Second Day of SharePoint Connections Conference

Yesterday was the first day of the SharePoint Connections conference here in Orlando.  While most of the sessions were Microsoft presenters, they were still mostly good (they should know the product, right?).  However, my favorite presentation of the day was Robert Bogue’s presentation: Solutions Without Semicolons.  I suppose I’m really into seeing how far we can take SharePoint without having to resort to code.  Not that writing code against SharePoint is necessarily a bad thing.  It is just that coding should be a last resort, especially in an organization such as ours which has thousands of users and less than a half dozen IT staff supporting the infrastructure.  I would much rather spend my time showing people how to achieve most of what they really need on their own without having to queue up in the backlog of IT solution requests.

But that was yesterday.  Today I heard several good presentations by some of the top names in SharePoint including Asif Rehmani, Scot Hillier, and Dan Holme.  And while most of these were no-code presentations so I could see what new things I could train our users to do on their own, I did attend two of Scot’s presentations, one was a no-code approach and another very heavily into code.  I find it amusing that some people seem to feel the need for apologizing for explaining how to do some of the cool no-code solutions.

It seems that Microsoft is OK with supporting both the heavy code developers as well as the power users who just want to squeeze out every last ounce of functionality with calling the company’s programming department.  I hope that continues because there is so much you can do right out of the box (together with SharePoint Designer and InfoPath).

I, for one, recently became very interested in what you can do with external data.  External data is data that comes from an data source other than SharePoint’s SQL database, lists, or libraries.  In particular, I began playing with external  SQL data several weeks ago (if you have been following by prior blog posts, you know that).  I was glad to see several presentations on using external data at the conference.

There were also several discussions of using SharePoint in the cloud.  In fact, one presenter had his entire presentation recreated on a site at  Not that they are the only company offering cloud support for SharePoint.  There are many other alternative SharePoint hosting site today including another show sponsor, RackSpace.  Maybe sometime in the near future, I may do a survey of what’s available.

Hosting SharePoint in the cloud may not be such a bad idea especially considering how much trouble I had this past Saturday at Code Camp Orlando with sporatically losing connection to my SharePoint site.  Of course several people in one building had trouble with their Internet connections at Code Camp (and there were some problems at SharePoint Connections too) including one Code Camp session that they moved to a different room (I wish I’ve known that was possible).  The real frustrating part of it was that I had tested my session in the cafeteria first thing in the morning  (several buildings away from the presentation room) where I had a great wireless connection, 4 bars, while in the classroom I barely got 1 bar and it would often disappear.  I remember having problems with a wireless connection at the same location two years ago, but did not have a problem last year.  So maybe it is tied to the specific room/building.
Anyway, a couple of quick observations from today before closing for the night:

  • Use SharePoint Workspaces to take libraries and lists offline, not Outlook. Workspaces supports up to 30,000 items in a library or list.
  • Use Outlook to take External Data offline
  • Use SharePoint Workspaces’ Launchpad to quickly navigate to the sites you use most rather than going through the browser and hunting for them.
  • Use File Shares for storing large content files (libraries) rather than SharePoint’s SQL Server if you are using SharePoint 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2.  There are some out of the box solutions (FileStream) and AvePoint has DocAve Extender which is a Free tool.
  • If you want to work with external data, you may need to look into Kerberos.  The double hop authentication to the data source will not work for multi-server production farms.  (It will work on standalone machines though.)

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