Thursday, 27 June 2013

SharePoint 2013 Server Installation

To install SharePoint 2013 in our environment we used the great tools available on CodePlex, called AutoInstaller and corresponding GUI Tool to configure the input XML file.

Our scenario is quite simple. Everything will be virtualised. SharePoint WFE and APP will be installed on one server connecting to the SQL server so it is a 2-tier topology (we have up to 100 users all together so according to Microsoft Topology Examples for SharePoint 2013 we should be all right). In fact they suggest 2-tier farm for up to 10k users when utilising physical servers, but what is the difference if you allocate more than enough resources to your VM's?
We have the IT Support company who does the servers' management for us. They take care of the fail-overs, disaster recovery, daily backups and overall maintenance of our IT infrastructure.
They even have a solution to backing up the whole farm using snapshots without creating latency between the VM's (SharePoint has a timer than runs when it is scheduled to run). Taking a snapshot of the VM was argued as not very useful approach in backing up the farm. But there you go, they guarantee it, it costs a lot of money, it is something I cannot quite understand yet but I am getting there...

It is not like we have not run into problems using AutoInstaller and its GUI. There were several errors but we were able to quickly spot what was actually wrong. The XML file itself and available documentation were somewhat self-explanatory. We ran into errors because we forgot to define something, had a typo or did not provide fully qualified server name for our SQL.
Further, the script halted at "Creating MySite web application" and we could not find what was actually wrong. We then got rid of that Web App in an XML file and re-ran the script. This time- it worked like a charm. Additional Web Apps can be added easily using Central Admin later on anyway. 
The good thing with Autoinstaller and the whole process of SP installation using this tool is that if you re-run the scripts after fixing an error, it picks up from that point and carries forward. Everything before is already installed/configured.
As I said, it took a few attempts for the script to actually finish off the installation but it was worth it. We benefited from all the great features available to us by using AutoInstaller

Stay tuned as now it is when the real party gets started! 

Gentle Intro to the scenario

It has been nearly a year since I am working for the company, who had asked me to sort out their mess in corporate data management, data life cycle, user collaboration and IT systems. They have implemented the system called Winman, which is another Enterprise Resource Planning software, especially useful in manufacturing, order processing, despatching, invoicing etc. This is where majority of business processes take place. It is fairly robust, it gets the job done, but it is not perfectly implemented though.
In addition, they use mapped drives for storing business unstructured data which is scattered all over the place.
Moreover (I know, it is quite a lot already), they have two separate instances of SharePoint for the UK and US branches of the business.
These are just OOTB SharePoint installations with default Shared Documents libraries containing folders and no real functionality. 

To date, I:
  • got to know the company;
  • conducted the user surveys;
  • developed new IT and data management policies;
  • researched and developed data and business records' retention schedules;
  • learned SharePoint as an ECM system;
  • provisionally concluded the information architecture in relation to SharePoint functionality;
  • decided that we will:
    • completely shut down the File Server for users;
    • remove two SharePoint instances (2007 & 2010 Foundation versions)
    • consolidate our corporate data on a one, unified platform (SP2013 Server)
    • bring the UK and the US into one, shared portal to minimise E-mail use
    • provision Remote BLOB store for archiving purposes and let users search archives in SharePoint
  • provisionally developed a pilot site for one of the company's departments.
Having gone through the pain of licensing and getting required software ready, on the day of 26 of June 2013, we have finally installed SharePoint 2013 Server on our corporate servers.

The next post will describe the process of SharePoint installation.

Further posts will be a reflection of what we actually do with our SharePoint system, how it performs, what sort of issues we encounter and everything else you can imagine in a day-to-day life of a quickly growing and successful company.

Stay tuned!