SharePoint Best Practices Posts, Day 5 of 10. Building Capacity into your SharePoint Setup.

Guest post by Chris Mckinley- Senior SQL/SharePoint Developer

Imagine a scenario for an educational SharePoint setup as a development team….

SharePoint is installed, setup and configured seamlessly with the public drives made read only. Staff and students are uploading and collaborating and together with the systems administrators and SharePoint they ride into the sunset and live happily ever after…

Of course this is not how it happens, as Joel Oleson said in his keynote SharePoint is like the killer bunny in Monty Python- if you’re not careful and don’t think things through it will take your head off.

Warning- graphic scenes of violence with a killer bunny!

SharePoint is an excellent solution in a school for removing shared drives and delivering content to a large number of users but it is often entered into tentatively.  You can put it on one server, try it out on an old server, virtualise it, use multiple front ends, run a separate SQL server or multiple clustered SQL servers, and create load balanced solutions. There are many approaches to getting SharePoint running within a school but they will all end up the same – broken.  Running Moodle or one of the many other platforms? Same problem, broken.

So why does it break? Well the simple answer is: Because it works.

Allow me to explain my madness.

When SharePoint works people will use it, if it really works people will do more and more with it. They’ll add more documents, use rich media content, take advantage of versioning and custom lists. Like a motorway, SharePoint works beautifully until a certain capacity is reached; then it’s long waits and alternative routes. If you fail to plan for expansion you’ll get trapped on that stationary motorway.

The way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to plan. There is no silver bullet, no useful book or blog post to tell you what to do. It’s time for the hard miles – you just need to sit, think and plan; not something that comes naturally to most IT professionals in a school. This doesn’t mean you have to build the largest system you can think of, that’s just a waste. You just need to be ready to expand when you need to, look at your deployment road map (you have one, right?) and be ready for the extra traffic from parents logging in or year 11s revising at times in the evening when the servers could be busy backing up?

If you’re killing public drives you’re going to have a whole lot of files moving into the SharePoint database, that will really hurt your single server setup if you’re not expecting the growth. Have plans in place to add servers and storage in a way that will cause minimal disruption you may need to think about the network backbone too. It’s a tough, long, and tedious task but you’ll be smiling when everything just keeps on ticking as the Head puts that 5MB PDF on the gateway and emails all staff and students asking them to view it.

So you’ve got everything in place and you’re ready to expand quickly and easily to 1500 MySites and 100GB of data, people are happy, end users aren’t complaining, system administrators are kicking back and feeling proud. The sky is blue and the sun is out with the SharePoint bunny happily hopping around.

Then the black clouds of disaster begin to roll in…….How do you prepare?


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