University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Anyone have any advice about best practices for a new SharePoint Administrator?

I'm a one-man web shop.

My day is already more than full with pre-existing 'conditions'.

SharePoint is being added to my list of stuff to manage/administer.

I don't know that I can continue to provide any reasonable amount of support to my institution for the pre-existing stuff once SharePoint goes online and everyone starts using it (students, faculty, administration/management and staff).

I am asking for those of you who have been down this road to be kind enough to offer any best practice suggestions for managing this system on top of existing responsibilities and a high existing project load.

If it's not really possible to do so, I would appreciate any feedback you can provide that will assist me in communicating that to management, so that they have some reasonable expectation as to the support level they can expect after it goes 'live'.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Justin Gatewood
Victor Valley Community College District

Views: 81

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Justin,

We rolled out a SharePoint service to a few hundred users and it's been working pretty well for our needs. I only had to oversee the end-user side of the system, as our central IT department thankfully handles the server and database backend -- are you having to do both? If you're having to do the backend stuff as well that likely would be a major investment of time! In any case, it sounds like you're in the same spot that I was in three years ago: I'm also the "web guy", and somehow this project ended up in my jurisdiction.

My general advice: keep it simple. Permissions in SharePoint can quickly become a granular, noodly mess if you aren't careful. Here's how I set up our system, in case it's helpful:

* We have a handful of site collections, each with a number of sub-sites
* Each sub-site has "unique permissions" (they don't inherit the site collection's permissions), and each one has its own unique Owners, Members, and Visitors groups (mapped to the default permission levels for the site of "Full Control", "Contribute", and "Read Only" respectively)
* In cases where we want to keep an eye on who's in charge of a site we add only a couple of trusted users to the site's Owners list. This is mostly the case with our student org / journal sites, where we have a policy that only the students registered with our student affairs office as the group's official contacts are allowed to be Owners. Student Affairs has the access needed to update the Owners groups every semester,
* Most of our groups' settings are set such that only site Owners can change who are in the Members and Visitors groups, and only site collection admin are able to change the Owners lists. Having said that, Owners quickly discovered the loophole that they could just make a new group and give it Full Control permission if they wanted to grant others full access...
* Users are free to tinker with the permission settings of their site and create new user groups, etc. If they make ornate permission changes that cause problems for themselves, however, our policy is to revert their site back to our default Owners / Members / Visitors settings. We've only had to do that once or twice in the three years we've been running the site.

If end users are allowed to adjust permissions or set up workflows on shared sites, try to convince them to at least document what they've set up -- this is especially true if you have student users who might be graduating within a year or two!

What worked well for me, workload-wise, was to set up a dummy site with the basic features that I thought most of our users would need, saving that as a template site. Creating new sites then is simply a matter of rolling out a new subsite using that template, adjusting the settings of the user groups, and tweaking the names of the new site's features (i.e. changing "TEMPLATE Document Library" to "Financial Aid Document Library" or whatever) and adding the site's initial Owners.

To keep things simple, we haven't exactly advertised to our users that they can use the free SharePoint Designer (nee FrontPage) to really tweak out their sites. Users with Design permissions or better are able to do so if they want, but I've only seen one or two users who had interest in going to that level of customization. It might be be a good idea to set a policy that that kind of customization is unsupported.

Some of our biggest gotchas:

* File names can't have any reserved URL characters in them (so educate your users to watch our for " and ? marks, !'s, &'s, etc in their file names before uploading).
* When uploading a file, the resulting URL including the filename cannot be longer than around 255 characters. Very annoying for users who like having nested folders or if you're trying to batch import an existing file system into SharePoint!
* If a user with Full Control deletes their own site (after going through two or three screens of "Are you sure?" prompts), there's no way to get it back apart from digging into a database backup. SharePoint even helpfully deletes the auditing that indicates who did the deletion...!
* SharePoint is a bit more cumbersome to use in what Microsoft refers to as "second tier" browsers, which are basically anything that's not Internet Explorer 7 or 8 (for a while IE8 was considered second tier, even!). You mostly lose some of the WYSIWYG features and Office connectivity. I hear things might be better in SharePoint 2010. Anyhow, it's worth learning how things work in both IE and Firefox / Safari / Chrome, assuming that your users are diverse in their browser choices.
* We're not on the same domain as our SharePoint server, so our users get pestered to log in once when accessing the site and then again each time they open a file directly into Office. This could be a sore point if your users are working with the site a lot from off-campus or on non-domain machines.

The first year of using it was a bit time-intensive as I'd get lots of questions about how to do things (SharePoint is obtuse at times, maddening at others). Between users helping each other out and some in-house documentation, though, it's definitely quieted down a lot. Setting it all up and getting it going was a bit of an ordeal but in the end turned out to be manageable, and the majority of our users are willing to deal with the odd errors messages and difficulties in exchange for being able to work with their files collaboratively from any Internet connection.

Sorry for the long ramble, but I hope it helps!

Adam Norwood

Webmaster / Sr Software Developer
Law Technology Services
University of Texas School of Law

Thank you very much for your time in putting together and publishing this post.

I have printed it out, and will be using your recommendations (and 'gotchas') along with other helpful posts I've found to try to bring some order and structure to the initial roll out of SharePoint on our campus.

Justin Gatewood



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