Greater SharePoint use to cause IT headaches?

3 Jan 2007

Anticipated growth in the use of Microsoft’s SharePoint program will lead to a greater need for formal policies to manage it, an independent software supplier has said.

In a bid to encourage more people to use SharePoint, Microsoft has been de-emphasising the public folders that have been in use since earlier versions of Exchange, from 5.5 onwards. It’s also anticipated that the recent release of SharePoint Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 will boost SharePoint usage.

These developments will make formal management policies essential, claimed Joe Baguley, global product director with Quest Software. “SharePoint is going to be a big, big technology in 2007 and 2008; having a mechanism to report on that and manage that is important,” he said.

According to Baguley, SharePoint offers many advantages as a technology. “It’s a great advance on the functions that people are using public folders for today,” he said. “As soon as end users become familiar with the collaborative advantages of SharePoint, and realise they are able to create SharePoint sites themselves, there will be an explosion in current usage levels,” Baguley predicted.

He argued that the management headache lies in the fact that it’s so easy to deploy. Baguley likened it to instant messaging, which has come to be used in many organisations under the radar, without the knowledge of the IT department. This can lead to major content management issues, he cautioned.

Microsoft itself doesn’t provide any tools to handle the migration of data from public folders to SharePoint. Since the latter is included free as part of Windows Server, the worry is that many organisations will start to use the program before thinking through the potential impact.

Research carried out by Quest in the UK found that 38pc of companies currently use SharePoint but only 52pc of them have a formal management policy in place for it. One in 10 UK companies have already migrated their public folders in Microsoft Exchange to SharePoint and a further 29pc are actively considering the move. The remainder will come under increasing pressure to migrate Exchange Public Folders as they transition to Microsoft Exchange 2007.

There’s also a considerable amount of work involved for companies looking to migrate their email systems from earlier versions of Exchange, Baguley pointed out. “Most of the effort in migrating goes into planning and preparation,” he said. “Migration is the biggest project that any IT department can undertake; it requires an awful lot of planning. It’s very risky: you’re playing with the systems that really run your business.”

By Gordon Smith