In this, the month of everything SharePoint at CMSWire, we’ve started looking at SharePoint in some detail and with some interesting results. Last week, Jed Cawthorne, a Senior Strategy Consultant for enterprise content management, looked at uses for SharePoint. Here we will look at some of the challenges with deployments in the enterprise.
This may, at first glance, be a no-brainer, but scratch at the surface of SharePoint deployments, and problems -- and hopefully solutions -- start to appear.
Here again, planning is king. Last week, Jed concluded:
The key point is to treat SharePoint like any other potential solution or product, ensure you know exactly what you want to do (clear and well defined requirements) and ensure you understand what approach you want to take…”.
The next step is analyze how it might benefit your business -- not an easy task if you haven’t identified why you want to use it in the first place.
However, assuming you know this, what else do you need to look at? An IDC paper recently made available by AIIM tackles this issue. Entitled Enabling SharePoint Operational Efficiency and Information Governance with EMC SourceOne, it looks at issues of operational efficiency and information governance using EMC’s SourceOne.
Obviously, the paper, written by Laura DuBois, focuses on how EMC’s SourceOne manages SharePoint sites, libraries and content sprawl. And you don’t have to be using SourceOne to see these issues as problems that are endemic in many enterprises.
SharePoint, Information Governance
Citing a study from last year by IDC in Archiving in the Context of Information Management, she says at that point around 72% of enterprises of a survey group of 508 firms were already using SharePoint at that stage.
Only 20% were holding off, and in light of the fact that the release of SharePoint 2010 had been well flagged, it is not unlikely that they were holding out for them.
The AIIM State of the ECM industry report from earlier this year also reflected those findings, and also showed that many companies were either deploying SharePoint 2010 for the first time or were looking at upgrading from 2007 to 2010.
The IDC study, DuBois says, also shows that the deployment of SharePoint is often accelerated by its accessibility, usability and affordability. As a result, SharePoint deployments often lack proper architectural planning, IT processes or corporate governance oversight.
Add into the cauldron the fact that, once the initial deployment starts spreading across the enterprise and it is incorporated into work processes and dispersed teams, scalability and performance issues surface.
Typically, then, when SharePoint use starts spreading in the organization, it is characterized by a growth in the amount of content, the number of sites and the number of users. This, in turn, poses the following challenges:
DuBois says that, under Microsoft guidelines, one SharePoint server database should get no larger than 100GB, or five million documents. As a result, to go beyond that, additional databases are needed. While Microsoft addressed this to some extent in SharePoint 2010, it still applies to environments that have not migrated and are using older versions.
In typical SharePoint usage scenarios and with growth across the enterprise through individuals and teams, all content is not visible and the corporate knowledge of what is contained in the environment is limited. This poses problems for compliance and records management.
As the recommended limits for storage are reached, the performance and application response time starts to diminish, as well as leaving less power for indexing, backups and search.
Finding content in SharePoint is possible using native tools, but for e-Discovery requests and audits, a horizontal approach across the system is necessary, as such requests are done by topic, or custodian.
As systems are scaled out, different components such as SharePoint server, SQL Server and media server are deployed on separate physical machines, increasing costs and management overheads.
Many SharePoint sites have specific lifetimes, generally lasting the length of a project. Once the project is finished, the site is, more often than not, retained as enterprises are often reluctant to destroy intellectual property. This takes up space and makes the deployment less efficient.
Controlling SharePoint Growth
With the number of SharePoint deployments growing all the time, one of the other major problems has been uncontrolled growth.
Extensive SharePoint deployments within the enterprise, coupled with an increase in the size and scope of collaborative environments built around SharePoint, is resulting in the addition of new users frequently.
One of the major uses of SharePoint in the enterprise is extending information access to more employees so that, in large companies, SharePoint can cover thousands of employees and hundreds of workspaces.
The solution to this is the development of a centralized information management strategy and standardized deployment architecture that will offer infrastructure control over the environment.
This, again, requires planning. In the long run, though, the benefits are huge, enabling content-intensive companies to achieve operational efficiencies as well as information governance objectives.
Operational Positives of a SharePoint Strategy
More specifically, a centralized information management strategy will control growth and provide better operational efficiencies by offering the following positives:
By archiving content out of production sites, DuBois says, infrastructure backups will become smaller and more efficient. Because of the inherent architecture, it is hard to constantly back up the infrastructure and it tends to happen in an all-or-nothing fashion. Taking content out and archiving it will ease these problems, and that can only be done if an overall information management strategy is in place.
Taking content out has the added advantage of improving application and response times, as well as freeing space in SharePoint SQL databases. This has the advantage of making indexing and search quicker and easier too.
Archiving also has its place with SQL databases. Taking SharePoint objects from the database and moving them to an archive where users still have access to them frees space and increases the ability to scale.
One of the other advantages of controlling growth is that it also decreases infrastructure growth. To build out the infrastructure licenses, servers and additional storage capacity need to be bought, increasing deployment costs. Increased size, though, does not necessarily offer management advantages and scaling out does not map to increased content.
Information Management Positives of SharePoint Strategies
By limiting infrastructure and content growth, just about everyone is going to be a winner. However, there are a number of stakeholders here who will gain in particular, including those involved in legal, compliance, risk management, human resources, audit and IT governance. The advantages include:
Retention can be controlled by strategy, rather than by chance, by the application of retention of disposition rules to SharePoint content based on object properties. It can be applied by SharePoint itself, or using an independent archive that enables holistic retention across content types.
SharePoint objects can be held from within the archive, enabling the developing of a "hold" strategy rather than hold on a piecemeal basis.
While search is enabled with the Enterprise Search capability, in e-Discovery processes, SharePoint is commonly a secondary target to email and files. SharePoint priorities can be identified beforehand, if a strategy is developed.
Ultimately, this is the goal of developing such a strategy. Limiting both infrastructure size and the amount of data contained in SharePoint dramatically increases visibility as a planned approach to both those issues necessarily requires knowledge of everything available in the environment.
As a final word, without visibility into data and content, an enterprise works like a ship without a rudder -- it basically doesn’t know where it’s going.
The amount of content and the importance of the information contained on SharePoint increases operation and governance problems. However, with a properly developed SharePoint information strategy, those problems will, to a large extent, disappear and enterprises can focus on what they are supposed to be focused on: Doing business.