Tag Archives: sharepoint 2010

Recovering documents from SharePoint 2010

I mentioned the other day that an update broke my SharePoint installation. The timing was bad as I was just about to leave the office for a few days, so as it turned out I did not get to focus on this properly until last weekend. This virtual server is backed up nightly. I restored from before the failure but it still did not work. Perhaps there was an update pending that was not fully applied until the server restarted, so that even my “good” backup was bad.

The error was frustrating. Accessing a SharePoint site got me a 503, service unavailable. I could run either psconfig or the SharePoint Configuration Wizard without error, but it still did not work. The event log showed a bunch of errors that made little sense to me, including those annoying DCOM activation errors, and database login errors when the accounts concerned had valid logins.

It was wasting too much time so I went for plan B. Reinstall SharePoint from scratch and restore the content database.

This was actually easier than I expected. I backed up WSS_Content using SQL Server Management Studio. I then removed everything SharePoint, and deleted a couple of remnants in IIS. Reinstalled and everything worked.

After that it was simply a matter of attaching the old content database. Well, nearly that simple. My first attempt failed because SharePoint was not fully patched and had an earlier schema than the content database. I manually downloaded and applied the latest SharePoint hotfix rollup. Then I attached the old content database to a new SharePoint site, and everything came up just as before.

I find this reassuring, as keeping documents as blobs in SQL Server is just a little scary from a recovery perspective.

Even if attaching the database were to fail, it is not too bad. You can write code to write out the documents to files and recover them that way. There are some clues here.

SharePoint 2010 web launch delivers blank web page

Microsoft has suffered an embarrassing technical problem at the launch of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. The pre-launch publicity made a big deal of how this launch was both web-based, with the keynote streamed globally, and built on SharePoint 2010.  

Microsoft’s global launch website http://www.the2010event.com for the 2010 suite of products was built on Microsoft SharePoint 2010, reaching more than 60 countries and 26 languages worldwide.

says the press release. CNet’s Ina Fried has some more background:

If we went with (SharePoint) 2007 we probably would have cut corners a little bit," said Carol Matthews, a senior marketing manager in Microsoft’s information worker team. Instead, she just had to convince boss Chris Capossela to bet the launch on a product that was still in testing. Microsoft does have an HTML-based backup for Wednesday’s launch, but Matthews said that has more to do with the unreliability of the Web than of SharePoint.

The hour came; and this is what the site delivered to me and, according to Twitter, many others:


By coincidence, this came just after I wrote a post about SharePoint including this comment from a consultant:

just because a thing can be done with SharePoint doesn’t mean it should (for example, websites usually should NOT be built in SharePoint, in our opinion).

Maybe the technical hitch is nothing to do with SharePoint. Still, it’s unfortunate.

Update: later on in the launch someone circulated an URL for watching the keynote directly in Windows Media Player. That worked fine – but bypassed all the SharePoint content.

Office 2010: the SharePoint factor

Microsoft Office 2010 launches today. I’ve been using the product since for some months, in beta and final form, and written a fair amount on the subject. Is it worth upgrading? There’s no simple answer. If you spend a lot of time working in Office, then even a small tweak might be worth the upgrade cost. On the other hand, it is a struggle to identify must-have features in the desktop product, which is hardly surprising given how many revisions it has already been through.

That said, I’ve also installed SharePoint 2010, and it’s apparent to me that Office 2010 plus SharePoint 2010 is more interesting than Office 2010 on its own. SharePoint 2010 enables three things that were not done, or done less well, in previous releases:

1. Office Web Apps. Although the Web Apps have frustrations and limitations, the ability to navigate to SharePoint with a web browser, and to view and generally edit documents without opening desktop Office, is a big deal. I’ve found it handy on a netbook, for example, and even on machines where Office is installed. It is also useful on iPhones or other smartphones. Another aspect is the link with Windows Live. Now you can upload a document somewhere others can view it without needing to download it or install a  viewer.

2. Collaboration. Via SharePoint 2010, you get simultaneous co-authoring in Word and PowerPoint on the desktop, and in Excel and OneNote on Office Web Apps. The co-authoring story is a bit mixed at the moment – for example, desktop Excel does not support co-authoring – but this is an interesting feature for some scenarios.

3. Offline SharePoint. SharePoint Workspace lets you work with documents offline and have them automatically synchronize later. There’s a few things I don’t like about SharePoint Workspace. It is not as seamless as I would like, opening in its own window rather than showing up as an Explorer folder, and it presented me with an error saying I had too many documents:


The Sync Status then reports an “unknown error” despite having just displayed a message saying what the error is. According to online help, you can store “approximately 500 documents”, though if you exceed it then it still works but with “degraded performance”, up until another limit of 1800 documents. I’d like a way to specify “only those documents modified in the last three months”, or something like that, but cannot see anyway to do this automatically. What you can do is a thing called “Discard local copy” which leaves only the header in the offline store, but you have to apply this manually. Not perfect then, but still useful.

The simple conclusion then is that to make sense of Office 2010 you need SharePoint 2010. The snag is that SharePoint is not something to roll out casually. Although it has a huge number of interesting features, it is also complex and easy to break.

I noticed this post from SharePoint consultants Cloud2, which specialises in NHS (the UK National Heath Service) deployments. I guess you would expect a consultant to emphasise that installing SharePoint is something which requires expert help; but even taking that into account there are some interesting comments here. A sample few:

Develop a careful and well considered Information Architecture – This is probably the single hardest thing to do in a SharePoint project and is ABSOLUTLELY NOT a technical task … If you spend less than a week on this then you either are receiving great advice or are likely to get into trouble down the line

Note that changing the User Interface in SharePoint is VERY HARD and any decent SharePoint redesign is going to cost £10k+ (we know of companies that have spent more than £50k). So stick to a few colour changes and images or invest in a predefined theme if you must.

Accept that SharePoint is huge – it’s not (just) a document management or a team collaboration technology and it can address a very wide range of needs in a business. This means that no one person really understands it all and that no one can be expected to quickly get up to speed on it in order to make informed capability, specification and project decisions.

Don’t accept the defaults when building the servers. E.g. SQL Server defaults will result in autosizing sizing and growth settings that will make the server work flat out just to keep up with resizing

Don’t Believe everything Microsoft (and their partners, even us) say. It might be legally true, but no one knows it all and just because a thing can be done with SharePoint doesn’t mean it should (for example, websites usually should NOT be built in SharePoint, in our opinion).

My point here is not that these remarks are correct or incorrect, but that deploying SharePoint is not something you can expect to do overnight just because it works great with the latest Office. Here’s another quote from the same guys:

It has been our observation that many, and perhaps most, SharePoint projects in the English (as distinct from Scottish, Welsh etc) National Health Service fail to a greater extent than they succeed.

which is a sobering remark.

It’s also worth noting that going for hosted SharePoint will solve some but not all of these problems. On the other hand, part of Microsoft’s appeal these days is that you can do everything on premise – that may seem more of a disadvantage, but it is an attraction for organisations that don’t yet buy the cloud hype.

Linux users will need a Microsoft Office license to use Office Web Apps

I spoke to Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s Corporate VP of the Office Business Platform, who runs the SharePoint engineering group. I asked him to clarify something has puzzled me: the licensing for Office Web Apps. From a technical point of view, Office Web Apps is an add-on for SharePoint; it does not require the paid-for SharePoint Server (success to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server), but neither is it free – you may only install it if you have a volume license for Microsoft Office.

That much I understood; but what are the implications for businesses who have a volume license that does not cover everyone in the organisation? For example, I might purchase 100 volume licenses for the people who need to run Microsoft Office, but have another 50 who have OEM Office, or Open Office, or who don’t need to run Office at all. Some may be running Linux, on which Microsoft Office is not supported at all – though some have it working using WINE. Another scenario is where you have a SharePoint installation published to partners over the Internet. Is it OK to let them use Office Web Apps?

“The simple answer is that you do need a volume license for each user”, said Teper, though he added, “Our volume licensing is tailored to each customer, we will do specific things for each customer’s need. But the blanket statement is that its available for volume license customers per user.”

So would a Linux user need a license for Microsoft Office in order to access Office Web Apps, even though they couldn’t run the desktop version?

“Yes, that’s our default licensing.”

I also asked about how the licensing works. Is it enforced technically, so that the server refuses connections if they exceed the licensed number, or is it on a trust basis? Teper answered somewhat mysteriously:

“We provide volume license customers the tools to track that.”

My guess is that it is essentially done on trust (though perhaps subject to audit) but I couldn’t get Teper to confirm that.

Still, it seems to me that this licensing requirement will inhibit organisations from taking full advantage of what the Office Web Apps can do. The advantage of a web-based solution is that anyone can access it, both within an organisation, and beyond it if you choose to publish it on the Internet. I doubt there will be much enthusiasm for buying Office licenses for Linux users, though maybe the kind of organisation that has a full Microsoft-platform deployment does not have internal Linux users anyway.

In mitigation, it’s worth mentioning that Microsoft is also making Office Web Apps available for free, through Live Skydrive and Office Live Workspace. If you use those services, anyone with a Live ID can be given access to your Office Web App documents.