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SharePoint as a Document Management System

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

What is SharePoint?

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is an integrated suite of server capabilities that can help improve organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search, accelerating shared business processes, and facilitating information-sharing across boundaries for better business insight. Additionally, this collaboration and content management server provides IT professionals and developers with the platform and tools they need for server administration, application extensibility, and interoperability.

Give your business a highly secure, central location where employees can efficiently collaborate with team members, find organizational resources, manage content and workflow, and gain the business insight to make better-informed decisions. Employees can create and manage custom team- and project-focused intranet sites for collaboration and document sharing.

SharePoint as a Document Management System

Document Management Basics

Before diving into the scenarios, it’s important to understand the major components of any document management system and how SharePoint provides these. They include providing storage for the documents, versioning, metadata, security, indexing, workflow, and retrieval.

Storage

SharePoint leverages a concept called a document library to store documents. Document libraries let you define containers for keeping documents together, such as documents for a specific project, department, or any other logical grouping. Document libraries are not limited to Microsoft Office files—they can hold any document format, including PDFs, images, videos, and text files. However, SharePoint provides additional functionality for Microsoft Office 2007 documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.).

In terms of the underlying technology, SharePoint uses a different approach for physically storing the documents than most document management products. While most vendors choose to store the documents on the file system and store the metadata in a database, SharePoint 2007 stores both documents and metadata in the database.

Versioning

Versioning saves copies of a document, letting users and administrators see and track changes to a document over time. When a user saves a new version of a document to a document library, the older versions remain available as well. This is an important feature in a collaborative environment where many people may be making changes to the same document.

Metadata

In a document management system, metadata is the information that describes the document. It comes in two flavors: automatic and user-defined.

  • Automatic metadata is traditional descriptive information, such as title, author, created date, file size, etc. This metadata is automatically added to the system when a user adds a document to SharePoint,
  • User-defined metadata requires an administrator or developer to add extra “columns” to SharePoint document libraries. These columns hold additional information about the document. For example, when creating a document library to house sales presentations, you might add columns for the presentation location, the presenter, and the presentation date. SharePoint supports individual data types for each column, so the presentation location column could be a dropdown of all major cities where presentations are held, the presenter column could be validated against all Active Directory users, and the presentation date could be defined as a date.

Security

Whenever documents are stored in a central repository, it’s important to consider who will be able to access them. SharePoint allows administrators to define security rights to SharePoint sites, libraries within those sites, and documents within those libraries. These rights consist of permissions assigned to individual users or groups of users. Permissions levels range from read-only to full control.

Indexing

Indexing of documents is important when you’re trying to find the right document quickly. SharePoint not only indexes the metadata for the documents it stores, it also creates a full-text index of any Microsoft Office documents. The full-text index lets users search for documents even when the target search terms appear somewhere deep within a document.

SharePoint 2007 enhances the search functionality significantly over previous versions. It has better relevancy algorithms, better security trimming (prevents users from seeing search results for which they should not have access), and better search management and reporting tools.

Workflow

A document workflow is a prescribed set of steps the document may go through during its development and lifetime. You can think of a workflow as an assembly line for your documents. Some documents may be subjected to more workflow than others. For example, a loan application may go through a rigorous process, passing from one person to another and according to a set of complex rules. At a simpler level, you may just want to ensure that someone provides feedback for meeting notes before you publish them to a team. Either way, SharePoint workflows can help.

SharePoint 2007 ships with several basic workflows that allow you to quickly request feedback on a document or get approval. To define more complex workflows, users can leverage SharePoint Designer or write custom code.

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Categories: Sharepoint