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April 04
What Are My Options for Creating a SharePoint 2013 Lab?

Over the past few months, I knew I was going to have an opportunity to change the way I work when Windows 8 devices started showing up in the marketplace. As someone who travels a good amount, I find lugging multiple laptops/tablets around gets a bit tiresome and frustrating. You go to the airport with laptops, cords and cables and other peripherals to make life on the road easier and more efficient, but you end up lugging twenty-five pounds of stuff you don’t use. You end up ripping bags and reorganizing luggage to make everything work. In my mind, this change that will allow me to be successful and have a one device that will be able to do the work that’s needed.

Currently, I have a Lenovo W510 with 16GB RAM and two SSDs (a 256GB as a primary drive and a 160GB alternate drive that lives in my previous DVD/CD bay. With the affordability of SSDs, I find that I can have three VMs (SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013) that can run with a certain level of success. As Microsoft has introduced SharePoint 2013’s hardware requirements for stand-alone workstations, I am about to introduce a Lenovo Carbon Touch into the mix that has 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD and other travel and work-friendly features.

Most of my work is based on research, email, other collaboration tools and various internal and external Microsoft tools that allow me to support customers. Yes, I still need access to VMs that have various versions of SharePoint running on them, but with 24GB RAM a recommended minimum for SharePoint 2013, I’ve decided to adopt one or more ways to accomplish the end goal:

  • Build VMs on an internal platform and remote into a virtual server
  • Build VMs on Azure (or other IaaS offering)
  • Keep my VMs on my Lenovo W510 and then remote into my Windows 8 laptop and use Windows 8’s Hyper-V Manager
  • Build a lab server at my home office and use it as a Hyper-V host. It would be a 48GB RAM, Quad-processor machine that would allow me to run four (4) or more VMs at once.

Between my Surface RT, Lenovo Carbon Touch and Lenovo W510, I think lots of options to connect to my VMs and for two of the options (Surface RT and Lenovo Carbon Touch) I just need a client to access a SharePoint VM, test out what I need to or write a script and then move to my client apps that I need to use to collaborate and communicate.

After I get everything setup and ready, I will document my experience with my new mobile devices and see how they are performing and let you know if I made a good business decision, because this will be my business options for the next few years.

March 17
SharePoint Error Message Shows that I Need to Install a KB, but I Already Installed It. How Do I Fix That? Get-SPProduct –Local

Recently, I ran into a problem where a customer tried installing various KBs and when running the SharePoint Configuration Wizard (SPCW) the error that displayed told the administrator that the KB was already installed. My first instinct was to force the SPConfig.exe to run again to have SharePoint finish off the install correctly. There was couple of issues that I’ll not provide, but the bottom line was that the application registry on the server was confused.

Error:

From the “Server Farm Product and Patch Status” screen:

“Error: Some farm products and patches were not detected on this or other servers. If products or patches are missing locally, you must quit this program and install the required products and patches on this server before starting this wizard. If products or patches are missing on your servers, you must install the required products and patches on the specific servers, and you may then click the Refresh button to perform the status check again.”

Resolution:

Execute the Windows PowerShell Command:

 Get-SPProduct –local

Explanation:

The server error displayed that one of the servers was missing a specific patch and would not let the SharePoint Configuration Wizard complete as expected. Upon running the command, that command allowed the servers to get a refresh of the patches that were actually installed and then when re-running the SPCW, the process was able to complete because all of the patches had been properly reflected. SharePoint upgrade completed as expected.

Source:

Get-SPProduct (MSDN)

December 23
Maintaining Your SharePoint Health–An Overview

Everyday, I work with customers who are attempting to maintain their SharePoint environment so that the farm can handle more users, more requests or additional functionality. There are many ways to approach the prospect of maintaining SharePoint in a way that you can build the platform and handle all of your users’ requirements. Let’s start the overview reviewing the components that are apart of SharePoint.

There are many components and sub-components that need to be understood before you can approach the entire package. Here are the main components:

  • SQL Server (Database)
  • Network
  • Active Directory (Authentication and Authorization)
  • Managed Code (Solutions)
  • Software maintenance (Patching)
  • SharePoint (either Windows SharePoint Services or Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010)

With all these components, the many sub-components require attention on a continuous basis and are the building blocks that the platform maintains it’s scalability and performance. The first block is the prescribed “Software and Hardware Boundaries” prescribed by Microsoft. Following these guidelines will not only allow you to install the software, but allow you to create multiple lifecycles (development, test, QA and pre-production). Having the appropriate memory and CPU specifications or ensuring that you create the amount of web applications that is known to be supported for the product is very important.

Additionally, separating the different roles (Web Front End, Search, Excel Services, etc.) based on the number of users and server load will enhance the user experience. Separating web applications or maintaining site collections with appropriate security is critical to your business’ adoption.

In the next articles, we will point out specific ways that you can maintain and then increase your Farm’s health and show how these methods will proactively resolve problems and reduce support requirements. These methods will help either in keep your current SharePoint servers healthy or help prepare for future upgrades.

Next: When and how should I evaluate my environment?

December 13
SharePoint Health Analyzer–Understand the Fixes for Your Environment

Entering Central Administration (CA) can be a daunting experience for Administrators whom are looking at the area for the first time or have a little experience, or become too comfortable and maybe overlook the issues that might impact their SharePoint server’s health. Let look at the basic process of understanding what we can do to resolve the problems when they pop-up in our environment.

Here’s the screen, we all have seen it before and might know why it’s there, or might not and do not know how to fix problems. There are a couple of banners colors that will display; Red or Yellow. Red is bad, yellow might be bad and still need to be viewed (and fixed) quickly. In most cases, the red warnings are rules that impact direct health or security of for the production environment.

When you seen the SP Health Analyzer banner with this type of information, click the “View these issues” link to see what’s going on.

Critical Issues Banner

In this case, I have a test environment on an external drive that I allotted only 60GB (not in compliance with Microsoft’s Hardware and Software Boundaries) and now I’m being told that my drives are running out of space (see below).

Health Rule - Running out of free space

From this message, I can see the category (Availability), which servers are failing, which service told SharePoint about the issue and when it was first reported.

Rules within Health Analyzer

There are multiple categories of rules that you can use or disable, control the schedule or allow the process to automatically repair. It’s important to understand what they do and how they can impact the health of your SharePoint environment. Running out of space is something that SharePoint cannot fix itself, so you’ll have to develop a plan of attack to ensure these architectural items are addressed.

The rules defined in SharePoint cover a broad range and in the following cases identify security and performance issues that can plague various use cases. Review them and understand what the rules are evaluating to keep your environment strong.

Health Analyzer Rule Definitions

Editing a Health Analyzer Rule Definition

Once you receive this screen, there a couple ways to approach the way you resolve the identified issues. Let’s talk about the fields in the screens and see how we can modify the rules to our needs.

Title: Text that will be shown when the rule is implemented.
Scope: This can be “All Servers” or “Any Servers”, as the rule shows, it will try all servers with a specific server or any server on the first available server. 
Schedule: Choices are “Hourly”, “Daily”, “Weekly”, “Monthly” or “OnDemandOnly”.
Enabled: This rule is a “Yes” or “No” option, and is the ideal way to manage rules. I would recommend against explicitly deleting rules.
Repair Automatically: SharePoint will attempt to fix the issue automatically if this is selected. My recommendation is to deselect this to ensure you understand what is being done to fix the problem.
Version: Version number.

Rule Definition - Edit Mode

In the next article, we’ll talk about creating your own rule so that you or your team will be alerted if your environment is hitting a rule that you put in place to monitor a best practice or standard you have in your farm.

August 02
Web Analytics Service Application : The Processing Role

New to SharePoint 2010 is the introduction of a Web Analytics tool that can be used to capture user visits, top pages, top number of referrers, number of search queries and number of site collections. It’s a very valuable visual representation that can be used to prove the value of SharePoint and increase it’s usability by reviewing user data and then making changes to your Farm based on that information. The service application separates web application data so that an administrator can segment the numbers to see each web application and how it is performing.

Providing this overview will give you a basic understanding of what the service application is about, but it does not provide you an understanding of the moving parts that drive the processing and output of the new service. There are a couple of things to keep an eye on when you start configuring. The first is that the account you provide to the service application will become a database owner of the “Processing” role for the Reporting and Staging databases created during the implementation.

Example of the “Processing” database role:

image

This role exists in both the Staging and Reporting database and the user which owns the processing of analytics requires this access. I have not found any guidance that says that there can be permission levels to allow the processing happen. Decrementing the permission levels to another role has not been recommended as guidance at this time.

image

Once this role has been applied, there are a variety of timer jobs what control when usage data is collected, but retrieving this data is not possible if without a user being in the “Processing” role and having dbo permission in that role.

If you think you’ve configured everything correctly and still are not getting information to the Web Analytics service application, check your Processing role and see which user is in there and which role it is assigned.

Configure Web Analytics service application [MSDN]

June 09
Disabling Windows Firewall to Access Your SharePoint Sites

In Windows Server 2008, Windows Files profiles have a default “Firewall state” as “On”, which is a recommended best practice if you use the Microsoft product to manage Internet traffic. If you manage your firewall differently, then having these settings left on can cause you issues. If you are creating a demo server, then keep the firewall state to “on” for security reasons.

I found this as an issue where a user could not imageaccess a SharePoint site on the desktop, but could on the SharePoint server. Nothing could be found in the ULS, HTTPERR or IIS logs to show that the requests were not being allowed in, but when various Fiddler and NETMON traces were completed, there was strange results. In production when these settings are in place, then user requests are bounced based on the policy set for the Domain, Private and Public profile.

This is a change in Windows Server 2008 and most administrators are comfortable with the fact that the service is off when they push the server to production. Checking these settings is as easy as Start > Search for “Windows Firewall with Advance Security”, right click the top node and then click “Properties” and you will get the following screen. After you change the “Firewall state”, click “OK” and the changes will take effect then.

On a side note, when you work with your network or server administrators to resolve these types of issues, ask to see these defaults because shutting off the service will not necessarily resolve this issue.

Usually, this type of situation that I’ve explained is usually caused by the “Loopback Adapter”, but checking your firewall (and a lot of testing in different scenarios) will save you troubleshooting time and ensure your servers are secure for accepting requests.

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The SharePoint Blog is a community resource which focuses on Architecture, Development, Administration and Best Practices relating to Microsoft's wildly-popular product.

The opinions and views expressed by the author are his alone and not of my employer (Microsoft Corporation). Those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect – to any extent – the views of this website, or The SharePoint Blog.
 

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