You might ask, “Are you crazy? Why?”
SharePoint Server already has web publishing, right?
That’s’ right! But what about SharePoint Foundation clients? There’s no way for SharePoint Foundation clients to publish web content easily and efficiently.
You might be thinking (and I certainly hope not), what is SharePoint Foundation? For more information on SharePoint Foundation, please refer to my article on “The Power behind SharePoint Server”. This will outline the SharePoint Foundation product and why it’s the heart and lungs and nervous system of SharePoint Server.
Web Publisher for SharePoint Foundation – why bother?
This is a great question and one that can be answered quite simply; some customers want it!
Not every customer that wants the functionality of SharePoint Server can afford to buy the SharePoint licenses. Many opt to install SharePoint Foundation and use the out-of-box features to their best ability. These customers I’m referring to not always small or mid-sized customers, some of the customers we’ve helped and implement Qualitem solutions on SharePoint Foundation into are multi-billion dollar organisations.
Using tools like SharePoint Designer, customers can extend SharePoint Foundation. But there’s still a gap between SharePoint Server and what tools like Designer can do.
So why did we bother when Microsoft already did it? Like most products, it started as a customer problem.
This was a very bold undertaking by any measure, after all, SharePoint Server 2010 has a working publishing feature. Many might say that this is actually something that only Microsoft would attempt. It’s actually the type of solution Microsoft asks of all its ISV partners, that is, take the Microsoft platform and build compelling solutions that add value above the stack.
So we did just that. Moreover, this is exactly what SharePoint Server Stand and Enterprise is; a set of solutions (or WSPs) installed on the SharePoint Foundation platform, it’s just that Microsoft call is SharePoint Server (Std and Ent) and sell it with different SKUs based on deployment scenarios.
Qualitem Web Publishing solves the problem of building and managing web content on SharePoint Foundation. The customer we originally built this for has 190,000 employees; implementing SharePoint Server Standard with its Client Access License (CAL) model for licensing, was never going to fly. Our customer was never going to license that many users and SharePoint as a platform was at risk of being thrown out – it was simply too cost prohibitive for our client at the time to purchase 190,000 SharePoint CALs (as they were not on an Enterprise Agreement).
The customer was publishing content that was going to be accessible across their group of companies (and potentially 190,000 users). This meant that a SharePoint Server Standard CAL would be needed for every user. They also needed to move content from a Staging farm, which was SharePoint Standard (this was where the content was maintained), to a SharePoint farm in the DMZ (accessible by potentially all 190,000 employees) and across a firewall.
They needed to create content on the Staging farm (SharePoint Server Standard), have it migrate to the Production internet farm (SharePoint Foundation), whilst retaining the goodness of publishing (like welcome page, master pages, custom layouts, editing toolbar, and approval workflow). So we set about writing a SharePoint Publishing-like feature that worked in SharePoint Foundation and could also work on the SharePoint Standard SKU. We knew that if we could get it working on SharePoint Foundation, it would also work in SharePoint Server Standard product.
Our customer’s business is structured as a federated set of businesses; the “Corporate Office” sits above a set of subsidiary businesses, each runs autonomously.
The “Corporate Office” has a SharePoint Server Standard intranet to service their employees (“Intranet”). They also have a requirement to host a central web site for the subsidiaries businesses (“Extranet”) to reference information from the parent company’s corporate functions (e.g. group treasury, group risk etc). Content is authored by corporate office users in the Intranet with the option to publish the content to the Extranet via a custom workflow. None of the SharePoint Server Standard Publishing features could be used as they would obviously not work on SharePoint Foundation.
Using SharePoint Server Standard as their Extranet (accessible by their subsidiary businesses) was cost prohibitive. Under the current Microsoft Product Use Rights (PUR) (for a product like SharePoint Server Standard), any subsidiary business employee accessing a SharePoint Server Standard web site requires a SharePoint CAL.
Please note: Anonymous access is NO way of getting around the PUR conditions in this scenario.
In costing this out, the “Corporate Office” determined that a SharePoint Server Standard Extranet was cost prohibitive as it would have to purchase for ALL subsidiary business employees – combined number is over 190,000 employees. The Internet Connector license is not applicable in this situation as the “Extranet” is on the internal network and servicing subsidiary businesses, not on the Internet.
We needed a way to allow the small corporate office to utilise SharePoint Server Standard internally (Intranet), whilst having the ability to easily publish to a separate anonymous Extranet (SharePoint Foundation). The customer needed to seamlessly synchronise and publish content from the Intranet (SharePoint Server Standard) server to the Extranet server (SharePoint Foundation) via workflow and tagging content as “Extranet Applicable”.
Turning the SharePoint Server Publishing feature on and publishing these pages to SharePoint Foundation would not work.
The challenge was to have an environment where Intranet users could publish information in SharePoint Server Standard (just like the out-of-box Publishing features), tag it as “extranet ready” and for this content to be available on the Extranet portal in an automated way. We wanted the newly created Publishing feature to map as closely as possible to the SharePoint Server Standard out-of-the-box features, as this would minimise the training impact for users already using SharePoint Server Standard Publishing.
In addition to mirroring the SharePoint Server Publishing features, the requirements for the Extranet were as follows:
- Support an Extranet platform using SharePoint Foundation v3.0 with anonymous access to all published content. This would resolve the SharePoint CAL issue for all subsidiary business users.
- Ensure Intranet content was able to be tagged as “extranet ready”, and once approved;
- Support synchronisation or push of “extranet ready” approved content from the Intranet to the SharePoint Foundation Extranet portal, under the same site taxonomy.
In summary, our ambitious plan to build a “fit-for-purpose” web publishing feature for this customer paid off. The Qualitem CMS is now a robust and proven option for customers all over the world that have opted for SharePoint Foundation as their Web Content Management platform.