• We just got out official beta invitation for Microsoft Office 365, giving us the opportunity to browse through, learn, and toy with the various new features of Microsoft's latest evolution, SharePoint Online. However, those who haven't managed to get into the beta just yet – or who prefer a more "read only" method of education – may prefer to explore the developer guide released by Microsoft.

    The guide is perfect for those eager to learn about the new features. The 45-page document walks users through the basics (what is SharePoint Online, why SharePoint Online is advantageous when compared to both previous versions of SP and to competition, etc.), it also has a succinct look at what's new for standard users and developers. Key components of the update include:

    • Updates to SharePoint Designer. Users will be able to more quickly "leverage the building blocks" of the SharePoint environment. This includes branding, workflows, custom actions, and library interaction.
    • Updates to the Visual Studio. Users will be able to build applications, templates, and other development resources more effectively, and will be able to import previously created solutions (any file in .wsp format) into SharePoint Online.
    • A SharePoint to LINQ converter that translates LINQ coding into CAML.
    • A new client-side model.
    • And much more!

    Please note that everything discussed in the developer's guide, just like Office 365 itself, is in beta and thus is subject to change. Check out the developer guide for yourself: download now.
  • The Deepwater Horizon Drill
    Everyone knows about the BP oil spill. After all, it was one of the biggest man-made disasters in recent years, and its ecological impact – not to mention the economic damage to local regions and those who lived in those areas – was immense. As nearly five million barrels of oil gushed into the ocean, the world was outraged. Shouldn't a company like BP have systems in place to prevent just such a disaster? Well, they did, in the form of a customized SharePoint platform. And that platform had warned BP against doing exactly what they did.

    One reason that the SharePoint name doesn't often come up with BP is that the company calls its content management system the "OMS" – or Operating Management System. However, the entire thing is built on the backbone of Microsoft SharePoint, with heavy customization but a gravitational center that should be familiar to all our readers. The company is currently reviewing the OMS, and representatives are concerned because it's not a guarantee of safety. However, if the company had listened to the warning of the system, they would have almost certainly prevented the spill.

    The BP OMS, in examining the Deepwater Horizon drilling facilities, indicated that 21 stabilizers would be required. The company had six in place and ordered 15 more. However, the 15 that arrived didn't seem to be the appropriate units, so the company decided not to install them. Rather than delay the drilling, British Petroleum decided to continue with only 6 of the 21 stabilizers needed – equating to roughly a 72% deficit on the provided safety recommendations.

    What's the lesson of the story? First, that SharePoint is capable of preventing disasters, especially when you take advantage of customization features. Second, that if you invest so heavily in an effective system like a customized SharePoint content management and evaluation system, you should listen when it tells you not to continue.

  • Those who have been paying close attention to Microsoft's innovations will already have heard of Microsoft 365, which has had mentions from mid-2010. However, exactly what was to be included wasn't sure – nor was 365 itself anything more than a convention demo and set of screenshots, at least as far as practical application was concerned.

    That's changed now, thanks to the Beta release of Office 365. But what's so different about this service? The primary augmentation is the move of Microsoft's productivity components into the cloud. All of the standard productivity services, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, are cloud-ready with this service, but that's not where the story ends: Office 365 also brings SharePoint into the cloud.

    The entire package is available for beta testers now, but it may take some time to get admitted to the beta program (two to four weeks, in fact, according to the Microsoft estimates). Those who would rather just wait for an official release should be pleased by the pricing, which tosses the traditional licensing fee in favor of an annual subscription. Companies with fewer than 25 employees can subscribe for $6 per year, or $18 per year if you want your employees to have access to the desktop versions of Microsoft Office. Meanwhile, the Enterprise version, designed for companies with more than 25 employees, will charge $24 per year for access to all the standard services and desktop software, as well as 24-hour IT support and advanced controls.

    There's little doubt that the update will change the face of Microsoft SharePoint, and the company has never disguised the fact that this may present complications. However, it will also offer a great number of new opportunities. Those looking to conquer the chaos or seize the new treasures lying inside the updated version will benefit from a SharePoint consulting group such as SharePoint Engine. Contact us today for your free consultation.

  • As the web has evolved over the last two decades, the way we think about information, authority, and business has changed completely. In the early phases, the idea of a graphical web pushed us to media-rich content. Next, we learned to aggregate content in directories. From there we pushed onto search engines and, eventually, intelligent search engines. But the biggest surge in recent years has been the social web.

    We can see the prominence of the social web in major sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but we can also get a strong sense of how this "socializing" nature has spread to other technology. SharePoint is one great example, with its "My Sites" profile settings.

    Those who have been using SharePoint for some time likely know a lot about My Sites – including the fact that it used to be absolutely awful to use. Because of this history, some companies still evade the SharePoint social profile completely. However, in SharePoint 2007 and (more essentially) 2010, the interface became more intuitive and useful.

    My Sites allows you to set up profiles that:

    • Share your areas of expertise with others in your company.
    • Allow management to see all individuals with experience/expertise in a given topic.
    • Allow users to post notes to their own page, educating others on frequently asked questions.
    • Call the attention of colleagues by tagging them in notes.
    • Create/view a visual company directory that clearly illustrates hierarchy.
    • And much more!

    Be sure to stay tuned to the SharePoint Engine website, and subscribe to our newsletter if you haven't already, since our April newsletter content will be giving some great tips and tricks on this all-important topic.

  • While there are dozens of happy holidays throughout the year, one of the favorite for those in the tech industry seems to be April Fools' Day. This "no holds bar" day of lies, hoaxes, parodies, and stunts calls to the clever and innovative minds and tells them to throw the world for a loop – if only for one day. While Microsoft SharePoint didn't pull anything on its users (Microsoft tends to shy away from the goofy end of the spectrum), some prominent SharePoint gurus have used the platform as the basis for their joke.

    One example is Woody Windischman. Windischman is a respected guru in the industry who has written multiple books about SharePoint and how to use it. Thus, it was more than a little shocking when his SharePoint blog ("The Sanity Point," where he attempts to find sanity with the often difficult to manage SharePoint system) stated, "I've decided to give up SharePoint. For most of my life, people have been telling me I'm wasting my time with all of this computer nonsense, and that I should dedicate myself to my true calling - photography!"

    Some people took Windischman a little more seriously than intended, in part because he actually is a photographer with a fairly substantial collection of nature photography. However, he assures his readers that he has no intent of sacrificing his love of SharePoint; there's no reason, after all, why he can't be a photographer and a SharePoint guru too.

    Have you heard of any other SharePoint-oriented stunts from April 1st? Did you pull any of your own? Let us know in the comments here or on our Facebook page. We'd love to spread word about the more humorous side of technology lovers.

    As always, for those more interested in the professional, developmental side of the picture, you can always contact our team for a free consultation on how we can help you make the most out of this powerful platform.
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