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Becoming a Jack-of-all-Trades: Microsoft SharePoint Administration

In order to be a truly versatile and effective SharePoint 2007/2010 administrator, you need to have at least a moderate level of expertise with several different Microsoft products and technologies. That why SharePoint administration is a powerful, technology rockin’, valuable job skill.  Consider:

Windows Server 2008. Of course, SharePoint software runs on top of the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 network operating system. Here we consider such wide-ranging topics as:

  • Active Directory design, management, and security
  • Shared folder/NTFS permissions
  • Network infrastructure (physical and logical)

A SharePoint implementation touches on all of the aforementioned factors, no doubt about it. In order to deploy and manage SharePoint in a useable and secure fashion, you must be a master of the operating system environment that surrounds SharePoint.

SQL Server 2008. SharePoint uses several SQL Server databases to store metadata, farm security information, and ultimately the portal content: lists, libraries, and so forth. The bottom line is that your SharePoint servers and your SQL Server computers are in near constant communication with each other. To that end, it behooves you to have basic database administration (DBA) skills under your belt if you plan to be a competent SharePoint administrator.

Internet Information Services. Because SharePoint is an ASP.NET data-driven Web application, it makes sense that the product uses IIS to drive the actual SharePoint portal sites. To be sure, I’ve seen IIS come a LONG way in the usability, reliability, and security departments over the last 15 years or so. Once again, it isn’t enough to perform all of your SharePoint management from within the Central Administration Web application. There are times where you have no other choice but to open the IIS Manager console and start flippin’ switches, editing Web.config, and so forth.

.NET Framework. Typically, we see a (fairly) clear distinction/separation of duties between a company’s systems administrators and its solution developers (aka programmers). However, with SharePoint being such a powerful, dreadful beast, this distinction is blurred. In my experience, most companies want or need to customize the out-of-box experience with SharePoint, for one reason or another.

The requirement to extend or otherwise customize SharePoint necessitates breaking out a copy of Visual Studio (or SharePoint Designer at the very least) and getting to work on performing site customizations and new feature deployments. Especially with smaller companies, you may find yourself wearing both the SharePoint administrator hat as well as the SharePoint developer hat—be prepared for that! This skill set requires that you master a .NET-supported programming language (I recommend C#) as well as the suite of W3C development/markup languages such as HTML, CSS, XAML, XML, and the like.

Exchange Server 2010. We know that Microsoft likes to “stack” its server technology products. The way this trick works with SharePoint is that if you want the maximum integration experience between your SharePoint portals and your employees, you need to invest in a Microsoft Exchange messaging infrastructure and Microsoft applications on everybody’s desktops.

Of course, this latter requirement is modified somewhat with the advent of the wonderful Office Web Apps, but the point is clear: in order to become a full-spectrum SharePoint administrator, you also need to be if not an MS Exchange guru, at least a competent manager of that technology.

Business Intelligence and Search. Wow, this is another kettle of fish entirely. How will you, as a mere SharePoint “administrator,” provide guidance to the decision-makers in your organization with regard to data mining and improving the user’s search experience? These are not trivial matters! As you know, SharePoint 2010 ships with a slew of business intelligence (BI) tools, including PerformancePoint Services and (if you are licensed for it) SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services and Analysis Services.

You can also greatly extend SharePoint search by purchasing and installing the Microsoft FAST Search module for SharePoint 2010. While you yourself might not be expected by your boss to interpret the BI reports that SharePoint can give you, you will certainly be responsible for generating said reports in a reliable, accurate, and efficient manner.

CBT Nuggets has all of these skill sets covered, naturally. If you would like specific guidance on SharePoint administration, then please check out my series on the subject:

Happy studying, and thanks for taking the time to read this blog post.



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