An Introduction to Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server
Published: 27 Feb 2007
In this article Joydip provides a basic introduction to Windows SharePoint Services and Share Point Portal Server.
by Joydip Kanjilal
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Windows SharePoint Services provides its users the facility to organize a collaborative information sharing environment on the Windows platform. It has been designed on ASP.NET on the Internet Information Services (IIS) server and is available free with Windows Server 2003. It uses a SQL Server or MSDE database back-end to store data. SharePoint Portal Server runs on top of Windows SharePoint Services which actually acts as the platform for SharePoint Portal Server in order to facilitate the access to the sites, document libraries, templates, lists, etc. According to Microsoft, "Effective information sharing and collaboration is rapidly becoming a strategic platform advantage, but that advantage can be compromised if collaboration technologies are deployed in a piecemeal fashion." This introductory article presents a basic overview of Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server in a lucid language and how these two can be instrumental in minimizing the need for custom software development.

Introducing Windows SharePoint Services

Built on top of Windows Server 2003, IIS and ASP.NET, Windows SharePoint Services is a component of Windows Server 2003 information worker infrastructure that provides an easy application development and flexible application deployment platform and facilitates locating and sharing documents in a distributed and collaborative environment; hence, boosting productivity and meeting your business challenges. In a sense, Windows SharePoint Services lets you "share information, collaborate on documents, and collect team knowledge over the Internet or your corporate network."

It is an upgrade to Windows SharePoint Team Services that is available as a part of Microsoft FrontPage. SharePoint Team Services is a team Web site solution that can be instrumental in improving the team integration and team management activities. You have a host of features: document libraries, contacts, tasks, discussions, and what not! A SharePoint Team Services web site is easily customizable and provides a seamless and efficient collaboration amongst a team of members. Note that Windows SharePoint Services acts as both a product and a component, i.e., it is available as a free download product and also comes free with Windows Server 2003. It is also a component in the sense that it is a part of SharePoint Portal Server 2003. SharePoint Portal Server is discussed later in this article.

The following are basic features provided by Windows SharePoint Services:

·         Document sharing, security, organization, management and integration in a collaborative environment

·         Cost-effective and incremental deployment

·         Seamless integration with other tools

·         Easy extensibility

Note that Windows SharePoint Services uses MSDE or Sql Server as its database to store the site settings, content, documents, etc. for data security, integrity, manageability and transactional support.

The latest release, Windows SharePoint Services version 3.0, was released on November 16, 2006 as part of the Microsoft Office 2007 suite and Windows Server "Longhorn." You can download Windows SharePoint Services from the links below:

Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 download

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Ready to Download!

Windows SharePoint Services Downloads

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0: Software Development Kit (SDK)

Content and Configuration Databases in Windows SharePoint Services

Windows SharePoint Services depends on two types of databases for its operation.

·         A Content Database that stores the data of one or more Windows SharePoint Services web sites

·         A Configuration Database that contains the related configuration details

While the configuration database is instrumental in configuration and administration of all the WSS web sites on a server, the content database houses the data of one or more Windows SharePoint Services web sites. The size of the database for Windows SharePoint Services depends on the number and size of the Windows SharePoint Services web sites that are supported by the server.

Note that when you install Windows SharePoint Services in your system, you have multiple content databases, but one configuration database. Further, when you install SharePoint Portal Server consequently, it does not use any of these databases; instead, three more databases namely, Portalname_prof, Portalname_serv and Portalname_site, are created with the installation of SharePoint Portal Server and it updates the configuration database created earlier with the installation of Windows SharePoint Services.

Introducing SharePoint Portal Server

Windows SharePoint Services is a component of SharePoint Portal Server and Sharepoint Portal Server runs on top of Windows SharePoint Services which actually acts as the base platform for SharePoint Portal Server. SharePoint Portal Server supports integrated document management with flexible document search options. It is a "flexible portal solution that lets you find, share, and publish information easily." SharePoint Portal server can be used to present the content in a customizable way and it provides a seamless integration with SharePoint Portal Farms, Windows SharePoint Services web sites, backend systems through BizTalk, profile Integration with Active Directory, etc.

When you have SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services installed in your system, you can find a folder structure of modifiable and customizable templates that gets created automatically, templates for both Windows Sharepoint Services web sites and for SharePoint Portal Server pages. As SharePoint Portal Server is built on top of Windows SharePoint Services, much of the underlying architecture of them is identical. I will discuss more on this in my forthcoming articles on these technologies.

Windows SharePoint Services should be installed prior to the installation of Sharepoint Portal Server since the later runs on top of the former. It should be noted that unlike Windows SharePoint Services, Sharepoint Portal Server does not come free with Windows Server 2003. However, you can still download a free 180-day trial copy of SharePoint Portal Server from the website of Microsoft.

The following are the basic features provided by Sharepoint Portal Server.

·         Easily customizable

·         Content administration and Aggregation

·         Integrated document management and scalable, enterprise search options

·         Web based shared Document Repository

·         Message board, Notification of Emails, Events, announcements, contact lists, etc.

·         Web Parts -- customizable, pluggable, reusable components that can be used to display specific information on a Web page

Installation Pre-requisites for Sharepoint Portal Server

This section highlights the pre-requisites that are mandatory for installing SharePoint Portal Server and make it up and running in your system. You need to have Windows Server 2003 installed on your system with IIS 6.0, Sql Server and ASP.NET version 1.1 or later. The installation would install Windows SharePoint Services prior to the installation of Sharepoint Portal Server on top of the former. It is possible to install Windows SharePoint Services individually without installing SharePoint Portal Server 2003 in your system. However, if you have installed SharePoint Portal Server 2003 on your server you have automatically installed Windows SharePoint Services.

It should be noted that both Windows SharePoint Services and Sharepoint Portal Server configure the IIS application pools to run under the identity of the NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE account; although it is also possible to reconfigure any IIS application pool to use a different Windows account.

Comparing Windows SharePoint Services and Sharepoint Portal Server

The basic difference between Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server is that the former is primarily based on collaboration theme, whereas the later is based on an aggregation theme and performs the role of a content aggregator. Moreover, Windows SharePoint Services provides "a place to put all your content while SharePoint Server provides an efficient means to navigate and search through your content when you need it." According to Microsoft, "WSS is based on a collaboration theme in the sense that it's designed to store and share list-based data and documents. SPS, on the other hand, is based on an aggregation theme. An SPS portal site is useful for aggregating information and documents from many different places. SPS adds value because it provides users with a quick and easy way to find information and documents that are spread out around a private network or scattered throughout the Internet."



This article has provided an overview of Windows SharePoint Services and Sharepoint Portal Server. I will be following this up with more and more articles related to the architecture, role based security features, configuration, management, etc. and real-life implementation of these technologies so that the reader can master how to design and develop content management solutions that can work in a collaborative environment efficiently. So, stay tuned!

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