Understanding Site Collections

First and foremost, a site collection is a (hierarchically arranged) logical container for grouping sites. From there, you need to know that the top-level site in a site collection is often a portal site that aggregates content from subsites - although this isn’t required - and that a Web application can host multiple site collections.

The number of site collections you create depends on many factors. Every site in a collection shares navigation, security and permissions, templates, and content types. You should plan to group together sites that need to share these items and make them a site collection.

Before you create a site collection, gather several pieces of information - including these:

  • Path: You can determine the path to your site collection before you create it. The servername in the URL is determined by the Web application. Your two default options are to create the site collection at the root of the URL or at the sites path. Subsites are created below this URL.
  • Administrators: You need to choose primary and secondary administrators for the site collection.
  • Web application: You have to decide which Web application should host the site collection.
  • Site template: A site template is a boilerplate for creating SharePoint sites. When you create a site collection, you create the top-level site in the collection. You need to select the template for the top-level site. See the next section, “Configuring Web Applications and Site Collections.”
  • Quota: You may choose to select a quota that defines limits on the sizes of the sites created in the site collection.

To create a site collection, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Application Management tab in the SharePoint Central Administration site.
  2. Click the Create Site Collection link in the SharePoint Site Management section. The Create Site Collection page appears.
  3. Using the Web Application drop-down menu, select the application where you want to create the site collection. To create a site collection, follow these steps: Click the Application Management tab in the SharePoint Central Administration site. Click the Create Site Collection link in the SharePoint Site Management section. The Create Site Collection page appears. Using the Web Application drop-down menu, select the application where you want to create the site collection
  4. Type a title and description for the site collection.
  5. In the Web Site Address section, type a URL for accessing the top-level site in the site collection. Your default options are to use the root path, which is depicted by a forward slash (/), or to use the /sites path. You can add more paths as needed.
  6. Select a template to use for the top-level site in the site collection. Your template options depend on whether you’re using Windows SharePoint Services or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. WSS offers collaboration templates for small teams and project groups such as Team Site and Document Workspace. MOSS 2007 includes additional templates that are suitable for divisional portals and enterprise uses. Some MOSS 2007 site templates, such as those for collaboration and publishing portals, can only be used when you create the top-level site in a site collection. Any other site templates can be used to create sites within the site collection hierarchy.
  7. Type or select the primary and secondary site-collection administrators. The accounts you use here are from your authentication provider (for example, Active Directory). You should generally specify two site-collection administrators. Having a backup administrator ensures that administration e-mail doesn’t go unanswered in the event the primary administrator is on vacation.
  8. Select a quota template in the Quota Template section. See Chapter 18 for more information about using quota templates to monitor and control site usage.
  9. Click OK. The Operation in Progress page appears. Wait while the site collection is created. The operation can take a few minutes while the content is added to the database. The Top-Level Site Successfully Created page appears. The URL for the top-level site appears in the page. You can click the link to test the site. Click OK to return to the Application Management page.

Setting up Web Applications

You can create as many Web applications as you feel are necessary, but the big thing about creating different Web applications is that you can isolate site collections from each other. And why is isolation a good thing? Well, if each Web application has its own configuration, that means that you can then do the following:

  • Use different authentication. Giving each Web application its own authentication scheme means you can have one Web application for internal use and another for external access.
  • Use separate application pools. If you set it up so that each Web application uses its own application pool in Internet Information Services, you can keep the applications separate from each other on the server so they can’t corrupt each other.
  • Use separate databases. By using different databases for each Web application, you can isolate content for backup and restore operations.

To create a new Web application, follow these steps:

1. Click the Application Management tab in the SharePoint Central Administration site.

2. Click the Create or Extend Web Application link in the SharePoint Web Application Management section. The Create or Extend Web Application page appears. On this page, you have two options: Create a new Web application, or extend an existing one. These steps create a new one.

3. Click the Create a New Web Application link. The Create New Web Application page appears.

4. In the IIS Web Site section, accept the default option to Create a New IIS Web Site. Here’s a list of handy things to know about this option:

  • You can select the Use an Existing IIS Web Site option if you’ve already created the Web site with IIS. It’s best to let SharePoint handle the creation of Web sites in IIS.
  • The IIS Web Site section includes a default description and path. Accept these defaults unless you have a reason to change them.
  • You have the option to set the port that IIS uses to access the site. SharePoint randomly generates a number to use for the port. You may change it if you want. Just make sure the port number doesn’t conflict with any existing port numbers.
  • Be sure to set the port to 80 if you’re creating the primary content Web application. Otherwise, your users have to type the port every time they pull up the site in the browser.
  • Host headers are a new feature in this version of SharePoint; they allow you to map multiple domain names to a single Web site. Type the domain name you want to map to the Web application in the Host Header field.

5. In the Security Configuration section of the Create New Web Application page, select the default values unless your network administrator gives you different information. In this section, you have the choice to select your authentication provider.

The default option is NTLM (short for Windows NT LAN Manager, an authentication protocol used for Windows NT 4.0 networks). Kerberos is more secure, however, so be sure to check with your network administrator.

If you want your Web application to use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for an added layer of protection, you can enable that capability by selecting the Yes radio button for SSL. SSL encrypts data sent to and from the Web application.

6. Type a URL to use as the load-balanced URL. By default, the URL is the servername and port. The load-balanced URL is the domain that’s used in all the links that point to the Web application.

7. In the Application Pool section, accept the default option to create a new application pool. By creating a new application pool, you’re assured that your Web application is isolated from other Web applications on the server. If one crashes, yours won’t crash as well.

You want to enter a username and password for the application pool to use. The username and password that you enter here is the identity used by the application pool. Microsoft recommends that you use a unique domain account for each application pool you create. The application pool account has access to all the content in the Web application. See your network or security administrator for assistance with creating domain accounts.

8. In the Database Name and Authentication section, enter the name for the database server, database, and service account to use for database authentication.

The database server is the name of the server where your database is hosted. I suggest you give a meaningful name to the database itself. Using the same My Site example from Step 7, I append MySite to the database name so I can easily recognize the database.

If you want to use an existing database with your Web application, you need to extend an existing Web application. Refer to Step 2 for more information.

The default option for database authentication is Windows authentication. I suggest you use Windows authentication unless you have a specific need to use SQL authentication. There’s no reason to create a separate set of accounts in SQL Server to manage.

9. In the Search Server section, select a server to use as the search server for this Web application. If you’re using MOSS 2007, search is provided by the Office SharePoint Server Search shared service.

10. Click OK. The Operation in Progress page appears. Wait while the Web application is created. The Application Created page appears after the application is created. The application has no site collections, so a link is provided to create a new site collection.

After you create your Web application, you must create a site collection before you can pull it up in the browser via the URL. You can also see the content database created for the Web application in SQL Server Management Studio and the Web site in IIS Manager.

Performing Administrative Tasks

One feature of SharePoint is that you can use it to collaborate with members of a team to accomplish a project. I can’t think of a better project that requires collaboration among many parties than installing and configuring SharePoint. Apparently Microsoft agrees; it added an Administrator Tasks list to the Central Administration Web site.

By using the Administrator Tasks list, you get a feel for how you can use SharePoint to manage tasks.

Viewing administrative tasks

When you install SharePoint, SharePoint creates a list of administrative tasks that you need to complete if you want to configure SharePoint. You may not need to complete every single task, and you may need to complete additional tasks that aren’t listed.

The list of administrative tasks is just a list that Microsoft believes most installations need to complete. MOSS 2007 includes additional tasks that don’t apply to Windows SharePoint Services such as configured shared services. To view the Administrator Tasks list, browse to your Central Administration site.

If you aren’t sure of the URL for your Central Administration site, you can access a shortcut on the front-end SharePoint server by choosing Start => All Programs => Administrative Tools => SharePoint 3.0 Central Administration. The Administrator Tasks list appears on the home page of the Central Administration site.

If the list includes more tasks than what can appear on the home page, click the More Items link to view the entire list of tasks. To view a task in the Administrator Tasks list, click the hyperlinked task title. The task detail appears in the browser. Each task provides the following information:

  • Action: A hyperlink to the page in SharePoint’s Central Administration site where you perform the task described.
  • Associated Service: The service that’s involved with completing the task.
  • Description: A high-level description of the administrative task, its purpose, and the information you need to complete it.
  • Order: The relative order in which the tasks should be completed.
  • System Task: A Yes/No value indicating whether the task is associated with setting up the SharePoint system.

The Administrator Tasks list is based on a standard SharePoint Tasks list. As a result, the list includes all the standard Tasks columns such as Status, Due Date, % Complete, and Assigned To.

Assigning administrative tasks

You probably have multiple people assisting you with your SharePoint configuration. Rather than keeping track of who needs to do what, you can use the Administrative Tasks list to assign tasks to members of your team.

To assign a task to someone, follow these steps:

  1. Click the task’s hyperlinked title in the Administrative Tasks list on the Central Administration site’s home page. The task appears in the browser.
  2. Click the Edit Item button.
  3. In the Assigned To field, type the account name of the person you want to assign to the task.
  4. Set the task’s Start Date and Due Date.
  5. Click OK to save the record.

If you configured the outgoing e-mail service, the person to whom you assign the task to receives an e-mail notifying him or her of the task assignment. You can click the Outgoing e-mail settings link on the Operations page of the Central Administration site to configure outgoing e-mail. Windows SharePoint Services includes an administrator task for this action.

Completing administrative tasks

You can use the Administrator Tasks list in several ways. In a simple configuration, you may want to step through each of the tasks and complete the task as you go. In a more complex configuration, you may need to do more research before you can complete the configuration.

You should consider using the Status, Due Date, and % Complete fields to keep track of your progress. You also have the option of attaching a document to the task. This feature might be helpful if you want to create a support document that outlines your progress.

I suggest you use the Administrator Tasks list as a roadmap for getting started with configuring your SharePoint deployment. To complete tasks in the Administrator Tasks list, follow these steps:

  1. Click the hyperlinked title to view the task details.
  2. Read the task’s description to get a better understanding of the task.
  3. Click the Action link to go to the page in SharePoint’s Central Administration site where you perform the configuration task.
  4. Configure the administrative task. Don’t be afraid to peek at SharePoint’s administrative pages. If you’re unsure how to complete the task, you may click Cancel and return to the page later.

Configuring an administrative task doesn’t update the task’s status in the Administrative Tasks list. You must manually update the status of the task. To manually update a task’s status, follow these steps:

  1. Click the hyperlinked title to view the task’s details.
  2. Click the Edit Item button.
  3. Update the Status and % Complete fields.
  4. Click OK.

The list of Administrator Tasks that appears on the home page of the Central Administration site is displayed by using a Web part. (SharePoint uses Web parts to display modules of content on a page.)

You may want to remove this Web part after you finish completing the administrative tasks. You may also want to change the view displayed in the Administrative Tasks Web part.

Creating a Shared Services Provider

MOSS 2007 requires that you create and configure a Shared Services Provider (SSP). SSP enables the servers in your server farm to share services with each other.

Most of the great features that you want to use in MOSS 2007, such as personalization, Excel Services, and the Business Data Catalog, are hosted by the Shared Services Provider. You usually only need one SSP per server farm, but it is possible to have more than one.

Before you can create the SSP, you must create a Web application for the SSP administration site in Internet Information Services (IIS). To create the new Web application for the SSP administration site, follow these steps:

  1. Browse to the Central Administration Web site.
  2. Click the Application Management tab on the Central Administration home page.
  3. Click the Create or Extend Web Application link in the SharePoint Web Application Management section.
  4. Click the Create a New Web Application link.
  5. The Create a New Web Application page appears. Accept the default settings in the IIS Web site and the Security Configuration sections of the page. Check with your network administrator to ensure that your domain uses a standard security configuration. You may need to adjust these settings. In the Description field, you may choose to rename the administration site to something more descriptive, such as SharePoint - SSP Admin. The description you type appears in IIS Manager.
  6. Accept the default settings for Load Balanced URL and Application Pool sections. You may want to change the application pool name to match the description you enter in Step 5.
  7. In the User name and Password fields, enter the service account for the application pool to use.
  8. In the Reset Internet Information Services section, indicate whether to restart IIS automatically or manually. In order for the new Web application to be accessible, IIS must be restarted. You can elect to have SharePoint automatically restart IIS on all servers in the server farm, or you can restart the servers yourself. You might choose to restart the servers manually to minimize the disruption on users who may be accessing those servers.
  9. Verify that the correct database server name appears in the Database Name and Authentication section. You may want to change the name of the database to a friendlier name, such as WSS_Content_SSPAdmin. This makes it easier to identify the database’s purpose.
  10. Accept the default database authentication method of Windows authentication unless your database is configured to use SQL authentication.
  11. Accept the default value for the Search Server section.  If you’re using a stand-alone server, you don’t have the option to enter a different search server.
  12. Click OK. The Operation in Progress page appears.
  13. Wait while the server creates the new Web application. This process could take a while; the server has to create a new database on your database server and then set up a new Web application in IIS. The Application Created page appears if the database and Web application are created successfully. If the process fails, check the event logs in your database server and your IIS server for clues as to why the process failed.

One of the services provided by SSP is My Site personal sites, which provides each SharePoint user with a personal portal. I suggest you create a second Web application to use for your My Site personal sites.

It isn’t necessary to create a second Web application, but, by doing so, you isolate your My Site personal site content from your SSP content in separate applications and databases. This makes it easier to back up, restore, and move any My Site personal sites in the future. You can follow the steps you use to create a Web application for the SSP administration site to create the Web application for the My Site personal sites.

After you create Web applications to house your Shared Service Provider administrative site and My Site personal sites, you can create the SSP.

To create a Shared Services Provider, follow these steps:

  1. Browse to the Central Administration Web site.
  2. Click the Application Management tab on the Central Administration home page.
  3. Click the Create or Configure This Farm’s Shared Services link in the Office SharePoint Server Shared Services section. The Manage This Farm’s Shared Services page appears.
  4. Click the New SSP button. The New Shared Services Provider page appears.
  5. Accept the default name in the SSP Name section and then select the Web application you created as the SSP administration site.
  6. Select the Web application you created for your My Site personal sites in the My Site Location section.
  7. Type a username and password in the SSP Service Credentials section. You should use the same account you used for the SSP application pool account.
  8. Accept the default values in the SSP Database and Search Database sections.
  9. Select the front-end server you configured Search on from the Index Server drop-down list.
  10. Accept the default value for the SSL for Web Services section.
  11. Click OK. The Operation in Progress page appears.
  12. Wait while your databases are created. The Success! page appears when the SSP is created. Click OK.

Don’t let this Success message give you any false hopes. You still need to follow several more steps before you can actually start using your SharePoint implementation.

Configuring SharePoint Services

The SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard creates the database and gets your servers ready for serving SharePoint. Before you can actually start using SharePoint, however, you have to configure which services you want to run on hardware in your server farm.

The following two services must be configured first for MOSS 2007:

  • Office SharePoint Server Search: This service provides search and indexing features to your SharePoint implementation. You must implement the service on at least one front-end server.
  • Windows SharePoint Services Web Application: This service must run on any front-end server that you intend to use as a Web server that would serve up the Web pages for your SharePoint server.

For Windows SharePoint Server version 3 installations, you need only to start the Windows SharePoint Services Search service. To start a new service, follow these steps:

  1. Browse to the Central Administration Web site. The Central Administration site is hosted on the first machine on which you installed SharePoint. On that machine, choose Start→All Programs→Administrative Tools→SharePoint 3.0 Central Administration.
  2. Click the Operations tab on the Central Administration home page.
  3. Click the Servers in Farm link in the Topology and Services section. The Servers in Farm page appears. The Servers in Farm page lists all the servers in your server farm. Use this page to manage all the servers in your server farm.
  4. Click the server you want to start services on. The Services on Server: Servername page appears, displaying a table of services that you may start or stop for the server you select. For example, click your front-end MOSS 2007 Web server if you want to start services such as Office SharePoint Server Search or Windows SharePoint Services Web Application.
  5. Click the Start or Stop hyperlink on the line of the service that you want to start or stop. MOSS 2007 displays a list of server roles, from which you can select. Selecting a role highlights the service you should enable on the server. If you’re using a stand-alone server, you can’t choose a role for the server.
  6. Configure the service if required. Some services, such as the Office SharePoint Server Search, require additional configuration information before the service can start.

You can view a list of all services running on the servers in your server farm on the Servers in Farm page. Follow the first three preceding steps to access the Servers in Farm page.