Microsoft SharePoint add-ons offer tantalizing system tweaks

SharePoint 2010 might be on the way, but 2007 still offers lots of tools

Metalogix (Migration)

Metalogix's SharePoint Site Migration Manager is designed to help users who are evolving from more ad-hoc or basic deployments of SharePoint to a more enterprise structure.

The tools help users migrate between SharePoint servers or between versions of the technology. "Since SharePoint is still a novel collaboration platform, when most companies deployed it they did it in an experimental fashion," says Rasool Rayani,  product management director at Metalogix. Rayani says now those users want to reorganize their content and structure.

Metalogix also is branching out to migrations from on-premises deployments to the cloud, which is becoming one of the most popular migration paths, Rayani says. In addition, Site Migration Manager can help migrate SQL Server from one version to the next.

Metalogix has a cut-and-paste interface and migration encompasses sites, libraries, lists, Web parts and permissions. For cloud migrations, Metalogix has a Windows client that installs on XP, Vista, Server 2003 or 2008 and connects to SharePoint using Web services.

In 2010, Metalogix plans to support migrations from the 2003 version to the 2010 version of SharePoint. The technology also will support migrations from 32-bit to 64-bit versions of the server. Metalogix also will add server consolidation features and tools to move existing metadata into the SharePoint 2010 repository.

Nintex (Workflow)

Nintex Workflow for SharePoint lets users create workflows to handle everything from top-down corporate business processes to minor workflow chores that save money and time.

The server-based software adds a Web-based interface to SharePoint via a set of extensions. The result is new menu options for creating or managing workflows. The interface provides a WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop environment built on HTML and AJAX.

The tool uses standard Windows Workflow Foundation activities and builds a visual XML description of a workflow, according to Mike Fitzmaurice, vice president of technology for Nintex.

SharePoint runs the workflow using its own native workflow engine with Nintex enhancing the capabilities of that platform. Nintex fits between the limited capabilities of SharePoint Designer and the complexity of Visual Studio development.

"You get 90% of Visual Studio's power and 90% of the simplicity of Designer," Fitzmaurice says. He says the strength is the design environment and the ability to track workflows across server farms.

Nintex has a feature called "lazy approval" that lets users complete a workflow task simply by responding to an e-mail and without having to click on a link.

In 2010, Nintex is putting some focus on SharePoint 2010's new document assembly services, which will let Nintex compose, manipulate, print and render documents in unique ways entirely from server-side workflow processes.

"That was really hard before," Fitzmaurice says..

He also says there are data access features coming in Nintex Workflow for 2010 that can grab data from different locations and mix them together via a SharePoint process.

Quest Software (Administration)

Quest's Site Administrator for SharePoint is all about control once SharePoint begins to take hold across a company.

"The strength of Site Administrator is the ability to set policies," says Joel Oleson, senior product architect at Quest.

A popular feature is the ability to centrally block users from creating sites under SharePoint's My Sites. The features prevent levels of management from getting too deep and complex. Also, the Security Explorer controls provide insight into permissions and security related to SharePoint sites, and adds a unique cloning feature for permissions.

Core to the tool is a set of reporting capabilities through a Web-based information portal that lets administrators delegate rights for users to see specific reports. SharePoint's native controls restrict that sort of access to administrators.

In 2010, Quest will add to Site Administrator the ability to manage external lists, and a set of 50 wrappers for PowerShell cmdlets that give them a GUI interface.

Quest is also looking to online services to help SharePoint customers. On Dec. 16 it will release to select beta customers a Windows Azure-based service called Site Administrator Reports on Demand. The full beta opens in January and the free service goes live before the end of March.

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