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Wrap-Up, Roll-Up, and Move-On!

March 29, 2013 12 comments

Train Series Sometimes it’s hard to believe just how quickly time flies by. At the tail end of last December, I announced that some big changes were coming for me – namely that I would be transitioning into something new from an employment perspective. Today is the last day of normal business in March 2013, and that means my time with Idera is at an end.

My last three years with Idera have been quite a whirlwind of activity. I feel very fortunate and am extremely thankful to Idera for the opportunities they’ve afforded me – especially over the last year in my role as their Chief SharePoint Evangelist. In that role, I was given the latitude to spend a significant chunk of my time focusing on an area that is very important to me personally: the SharePoint Community.

The Roll-Up

In thinking about my role and some of what I’ve done over the last three years, it occurred to me that it might be nice to summarize and link to some of the materials I assembled while at Idera. I’ve occasionally referenced these items in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to aggregate them into one post or in one place.

Blog Posts

In the last half a year or so, my regular content generation efforts were being funneled to Idera’s SharePoint “Geek Stuff” blog. Here’s a table (with associated links) to the posts I’ve written:

March 19, 2013 Maskthumb Plan Your SharePoint Farm Right with a SQL Server Alias
February 8, 2013 Strategythumb Do You Have a SharePoint Backup Strategy?
January 17, 2013 Cheating on a Test The Five Minute Cheat-Sheet on SharePoint 2013’s Distributed Cache Service
December 20, 2012 smart girlfriends smiling and looking at the laptop Why Administrators Will Giggle Like Schoolgirls About SharePoint 2013’s New App Model
November 20, 2012 IderaIceThumb1 Sean’s Thoughts on the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2012
October 19, 2012 Broken electric cable. Getting the Permissions Wired-Up Properly When Attaching a Content Database to a SharePoint Farm
September 21, 2012   Okay, Really – What Can I Do With a SharePoint Farm Configuration Database Backup?
August 24, 2012 roots Do I Really Need to Backup Up the SharePoint Root?
June 20, 2012 Talking with John Ferringer Interview with John Ferringer
June 8, 2012 TechEd '99 Baseball Cap TechEd – Why Should You Care?

SharePoint Smarts

There was a point in the past when Idera was publishing a sort of newsletter called “SharePoint Smarts,” and I wrote a couple of articles for the newsletter before it eventually rode off into the sunset:

Whitepapers

Over the years, I’ve also written or co-authored a handful of whitepapers for Idera. At the time I’m writing this post, it appears that a couple of those whitepapers are still available:

And although it isn’t available just yet, sometime soon Idera will be releasing another whitepaper I wrote that had the working title of “SharePoint Caching Implementation Guide.” If that sounds at all interesting, keep an eye on the Whitepapers section of Idera’s Resources page.

Moving-On

Bitstream Foundry LLC Although I’m going to miss my friends at Idera and wish them the best of luck going forward, I’m very excited about some things I’ve got cooking – particularly with my new company!

A couple of months back, I launched Bitstream Foundry, LLC, with the intention of getting back into more hands-on SharePoint work. My intention is to focus initially on a combination of custom SharePoint development work and SharePoint App Store product development. In the past, I’ve been a “switch hitter” when it comes to SharePoint, and I’ve gone back and forth between development and administration roles fairly regularly. Although I’m not abandoning my admin “comrades in arms,” I have to admit that I tend to get the greatest enjoyment out of development work. Between custom solutions and App Model development, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to keep myself busy.

Microsoft BizSpark Things are falling into place with the new company, as well. I applied for membership in Microsoft’s BizSpark program yesterday, and within hours I was accepted – much to my surprise. Why was I surprised? Well, my company website is (at the moment) being redirected to a “coming soon” page I put together on the new Microsoft Azure Web Sites offering. I’ve been waiting for an Office 365 tenant upgrade so that I can build out a proper site on SharePoint 2013, but the upgrade seems to be taking much longer than originally expected …

I also learned today that my application to get Bitstream Foundry listed in the SharePoint App Store was approved, so the way is paved for me to roll out Apps. Now I just need to write them!

One Thing That Won’t Change

Despite all of the recent changes, one aspect of my professional life that won’t be changing is my commitment to sharing with (and giving back to) the SharePoint community. My confidence in my current situation would probably be substantially lower if it weren’t for all of you – my (SharePoint) friends. Over the last several months, my belief in “professional karma” has been strongly reinforced. I’ve always tried to help those who’ve asked for my time and assistance, and I’ve seen that goodwill return to me as I’ve sought input and worked to figure out “what’s next.” To those of you who have offered advice, provided feedback, written endorsements/recommendations, and more, you have my most heartfelt thanks.

I love interacting with all of you, and I still get tremendous enjoyment out of blogging, speaking, teaching, and sharing with everyone in the SharePoint space. My “official” days as a full-time evangelist may be behind me, but that won’t really change anything for me going forward as far as community involvement goes. I’ll continue to answer emails, blog when I have information worth sharing, assemble tools/widgets, help organize events, and generally do what I can to help all of you as you’ve helped me. I’m also honored to be a part of several upcoming events, and I hope to see some of you when I’m “on tour.” If we haven’t met, please say hi and introduce yourself. Making new friends and connections is one of the most rewarding aspects of being out-and-about :-)

References and Resources

  1. Blog Post: Big Changes and Resolutions for 2013
  2. Company: Idera
  3. Yahoo! Finance: Press Release
  4. Idera: SharePoint Geek Stuff Blog
  5. Idera: Resources Page
  6. Microsoft: BizSpark
  7. Company Site: Bitstream Foundry, LLC
  8. Microsoft: Azure Web Sites
  9. Microsoft: Office 365 Enterprise E3
  10. Microsoft: SharePoint App Store
  11. SharePoint Interface: Events and Activities
Categories: News Tags: , , , ,

Wrapping Up 2011

November 13, 2011 1 comment

Over the last several months, I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d hoped to; in reality, I haven’t blogged at all. There are a couple of reasons for that: one of them was our recent house move (and the aftermath), and the other was a little more personal. Without going into too much detail: we were contending with a very serious health issue in our family, and that took top priority.

The good news is that the clouds are finally parting, and I’m heading into the close of 2011 on a much better note (and with more time) than I’ve spent the last several months. To get back into some blogging, I figured I’d wrap-up the last several months’ worth of activities that took place since SharePoint Saturday Columbus.

Secrets of SharePoint (SoS) Webcast

Secrets of SharePoint Webcast BannerA lot of things started coming together towards the end of October, and the first of those was another webcast that I did for Idera titled “’Caching-In’ for SharePoint Performance.” The webcast covered each of SharePoint’s built-in caching mechanisms (object caching, BLOB caching, and page output caching) as well as the Office Web Applications’ cache. I provided a rundown on each mechanism, how it worked, how it could be leveraged, and some watch-outs that came with its use.

The webcast was basically a lightweight version (40 minutes or so) of the longer (75 minute) presentation I like to present at SharePoint Saturday events. It was something of a challenge to squeeze all of the regular session’s content into 40 minutes, and I had to cut some of the material I would have liked to have kept in … but the final result turned-out pretty well.

If you’re interested in seeing the webcast, you can watch it on-demand from the SoS webcast archive. I also posted the slides in the Resources section of this blog.

SharePoint Saturday Cincinnati

SharePoint Cincinnati BannerOn Saturday October 29th, Cincinnati had its first-ever SharePoint Saturday Cincinnati event. The event took place at the Kingsgate Marriott on Goodman Drive (near University Hospital), and it was very well attended – so much so that Stacy Deere and the other folks who organized the event are planning to do so again next year!

Many people from the local SharePoint community came out to support the event, and we had a number of folks from out of town come rolling in as well to help ensure that the event was a big success. I ended up delivering two sessions: my “’Caching-In’ for SharePoint Performance” session and my “SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery: New Capabilities, New Possibilities!”

I had a great time at the event, and I’m hoping I’ll be fortunate enough to participate again on the next go ‘round!

New Disaster Recovery WhitePaper

WhitePaper Title PageMy co-author and good friend John Ferringer and I were hard at work throughout the summer and early Fall putting together a new disaster recovery whitepaper for Idera. The whitepaper is titled “New Features in SharePoint 2010: A Disaster Recovery Love Story,” and it’s a bromance novel that only a couple of goofballs like John and I could actually write …

Okay, there’s actually no romance in it whatsoever (thank heavens for prospective readers – no one needs us doing that to them), but there is a solid chunk of coverage on SharePoint 2010’s new platform capabilities pertaining to disaster recovery. We also review some disaster recovery basics in the whitepaper, cover things that have changed since SharePoint 2007, and identify some new watch-out areas in SharePoint 2010 that could have an impact on your disaster recovery planning.

The whitepaper is pretty substantial at 13 pages, but it’s a good read if you want to understand your platform-level disaster recovery options in SharePoint 2010. It’s a free download, so please grab a copy if it sounds interesting. John and I would certainly love to hear your feedback, as well.

SharePoint Backup Augmentation Cmdlets (SharePointBAC)

SharePointBACMany of my friends in the SharePoint community have heard me talk about some of the projects I’ve wanted to undertake to extend the SharePoint platform. I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of the administrator who is constrained (typically due to lack of resources) to use only the out-of-the-box (OOTB) tools that are available for data protection. While I think the OOTB tools do a solid job in most small and mid-size farms scenarios, there are some clear gaps that need to be addressed.

Since I’d been big on promises and short on delivery in helping these administrators, I finally started on a project to address some of the backup and restore gaps I see in the SharePoint platform. The evolving and still-under-development result is my SharePoint Backup Augmentation Cmdlets (SharePointBAC) project that is available on CodePlex.

With the PowerShell cmdlets that I’m developing for SharePoint 2010, I’m trying to introduce some new capabilities that SharePoint administrators need in order to make backup scripting with the OOTB tools a simpler and more straightforward experience. For example, one big gap that exists with the OOTB tools is that there is no way to groom a backup set. Each backup you create using Backup-SPFarm, for instance, adds to the backups that existed before it. There’s no way to groom (or remove) older backups you no longer want to keep, so disk consumption grows unless manual steps are taken to do something about it. That’s where my cmdlets come in. With Remove-SPBackupCatalog, for example, you could trim backups to retain only a certain number of them; you could also trim backups to ensure that they consume no more disk space (e.g., 100GB) than you’d like.

The CodePlex project is in alpha form right now (it’s brand spankin’ new), and it’s far from complete. I’ve already gotten some great suggestions for what I could do to continue development, though. When I combine those ideas with the ones I already had, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to shape the project into something truly useful for SharePoint administrators.

If you or someone you know is a SharePoint administrator using the OOTB tools for backup scripting, please check out the project. I’d really love to hear from you!

SharePoint Saturday Denver

SharePoint Saturday DenverAs I type this, I’m in Colorado at the close of the third (annual) SharePoint Saturday Denver event. This year’s event was phenomenal – a full two days of SharePoint goodness! Held on Friday November 11th and Saturday November 12th at the Colorado Convention Center, this year’s event was capped at 350 participants for Saturday. A full 350 people signed-up, and the event even had a wait list.

On the first day of the event, I delivered a brand new session that I put together (in Prezi format) titled The Essentials of SharePoint Disaster Recovery. Here’s the amended abstract (and I’ll explain why it’s amended in a second) for the session:

“Are my nightly SQL Server backups good enough?” “Do I need an off-site disaster recovery facility?” “How do I even start the process of disaster recovery planning?” These are just a few of the more common questions that arise when the topic of SharePoint disaster recovery comes up. As with most things SharePoint, the real answer to each question is oftentimes “it depends.” In this business and process-centric session, we will be taking a look at the topic of SharePoint disaster recovery from multiple perspectives: business continuity planner, technical architect, platform owner, and others. Critical concepts and terms will be explained and defined, and an effective process for analyzing and formulating a disaster recovery plan will be discussed. We’ll also highlight some common mistakes that take place when working to build a disaster recovery strategy and how you can avoid them. By the end of this session, you will be armed with the knowledge needed to plan or review a disaster recovery strategy for your SharePoint environment.

The reason I amended the abstract is because the previous abstract for the session didn’t do enough to call out the fact that the presentation is primarily business-centric rather than technically focused. Many of the folks who initially came to the session were SharePoint IT pros and administrators looking for information on backup/restore, mirroring, configuration, etc. Although I cover those items at a high level in this new talk, they’re only a small part of what I discuss during the session.

On Saturday, I delivered my “’Caching-In’ for SharePoint Performance” talk during the first slot of the day. I really enjoy delivering the session; it’s probably my favorite one. I had a solid turn-out, and I had some good discussions with folks both during and after the presentation.

As I mentioned, this year’s event was a two day event. That’s a little unusual, but multi-day SharePoint Saturday events appear to be getting some traction in the community – starting with SharePoint Saturday The Conference a few months back. Some folks in the community don’t care much for this style of event, probably because there’s some nominal cost that participants typically bear for the extra day of sessions. I expect that we’ll probably continue to see more hybrid events, though, because I think they meet an unaddressed need that falls somewhere between “give up my Saturday for free training” and “pay a lot of money for a multi-day weekday conference.” Only time will tell, though.

On the Horizon

Event though 2011 isn’t over yet, I’m slowing down on some of my activities save for SharePointBAC (my new extracurricular pastime). 2012 is already looking like it’s going to be a big year for SharePoint community activities. In January I’ll be heading down to Texas for SharePoint Saturday Austin, and in February I’ll be heading to San Francisco for SPTechCon. I’ll certainly cover those activities (and others) as we approach 2012.

Additional Reading and Resources

  1. Event: SharePoint Saturday Columbus
  2. Company: Idera
  3. Webcast: “Caching-In” for SharePoint Performance
  4. Webcast Slides: “Caching-In” for SharePoint Performance
  5. Location: My blog’s Resources section
  6. Event: SharePoint Saturday Cincinnati
  7. Blog: Stacy Deere and Stephanie Donahue’s “Not Just SharePoint”
  8. SPS Cincinnati Slides: “Caching-In” for SharePoint Performance
  9. SPS Cincinnati Slides: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery: New Capabilities, New Possibilities!
  10. Blog: John Ferringer’s “My Central Admin”
  11. Whitepaper: New Features in SharePoint 2010: A Disaster Recovery Love Story
  12. CodePlex: SharePoint Backup Augmentation Cmdlets (SharePointBAC)
  13. Event: SharePoint Saturday Denver
  14. Tool: Prezi
  15. SPS Denver Slides: The Essentials of SharePoint Disaster Recovery
  16. SPS Denver Slides: “Caching-In” for SharePoint Performance
  17. Event: SharePoint Saturday The Conference
  18. Event: SharePoint Saturday Austin
  19. Event: SPTechCon 2012 San Francisco

SharePoint Summer Fun

July 5, 2011 1 comment

My family recently relocated from the west side of Cincinnati to the east side, and it’s been a major undertaking – as anyone who’s familiar with Jim Borgman’s comic series on the east and west sides of Cincinnati can appreciate. Between the move and some other issues, I had planned on taking it easy with SharePoint activities for a while.

Despite that goal, it seems I still have a handful of SharePoint-related things planned this summer. Here’s what’s going on.

Office Web Apps’ Cache Article

Idera SharePoint SmartsAs a product manager for Idera, I occasionally author articles for the company’s SharePoint Smarts e-newsletter. A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article titled Quick Tips for Managing the SharePoint 2010 Office Web Apps’ Cache. The article basically provides an overview of the Office Web Apps’ cache and how it can be maintained for optimal performance.

The main reason I’m calling the article out here (in my blog) is because I put together a couple of PowerShell scripts that I included in the article. The first script relocates the Office Web Apps’ cache site collection to a different content database for any given Web application. The second script displays current values for some common cache settings and gives you the opportunity to change them directly.

The scripts (and article contents) are helpful for anyone trying to manage the Office Web Apps in SharePoint 2010. Check them out!

Talk TechNet Appearance

On Wednesday, July 6th (tomorrow!), I’ll be on Talk TechNet with Keith Combs and Matt Hester. I’m going to be talking with Keith and Matt about SharePoint, disaster recovery, and anything else that they want to shoot the breeze about. 60 minutes seems like a long time, but I know how quickly it can pass once my mouth starts going …

Here’s the fun part (for you): the episode is presented live, and anyone who registers for the event can “call in” with questions, comments, etc. Feel free to call in and throw me a softball question … or heckle me, if that’s your style! Although I don’t know Keith personally (yet), I do know Matt – and knowing Matt, things will be lighthearted and lively.

Evansville SPUG

On Thursday the 7th (yeah, this is a busy week), I’ll be heading down to Evansville, Indiana, to speak at the Evansville user group. This is something that Rob Wilson and I have been discussing for quite some time, and I’m glad that it’s finally coming to fruition!

I’ll be presenting my SharePoint 2010 and Your DR Plan: New Capabilities, New Possibilities! session. The abstract reads as follows:

Disaster recovery planning for a SharePoint 2010 environment is something that must be performed to insure your data and the continuity of business operations. Microsoft made significant enhancements to the disaster recovery landscape with SharePoint 2010, and we’ll be taking a good look at how the platform has evolved in this session. We’ll dive inside the improvements to the native backup and restore capabilities that are present in the SharePoint 2007 platform to see what has been changed and enhanced. We’ll also look at the array of exciting new capabilities that have been integrated into the SharePoint 2010 platform, such as unattended content database recovery, SQL Server snapshot integration, and configuration-only backup and restore. By the time we’re done, you will possess a solid understanding of how the disaster recovery landscape has changed with SharePoint 2010.

It’ll be a bit of a drive from here to Evansville and back, but I’m really looking forward to talking shop with Rob and his crew on Thursday!

SharePoint Saturday New York City (SPSNYC)

SPS New York City LogoI’ll be heading up to New York City at the end of the month to present at SharePoint Saturday New York City on July 30th. I’ll be presenting SharePoint 2010 and Your DR Plan: New Capabilities, New Possibilities! session, and it should be a lot of fun.

Amazingly enough, the primary registration (400 seats) for the event “sold out” in a little over three days. Holy smokes – that’s fast! The event is now wait listed, so if you haven’t yet signed up … you probably won’t get a spot  :-(

CincySPUG

On August 4th, I’ll be heading back up to Mason, Ohio, to present for my friends at the Cincinnati SharePoint User Group. My presentation topic this time around will be “Caching-In” for SharePoint Performance. Here’s the abstract:

Caching is a critical variable in the SharePoint scalability and performance equation, but it’s one that’s oftentimes misunderstood or dismissed as being needed only in Internet-facing scenarios. In this session, we’ll build an understanding of the caching options that exist within the SharePoint platform and how they can be leveraged to inject some pep into most SharePoint sites. We’ll also cover some sample scenarios, caching pitfalls, and watch-outs that every administrator should know.

Like most of my presentations, this one started as a PowerPoint. I converted it over to Prezi format some time ago, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it since. I hope the CincySPUG folks enjoy it, as well!

SharePoint Saturday The Conference (SPSTC)

SPSTC LogoIf you haven’t heard of SharePoint Saturday The Conference yet, then the easiest way for me to describe is this way: it’s a SharePoint Saturday event on steroids. Instead of being just one Saturday, the event is three days long. Expected attendance is 2500 to 3000 people. It’s going to be huge.

I submitted a handful of abstracts for consideration, and I know that I’ll be speaking at the event. I just don’t know what I’ll be talking about at this point.  If you’re going to be in the Washington, DC area on August 11th through 13th, though, consider signing up for the conference!

SharePoint Saturday Columbus (SPSColumbus)

SPS Columbus LogoThe 2nd SharePoint Saturday Columbus event will be held on August 20th, 2011, at the OCLC Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio. Registration is now open, and session submissions are being accepted through the end of the day tomorrow (7/6).

Along with Brian Jackett, Jennifer Mason, and Nicola Young, I’m helping to plan and execute the event on the 20th. I’m handling speaker coordination again this year – a role that I do enjoy! We’ve had a number of great submissions thus far; in the next week or so, we (the organizing committee) will be putting our heads together to make selections for the event. Once those selections have been made, I’ll be communicating with everyone who submitted a session.

If you live in Ohio and don’t find Columbus to be an exceptionally long drive, I encourage you to head out to the SharePoint Saturday site and sign up for the event. It’s free, and the training you’ll get will be well-worth the Saturday you spend!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Jim Borgman: East Side/West Side of Cincinnati comic series
  2. Company: Idera
  3. Article: Quick Tips for Managing the SharePoint 2010 Office Web Apps’ Cache
  4. Event: Talk TechNet Webcast, Episode 43
  5. Blog: Keith Combs
  6. Blog: Matt Hester
  7. User Group: Evansville SPUG site
  8. Blog: Rob Wilson
  9. Event: SharePoint Saturday New York City
  10. User Group: CincySPUG site
  11. Software/Service: Prezi
  12. Event: SharePoint Saturday The Conference
  13. Event: SharePoint Saturday Columbus
  14. Blog: Brian Jackett
  15. Blog: Jennifer Mason
  16. Twitter: Nicola Young

Fall SharePoint Fun

October 18, 2010 1 comment

Fall is here, and the SharePoint bus keeps on rolling down the road.  There’s no shortage of events coming up – conferences, SharePoint Saturdays, and more.  Here are a couple of events in which I’ll be participating.

SPTechCon Boston

In a couple of days, I’ll be heading up to Boston for SPTechCon Boston 2010.  The event is put on by Dave Rubenstein of BZ Media, and it promises to be one of the bigger SharePoint conferences of this year.

Idera book signings at SPTechConAlthough I’m presenting a “lightning talk” on Wednesday the 20th titled Backup/Restore Knowledge Nuggets: What’s True, What’s Not?, it’s only five minutes long … and not the main reason I’m going to the conference.  To tell you the truth, I’m simply looking forward to taking in some of the sessions and seeing many of my friends in the community whom I haven’t seen in a while.

My co-author, John Ferringer, is one of those folks I haven’t seen in a while – since SharePoint Saturday Columbus, I believe. Thanks to the folks at Idera, the two of us will be getting the band back together to do a book signing on Friday morning (the 22nd) at 9:45am during coffee and donuts.  Idera purchased 20 copies of our SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide, and they’ll be giving them away (see the poster on the right).  John and I will be signing those books, so if you want to meet a couple of flagship members in the “SharePoint Mr. Clean Team” (to quote SharePoint superstar and all-around great person, Joy Earles), please swing by the Idera booth!

SharePoint Saturday Dallas

SharePoint Saturday Dallas logo I knew that I was going to be down in Houston for some business during the second week of November, so when I learned that Eric Shupps was in the process of pulling things together for SharePoint Saturday Dallas during the same time frame (Saturday, November 13th), I pinged him to see if he could use another speaker.  He pinged me back, and it looks like I’ll be making a stop in Dallas on my way back to Cincinnati.

The session I’ll be presenting is titled SharePoint 2010 and Your DR Plan: New Capabilities, New Possibilities!, and it’s a relatively new one for me.  It’s a disaster recovery talk, but it’s primarily a technology-focused look at the new platform capabilities and improvements that come with SharePoint 2010.  Here’s the abstract:

Disaster recovery planning for a SharePoint 2010 environment is something that must be performed to insure your data and the continuity of business operations. Microsoft made significant enhancements to the disaster recovery landscape with SharePoint 2010, and we’ll be taking a good look at how the platform has evolved in this session. We’ll dive inside the improvements to the native backup and restore capabilities that are present in the SharePoint 2007 platform to see what has been changed and enhanced. We’ll also look at the array of exciting new capabilities that have been integrated into the SharePoint 2010 platform, such as unattended content database recovery, SQL Server snapshot integration, and configuration-only backup and restore. By the time we’re done, you will possess a solid understanding of how the disaster recovery landscape has changed with SharePoint 2010.

The SharePoint Saturday event is being held at the Hilton Dallas Park Cities from 9am until 5:30pm on Saturday, November 13th.  If you work with SharePoint and reside in or around the Dallas area, I strongly encourage you to sign up for the event and come on out.  Like all SharePoint Saturday events, there’s no cost to you – it’s simply a free day of training, food, giveaways, and interaction with the SharePoint community!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Event: SPTechCon Boston 2010
  2. Company: BZ Media
  3. Blog: John Ferringer’s My Central Admin
  4. Company: Idera
  5. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  6. Twitter: Joy Earles
  7. Event: SharePoint Saturday Dallas
  8. Blog: Eric Shupps Blog
  9. Venue: Hilton Dallas Park Cities
  10. Registration: SharePoint Saturday Dallas
Categories: News Tags: , , , ,

Release of the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide

September 28, 2010 18 comments

Since my first copy of our new book actually arrived in the mail yesterday (from Amazon.com), I think I can officially announce that the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide is available!  Here’s a picture of it – straight out of the box:

SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide

John Ferringer and I apparently didn’t learn our lesson the first time around.  When Cengage approached us about writing another version of the book, we said “yes.”  We were either in denial or had repressed the memories associated with writing the first book.  There were definitely some difficulties and challenges (like trying to learn the relevant pieces of the SharePoint 2010 platform while also writing about them), but we managed to pull it off again.

Of course, we couldn’t have done this without the technical prowess and patience of JD Wade.  JD was our technical editor, and he had a knack for questioning any assumption or statement that wasn’t clearly backed by fact.  He did a fantastic job – I couldn’t have been happier.  The book’s accuracy and quality are a direct result of his contributions.

What’s Inside?

Interested in what we included?  Here’s the table of contents by chapter:

  1. SharePoint Disaster Recovery Planning and Key Concepts
  2. SharePoint Disaster Recovery Design and Implementation
  3. SharePoint Disaster Recovery Testing and Maintenance
  4. SharePoint Disaster Recovery Best Practices
  5. Windows Server 2008 Backup and Restore
  6. Windows Server 2008 High Availability
  7. SQL Server 2008 Backup and Restore
  8. SQL Server 2008 High Availability
  9. SharePoint 2010 Central Administration Backup and Restore
  10. SharePoint 2010 Command Line Backup and Restore: PowerShell
  11. SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Development
  12. SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery for End Users
  13. Conclusion

As you can see, we’ve included a little something for just about everyone who might work with SharePoint or interface with it for disaster recovery purposes.  SharePoint administrators will probably benefit the most from the book, but there are definitely sections that are of use to SharePoint developers, DR planners, and others who are interested in SharePoint from a business continuity perspective.

If you happen to pick up a copy of the book, please share your feedback with us – good, bad, ugly, or anything else you feel like sending our way!  We poured a lot of time and effort into this book in an attempt to “do our part” for the community, and your thoughts and feedback mean everything to us.

Thanks, and enjoy!

Additional Resources and References

  1. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  2. Blog: John Ferringer’s MyCentralAdmin
  3. Blog: JD Wade’s Wading Through

Site Collection Backups and Workflow Portability in SharePoint 2010

June 24, 2010 30 comments

Do you trust TechNet?  I generally do, as I figure the good folks at Microsoft are doing their best to disseminate reliable information to those of us working with their products.  As I recently learned, though, even the information that appears on TechNet needs some cross-checking once in a while.

Bear with me, as this post is equal parts narrative and data discussion.  If you don’t like stories and want to cut straight to the chase, though, simply scroll down to the section titled “The Conclusion” for the key takeaway.

Site Collection Backup Primer

For those who aren’t overly familiar with site collection backups, it’s probably worth spending a moment discussing them a bit before going any further.  Site collection backups are, after all, at the heart of this blog post.

What is a site collection backup?  It is basically what you would expect from its name: a backup of a specific SharePoint site collection.  These backups can be used to restore or overwrite a site collection if it becomes lost or corrupt, and they can also be used to copy site collections from one web application (or farm) to another.

Anytime you execute one of the following operations, you’re performing a site collection backup:

  • from the command line: STSADM.exe –o backup –url <url> –filename <filename>
  • through PowerShell in SharePoint 2010: Backup-SPSite <url> –Path <filepath>
  • Using the “Perform a site collection backup” link in SharePoint 2010 Central Administration

When a site collection backup is executed, a single file with a .bak extension is generated that contains the entire contents of the site collection targeted.  This file can be freely copied and moved around as needed.  Aside from some recommendations regarding the maximum size of the site collection captured using this approach (15GB and under in SharePoint 2007, 85GB and under in SharePoint 2010), the backups themselves are really quite handy for both protection and site collection migration operations.

A Little Background

John Ferringer and I have been plugging away at the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide for quite some time.  As you might imagine, the writing process involves a lot of research, hands-on experimentation, and fact-checking.  This is especially true for a book that’s being written about a platform (SharePoint 2010) that is basically brand new in the marketplace.

While researching backup-related changes for the book, I made a special mental note of the following change regarding site collection backups in SharePoint 2010:

Site Collection Backups and Workflow

The text that is circled in the image above (taken straight from a TechNet page titled Backup and recovery overview (SharePoint Server 2010)) says this:

Workflows are not included in site collection backups

This stuck with me when I read it, because I hadn’t recalled any such statement being made with regard to site collection backups in SharePoint 2007.  Since Microsoft made a special note of pointing out this limitation for SharePoint 2010, though, I figured it was important to keep in mind.  Knowing that workflows had changed from 2007 to 2010, I reasoned that the new limitation was probably due to some internal workflow plumbing alterations that adversely affected the backup process.

The Setup

A couple of weeks back, I was presenting at SharePoint Saturday Ozarks alongside an awesome array of other folks (including Joel Oleson) from the SharePoint community.  Due to a speaker no-show in an early afternoon slot, Mark Rackley (the event’s one-man force-of-nature organizer) decided to hold an “ask the experts” panel where attendees could pitch questions at those of us who were willing to share what we knew.

A number of good questions came our way, and we all did our best to supply our experiences and usable advice.  Though I don’t recall the specific question that was asked in one particular case, I do remember advising someone to perform a site collection backup before attempting to do whatever it was they wanted to do.  After sharing that advice, though, things got a little sketchy.  The following captures the essence of the exchange that took place between Joel and me:

Me: <to the attendee> Site collection backups don’t capture everything in SharePoint 2010, though, so be careful.

Joel: No, site collection backups are full-fidelity.

Me: TechNet specifically indicates that workflows aren’t covered in site collection backups with SharePoint 2010.

Joel: No, the backups are still full fidelity.

Me: <blank stare>

The discussion topic and associated questions for the panel quickly changed, but my brain was still stripping a few gears trying to reconcile what I’d read on TechNet with what Joel was saying.

After the session, I forwarded the TechNet link I had quoted to Joel and asked if he happened to have an “inside track” or perhaps some information I didn’t have access to.  We talked about the issue for a while at the hotel a little later on, but the only thing that we could really conclude was that more research was needed to see if site collection backups had in fact changed with SharePoint 2010.  Before taking off that weekend, we decided to stay in contact and work together to get some answers.

Under The Hood

To understand why this issue bothered me so much, remember that I’m basically in the middle of co-authoring a book on the topic of disaster recovery – a topic that is intimately linked to backup and restore operations.  The last thing I would ever want to do is write a book that contains ambiguous or (worse) flat-out wrong information about the book’s central topic.

To get to the heart of the matter, I decided to start where most developers would: with the SharePoint object model.  In both SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010, the object model types that are used to backup and export content typically fall into one of two general categories:

  • Catastrophic Backup and Restore API.  These types are located in the Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.Backup namespace, and they provide SharePoint’s full-fidelity backup and restore functions.  Backup and restore operations take place on content components such as content databases, service applications, and the entire SharePoint farm.  Catastrophic backup and restore operations are full-fidelity, meaning that no data is lost or selectively ignored during a backup and subsequent restore.  By default, catastrophic backup and restore operation don’t get any more granular than a content database.  If you want to protect something within a content database, such as a site collection, sub-site, or list, you have to backup the entire content database containing the target object(s).
  • Content Deployment API.  The member types of this API (also known internally at Microsoft as the PRIME API) reside within the Microsoft.SharePoint.Deployment namespace and are used for granular content export and import operations.  The exports that are created by the types in this namespace target objects from the site collection level all the way down to the field level – typically webs, lists, list items, etc.  Content Deployment exports are not full-fidelity and are commonly used for moving content around more than they are for actual backup and restore operations.

So, where does this leave site collection backups?  In truth, site collection backups don’t fit into either of these categories.  They are a somewhat unusual case, both in SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010.

Whether a site collection backup is initiated through STSADM, PowerShell, or Central Administration, a single method is called on the SPSiteCollection type which resides in the Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration namespace.  This is basically the signature of the method:

SPSiteCollection.Backup(string strSiteUrl, string strFilename, bool bOverwrite)

To carry out a site collection backup, all that is needed is the URL of the site collection, the filename that will be used for the resultant backup file, and a TRUE or FALSE to indicate whether an overwrite should occur if the selected file already exists.

If you were to pop open Reflector and drill into the Backup method on the SPSiteCollection type, you wouldn’t get very far before running into a wall at the SPRequest type.  SPRequest is a managed wrapper around the take-off point for a whole host of external calls, and the execution of the Backup method is actually handled in unmanaged legacy code.  Examining the internals of what actually takes place during a site collection backup (or restore, for that matter) simply isn’t possible with Reflector.

Since the internals of the Backup method weren’t available for reflective analysis, I was forced to drop back and punt in order to determine how site collection backups and workflow interacted within SharePoint 2010.

Testing Factors

I knew that I was going to have to execute backup and restore tests at some point; I was just hoping that I would be a bit more informed (through object model inspection) about where I needed to focus my efforts.  Without any visibility into the internals of the site collection backup process, though, I didn’t really have much to start with.

Going into the testing process, I knew that I wasn’t going to have enough time to perform exhaustive testing for every scenario, execution path, variable, and edge-case that could be relevant to the backup and restore processes.  I had to develop a testing strategy that would hit the likely problem areas as quickly (and with as few runs) as possible.

After some thought, I decided that these points were important facets to consider and account for while testing:

  • Workflow Types.  Testing the most common workflow types was important.  I knew that I would need to test at least one out of the box (OOTB) workflow type.  I also decided that I needed to test at least one instance of each type of workflow that could be created through SharePoint Designer (SPD) 2010; that meant testing a list-bound workflow, a site collection workflow, and a reusable workflow.  I decided that custom code workflows, such as those that might be created through Visual Studio, were outside the scope of my testing.
  • Workflow Data.  In order to test the impact of backup and restore operations on a workflow, I obviously had to ensure that one or more workflows were in-place within the site collection targeted for backup.  Having a workflow attached to a list would obviously test the static data portions of the workflow, but there was other workflow-related data that had to be considered.  In particular, I decided that the testing of both workflow history information and in-process workflow state were important.  More on the workflow state in a bit …
  • Backup and Restore Isolation.  While testing, it would be important to ensure that backup operations and restore operations impacted one another (or rather, had the potential to impact one another) as little as possible.  Though backups and restores occurred within the same virtual farm, I isolated them to the extent that I could.  Backups were performed in one web application, and restores were performed in a separate web application.  I even placed each web application in its own (IIS) application pool – just to be sure.  I also established a single VM snapshot starting point; after each backup and restore test, I rolled back to the snapshot point to ensure that nothing remained in the farm (or VM, for that matter) that was tied to the previous round of testing.

Testing Procedure

I created a single Publishing Portal, bolted a couple of sub-sites and Document Libraries into it, and used it as the target for my site collection backup operations.  The Document Library that I used for workflow testing varied between tests; it was not held constant and did change according to the needs of each specific test.

I ran four different workflow test scenarios.  My OOTB workflow scenario involved testing the page approval workflow for publishing pages.  My other three SPD workflow tests (list-bound, site collection, and reusable workflow) all involved the same basic set of workflow steps:

  1. Wait five minutes
  2. Create a To Do item (which had to be completed to move on)
  3. Wait five more minutes
  4. Add a comment to the workflow target

In both the OOTB workflow and SPD workflow scenarios, I wanted to perform backups while workflows were basically “in flight” to see how workflow state would or wouldn’t be impacted by the backup and restore processes.  For the publishing approval workflow, this meant taking a site collection backup while at least one page was pending approval.  For the SPD workflows, it meant capturing a backup while at least one workflow instance was in a five minute wait period and another was waiting on the completion of the To Do item.

Prior to executing a backup in each test case, I ran a couple of workflow instances from start to finish.  This ensured that I had some workflow history information to capture and restore.

Once site collection backups were captured in each test case, I restored them into the empty web application.  I then opened the restored site collection to determine what did and didn’t get transcribed through the backup and restore process.

Results Of Testing

In each workflow case (OOTB and all three SPD workflows), all workflow information that I could poke and prod appeared to survive the backup and restore process without issue.  Workflow definition data was preserved, and workflow history came over intact.  Even more impressive, though, was the fact that in-process workflow state was preserved.  SPD workflow steps that were in the middle of a wait period when a backup was taken completed their wait period after restore and moved on.  To Do items that were waiting for user intervention continued to wait and then proceeded to the next step when they were marked as completed in the restored site collection.

In addition, new instances of each workflow type could be created and started in both site collections following the backup and restore operations.  The backup and subsequent restore didn’t appear to have any effect on either the source or destination.

Though my testing wasn’t exhaustive, it did cast a doubt on the absolute nature of the statement made on TechNet regarding site collection backups failing to include workflows.

Joel’s Legwork

While I was conducting my research and testing, Joel was leveraging his network of contacts and asking folks at Microsoft for the real story behind site collection backups and workflow.  He made a little progress with each person he spoke to, and in the end, he managed to get someone to go on the record.

The Conclusion

The official word from Microsoft is that the TechNet note indicating that site collection backups don’t include workflows is a misprint.  In reality, the point that should have been conveyed through TechNet was that content exports (via the Content Deployment API) don’t include workflows – a point that is perfectly understandable considering that the Content Deployment API doesn’t export or import with full-fidelity.  Microsoft indicated that they’ll be correcting the error, and TechNet may have been corrected by the time you read this.

My takeaway on this: if something on TechNet (or anywhere else on the web) doesn’t quite add up, it never hurts to test and seek additional information from others in the community who are knowledgeable on the subject matter.  In this case, it made a huge difference.

Additional Resources and References

  1. Blog: John Ferringer
  2. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  3. TechNet: Backup and recovery overview (SharePoint Server 2010)
  4. Event: SharePoint Saturday Ozarks
  5. Blog: Joel Oleson
  6. Blog: Mark Rackley
  7. Tools: Reflector

Upcoming Activities (March 2010)

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

2010 is in full-swing, and there seems to be no shortage of activities for me to jump into!  If anything, I need more free time to take on some of the stuff I really want to sink my teeth into (such as a SharePoint 2010 CodePlex project I want to have ready for RTM).  Until I have something more tangible in hand, though, I’ll avoid talking about that topic any further.

Here are some of the things occupying my free time in the short-to-mid term:

TechOlympics Expo 2010

The TechOlympics Expo is the type of event every adult geek wishes they had when they were in high school – a weekend lock-in featuring technical competitions, cool toys, games of every imaginable sort, and pretty much everything else that would get a teenage gearhead jazzed-up.  The underlying goal of the event is to get high school kids interested in technology, careers in technology, and technical opportunities in the Cincinnati area.

The event (on March 5-7) is being put on by the INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, and my involvement in the event is kind of a curious thing.  My primary client of the past 2+ years is a big backer of (and heavily invested in) the INTERalliance, so naturally they kick-in help whenever events come up.  I helped the INTERalliance through a last-minute (and somewhat ugly) technical hurdle involving SMS voting for their PharaohFest event last October, and I suspect that played a part in my being asked to help out with the TechOlympics.

With the TechOlympics, I’m part of a team that’s working to make all the “technical stuff” (behind-the-scenes and otherwise) happen.  My responsibilities seem to shift a bit each day, but the bulk of what I’ve been working on is coordinating network logistics and services, translating “the vision” into technical infrastructure, providing some guidance on applications being written to support the event, and generally doing my best at “collision avoidance” to ensure that we don’t miss anything important for the event.

I’m confident that the event is going to be incredible, and it’s been a lot of fun doing the planning thus far.  Seeing everything come together is going to be neat – both for me and for everyone else who has been laboring to make the magic happen!

SharePoint Saturday Michigan

What would an “Upcoming Activities” post be without a SharePoint Saturday announcement!  The next one I’ll be attending is SharePoint Saturday Michigan in Ann Arbor on March 13th.  I’ll be presenting “Saving SharePoint,” the disaster recovery talk that John Ferringer and I have been delivering at various SharePoint Saturday events around the region.  I’ll be flying solo this time around, though, as John has some other things going on that weekend.

SharePoint Saturday Michigan As always, SharePoint Saturday events are free and open to the public.  If you have any interest in learning more about SharePoint, getting some free training, or simply networking and meeting other professionals in the SharePoint space, please sign up!

SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide

This announcement is last, but it’s definitely not least.  Some of you are aware, but for those who aren’t: John and I have been working on the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide for a while now.  I’m not going to lie – it’s slow going.  Personally, I’m a very slow writer, and the process itself is exceptionally labor-intensive.  Nevertheless, we’re making progress – one page at a time.

Our goal (and Cengage’s goal for us) is to have the book ready for SharePoint 2010 RTM.  I haven’t seen or heard anything official from Microsoft, but rumor has it that SharePoint 2010 will probably be out sometime in June.  If that’s the case, then John and I are on-track.

If you have suggestions for us, particularly if you read the first book, we would love to hear them.  We’re incorporating a few that we already received (for example, a chapter that covers some real world use-cases), but our ears are open and listening.  We know that DR isn’t a topic that gets everyone overly hot and bothered (unless they’ve lost everything at some point, of course), but our goal is to make the book as useful as possible.  We’d love your help!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Site: CodePlex
  2. Event: TechOlympics Expo 2010
  3. Organization: The INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati
  4. Event: PharaohFest
  5. Event: SharePoint Saturday Michigan
  6. Partner In Crime: John Ferringer on Twitter
  7. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
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