Microsoft SharePoint gets search, file sharing features

Add-ons let users search on document images and securely extend file creation and sharing across corporate boundaries.

Data capture vendor Captaris and security software developer Epok had developed add-ons to Microsoft's SharePoint Server 2007 that let users search on document images and securely extend file creation and sharing across corporate boundaries.

Captaris, best known for its RightFax software for distributing faxes, recently introduced the TIFF iFilter for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

The iFilter takes an image, scans it using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, and then stores it in SharePoint along with all its meta data. The resulting file is then available for discovery by SharePoint's search engine.

IFilter components are used by Microsoft Indexing Service and other Microsoft Search-based products, such as SharePoint Portal Server, Windows SharePoint Services, Exchange Full Text Search and SQL Server FTS.

Captaris, which is in the process of being acquired by OpenText, thinks paper-centric industries benefit the most from its TIFF iFilter such as insurance, governments, health care and financial services.

The iFilter supports Windows Server 2003 and 2008 and works on both 32- and 64-bit versions of the Windows OS, SharePoint Server, and SQL Server.

The Captaris TIFF iFilter comes in three editions: Standard (for two core systems), Pro (four core systems) and Enterprise (unlimited cores).

Standard is priced starting at US$299. Pro starts at $499, and Enterprise pricing will be announced before the end of the year.

SharePoint is Microsoft's fastest growing enterprise software in its history and the company counts 100 million licenses and more than a US$1 billion in revenue, according to figures released this summer. The platform also is attracting third-party vendors driven to plug some of the gaps in the platform.

Earlier versions of SharePoint had support for TIFF images, but it was dropped in the 2007 version of SharePoint. Microsoft released a Filter Pack for SharePoint in Dec. 2007, and specifically made apologies for the absence of the TIFF filter in the release.

Experts have also said that SharePoint has gaps in its access control story.

Epok in particular is attacking that need with an update to its cross-organization access management software called Epok Edition for SharePoint version 2.4. The platform extends user authentication to a company's partners.

The 2.4 version breaks the restriction that only a user within a SharePoint domain can use Microsoft Office to create, edit, and then save documents directly into SharePoint.

Epok extends that capability to any Office user in any domain as long as they have the needed access rights.

The upgrades also include a reporting system that can show such facts as who has access to a document and when the document expires. And a mouse over feature on user icons shows additional access details and expiration dates.

Epok can automatically enforce those expiration data on a user's access to certain documents while maintaining the user's overall access rights.

"SharePoint is creating a control problem and what we see is a huge demand wave for extranet access," says Nigel Simmons, vice president of product management.

Epok also takes maintenance of permissions for access controls out of the hands of IT and put them in the hands of business users.

In addition, the system can be configured to require users to view and/or acknowledge certain contractual obligations related to data such as non-disclosure agreements.

The Epok Edition for SharePoint version 2.4 is priced at US$25,000 per server.

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