February’s Rip-Roarin’ SharePoint Activities

February is a really busy month for SharePoint activities. In this post, I cover some speaking engagements I have during the month. I also talk about the release of Idera SharePoint backup 3.0 — the product we’ve been working so hard to build and make available!

Holy smokes!  2011 is off to a fast start, and February is already here.  Now that our product release is out (see below), I’m going to make good on my promise to get more “real” blog content out.  Before I do that, though, I want to highlight all of the great SharePoint stuff I’m fortunate enough to be involved with during the month of February.

Idera SharePoint backup 3.0 Release

Idera SharePoint backup 3.0 management consoleAs some of you know, I’m currently a Product Manager for SharePoint products at Idera.  Although it isn’t something that is strictly community focused, Idera SharePoint backup has been a large part of my life for most of the last year.  We’ve been doing some really cool development and product work, and I want to share a piece of good news: We just released version 3.0 of Idera SharePoint backup!

Idera SharePoint backup is “my” product from a management standpoint, and I’m really proud of all the effort that our team put in to make the release a reality.  There are a lot of people in many different areas who busted their butts to get the product out-the-door: development, quality assurance, information development, marketing, product marketing management, public relations, web site management, sales, sales engineering, and more.

To everyone who contributed to making the release a success: you have my heartfelt thanks.  To the rest of you who might be shopping for a SharePoint backup product, please check out what we’ve put together!

SPTechCon San Francisco

Idera-sponsored book signings at SPTechCon San FranciscoI’ll be heading out to BZ Media’s SPTechCon in San Francisco for most of the week of February 7th.  Although I will be delivering a lightning talk titled “Backup/Restore Knowledge Nuggets: What’s True, What’s Not?” (more-or-less the same talk I delivered at last Fall’s SPTechCon event in Boston) on Monday the 7th, that’s only a small part of why I’ll be at the conference.

The big stuff?  Well, first off is the big “public release” of Idera SharePoint backup 3.0.  I’ll be talking with conference participants, seeing what they like (and what they don’t like), explaining the new capabilities and features, etc.

My good friend (and co-author) John Ferringer and I will also be doing an Idera-sponsored book signing for our SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide.  If you’re going to be at the conference and want to get a free (and signed!) copy of our book, come by booth #302 on Wednesday morning (2/9) at 10am during the coffee and donuts.  We’ll be around and easy to find: John will be the thin bald guy, and I’ll be the mostly bald guy next to him shoveling donuts into his mouth.  I have a tremendous weak spot for donuts …

Presenting for the Rochester SharePoint User Group

Rick Black is one of the organizers of the Rochester (New York) SharePoint User Group.  I met Rick late in 2009 at SharePoint Saturday Cleveland in Cleveland, Ohio; he and I were both presenting sessions.  We talked a bit during the event, and we pinged each other now and again on Twitter and Facebook in the time after the event.

At one point in time, Rick tossed out the idea of having me present for the Rochester SPUG.  I told him I’d certainly be up for it; after all, I really enjoy hanging out with SharePoint users and talking shop.  The trick, of course, would be getting me to Rochester.

Recently, I asked Rick if he thought a virtual SPUG presentation might work for his group.  I do quite a bit of time presenting on Live Meeting these days, so I figured it might be an option.  It sounded like a good idea to Rick, so I’m on the schedule to (virtually) present for the Rochester SPUG on Thursday, February 10th, 2011.  I’ll be presenting Saving SharePoint – a time-tested and refined SharePoint disaster recovery talk.  The abstract reads as follows:

In this session, we will be discussing disaster recovery (DR) concepts and strategies for SharePoint in a format that highlights a combination of both business and technical concerns.  We will define some critical planning terms such as “recovery time objectives” and “recovery point objectives,” and we’ll see why they are so important to understand when trying to formulate a DR strategy.  We will also identify the capabilities and limitations of the Microsoft tools that can used for backing up, restoring, and making SharePoint highly available for disaster recovery purposes.  Changes that have arrived with SharePoint Server 2010 and how they affect DR planning and implementation will also be covered.

I’ll be presenting the night that I get home on a red-eye flight from SPTechCon, so I could be a bit weary … but it will be fun.  I’m really looking forward to it!

SharePoint Saturday San Diego

SharePointSaturdayFor the last weekend of February, I’ll be heading back out to the west coast for SharePoint Saturday San Diego.  The event itself will be held at the San Diego Convention Center on Saturday, February 26th.  The event has filled-up once already, but Chris Givens (who is organizing the event) was able to add another 75 tickets thanks to some additional support from sponsors.

In addition to my Saving SharePoint session (which is described earlier in this post), I’ll be delivering another session called “Caching-In” for SharePoint Performance.  The abstract for the session reads as follows:

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.

As always, SharePoint Saturday events are free to the public.  They’re a great way to get a day’s worth of free training, access to SharePoint experts, and plenty of swag and info from vendors.  If you live in or around San Diego and are free on 2/26, consider signing up!

Two trips to the west coast in one month is definitely a first for me, but I’m looking forward to it.  I hope to see you out there!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Company: Idera
  2. Product: Idera SharePoint backup
  3. Company: BZ Media
  4. Event: SPTechCon San Francisco
  5. Event: SPTechCon SharePoint Lightning Talks
  6. Blog: John Ferringer’s My Central Admin
  7. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  8. Twitter: Rick Black (@ricknology)
  9. User Group: Rochester SharePoint User Group
  10. Events: SharePoint Saturday San Diego
  11. Twitter: Chris Givens (@givenscj)

December SharePoint Happenings

I’ve got a few SharePoint-related activities coming up in December. In this post, I talk about the presentation I’ll be giving at the CincySPUG on Thursday, December 2nd. I also cover my participation in the upcoming SharePoint Saturday Kansas City event on Saturday, December 11th.

Thanksgiving has passed, December is right around the corner, and it seems that many folks I know are settling into the holiday mindset.  There’s very little slowdown of activity when it comes to SharePoint, though; one need only look at the SharePoint Saturday home page to see that the first half of December is jam-packed with events.

I’ll be participating in a couple of SharePoint events myself in December, and I thought I’d share those.

Cincinnati SharePoint User Group (CincySPUG)

It’s been quite a while since I’ve attended the monthly Cincinnati SharePoint User Group meetings, and I’ve been meaning to get back to some level of involvement for a while now.  Family and work-related obligations have tied me up more often than not, and then there’s the fact that the meeting location is a solid 40 minutes from my house – and that’s before factoring in rush-hour traffic.

All excuses aside, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be speaking at this month’s CincySPUG meeting.  I’ll be delivering the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery: New Capabilities, New Possibilities! talk that I recently delivered at SharePoint Saturday Dallas.  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.

I put the talk together using Prezi, so its style and flow is inherently different from the standard PowerPoint deck you’re probably used to seeing.

The December 2010 meeting of the CincySPUG is at MAX Technical Training on Thursday, December 2nd.  Socializing starts at 6pm, and the actual presentation goes from 6:30pm until 8pm.  If you have the time and availability, it would be great to see you.

Oh, and here’s (perhaps) a little extra incentive: I’ll be giving away a copy of the new SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide that John Ferringer and I co-authored.  Come on out!

SharePoint Saturday Kansas City

SharePoint Saturday Kansas CityI mentioned that there are a number of SharePoint Saturday events during the first half of December, and I’m fortunate enough to be participating in one them!

SharePoint Saturday Kansas City will be held on Saturday December 11th at the Johnson County Community College Regnier Center (12345 College Blvd., Overland Park, KS 66210-1299).  The event is a full day of free SharePoint training; all you need to do is register through the Eventbrite site and show up!

I’ll be presenting the tried-and-true Saving SharePoint session.  Here’s the abstract:

In this session, we will be discussing disaster recovery (DR) concepts and strategies for SharePoint in a format that highlights a combination of both business and technical concerns.  We will define some critical planning terms such as “recovery time objectives” and “recovery point objectives,” and we’ll see why they are so important to understand when trying to formulate a DR strategy.  We will also identify the capabilities and limitations of the Microsoft tools that can used for backing up, restoring, and making SharePoint highly available for disaster recovery purposes.  Changes that have arrived with SharePoint Server 2010 and how they affect DR planning and implementation will also be covered.

I’m not one to simply leave a presentation alone.  I’ve delivered Saving SharePoint a number of times, but I’ve found a few new goodies to work into it for this go ‘round – should be fun!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Site: SharePoint Saturday Home Page
  2. Group: Cincinnati SharePoint User Group
  3. Event: SharePoint Saturday Dallas
  4. Tools: Prezi
  5. Training: MAX Technical Training
  6. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  7. Blog: John Ferringer’s MyCentralAdmin
  8. Event: SharePoint Saturday Kansas City
  9. Site: Eventbrite Registration for SPS KC

SPTechCon Boston Lightning Talk

This post contains my SPTechCon Boston lightning talk titled “Backup/Restore Knowledge Nuggets: What’s True, What’s Not?” I also spend a few moments talking about Prezi and how it compares to PowerPoint.

Last week, I was in Boston for BZ Media’s SPTechCon Boston event.  It was a great opportunity to see and spend time with many of my friends in the SharePoint community, do a book signing with John Ferringer and Idera, and take in a few sessions.

Although I wasn’t technically a presenter at the conference, I did deliver a “lightning talk” on the first day of the conference.  Lightning talks are five minute presentations that are typically given by sponsors and designed to expose audiences (who are usually chowing-down on food) to the sponsors’ services, products, etc.

I was given Idera’s slot to speak, and I was also given the latitude to basically do whatever I wanted … so, I decided to have some fun with it!

The Lightning Talk Itself

The five minute presentation that appears below is titled Backup/Restore Knowledge Nuggets: What’s True, What’s Not?  If you weren’t at SPTechCon and can spare a few minutes, I think you’ll find the presentation to be both amusing and informative.

Follow the link and try it out!  You’ll find that the play button allows you to step through the presentation from start to finish pretty easily.

Prezi has a very slick mechanism for embedding actual presentations directly into a website, but that isn’t an option here on my blog.  WordPress.com hosts my blog, and they strip out anything with <object> tags.  I tried to embed the presentation directly, but it got me nowhere  :-(

Wait, What’s Prezi?

I recently became hooked on Prezi (the product + service that drove both the lightning talk and the link that I included above) when I saw Peter Serzo use it to deliver his service application session at SharePoint Saturday Columbus.  Prior to Prezi, I did everything with PowerPoint.  Once I saw Prezi in action and got some additional details from Peter, though, I knew that I’d be using Prezi before long.

I don’t see Prezi as a replacement for PowerPoint, but I do see it as a nice complement.  PowerPoint is great for presenting sequential sets of data and information, and it excels in situations where a linear delivery is desirable.

Prezi, on the other hand, is fantastic for talks and presentation where jumping around happens a lot – such as you might do when trying to tie several points back to a central theme or concept.  Prezi isn’t nearly as full-featured as PowerPoint, but I find that it can be more visually engaging and simply “fun.”

Wrapping It Up

The lightning talk at SPTechCon was the perfect arena for a test run with Prezi, and I think the presentation went wonderfully… and was a whole lot of fun to deliver, as well.  I certainly see myself using Prezi more in the future.  SharePoint Saturday Dallas is coming up in just a couple of weeks …

If you take the time to watch the presentation, I’d really love to hear your feedback!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Company: BZ Media LLC
  2. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  3. Blog: John Ferringer’s MyCentralAdmin
  4. Company: Idera
  5. Presentation: Backup/Restore Knowledge Nuggets: What’s True, What’s Not?
  6. Product: Prezi
  7. Twitter: Peter Serzo (@pserzo)
  8. Event: SharePoint Saturday Columbus
  9. Event: SharePoint Saturday Dallas

Fall SharePoint Fun

In this post, I discuss a couple of events that I have coming up; specifically, SPTechCon Boston and SharePoint Saturday Dallas.

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

A Couple of Quick Announcements

In this post, I quickly discuss a couple of upcoming events — including SharePoint Saturday Vancouver and the TechNet series of Windows 7 Deployment Firestarter events.

Fall is on its way, and things may be winding down for some folks.  There’s plenty hopping here, though, and I wanted to share a couple of items that are coming up in the near term.

SharePoint Saturday Vancouver

spsvan This upcoming weekend, I’ll be traveling to Vancouver, British Columbia for SharePoint Saturday Vancouver.  The event is being organized by the triumvirate of Sherman Woo, Michal Pisarek, and Yaroslav Pentsarskyy, and it’s being held at the BCIT Downtown Campus in Vancouver.  If you live in or around Vancouver and want to soak up some free SharePoint knowledge and community interaction, sign-up – it’s free!

The event is planned with four tracks (Information Worker, Development/Customisation, Administration, and User Experience/Vendor), and each track will have four sessions throughout the day.  Attendees who fancy themselves administrators are going to get a load of Todd Klindt and me, as Todd and I are each delivering two of the four admin sessions.  No worries for potential attendees, though – I think that both Todd and I will be trying to soften the blow of suffering through an entire day with the two of us by giving away a few freebies …

On a non-SharePoint note, this is actually going to be my first trip to Canada … and I’m really looking forward to it!  I probably won’t be in Vancouver long enough to really see anything, but I will get to spend at least a couple of days in the Great White North – land of Geddy Lee and the McKenzie Brothers.

Off The Beaten Path

The bulk of what I blog about is related to SharePoint in some way, shape, or form.  Every now and then, though, I’ll venture off the SharePoint path to share noteworthy (or simply fun) information.

One such non-SharePoint item that I wanted to share with you is the Windows 7 Deployment Firestarter series of TechNet events taking place in the Midwest region (including Cincinnati).  The events are being brought to the community by a group that includes my friend and colleague Matt Hester.  Matt is Microsoft’s IT Pro Evangelist for our region, and he’s been working very hard in the last several months to organize the IT Pro community and build up some steam.

These events promise to be an excellent rundown on Windows 7, the tools that are available to IT Pros for deployment, and how upgrades can be approached.  If you have the time and interest, I encourage you to sign up.  Like so many other great events, they’re free!  Space is limited, though, so you should probably move fast.

Additional Resources and References

  1. Event: SharePoint Saturday Vancouver
  2. Twitter: Sherman Woo (@spsherm)
  3. Twitter: Michael Pisarek (@MichalPisarek)
  4. Blog: Todd Klindt
  5. Schedule: SharePoint Saturday Vancouver
  6. People: Geddy Lee
  7. People: Bob and Doug McKenzie
  8. Events: TechNet Events: Windows 7 Deployment Firestarter
  9. Blog: Matt Hester

The SharePoint Summer Whirlwind Tour

The rest of this summer is a busy one for me, and it is chock-full of SharePoint presentation events. In this blog post, I discuss my upcoming SharePoint Saturday event schedule as well as a webcast I’ll be delivering in the middle of August.

I just finished writing the conclusion for the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide, so it’s safe to say that the marathon writing and revising sessions are nearing an end.  Book writing is one of those things that most people don’t do, so it’s hard to describe the feeling that comes when you truly internalize the realization that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t another oncoming train.  To me, it means that I may once again have some free time to spend time with my family, play videogames, take care of some much-needed home network maintenance, and actually work on some cool SharePoint projects.

The end of the book couldn’t have come a moment sooner, either, because it seems that I’m about to launch into what I’m starting to jokingly call my “SharePoint Summer Whirlwind Tour.”

SharePoint Saturday New York

SharePoint Saturday New York The first stop on my tour is the Big Apple.  SharePoint Saturday New York will be held on Saturday, July 31st, at the Microsoft office in Manhattan.  The event “sold-out” in almost no time at all, and it is currently wait-listed about 80 people deep based on what I saw from some recent tweets on Twitter.

The event is scheduled with a whopping nine concurrent tracks, so there will be plenty of SharePoint goodness for everyone in attendance.  I’ll be presenting on SharePoint disaster recovery for both SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 with “Saving SharePoint,” so stop in to see me if you want to talk about DR!

Since Idera is sponsoring the event, I’ll also be in and around the Idera booth answering questions, showing off our backup tools, and hopefully meeting some of the local SharePoint community.  It should be a lot of fun!

SharePoint Saturday Denver

SharePoint Saturday Denver

The week after SharePoint Saturday New York is SharePoint Saturday Denver in (surprise) Denver, Colorado, on August 7th.  The folks organizing SharePoint Saturday Denver have planned for six tracks: two for architecture, two for development, one for admins/IT pros, and one for end users/decision makers.  I feel fortunate in that I’ll be delivering two presentations in the admin/IT pro track.  The first is “Saving SharePoint” (on SharePoint disaster recovery), and the second is titled “’Caching-In’ for SharePoint Performance.”

“’Caching-In for SharePoint Performance” is a relatively new session that I put together a while ago based on a lot of the experience I gained while consulting for a “particular” client, and it dives into the platform caching mechanisms that are built into SharePoint.  The abstract sums it up pretty well.

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.

Quite a few folks from Idera will be present at the event, and since we’re a sponsor, we’ll have a booth.  In between sessions, I’m sure I’ll be milling around in and around the booth if I’m not in another session.

I’m particularly excited about the Denver event because it represents a chance to interact with a portion of the SharePoint community I don’t see or talk to very often.  The folks putting on the event are a top-notch group in my mind, and many of the speakers are folks I’ve wanted to meet for some time.

SharePoint Saturday Columbus

SharePoint Saturday Columbus The SharePoint Saturday tour concludes for a while (for me, anyway) with SharePoint Saturday Columbus on August 14th, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio.  This particular SharePoint Saturday is special to me because I’m a member of the committee that is currently working to put the event together.

We have some fantastic sessions lined up, and I’ll be delivering “Saving SharePoint” in one of the IT pro session slots throughout the day.  For those of you who are in and around the Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland areas, I hope you’ll show up for a great day of SharePoint sessions and community connection building!  You can sign up for the event with this Eventbrite link.

Idera is a sponsor for the event and will have a booth.  I’m sure I’ll be in and around the booth, but being both a speaker and an organizer means that I’ll probably be doing quite a bit of extra running around, too.

Secrets of SharePoint Webcast

sos “But wait, there’s more!”  I’m imagining one of those old made-for-TV gadget commercials from many years ago as I typed that …

The Wednesday after SharePoint Saturday Columbus (August 18th), I’ll be delivering a webcast for Idera as part of their Secrets of SharePoint series.  Idera regularly seeks the help of SharePoint community members to give webcasts, and John Ferringer and I actually delivered one of these titled “SharePoint Disaster Recovery Essential Guidelines” back in 2009.

On August 18th, though, I’ll be delivering a new webcast titled “SharePoint 2010 and Your DR Plan: New Capabilities, New Possibilities!”  The webcast will focus on new and improved elements in the SharePoint 2010 platform that either simplify or extend disaster recovery planning and implementation options.  Here’s the abstract for the webcast:

SharePoint 2010 is here, and many organizations are hard at work building their implementation roadmap.  Some organizations are starting fresh with SharePoint 2010 while many others are contemplating a migration strategy from SharePoint 2007.  Regardless of how an organization arrives at SharePoint 2010, disaster recovery planning for their SharePoint environment is something that must be included to ensure the protection of their data and the continuity of business operations.

Microsoft made significant enhancements to the disaster recovery landscape with SharePoint 2010, and in this webcast we’ll be taking a good look at many of those of new features.  We’ll dive inside enhancements to the existing backup and restore capabilities that were present in the SharePoint 2007 platform to see what has changed and been enhanced.  We’ll also look at many of the exciting new capabilities that have been integrated into the SharePoint 2010 platform, such as unattended content database recoveries, 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 for the better with SharePoint 2010.

If you’re free at 1pm EDT (12pm CDT) on August 18th, I encourage you to sign up and listen.  Just like the SharePoint Saturday events, there is no charge to attend the webcast.  Just sign up and you’re ready to go!

And After That?

After that, I’ll be cooling my jets for a while and taking a much-needed break to remind my kids of what their father looks like.  There are many backlogged blog posts I’ve been planning to write, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to start sharing more soon!

Additional Resources and References

  1. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  2. Event: SharePoint Saturday New York
  3. Presentation: Saving SharePoint (at SPS NY)
  4. Company: Idera
  5. Event: SharePoint Saturday Denver
  6. Event: SharePoint Saturday Columbus
  7. Sign-up: Eventbrite link for SharePoint Saturday Columbus
  8. Webcast: SharePoint Disaster Recovery Essential Guidelines
  9. Webcast: SharePoint 2010 and Your DR Plan: New Capabilities, New Possibilities!

Site Collection Backups and Workflow Portability in SharePoint 2010

In this post, I discuss my quest to determine whether or not site collection backups properly capture workflow information in SharePoint 2010. TechNet made a point of saying they didn’t, but Joel Oleson said they did. Who was right?

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 Events (June 2010)

This post introduces SharePoint Saturday Columbus which will be taking place on August 14, 2010. Several of us are putting the event together, and we’re seeking both speakers and sponsors. I will also be speaking at SharePoint Saturday Ozarks this Saturday, June 12th, and delivering my new talk titled “‘Caching-In’ for SharePoint Performance.”

The last couple of months have been exceptionally busy, so this blog hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.  All of my time has been spent writing chapters for the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide that John Ferringer and I are putting together.  The good news is that John and I have rounded the bend and are heading towards home on completion of the book, so I will be getting back to blogging about topics of greater substance towards the middle of the summer.

Announcing SharePoint Saturday Columbus!

SharePoint Saturday Columbus on August 14, 2010! Yesterday we (the planning committee) announced that SharePoint Saturday Columbus will be taking place at the Conference Center at OCLC in Dublin, Ohio on August 14th, 2010.  For those of you not familiar with the central Ohio region, Dublin is just a northern part of the Columbus area.

Brian Jackett, Jennifer Mason, Nicola Young, and I have been pulling the pieces together over the last several months, and we finally have enough done that we can announce the event.  We’re very excited to be bringing a SharePoint Saturday event to this region of the Midwest!

We are actively seeking both speakers and sponsors for the event.  If you or someone you know falls into either or both of these categories, please head out to the SharePoint Saturday Columbus site for sponsorship information, session submission forms, and other resources.  You can also follow @SPSColumbus on Twitter for more information and announcements in the time leading up to the event.

Speaking of SharePoint Saturdays …

SharePoint Saturday Ozarks

SharePoint Saturday Ozarks on June 12, 2010 It’s funny to think that the whole SharePoint Saturday experience started about a year ago for me.  I’ll be going back to the scene of the crime this weekend when I head to Harrison, Arkansas, for SharePoint Saturday Ozarks.

Mark Rackley is reminding the SharePoint community that he is a force of nature by putting all the pieces together to make this event happen.  Most SharePoint Saturday events have an organizing committee, but Mark plays all the instruments in this band.  It’s simply amazing.

This time around, I’ll actually be delivering a session on something other than SharePoint disaster recovery.  The session is titled “’Caching-In’ for SharePoint Performance,” and it’s a new one for me.  I’m really looking forward to giving the talk, because caching within SharePoint is something I am both passionate about and have deep experience with.  Here’s the abstract for my session:

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.

If you happen to be in the Harrison, AR region on Saturday, June 12th, swing by the North Arkansas College.  There will be one heck of a SharePoint party going on!

Additional Resources and References

  1. Book: SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide
  2. Blog: John Ferringer
  3. Event: SharePoint Saturday Columbus
  4. Location: The Conference Center at OCLC
  5. Blog: Brian Jackett
  6. Blog: Jenniffer Mason
  7. Blog: Nicola Young
  8. Twitter: @SPSColumbus
  9. Event: SharePoint Saturday Ozarks
  10. Blog: Mark Rackley

 

SharePoint Saturday Houston

In this quick post, I talk about my presentation of “Saving SharePoint” at SharePoint Saturday Houston in a few days (Saturday, May 1st).

I’d normally have posted some information about this a bit earlier, but the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind given the new job.

SharePointSaturday

This Saturday, May 1st, I’ll be speaking at SharePoint Saturday Houston.  I’m already here (in Houston) on business this week, and SharePoint Saturday Houston represents a great way to wrap up the week before heading back to Cincinnati!

I’ll be presenting “Saving SharePoint,” the talk that I’ve given (both solo and with my cohort in crime, John Ferringer) at a number of SharePoint Saturday events.  In the talk, I discuss SharePoint disaster recovery, key terms and concepts for speaking the “DR lingo,” and the tools that SharePoint comes with to help you protect your data.  A substantial portion of the talk also focuses on DR procedures and business practices that anyone tasked with DR responsibilities needs to understand to effectively carry out their duties.

I hope to see you this Saturday!

Additional Reading and References

  1. Event: SharePoint Saturday Houston
  2. People: John Ferringer

Upcoming Activities (March 2010)

In this post, I discuss some of my activities for the next couple of months. These include the INTERalliance TechOlympics, SharePoint Saturday Michigan, and continuing efforts to get the SharePoint 2010 Disaster Recovery Guide ready for product launch.

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