed a SharePoint Administration training course so they know the kind of problems you can encounter with your SharePoint.

When troubleshooting SharePoint there are four places you should be aware of on each of the SharePoint Servers. These are;

1. Application Event Log – Are there any red errors and if so when did they start? The description of the Error will often indicate where the problem is and frequently it might indicate that SharePoint cannot connect to the database. Don’t panic it might just be that somebody is rebooting the SQL Server.

2. Services – In Control Panel – Administrative Tools – Services check that none of the automatic services have stopped especially any SharePoint or Database ones. It is also worth stopping and starting the SharePoint Timer Service. If any services are hung and say ‘Stopping’ or ‘starting’ it is best to restart the server so that they can fully stop.

3. SQL Database – If you have SQL Manager then check on the state of the database and if possible take the SharePoint database offline then bring it back online. Even if you are using the inbuilt SharePoint database it is useful to install SQL Manager to allow you to manage the database.

4. IIS Manger – Check on the IIS Manager that the website listed for SharePoint and the Application Pool it is associated with are both ‘started’. If one says ‘stopped’ then try starting it. It is also worth using the command iisreset from the Command-Line Prompt.

So as you support England, or your own country, during this World Cup think about how well supported your SharePoint system is. Also and probably even more important is, how good is your SharePoint backup? If disaster strikes how easy would it be to rebuild your SharePoint and how quickly would you may be able to access all your data again? Make sure you either have the latest SharePoint Agent with your Veritas Backup Exec or invest in a third-party SharePoint backup solution like AvePoint’s DocAve . Remember your information is only as good as your last backup.

After I correctly predicted Germany 0 Serbia 1 last week I am going to predict the four quarter-finals now which you might note does not include the boys from Brazil.

South Korea v USA
Netherlands v Spain
Argentina v England
Paraguay v Portugal

Please let me know what you think of my predictions.
Now it is time to prepare myself for the tense job of supporting England. I just hope they have been practising those penalty kicks just in case.

Come on England !!!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

World Cup 2 - SharePoint with Flair

Is it only me and Alan Hansen who are becoming despondent by the lack of excitement in the World Cup? Every game just seems the same with countries more interested in not losing their opening game wow factor. Perhaps the games involving Brazil, Spain and Portugal might change things but at the moment the only real entertainment has been the Germans beating the aging Aussies. Mind you this hasn’t stopped me from watching two games every day. So still we wait for that moment of magic and the game to makes us go wow. Some SharePoint sites also lack flair so how can we make them more appealing?

With SharePoint the options really are endless. The use of video, audio and flash can so easily be added to add an extra dimension to any site. The very adaptable Content Editor Webpart can be used to add impact and flair. If your firewall doesn’t block YouTube then you can have access to millions of videos and almost certainly find one appropriate to you. All you need to do is copy the HTML code that you will find to the right of each video and paste it into the Source section of the inserted Content Editor Webpart. Not only can it be used for playing YouTube videos but all over the web for will find ‘Widgets’ and these also have code you can copy. Widgets are simple, fun, and useful applications that can be embedded on a webpage, blog, social networking page or for us SharePoint. Almost certainly you have already seen widgets, and used them, even if you didn’t know they were called ‘widgets’. You have probably seen a quiz or a game on a friend’s Facebook wall, well these are widgets. You may have seen countdowns to events, like the World Cup, on blogs or a YouTube playlist on your child’s MySpace page. All of these are widgets and they are great because they allow you to add customised content to your SharePoint with no coding knowledge necessary. All you need to do is insert that famous ‘Content Editor Webpart’. It works on WSS, MOSS 2007, SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010.

One of the best places to get thousands of different widgets from is Widget Box where you can take code from widgets including Calculators, Dancing Penguins, Arnold Schwarzenegger sayings, Simon Memory games, Site Translators, Cat Clocks, Weather Updates, Space Invaders, World Cup Updates and many more.

Talking World Cup, as another game reaches half-time disappointingly goal-less, if you Google ‘Fifa widgets’ you can find a range of interesting World Cup Widgets that you can be added to your SharePoint.

So don’t let your SharePoint resemble a France against Uruguay World Cup game use the Content Editor Webpart to add some video or a widget.
Time now for my second set of World Cup predictions. The ones last week were not too bad even if England didn’t quite manage that second goal. I am going to start with England to beat Algeria one-nil.

My other three predictions are;

Group D – Germany 0 Serbia 1
Group F – Italy 4 New Zealand 0
Group G – Brazil 2 Ivory Coast 1

If you haven’t got your FREE World Cup 2010 SharePoint template yet please visit

Come on England !!!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

World Cup 1 - E-Learning for England

The World Cup 2010 in South Africa is about to start and I make no apologies for the fact that for the next five weeks (or until England are controversially knocked out) my SharePoint blog is going World Cup crazy. All the funny videos will have a World Cup theme and I will try to predict four matches from the coming week each time.

So England are getting used to being at altitude, Capello is losing his cool with photographers and still nobody knows who will be in the England goal. At least the England players have all the technology gadgets they could want with many having I-Phones even if they have been banned from Twittering or using Facebook during the tournament. So how could SharePoint help the England team?

I am going to this week focus on one of the current rapidly expanding uses of SharePoint - The Management of E-Learning. This is the ability to fully manage all SCORM compliant E-Learning courses using the familiar SharePoint platform. A package called ShareKnowledge has proved very popular in schools and colleges worldwide but now more and more private companies are finding it a very cost effective way to train their workforce. With it’s very easy to use and free companion ‘Author Tool’ it is very easy to create online training courses with relevant assessments. It can take information in seconds from Microsoft PowerPoint slides and turn them into E-Learning slides. It allows the use of video or sound and can make even the least technically minded Training Manager appear an E-Learning expert.

After you have created the impressive E-Learning courses it then takes only a few clicks to upload the complete course including questions into SharePoint and assign them to individuals or whole departments. The users can then be alerted on SharePoint when they have a course to do and after they have completed the training their individual training records are updated. It really does help reduce company training budgets and also can make it easier to ensure that even employees in far off places have completed the required training courses. So in between watching the World Cup games check out ShareKnowledge and if you are in the UK why not email Frank Faulds and ask for a demonstration.

So how could ShareKnowledge help England? This is my vision that might not be shared by Mr. Capello. All squad members have laptops or I-phones linked to a SharePoint system (suppose it should really be 2010). Then a first E-Learning course could be created entitled ‘How to tackle in training without injuring your captain’ this could then be assigned to all England players or just Emile Heskey. Other courses could be created and tailor-made for certain individuals, for example ‘The Art of Not Getting Sent Off’ assigned to Wayne Rooney before every game. Then of course the one that all members of the England squad have to study the most, ‘How to take penalties’.

With so much digital media now available to all of us E-Learning can be a very affective learning tool and SharePoint is the ideal platform for it. ShareKnowledge even works on the free version of SharePoint WSS so it could even be a reason to roll out SharePoint if you aren’t already SharePoint users.

So it is time for my weekly prediction and I am going to start with England’s first game against USA. I think it will be a struggle but England will just triumph 2-1.

My other three predictions are;

Group A - South Africa 1 Mexico 1
Group E - Netherlands 3 Denmark 0
Group H – Spain 3 Switzerland 1

If you haven’t got your FREE World Cup 2010 SharePoint template yet please checkout

Come on England !!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

SharePoint and Britain's Got Talent

Like many men worldwide I am counting down the days to the start of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. With my FREE SharePoint World Cup Template installed I am planning my June television viewing. But to help us get through the last week before the World Cup in the UK we have got the Semi Finals and Finals of the very popular Britain’s Got Talent. Now, despite being a footy man I have to admit to secretly really enjoying Britain’s Got Talent and even set my Sky Plus to record it last night so please don’t tell me if the Wood Chopper gets through or not. I think I like the show because of its variety. There are potential stars from all different forms of entertainment and something for all the family. This I think is similar to SharePoint.

SharePoint has so many different uses and appeals to so many different departments. It doesn’t just focus on one area like Document Storage it also does such varied things as plays videos, receives emails, produces KPI’s and many more. It can do things that it was never even designed for. In the last month Office Talk have used it to monitor World Cup fixtures, record reasons employees leave a company, compile mailing lists, created mechanisms for sending warning when Projects are over-running and managed Risk Assessments. All of these were not obvious uses for SharePoint but once your organisation has SharePoint the possibilities are endless.

So what have been some of the best uses of SharePoint that Office Talk have come across in the last year. Let me go for a top eight approach like in a Britain’s Got Talent Semi Final;

1. A system to track feedback from Exit Interviews and automate a monthly report to their Senior Management Team. This included reasons for leaving, opinions of company, where they were going and what first attracted them to the company.

2. Storage of marketing digital assets including photographs and video. Making them easy to find and distribute to potential customers.

3. Acquire, record and manage feedback from trainees on both internal and external training courses. How good or bad was the trainer.

4. A forum to suggest and discuss new ideas for improving the company Intranet. This later included a section to rate each suggestion.

5. Storage and distribution of latest hospital guidelines (Included NICE guidelines). To show clearly new guidelines as they come out and distribute them accordingly.

6. An ‘In and Out’ board to record movements of managers and to say if they are contactable and if not who to contact in their absence.

7. Travel Booking System to allow employees to request different travel arrangements to be made for them to guarantee best price for the company. Arrangements included air, train, hotel and parking.

8. A system to distribute and manage an adaptable E-Learning training course for all new telephonists in a large Call Centre. Only when training had been completed could they start taking calls.

So those are just eight of the recent uses and it is very difficult to pick a best two without knowing exactly how much time and money each one saved their various businesses. So instead I will predict the top two in Britain’s Got Talent 2010. I think it will be between the gymnasts ‘Spelbound’ and the ‘Tina and Chandi’ the ballet dancing dog act.

As for the World Cup. Well it just has to be England.

Come on England !!!

* Don't Miss Dan Holme's SharePoint 2010 Masterclass 29th June. Click Here for details.