Q&A: SharePoint Webinar and Whitepaper (Part 3)

This is the third post in which I answer questions that were posed, but not answered during the webinar on SharePoint.  (Part 1 and Part 2 also contain related questions and answers.) As always, but especially on this topic, given its relative immaturity, I encourage any of you that have similar or conflicting opinions, insights and experiences to comment.

You may still listen to the recorded webinar during which many other questions were answered and issues discussed.

So here goes -the next 10 questions and answers:

Q:  Are BLOBs full-text searchable?

A:  This question may have been asked generically, so let me start with a broad answer. In general, BLOBs or Binary Large Objects, can be full-text searched only with some search engines.  My understanding is that BLOBs can be made full-text searchable with the SharePoint full-text search tool, but that this requires customization.

Q:  How would you define “file sharing”? How is that the same or different from “file document storage”? Is one predominant application of SharePoint a file document storage system? (AND I am tacking on this separate question : How does SharePoint file sharing differ from a normal file system?)

A:  Although some may argue that there are technical differences between file sharing and file document storage (comments welcome), based on the tone of the question, I am inclined to answer: file sharing and file document storage are basically the same functionality. File sharing is typically used to denote common access (sharing) of files over a network, usually following a peer-to-peer model. (This is the big difference between file sharing and a simple file system – the ability to share files without replication.)  And, yes, based on the survey responses as well as my general, observations, the MOST predominate application of SharePoint is file sharing/ file document storage.

Q:  Where is the best place on the Internet to get governance information about SharePoint deployment?

A:  I do not know if it is ”the best” but the Microsoft SharePoint website has a sub-site focused on governance.  Additionally Microsoft employee Michael Gannotti covers this topic in a recent blog post.

Q:  Does the Oracle Integrated ECM product improve the records management functionality of SharePoint that was not positively viewed in the initial survey?

A: The Oracle ECM product, as is the case with many other ECM and RM products such as those from CA, Open Text, and IBM do provide records management functionality superior to that offered natively in SharePoint, and these product will integrate with SharePoint.

Q: How many of the surveyed organizations were using the RM portion of SharePoint?

A:  The majority of users, 64%, were not using the records management functionality within SharePoint at all. 5% of the surveyed organizations were using the records management capability within SharePoint exclusively as their enterprise records system. Another 6% were using it to a significant degree. The remaining 25% said they used it “somewhat.”

Q:  Beyond employee facing portal, what’s the next killer application for SharePoint?

A:  Based on the survey data, there is no other clear front-runner for a SharePoint killer application, beyond employee facing portals.  Although used in many applications, survey respondents predominately positioned SharePoint as a minor role within the business application.  Findings such as this one led to the observations that SharePoint is very much positioned as a component to an overall ECM strategy (assuming of course you have a strategy – and issue I will address more directly in the next post – I promise.)

Q:  Would you say that SharePoint is more for a medium to large environment rather than the small company?

A:  No, one of the strengths of SharePoint is the (initially anyway) low barrier to implementation.  While the collaboration and file sharing issues may scale very differently for a large company, many small companies can still benefit from such functionality.

Q:  [NOTE:  Several questions from multiple individuals have been grouped together here.]
Is Microsoft planning to fix security issues? Do you believe MOSS will bring any value to these findings with significant product improvements in the next 1-3 years or will it continue as is? We are in the process of migrating our SP 2003 sites to MOSS. I am finding the improvements in MOSS (over SP 2003) to be significant. Do you feel that Microsoft is attempting to fill some of the ‘gaps’ that were mentioned in the presentation?

A:  I am not privy to any Microsoft internal strategy for future releases of SharePoint.  But I am sure most who watch this space would agree that yes, Microsoft has definitely improved the efficiency and functionality of SharePoint over the last 2 years, and will continue to do so. SharePoint is a strategic and fundamental product for Microsoft and given the number of users already on board, it would be unlikely that Microsoft would abandon the product or put it in mothballs.  Note that the FAST search tool that was acquired my Microsoft approximately a year ago, was recently integrated the SharePoint product set into (though not embedded yet). There are also a host of partners that are adding functionality to SharePoint.

Q: To what extent is SharePoint being offered as an on-demand solution vs., installation on the user’s servers?

A:  SharePoint is available as both licensed software and as an on demand or SaaS solution from both Microsoft and third parties. Among the organizations that took the survey, 30% were using SharePoint in a hosted solution capacity.

Q: Does SharePoint provide version control capability when documentation has been modified?

A:  Yes. Among survey respondents, 20% did not use the document management (which would include version control) functionality provided in SharePoint, and 49% used it somewhat.

Q: Exactly how would a BPEL process interact with the SharePoint repository – is it an API, a SharePoint web part, etc.?

A:  BPEL (Business Process Execution Language ) for Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) is an add-on for Windows Workflow Foundation in the .NET Framework 3.0. The download is aimed at software developers.  (Also see Paul Andrew’s blog,  he is a Technical Product Manager on the Sharepoint team at Microsoft Corporation. )

OK – enough for now.  More to come – so stay tuned…

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