Getting Started with SharePoint Requires Rethinking How You Use Folders

For anyone just getting started with SharePoint, one of the big shifts in thinking is transitioning from file shares to document libraries in SharePoint.

File shares are based on the concept of office folders and file cabinets for storing paper documents. We even get an icon that looks like a folder when we choose to create a “new folder” in Word. After naming the folder, we can then place appropriate electronic documents in it.

File shares have several weaknesses, though. For example:

  • Each document can only exist in one folder at a time, even though the document may be appropriate for multiple folders. Of course you can make multiple copies of the document and store them in various folders, but what if you later need to make a change in it? You have to track down and update each folder – and hope you don’t miss one.
  • In a file share, there’s no way to see a small subset of information based on certain criteria.
  • When editing documents, there isn’t an easy way to revert to a prevision version of it.
  • Multiple people could be working on the same document at the same time, and overwrite each other’s changes.

All the same things that are stored in file shares can be stored in document libraries (which are lists of documents, spreadsheets, etc.) – it’s just that in SharePoint, columns organize like folders.  Folders still have a place in SharePoint because they can be used for security purposes, but they are not the best choice for organizing.

Whether one is getting started with SharePoint or looking to become more proficient with SharePoint and unlock some of its amazing capabilities, getting SharePoint 2010 training or SharePoint 2013 training is a good way to get up to speed quickly. These course include real-world lab exercises, so that you can get a feel for what SharePoint can do your organizations, while giving you the practical skills needed to get to the next level in SharePoint.

SharePoint Document Versioning Make Collaboration Easy, Efficient and Safe

Not only does SharePoint document versioning make collaboration easy and efficient, but you can control who sees what, and when.

When both major (published) and minor (unpublished) versions of documents are created, you can determine up front who can view the draft versions. Some users can only read documents, and some can edit them.  A common practice is to allow people who only have permission to read documents to only see major versions. On the other hand, users who can edit documents have permission to see the draft versions as well.

After the final changes are published, all users – whether reader or editor – will be able to see the new version.

The settings for how end-users interact with draft and published documents can be changed for each document library. If content approval is required, the SharePoint settings can be adjusted so that only people who can approve items, as well as the author, can see drafts.

Version comments can be entered when uploading documents. This feature is made available after turning on versioning, when a new area appears for users to enter notes about that particular version, such as what changes have been made and why.

As discussed in my SharePoint 2010 training class, document versions are created by checking documents in. (New documents are automatically checked in when they are first added.)

However, there is an exception to this: If a document is missing required metadata, the document will be checked out to the person who created it until the metadata is added.

To check out a document, all you need to do is move your mouse over the document and select the Check Out option.  Or you can use the icon in the Documents ribbon.

Whenever a document is checked out, its icon changes to show a green arrow pointing to the bottom right. By checking out a document, you prevent other people from making changes – and potentially overwriting what you just wrote – until you check the document back in again.

SharePoint Groups Are Core Security Component of SharePoint

Two rows of boxes stacked

A SharePoint site is a “box” to store and share information.

SharePoint Site Permissions determine who can access a site. A good way to think about how Site Permissions work is to envision a group of people entering a room. Within that room there may be a number of drawers and boxes with locks on them. A particular user may have the keys to unlock some of them, but not others. The Site Permissions are for the overall site itself, in the same way as if it were a room in a larger building.

The core security component of SharePoint is SharePoint Groups. These groups can be individuals or groups from Active Directory. You can create new groups and give permissions to each SharePoint Group as needed.

When creating a new site, it automatically designates three SharePoint Groups: Site Name Owner, Site Name Members and Site Name Visitor. All you’ll need to do is add users to the appropriate category.

Owners have complete control and can do anything on the site. Note: Domain Administrators and Local Administrators will not have access to anything in SharePoint unless they have been added as a Site Collection Administrator by the SharePoint Server Administrator, or they have been explicitly granted permissions as a Site Owner.

Members are people who have been granted Contribute permissions and work on the Lists and Libraries of a particular site. They are able to add, edit and delete content, but they cannot handle more advanced aspects of a site, such as creating sub sites, managing Site Settings or Permissions, or deleting the site.

Visitors, which typically comprise the majority of users, are given Read permissions, meaning they can read content but not make changes to it.

You also can create our own SharePoint Groups for your specific needs. And, it’s easy to add or remove people from a SharePoint Group, which makes managing security easy.

SharePoint training at PremierPoint Solutions will give you additional information about SharePoint Groups, along with practical experience in tasks such as changing Permissions on a site, creating a new SharePoint Group and testing the Permissions.

SharePoint Lets Site Owners Set and Maintain Security

Image of keyboard with chain lock across it.

SharePoint security is an important topic because where ever information is stored and shared, there’s also a concern about who can access it and how secure it is.

During the creation process, you’ll typically want only a few people to have the ability to create information. And, once information has been created, in most cases you’ll want a limited number of people able to access it.  In addition, you may want to have certain people be able to edit information but not delete it.

Typically, an organization’s Information Technology (IT) Department sets up users so they can access the internal network.  Because the locations where information traditionally has been stored (such as network server shares and Exchange folders) are managed by IT professionals, they usually are the ones who manage all the permissions as well.

As a result, whenever new permissions need to be created, or existing permissions changed or removed, users have to put in a request with IT so that they can make the change. Of course, as anyone who has worked in a situation like that knows, it can take a long time for those changes to be made, and sometimes the changes are not done right.

To make matters worse, it can be difficult or impossible for the user making the revision to confirm that things have been changed correctly.

As was discussed in my introductory SharePoint training course, SharePoint allows Site Owners to establish and maintain security to meet their own needs.  When permissions have to be changed, the Site Owner can make the changes without involving the IT Department.

Security can be set up for:

  • Sites
  • Workspaces
  • Lists
  • Libraries
  • Pages
  • Individual list items (including documents)
  • Folders within lists and libraries

With the variety of permissions that can be granted to groups and individuals, and the variety of securable objects, there is almost no security requirement that can’t be met.

SharePoint Site Settings Page Lets You Customize and Administer

The SharePoint Site Settings page, which is on every site, is for administering the page and customizing its settings. To access the Site Setting page for a SharePoint site, click on Site Actions > Site Settings.

If at some point you want to change the title, description or URL of a site, simply click on the “Title, description, and icon” in the Look and Feel section of the Site Settings page.

When you are finished with a site, you can delete it by clicking on “Delete this site” in the Site Actions section. But, beware, once you delete a site, you can’t easily restore it, so make sure you really want to delete the site before doing so.

It’s also worth noting that there is no navigation path back to the parent site. If you want to navigate back to somewhere else in SharePoint after you’ve deleted a site, you need to enter the address you want to visit in the browser’s address bar.

The lab for this particular module in my SharePoint training course, “Introduction to SharePoint 2010 – Using SharePoint Foundation 2010,” had us create a site for public relations activities because the Adventure Works Marketing Department felt that the PR activities are distinctly different from other marketing activities.  Accordingly, the Marketing Department wanted to create a separate site for all the information and activities related to public relations.

The module walked us through the entire process, giving us real-world experience that is transferable to everyday office situations.

Although I was training on SharePoint 2010, if you’re on the 2013 version and are looking for a SharePoint 2013 training course, PremierPoint Solution’s “SharePoint  2013 Power User Fast Track” offers 3 days of expert instruction that will take you from square one to SharePoint power user.

Creating a New SharePoint Site

SharePoint sites are known by a hierarchy similar to the family relationships of father, mother, son, daughter, cousin, aunt, uncle and so forth. This SharePoint site hierarchy is a useful way to think about new sites, because when you make a new one it exists under the site where you created it.

As discussed in my introductory SharePoint training course, the site you are in when you click on the Create or New Site link becomes the parent site, and the new sites become the child sites. Two sites that share the same parent are called siblings.

SharePoint Foundation 2010 has three basic types of site templates:

  • Blog Site
  • Team Site
  • Meeting Workspace

The Team Site has three variations:

  • Blank Site
  • Document Workspace
  • Group Workspace

Except for the Blank Site, these templates create a Team Site with different out-of-the-box lists and libraries.

  • The Team Site is designed to help teams organize, work on and share information.
  • A Document Workspace is available to assist people in collaborating on a document. It provides a Documents Library, Task List and Links List.
  • The Group Work Site gives users a groupware solution to help teams create, organize and share information. It also includes a Documents Library as well as lists for Group Calendar, Circulation, and Phone Calls and Memos. In addition, you can add your own lists and libraries to any site.

When creating a new site, all you need to do is enter a title for it and provide a URL. The maximum length for a URL in SharePoint is 260 characters. (Note: SharePoint does not allow certain symbols in the URL, such as %, # or &.)

Once you’ve entered the title and URL, you will see a More Options button.  If you click on this button, it will reveal a page where you can change other settings for the site.

Each SharePoint Site Needs a Clear Purpose and Scope

One of the most important lessons I learned in my introductory SharePoint training course was that SharePoint sites need a clear purpose and scope.

Too many purposes and scopes for a single site can lead to confusion and clutter. At the same time, it’s easy to get “site creep” when purpose and scope increase over time.

How does this happen? One way is when there is a large amount of information, or a variety of information, which is only needed by a small group of people rather than everyone in the organization. Another way is when project teams want to manage their team’s information and communicate in one place. Or they may have certain business processes they would like to automate in SharePoint.

As purpose and scope increase under these and other scenarios, a single SharePoint site can get very disorganized and cluttered trying to contain all that functionality.  It also can become increasingly difficult for employees to locate information and collaborate.

The answer is to create multiple sites and sub-sites in SharePoint. Even though you may have started with just a single site, SharePoint has anticipated the possibility of site growth and lets you create as many sites as you need to comfortably and efficiently manage your data, and keep things organized.

For example, a Marketing Department can create a separate sub-site with an archive of all ads (TV, radio, print, online banners, etc.) so that employees can quickly and conveniently access a current or previous advertising campaign.

Under the Marketing Department’s Advertising site, there may be individual sites where people work together to develop various ads. Each of these sites has a purpose – based on the particular ad being developed – and audience scope of only the people involved in that particular project.

To create a new site, all you need to do is click on Site Actions > New Site.  You also can visit the All Site Content page of a site and click the Create button.

One word of warning: The new site will be a sub-site of the site you’re in when you create it, and there’s no easy way to move it somewhere else once it has been created.