SharePoint

SharePoint News from Ignite 2017

The Future of SharePoint, 2017 Edition

This year’s Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando Florida, was the place to be for anyone interested in SharePoint and Office 365. An enormous number of announcements were made covering almost every aspect of the Office and Office Servers.

Microsoft continued the 3 year release cycle for SharePoint, announcing SharePoint 2019 will be released mid-2018. That’s right, a new server release of SharePoint for On-premises users. Microsoft Exchange 2019 server was also announced, which is good news for those businesses who prefer to say on-premises.

Office 365 had more news than it is humanly possible to keep up with. Here are some of the big items to look forward to:

SharePoint

  • News sites – mobile notifications, save for later, news digests, publish to Teams
  • Hub sites – global activity rollups, global search scopes and more
  • Communication sites – custom layouts and Yammer integration
  • Web-parts – lots of new web-parts for Modern sites including Forms and PowerApps!
  • LinkedIn integration – better profiles and expert search
  • Dynamic Record identification and management
  • Better photo and image search – indexing written content in images
  • Multi-geo support – one tenant across multiple geographic locations
  • Improved mobile experiences
  • Conditional formatting of lists
  • New Admin console
  • SharePoint 2019 Server for on-premises users

PowerApps and Flow

  • Did I mention PowerApps web-parts for SharePoint?
  • A clear announcement that PowerApps will replace InfoPath
  • Document Approval for SharePoint and OneDrive for Business
  • PowerApps web-parts for SharePoint

OneDrive for Business

  • One place to see all your files – OneDrive, SharePoint and Groups!
  • Multi-geo support – one tenant across multiple geographic locations
  • OneDrive Client for Mac
  • End user file restore (30 day backup)
  • External Sharing without needing a Microsoft Account with one time use codes
  • Files on-demand

Teams

  • Add SharePoint pages to Teams
  • Push news from SharePoint to Teams
  • Connect Office Groups to Teams
  • Link existing SharePoint Team sites to Teams!

Security and Compliance

  • Site level conditional access policies
  • Service level encryption where the user (tenant owner) has the keys
  • End-user mass content restore – great if you need to bulk recover documents

There have been a huge number of announcements and chances are I have missed a few. It’s a really exciting time for us SharePoint and Office 365 people!

 

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Upgrading to SharePoint 2016 : 101

How do we upgrade to SharePoint 2016? This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately.

Before I answer the question, I usually start by asking one of my own. Have you considered moving to SharePoint Online? Some people have a very good reason for choosing to stay on-premises but many don’t. Let’s consider both scenarios.

Scenario 1: Staying on-premises

The simplest option is a Content Database migration. This is the same tried and tested method used to upgrade from older versions of SharePoint e.g. SP2010 to SP2013. If you are moving from SP2010, you will need to do an interim upgrade to SP2013 first, just for the content database upgrades.

Steps:

  1. Install a new SharePoint 2016 Farm. If you need high-availability or want to take advantage of mini-roles to reduce downtime during patching, you’ll need a minimum of 4 SharePoint servers. If that isn’t needed then a single server farm is possible, but do your homework before going down this path.
  2. You may also need to upgrade your SQL Server depending on the version.
  3. Once installed, create a new Web Application
  4. Restore the Content Database(s) from the SP2013 farm to the new SQL Server
  5. Install any third-party solutions. Mega Menus, Workflow tools, Custom web parts etc
  6. In Central Admin, attach the new database to your new SP2016 web application. SharePoint will automatically upgrade the database schema during this process, which can take time, especially if the database is big.
  7. IISRESET
  8. Test everything

You may decide that an in-place upgrade isn’t practical or possible. In this case, you can setup a new farm and then use a migration tool (DocAve, MetaLogix, ShareGate etc) to move the content across. This can be a time consuming process but is worth consideration if you need to restructure content or if you have a lot of customisation that you don’t want to bring across as part of the upgrade.

Scenario 2: Moving to SharePoint Online

Moving to SharePoint Online often requires more planning upfront. There are some things you can do in SharePoint server, that can’t be done online or require a rethink. Here’s a short list of common differences, but there are others that may apply too:

–          Server side solutions cannot be deployed to the cloud

–          Site Collections can’t use explicit paths (URL’s to sites may change)

–          You cannot change the URL from https://mytenantname.sharepoint.com

–          User Profile Sync back to Active Directory is not supported

–          SQL Server Reporting Services integration is not supported

–          Email enabled document libraries are not supported

–          Many third-party mega menus aren’t supported (yet)

–          Integration with other systems may need to be updated

This is by no-means a full list, but it does give you an idea of where pain could start.

You will need to develop a strategy for migrating content across.

–          What content are you migrating?

–          How much content is there?

–          What tool are you going to use?

I highly recommend using a migration tool such as Metalogix, ShareGate or DocAve. Unless you have a trivial amount of content, these tools will save you time. They can map metadata from your old site to the new one or copy entire sites and site collections across. All of these tools handle version history and system metadata such as created date and created by.

Steps:

  1. Identify what you will be migrating and determine if it includes features that may not be supported. Workarounds or alternative solutions may be needed to address those issues.
  2. Ensure Azure AD Connect is setup and syncing users and groups
  3. I recommend that you move Exchange across before SharePoint if possible. There are some things in the Delve profiles which work better
  4. Setup you SharePoint Online tenant
  5. Create site collections
  6. Use a migration tool to copy over the sites, lists and libraries from on-premises.
  7. Setup navigation
  8. Check site security

You can do this process in stages e.g. pre-copy the bulk of the content and then migrate over the changes before you ‘go live’.

I should stress that in many cases you will have other challenges to address as you migrate sites across. Give yourself time to test and find solutions for those things that don’t migrate nicely.

Moving to SharePoint Online will give you many advantages over the long term and reduce the amount of infrastructure needed for your SharePoint farm. For many of us the chances are you will move to the cloud eventually anyway, so why delay?

If you have any good tips, please share in the comments below.

SharePoint and SSRS: The given key was not present in the dictionary

Consider this scenario. You have SharePoint with SQL Reporting Services (SSRS) running in SharePoint Integrated mode. You want to use a SharePoint list as a data source for a report.

In the SSRS Data Connection you enter the URL and credentials for the SharePoint site but when you test the connection the following error appears:

The given key was not present in the dictionary

After a bit of trial and error I discovered that this error occurs if the URL entered isn’t the default URL for the web application.

To resolve the issue, go into Central Admin and check the Alternative Access mappings on the SharePoint site used in the data source. Check that you are using the default URL.

Similar but unrelated issue

Note that there is a similar issue that occurs when added managed accounts in Central Admin. These issues are not related. Further details of that issue can be found here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-nz/help/2463865/sharepoint-2010-error-message-the-given-key-was-not-present-in-the-dic

 

 

Changing SSRS database names

I’ve been working on a project where multiple servers including two SharePoint farms running SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) in SharePoint Integrated mode need to be moved to a single SQL Server. Each farm has its own SQL Server to host the SharePoint and SSRS databases. To make the job a little more challenging the databases in each farm have the same name.

To complete this job I need to change the names of the databases to avoid duplicate database names on the new SQL Server. Here’s the approach I have taken and few tips to resolve issues caused by the renaming process.

Before attempting the following process, make sure you have a backup.

SQL Reporting Services has two databases:

  • ReportingServerDatabase
  • ReportingServerDatabaseTemp

Backup / Restore :

  1. Backup and restored the databases to the new server, renaming the databases in the process. In this case I added a prefix to distinguish between the two SharePoint farms.
  2. On the SharePoint Server run the SSRS Configuration Tool
  3. Change the database to the new database server name. Note that you don’t get the opportunity to change the Temp database name only the reporting server database.

Update the references to the Temp database:

  1. In SQL Management Studio, locate the ReportingServerDatabase. There are references to the Temp database in several views and many stored procedures (83 in my case).
  2. Generate a script for the Views in the database (Drop and Create)
  3. Generate a script for the Stored Procedures in the database (Drop and Create)
  4. In both scripts search and replace the old Temp database name with the new one
  5. Stop the SSRS Services on the SharePoint Server (in the SSRS Configuration tool)
  6. Run the updated View script
  7. Run the updated Stored Procedures script
  8. Restart the SSRS service

Testing:

  1. In SharePoint navigate to the SSRS Reporting library (in my case called ReportServer)
  2. Edit a Data Connection
  3. View a report

If you get an error in either of these functions, you should see the name of the Stored Procedure and database it is referencing. Go back into SQL Management Studio and check the references have been updated.

 

 

 

Do we still need Structure in SharePoint?

I love Delve, it’s a great way of quickly accessing documents I’ve been working on recently and is particularly useful in when collaborating with people across our business. It is particularly useful when someone moves on and you need to find that document they were recently working on.

I’ve had conversations with a wide range of people over the past few days about the use of Delve and where you still need to structure content to find it in traditional ways. In my opinion structure is still very important for several reasons:

  1. Compliance – documents that must be keep for compliance reasons benefit from structured storage. It allows content to be easily identified, grouped and makes it easier to apply policies.
  2. Archive (High value) –  where you have high value content, the ability to classify the documents, track the approval history and ensure you know which version is authoritative can be important.
  3. Security – structure makes security easier to apply, maintain and audit.
  4. Third-party integration.

You may also have documents that don’t have these requirements. It is still important to think about the life-cycle, particularly what happens if the owner of the documents leaves the organisation and how do I find documents that have been cold for a longer time period but still have value.

Why don’t I just store everything in OneDrive for Business? For all the reason listed above and because we want to ensure the documents are retained over the long term.

Is traditional Site Structure and Search dead? Delve improves user experience and making content more discoverable but it doesn’t suit every use case. Delve also helps address issues such as content stored in Office 365 Groups, OneDrive for Business and other services that work with Office Graph.

What are your thoughts on Delve and SharePoint Structure?

Data Channel : Managing SharePoint Databases

I was recently interviewed for the Data Channel about managing SharePoint databases on SQL Server.

In the interview with Nagaraj Venkatesan (SQL Server MVP from Singapore) I cover many of the common questions DBA’s have about SharePoint including:

  • Things that make SharePoint databases unique
  • Capacity Planning
  • Remote Blob Storage (RBS)
  • Backup / Recovery
  • SSRS Integration
  • Patching

You can download a copy of my presentation from #SQLsat614 which covers the basics for DBA’s and is also useful for SharePoint Admins.

Thanks to The SQL Saturday team for giving me the opportunity to present and Nagaraj for the interview.

 

 

SharePoint for DBA’s

Yesterday I presented at #SQLSat614 in Christchurch. SQL Saturday was a full day event with 20 experts talking on topics related to the Microsoft Data Platform. Since this wasn’t my normal audience, I thought I’d ask the twitter-sphere what questions DBA’s have when it comes to managing SharePoint and the responses helped formulate my talk.

I attended another session where the speaker raised culture as an important aspect of ‘getting things done’. He spoke about the disconnect between different groups within IT, Ops team vs Dev team vs Systems team etc and how communication is often lacking.

Over the years I’ve seen many instances where people using SharePoint do things that ‘upset’ either the Ops team, DBA or someone else in the team. The is often swiftly followed by finger pointing and limited understanding of each others needs only makes things worse.

The point I would make is that SharePoint is a platform. In many cases a group of people are responsible for different elements of the platform – server infrastructure, SQL servers, backups, administration of SharePoint, site builds, content migrations, governance etc. If we can clearly identify the needs of each team and get better understanding across the group, then things will run more smoothly, especially when a crisis occurs. We want the group to become a team.

This leads me to my presentation, Introduction to SharePoint for DBA’s. I made a deliberate decision not to dive in to deep or create a comprehensive guide covering every aspect of SharePoint that a DBA might need to understand, but just enough that they would see how different it is to other workloads and provide a few tips for doing things better.

I’ll leave you with a few simple rules to remember and a link below to download the presentation. Here are the rules:

  • Always use SQL Aliases when installing SharePoint
  • Pre-grow your databases for planned data migration or bulk loading
  • Create one Site Collections per Content Databases were possible
  • Understand your recovery options (see more here)
  • Have a regular catch up with your SharePoint admin
  • Never update SharePoint databases directly, use the SharePoint UI or API’s

Download Presentation

During the questions I was asked, what is the difference between a DBA and a SharePoint Admin? A difficult question for a guy who spends his days working with SharePoint to answer, when the room is full of DBA’s!

A big thank you to the Microsoft SQL community (#sqlfamily) for having me at their event.