Improve Electronic Document Management
Most businesses work with more documents than ever, and managing them all is often a costly and complex process.
“There is a demand within our credit union for document management,” says Tonya McEnheimer, information technology specialist at Member One Federal Credit Union in Roanoke, Va. “Paper is challenging. We do not have enough space for it, and it would be a big help to have a document management system, so that we could retain data and documents and retrieve them immediately if we were audited or if a member needed a document.”
Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is a free Web-based application from Microsoft for Windows Server 2003 that provides collaboration, workflow, document management and security features through a Web browser or via direct integration with Microsoft Office XP 2007. WSS allows users to create virtual work spaces for individual projects that can be used, among other things, to store and manage related documents. Document work spaces contain a default document library, called Shared Documents. Each document library can have individual settings that control functions, such as document versioning and security.
But while it is free, WSS is resource intensive and requires a server with a minimum of 1 gigabyte of random access memory. WSS introduces an extra level of complexity, especially having to maintain a database, which will require extra work from the IT department.
This product is a good fit for organizations, such as Member One. “We run a financial platform to process transactions with its set of rules, and Microsoft for just about everything else,” says McEnheimer. “We keep one drive open for end users and use it for storing documents, and we restore those documents from tape backups.”
WSS includes document versioning, approval, document check in/out and control on copying and distributing documents. Here are the basic steps for developing a secure WSS environment:
1) Creating a Document Management Work Space
Once WSS has been installed, the first task is to log onto the default top-level Team Site (using the account that you used to install WSS, which is the first default WSS user) and create a document work space (essentially a sub-site of Team Site) for a new project: Project X. The top-level Team Site will be opened automatically once the configuration wizard has completed. You can browse to the site anytime by simply typing http://<<yourservername>> into a browser window. It is also necessary to add this site to the list of Trusted Sites under the security tab in the Internet Options control panel applet if you are browsing the site from the server.
From the Team Site home page, click Site Actions, and select Create. Under Web Pages, select Sites and Work Spaces. In the New SharePoint Site window, you will be able to configure various options for the new work space. Give it a title (Project X) and URL (projectx). Select Document work space as the template.
2) Configuring Security
There are two options for configuring security on the new work space. In a simple environment, it is likely that you will have one top-level site with several work spaces. Let’s assume that each work space will have access restricted to a specific group of users. In this scenario, it is best to select Use unique permissions. Leave the navigation options as default, and press Create.
One of the biggest advantages of using WSS to manage document security is that it allows trusted users to control access to document libraries, or individual documents, rather than relying on the IT department to configure access control lists on files and folders. Transferring this responsibility should be made with careful consideration, however.
The Set Up Groups for this Site window allows you to set up three basic groups for controlling user access. Visitors are allowed to view documents, members may create new and edit existing documents, and owners have full control over the work space. It is possible to configure granular security down to individual documents, but the simpler you can keep things, the better. To start with, these three basic groups should suffice. By default, a new group unique to the new work space will be created for members and owners. To configure a unique group for visitors to the Project X work space, rather than allow visitors who are granted view permission to the top-level Team Site to view content in the Project X work space, simply select Create a new group, and a default name will be assigned. Press OK.
Let’s add a user to the Project X Members group. From the Project X home page, select Add new user where it says Groups. In the Users/Groups box, you can add a user to a specified group by entering the user’s name in the following format: <domain name>\user. Press the Check names icon under the box, and your entry should be underlined if it can be matched. Make sure Add users to a SharePoint Group is selected under Give permissions, and select Project X Visitors [Read] from the menu. Press OK.
It may be necessary to access your work space through its unique URL rather than via the top-level Team Site, for instance, http://<<servername>>/projectx. It will depend on the account you are using to access the site and whether it has access to the top level.
3) Configuring Document Versioning, Check I/O and Approval
From the Project X home page, click the default Shared Documents library, and then Settings > Document Library Settings. Under General Settings, select Versioning settings. Configure the settings shown in the table below, and press OK.
|Document Version History||Create Major and Minor Versions|
Go back to the Project X home page, and select Add a new document under the Shared Documents library. After adding a new document, you will see that it is necessary to check the document in to WSS. You can check it in immediately to allow others to edit it by clicking Check In. You can now edit the document in Word by clicking on the document icon on the Project X home page. If you are using Word 2007, you will notice that it is necessary to check the document out before you can edit it. Simply click on the Check Out button at the top of the screen. You will be notified that you are now working with an offline copy of the document, so you can disconnect from the network and continue working until you’re ready to check the document back in with WSS. The document management pane in Word 2007 gives you the opportunity to check the document back in to WSS when you are ready. Publish a new major version, and press OK.
If you return to the WSS Project X home page and view the document’s history from the drop down menu, you will see there are now two versions of the document: the original draft (version 0.1) and the new major version (version 0.2), which is pending approval. Once the document has been approved, version 0.2 will become version 1.0 automatically. You need to have appropriate rights in order to approve a document, which can be done from the same drop-down menu used to view the document’s history.
4) Working with Document Libraries Offline
If you have Outlook 2007, you can take whole document libraries offline by clicking on the document library from the work space home page (shared documents in this case), and in the Actions menu select Connect to Outlook. You will be presented with a new folder in Outlook that contains a list of documents from the library. You can then edit any document offline, and when you reconnect to the network, simply open the document from Outlook, and you have the option to upload the modified version to WSS.
5) Document Backup and Recovery
Backup of WSS, its database and all other components, is straightforward. From the SharePoint 3.0 Central Administration site, which can be found under administrative tools in the control panel, log on as an administrator, select the Operations tab and then Perform a backup. If you select the top level (Farm), everything required to restore WSS to its present state will be backed up. Continue to Backup Options from where you can choose the type of backup and the file location. There is a command-line tool (stsadm.exe), which can be used to automate various WSS operations including backup.
WSS Version 3 contains a two-stage recycle bin. The Project X work space contains a user recycle bin where items are retained for 30 days if a user deletes a document. There is also a site recycle bin where items that are purged from the user’s recycle bin can be found and restored if necessary by an administrator. This facility should minimize the need to restore documents from backup and further protect critical business data.
But McEnheimer says this feature makes it easier to retrieve documents that users delete by mistake. “A common problem for end users is the mistaken deletion of an important document,” she says. “If the recycle bin has been emptied, the last resource is retrieval from a stored backup, which is very time consuming. WSS gives IT staff a break by allowing quick and easy access to deleted files.”
From the work space (or user) recycle bin, which can be found in the menu on the Project X home page, you can select Site Collection Recycle Bin from the top of the screen. At the Site Collection Recycle Bin, you then need to select Deleted from end user Recycle Bin under Select a View. If you choose to restore a document from the Site Collection Recycle Bin, it will be put back to its original location in the work space.
Hardware requirements for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 vary depending on many factors, such as how WSS is deployed (e.g., standalone or farm installation), the number of concurrent users and the volume of documents that need to be stored. Before deciding on how to deploy WSS and what hardware specifications will be required, it is important to understand how WSS will be used. For a standalone WSS installation, during which the Web application and database are running on the same server, 2 gigabytes of RAM are recommended with dual processors 3 gigahertz or faster.
Make sure you plan for future growth from the outset. If you want to store 100GB of documents, you need to have 130GB of disk space available for Structured Query Language server. If you decide to enable document versioning, a copy of each version is stored in the database. You also need to take into account the space required for database log files and consider leaving 25 percent free disk space on each volume. To help control the amount of disk space used, you can create quotas for SharePoint sites to limit the amount of storage they will use. Warning e-mails may also be sent when the amount of storage used reaches a given level.
If WSS is to be used intensively or you require flexibility for future growth, WSS may be installed in a server farm topology, in which the front-end and database server roles are hosted on one or more computers. The recommended hardware requirements for the front-end server (the server that hosts the WSS Web application) are the same as for a standalone WSS installation. Requirements for the database server are that it should host SQL Server 2000 SP3a, or higher, or SQL Server 2005 SP1, or higher. Recommended processor requirements for the standard edition of SQL Server 2005 are a single processor 1GHz, or faster, and a minimum 1GB of RAM. Realistically, these are minimum requirements, however.
To determine whether your WSS installation is secure and set up correctly, you can run the Best Practices Analyzer for WSS against your server. This tool may be accessed at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=83335&clcid=0x409.
The tool is run from the command line and generates an HTML report. Simply run the downloaded executable and extract the files to a convenient directory. From the command line, change the working directory to the location where the files were extracted from and run the following command:
sharepointbpa.exe -cmd analyze -substitutions SERVER_NAME <MYSERVERNAME>
Replace <MYSERVERNAME> with the name of the WSS server. The report will be generated in the same directory, detailing any issues with the configuration.
Additional security is provided with the ability to block certain file types from being stored in the WSS database. From Central Administration > Operations > Blocked File Types, you may add or remove file extensions to determine whether users can save and/or retrieve certain file types.
WSS introduces many useful features, but you should consider whether it would benefit your users and whether they will need training to use it. It is not the most intuitive system. Consider the way your users work with documents and how security is managed by the IT department on your file servers. How does this compare with the facilities WSS has to offer?
WSS is resource intensive and requires a server with a minimum of 1GB of RAM. WSS introduces an extra level of complexity, which will require extra work from the IT department.
SharePoint Portal Server is based on and requires Windows SharePoint Services. It lets large organizations integrate multiple WSS sites and applications into one portal with advanced features, such as search indexing across multiple sites and single sign-on.