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Using SharePoint to Provide Public Folder Functionality

Introduction

With the release of Exchange Server 2007 Microsoft deemphasized public folders within Exchange Server and promoted SharePoint as an alternate solution. This article will support you in choosing the correct release of SharePoint and give you a short overview of the installation procedure. Furthermore, it will discuss the configuration of SharePoint to provide you with public folder functionality within SharePoint and how to integrate it with Outlook.

SharePoint - choosing the correct version

SharePoint Server 2010 is available in three different versions:

  1. SharePoint Foundations 2010
  2. SharePoint Server 2010 Standard Edition
  3. SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition

SharePoint Foundations is the in line fellow of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and is a cost free version of SharePoint which can be run with:

  1. The underlying SQL 2008 Express Server or
  2. A dedicated SQL Server instance on the local or a remote server system.

SharePoint Server 2010 Standard and Enterprise Edition provide the full functionality of SharePoint. The only difference between these editions is what functionalities they provide in detail.

A full description of these releases and which functions in detail are provided by which edition can be found at here.

Installation

Installing SharePoint is quite easy and straight forward. In general the setup consists of three parts:

  1. Installation of Prerequisites
  2. Installation of SharePoint
  3. Running the Setup & Configuration Wizard

After providing a SharePoint Installation Account that has the “DBCreator” SQL permission, we may start with the installation steps.

1. Installation of Prerequisites

At first we need to make sure that all software system requirements are met and that all features and roles of Windows Server are set up properly. This is quite easy because the SharePoint 2010 setup procedure provides a Prerequisites Configuration module called “Install Software Prerequisites” which does the following in detail:

  • SQL Native Client
  • Chart Control
  • .NET Framework 3.5 SP1
  • PowerShell
  • KB976394
  • KB976462
  • KB974405
  • Filter Pack 2.0
  • Sync Framework
  • Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services
  • Reporting Services
  • Speech Services
  • Speech Language Pack

2. Installation of SharePoint to the server’s hard disk

As a next step we need to start the corresponding SharePoint Setup tool which installs the binaries to the hard disk. At this point of the setup procedure we need to choose whether to install SharePoint in a Standalone or Farm installation. Standalone means a single server configuration with SQL Server Express Edition as the underlying database; a farm installation means that you can choose which SQL Server instance you would like to install (e.g. dedicated server instance).

If you would like to choose a “best performance” and “best practice” setup, you should use a dedicated SQL instance on SAN LUNs different than the SharePoint Server itself because of performance optimization.

3. Running the Setup & Configuration Wizard

Finally we come to the third and last part of the SharePoint Setup which is running the “Setup and Configuration Wizard”:

  1. Creates and links the corresponding SQL Databases
  2. Defines the Port of the Central Administration and Authentication for Access

This wizard consists of 10 steps to finish the configuration.

Configuration

To finish the setup of SharePoint you will need to use a final wizard which:

  • Creates the (first) Portal
  • Creates the corresponding site collection for the portal based on predefined templates (I would suggest using the “Team Site” template).

A final installation of (Office Server) SharePoint SP1 would finalize bug fixing and availability.

If needed you may now start over with:

  1. Installing Project Server 2010 (when you are running SharePoint Enterprise Edition)
  2. Or any other 3rd party SharePoint Add-on

As a next step we need to make sure that all users gain access to the newly created portal. This is quite easy and can be done with the “Website Actions” item that you will find on the left top edge when running the website itself. This Option allows you to:

  • Modify the website to meet your company needs (design, web parts, etc.)
  • Configure access permissions for the site with the following permission levels:
    o   Full Control
    o   Design
    o   Contribute
    o   Read
    o   Limited Access

A detailed documentation on SharePoint permissions can be found here.

To make sure that administration of the SharePoint portal follows the best practice, Active Directory based groups and their appropriate permissions on SharePoint are configured in a way that user and group nesting will mitigate administrative overhead.

If you need to modify the design and overall look of your SharePoint portal, you will need to use:

  • SharePoint Designer (which is a cost free tool)
  • Office InfoPath

Or finally create your own “master template” to meet your “corporate identity” or “look & feel”.

Migration

Now that we have the new location of content which in the past used to reside within public folders, we can now migrate it to SharePoint.

This can be done using:

  • Manual move of documents
  • Using the Outlook add-in for SharePoint
  • Using simple copy jobs to the WebDAV view of SharePoint Explorer view
  • Using 3rd Party Tools like “AvePoint Public Folder Migrator”

After having migrated all content from Exchange Public Folders to your SharePoint document libraries you may want to dismount and completely disable public folders in Exchange. This is a simple and straight forward procedure which is described here.

Conclusion

As you have seen above, moving from Exchange Public Folders to SharePoint Document Libraries is a straight forward procedure but is a concept and process change. One needs to make sure that all users understand what is happening and how to work using Exchange and SharePoint in combination. But once you are done, then life is easier!

If you have any further questions regarding this issue, please don't hesitate to contact me.