Companyweb & Sharepoint v3 – Part 1

This is the first in a short series of running Windows Sharepoint Services v3 on your SBS 2003 / R2 server.

First the caveat:  Upgrading and/or running your companyweb site with Windows Sharepoint Services v3 is not supported – neither by Microsoft nor myself.  Just because I’m blogging about it doesn’t mean I’m supporting it.  Microsoft does support installing WSS v3 in parallel with v2 on your SBS – but only supports the companyweb site running as a WSS v2 site.  Microsoft’s official document on installing Windows Sharepoint Services v3 on SBS can be found here

What’s the fuss?

The first thing to talk about is why you want to move up to WSS v3.  Being a long-time Sharepoint junkie, there are some impressive features in v3 that address many of the complaints and wishes we all had with previous versions.  The key items:

Recycle Bin    All most WSS admins can say is FINALLY!  No more juggling with multiple stsadm or smigrate backups to allow for individual item restores.  And when you need to restore, no more needing to restore those backups to parallel sites.  Granted it worked – but was cumbersome and painful.   WSS v3 gives us a dual-layer Recycle Bin.  Each user gets their own Recycle Bin which allows them to easily recover anything they may have deleted (a document, a photo, or even a list item).  In addition to the individual user recycle bins, there is a site-level recycle bin as well.  So even if your users delete something from the site, and then empty their recycle bin only to come to you the next day to ask if there is any way of getting that item back – well now there is.  The administrator can access the site collection recycle bin and restore items that users have deleted even if they have deleted their recycle bin.  This is configurable so you can specify how long you want to keep deleted items in the recycle bin, so you don’t have to manually empty the site collection recycle bin.

Offline Access to Document Libraries     Yes, you read that right.  So you’re finally getting your users to store their documents on your Sharepoint site – but you’ve still got those roaming users who are keeping files on their laptops so they can have access to them anywhwere, even if they don’t have an internet connection.  Well now you can have the best of both worlds.  With Outlook 2007 and WSS v3, you can now keep a copy of your document libraries within Outlook – so your users can have offline access to their Sharepoint files.

Mobile Access.     Do you have users who are out of the office a lot?  Do they have internet-enabled phones?  WSS v3 includes a mobile page format optimized for web-enabled PDA’s & smart phones – which presents an experience somewhat similar to OMA.  Regardless, you can now access your Sharepoint site, including documents and lists right from your phone.  I only migrated our companyweb a few days ago, and I’m already finding myself taking serious advantage of this mobile access on a regular basis.   

Tighter integration with Office.     WSS v3 and Office 2007 are a match made in heaven.  With WSS v2 & Outlook 2003, we could link Sharepoint calendars and contact lists with Outlook.  However, anyone who used this functionality realized this was a one-way connection:  you could only view the calendars and contacts in Outlook.  Any additions or changes had to be made via the Sharepoint web interface.  Not any more – with WSS v3 and Outlook 2007, you have full two-way integration, allowing you to add/edit appointments or contacts from either the Sharepoint web interface OR from within Outlook.  And an added bonus – if you delete a Sharepoint contact or appointment from within Outlook, it actually gets sent to your Recycle Bin within Sharepoint.

Improved Versioning.     WSS v2 allowed us to keep versions of items stored in document libraries.  WSS v3 allows us to keep track of both major & minor versions within document libraries, and even allows us to keep track of versions of list items.  So you can now see version histories within your lists, and just like with document libraries, restore any previous version at any time.

Improved Security.     WSS v3 gives us true item-level security on documents and even list items.  So for you somewhat Draconian admins out there, you can control what your users can see, change & delete at a granular level.

There’s a lot going on with WSS v3 – both on the surface and under the hood.  So far our migration has met with positive results from our users – it’s cleaner, quicker, and just flat out prettier.  But now that you know why you want to migrate, in the next segment we’ll address how to plan such a migration and what gotchas and pitfalls to avoid.