Evolution of SharePoint Administration: from IT Reports to Decision Making Environment for Business Users

This fall it’s been 4 years since the very first release of the very first Quest product for SharePoint management – Site Administrator for SharePoint. During these years the product has changed a lot, as well as the ways SharePoint is deployed and used and even seen by many companies worldwide. So join me in my nostalgia as I take a look back at how the challenges in the SharePoint IT world evolved and demanded changes we brought into Site Administrator over the last years… Here’s the story.
 
The very first problems Quest addressed in the SharePoint world were lack of visibility and centralized IT control. Back in 2006, when Site Administrator v1.0 was built and released, we saw numerous installations of Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 proliferating in many companies. It was often deployed at local sites or at the departmental level with very little or no IT involved, and many of these were used as “new fancy file share with versioning and alerting”. The first beta installs of WSS v3.0 and MOSS 2007 appeared here and there as well, and again – with lack of company-wide planning or strategy.
 
These types of deployments were bringing nothing but mostly headaches and troubles to IT departments. Sometimes an administrator would get unplanned but urgent requests for additional hardware to support growth of the SharePoint contents. In other cases IT would have to deal with a SharePoint box deployed under someone’s desk after the owner had left the company. We even heard stories from IT administrators who only learned about a SharePoint server existed when they received a “this link does not work any longer, need it back ASAP!” email from someone well above them in the company hierarchy.
 
So Quest’s answer to these challenges was Site Administrator 1.0. That version was all about SharePoint visibility and centralized control for IT. It allowed administrators proactively discover all unknown and unmanaged SharePoint instances, report on the usage and growth, as well as centrally manage and enforce policies across multiple SharePoint farms.
 
Fast-forward through the next few releases: we see new and improved reports, better installation experience, improved scalability and full support for SharePoint 2007, newly released at that time.
 
By the time we saw wide adoption of SharePoint 2007 major concern in the SharePoint world became the platform security and compliance. Even seemingly simple questions like who exactly has access to a SharePoint site or what level of access someone has in SharePoint can require hours of administrator’s work. The tasks involved are collecting information from various sources, verifying permission inheritance on different levels, querying Active Directory for group memberships, and combining it all into a simple report.
 
So throughout 2008 we introduced a whole lot of new features to address these needs. Site Administrator came with new permissions reports, advanced permissions management tool (Security Explorer) and enhanced compliance auditing with Security Auditor.
 
The next demand we saw rising among lots and lots of environments was surprisingly opposite to the earlier requirements of SharePoint administrator. With further adoption of SharePoint 2007, more thoughtful and properly governed deployments, and the upcoming SharePoint 2010 the new challenges came. When certain report is being requested by hundreds and thousands of site owners for their sites – how possibly can IT administrators address this demand in a timely manner? And same is true not only for reports, but most common management actions, such as permissions or content hierarchy changes. Reports now have to be security trimmed to allow access by business content owners, and action enabled.
 
To address these requests we introduced a brand new component to Site Administrator, the Information Portal. Initially, this web application was indeed purely informational, with its enterprise dashboard and ability to drill down into details for every site collection or site. But over the last two years it became a real decision making environment for both the business content owners as well as IT administrators.
 
Information Portal reports on all aspects of SharePoint sites security, size and growth, activity and usage. It is security trimmed for business users based on their permissions in SharePoint. The portal automatically recognizes users who have site collection admin rights and gives them access to their sites reporting and management. The portal is easy to access: links to the relevant reports are built into the site settings in SharePoint. In addition, reports are action enabled: with Information Portal you can both find the data and act upon what you find. For example, grant or remove access to multiple sites, duplicate or reassign user permissions, copy sites, etc.
 
Needless to say, the story does not end here. We will keep the best from each of the generation of Site Administrator and continue to add further flexibility and more management capabilities to it. And sure enough we are counting on you, our customers. It is the continuing customer feedback that allowed Site Administrator to win the Best of TechEd award as the best SharePoint product twice in 2007 and 2010. It is your feedback that tells us where we need to go next. Thank you and keep it coming!

This fall marks the fourth anniversary of the very first Quest product for SharePoint management – Site Administrator for SharePoint. During these years the product has changed a lot, as well as the ways SharePoint is deployed and used and even seen by many companies worldwide. So join me in my nostalgia as I take a look back at how the challenges in the SharePoint IT world evolved and demanded changes that we brought into Site Administrator over the last years… Here’s the story.

 

The biggest problems we found common among many of the early SharePoint deployments were the lack of visibility and centralized IT control. Back in 2006, when Site Administrator v1.0 was built and released, we saw numerous installations of Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (WSS) proliferating in many companies. SharePoint was often deployed at local sites or at the departmental level with very little or no IT involvement, and many of these were used as “new fancy file share with versioning and alerting”. The first beta installs of WSS v3.0 and MOSS 2007 appeared here and there as well, and again – with lack of company-wide planning or strategy.

 

These types of deployments were bringing nothing but mostly headaches and troubles to IT departments. Sometimes an administrator would get unplanned but urgent requests for additional hardware to support growth of the SharePoint contents. In other cases IT would have to deal with a SharePoint box deployed under someone’s desk after the owner had left the company. We even heard stories from IT administrators who only learned about a SharePoint server existed when they received a “this link does not work any longer, need it back ASAP!” email from someone well above them in the company hierarchy.

 

So Quest’s answer to these challenges was Site Administrator 1.0. That version was all about SharePoint visibility and centralized control for IT. It allowed administrators to proactively discover all unknown and unmanaged SharePoint instances, report on the usage and growth, as well as centrally manage and enforce policies across multiple SharePoint farms.

 

Fast-forward through the next few releases: we see new and improved reports, better installation experience, improved scalability and full support for SharePoint 2007 (newly released at that time).

 

By the time we saw wide adoption of SharePoint 2007, the major concern in the SharePoint world became the platform security and compliance. Even seemingly simple questions like who exactly has access to a SharePoint site or what level of access does someone have in SharePoint can require hours of an administrator’s work. The tasks involved are collecting information from various sources, verifying permission inheritance on different levels, querying Active Directory for group memberships, and combining it all into a simple report.

 

So throughout 2008 we were introducing new features to address these needs. Site Administrator came with new permissions reports, advanced permissions management tool (Security Explorer) and enhanced compliance auditing with Security Auditor.

 

The next demand we saw rising among lots and lots of environments was surprisingly opposite to the earlier requirements of a SharePoint administrator. With further adoption of SharePoint 2007, more thoughtful and properly governed deployments, and the upcoming SharePoint 2010 the new challenges started to become evident. When a certain report is being requested by hundreds and thousands of site owners for their sites – how possibly can IT administrators address this demand in a timely manner? And same is true not only for reports, but most common management actions, such as permissions or content hierarchy changes. Reports now have to be security trimmed to allow access by business content owners, and action enabled.

 

To address these requests we introduced a brand new component to Site Administrator, the Information Portal. Initially, this web application was indeed purely informational, with its enterprise dashboard and ability to drill down into details for every site collection or site. But over the last two years it became a real decision making environment for both the business content owners as well as IT administrators.

 

Information Portal reports on all aspects of SharePoint sites security, size and growth, activity and usage. It is security trimmed for business users based on their permissions in SharePoint. The portal automatically recognizes users who have site collection admin rights and gives them access to their sites reporting and management. The web based user interface is also very easy to access: links to the relevant reports are built into the site settings in SharePoint. In addition, reports are action enabled: with Information Portal you can both find the data and act upon what you find. For example, grant or remove access to multiple sites, duplicate or reassign user permissions, copy sites, etc.

 

Needless to say, the story does not end here. We will keep the best from each of the generation of Site Administrator and continue to add further flexibility and more management capabilities to it. And sure enough we are counting on you, our customers. It is the continuing customer feedback that allowed Site Administrator to win the Best of TechEd award as the best SharePoint product twice in 2007 and 2010. It is your feedback that tells us where we need to go next. Thank you and keep it coming!

 

Ilia Sotnikov

Product Manager @QuestSharePoint

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