Myth busting for SharePoint novices

New to SharePoint? With all the misinformation regarding this popular technology, the tip gives you the facts about its ease of use, what it's good for -- and its limitations.

There are still plenty of IT professionals who think that Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration platform is simple to set up and manage. In fact, there are plenty of marketing materials that tout SharePoint's ease of use.

One of my clients believed that and started to build its very first Window's SharePoint Services environment -- without learning about it, without planning and without knowing what it wanted and how thecompany would use it.

Myth: Set up SharePoint and it works

The idea that you can install SharePoint without any planning is a fairy tale, and one that can turn into a nightmare. In my client's case, the end users couldn't find what they wanted even though tons of company resources were stored in it. Unfortunately, much of the company's SharePoint data was stored without any metadata.

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The IT department had discovered content types. Using content types can be useful and powerful, but you can't use content types without building hierarchy and without a metadata management plan. Guess how this client managed them? Manually. If they needed to modify ten similar content types, they had to update them ten times because they didn't have a common parent with the common column set.

They experienced poor performance on some of the company's SharePoint sites because the information architecture wasn't well-planned and items were stored in an unstructured way. In the end, they faced global performance issues. When they wanted to scale it out, they weren't able to because they had installed a stand-alone server instead of a scalable farm. Our solution was to install a SharePoint farm, re-plan and re-build a full architecture and then migrate all of the content into the new farm.

Myth: SharePoint is good for everything

Here's one of my favorite user comments: "I'd like to use SharePoint for everything."

Everything could include ERP, CRM, timesheets, a Web shop, dashboard, video storage and more. If you want to do this without any developers to customize the applications, I say, you can't. A client mmay try to go it alone. I tell them to go ahead and try it -- without me.

SharePoint is a good and flexible platform. But you have to know when some customization or development is necessary and when something is impossible to pull off. Clients who ignore those limits and assume they can do everything on SharePoint often ask me to help them make those implementations work. Well, they fail every time. Some situations need development or else you will hit SharePoint's limits.

The mythical 2,000 item limit

Another common assumption is that you can only store 2,000 items in a SharePoint list or library. Some IT departments don't care about SharePoint's storage limitations, and others are frightened by the idea of having 1,999 items in a list.

Indeed, there are some limits around the number 2,000, but the limits are not about an actual number of items. You can store hundreds or thousands or millions of items, but take care. For instance, don't try to display lookup or query thousands of items because those operations will impact performance. You can find a detailed white paper about large lists on TechNet's article: Working with large lists in Office SharePoint Server 2007.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Agnes Molnar, is a MOSS MVP and has been working with Microsoft technologies and SharePoint since 2001. After releasing MOSS 2007, she founded L&M Solutions, her own SharePoint consultant company in Hungary, Central Europe. She's been working as senior consultant and solutions architect, and has led numerous Central European companies' SharePoint implementation. Visit her SharePoint blog: http://dotneteers.net/blogs/aghy/

This was first published in August 2009
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