SharePoint administration professionals tend to be jacks of all trades. You think you are administering one product, but this product has its tentacles in so many different systems that you end up being web server administrator, infrastructure engineer, a diagnostician, and an Internet expert all of the same time. So it can be helpful to quickly review some of the responsibilities SharePoint administration professionals encounter, just to make sure someone on your team—maybe even you—has them covered.

Some things for basic SharePoint administration professionals to be aware of include the following:

When to use multiple site collections as opposed to a single site collection

Site collections individually cannot share more than one content database (the repository that holds all of the files and other objects you upload into SharePoint) and Microsoft recommends that these content databases grow to no more than 200 GB a piece. So essentially the traditional best practice recommendation is that when you plan on either storing a lot of content out of the gate within a site, or that you will be creating a site likely to gain a lot of content, to use a site collection instead of just a single site so that you have some headroom.

Knowing all of the parts of a site configuration, and setting them up correctly

Individual sites within SharePoint have a lot of moving parts. When administering sites, configuring them initially, or managing them on a day to day basis. These areas of a site include:

  • Content types: Content types are groups of settings you can use to apply to all files or objects of a certain type. For instance, you might use a type called Stories for all news releases stored within a SharePoint site and then you could set a common set of properties that apply to all stories.
  • Language: SharePoint speaks multiple dialects, of course, and sometimes these settings can affect your content and any custom applications you have written that run on top of SharePoint. Language settings can also affect migrations to later versions of SharePoint or to other systems or services.
  • Layouts: Page layouts work in conjunction with master pages to define how your site looks and feels to end users. Controlling these elements is easier in later versions of SharePoint, and harder in versions 2007 and earlier.
  • Navigation: How do users find your site? Where does it appear within your SharePoint site structure? How do users navigate away from your site? All things to consider in your SharePoint administration quest.
  • Regional settings: This controls properties like time zone, country, and numeric displays.
  • Search: Search settings controls how the content stored within a site is discovered by the SharePoint search crawler.
  • Security: Security settings for individual SharePoint sites include what users and groups are permitted to access a site and what editing level they have been given—that is, what permissions (if any) do they have to read, write, modify, and delete content within a site.
  • Templates: Templates can work with layouts to also modify the design of a site.
  • Themes: Themes control the visual palette and controls that are available on a site.
  • Web pages: The individual web pages in a SharePoint site are what call the various functions of SharePoint to display content to users.
  • Workflows: Workflows are automated sequences that can, upon certain triggering events happening, set properties, send documents to other users, and initiate other actions to follow a predefined business process.

All of these components require maintenance and configuration, so it is best for a wise SharePoint administrator to be aware of them and understand their nuances.

How to find and use free tools to help with SharePoint administration

While there are a bevy of third party tools that can help administer SharePoint, there are also many free tools that are lighter on the budget and somewhat simpler if you are just starting out in SharePoint administration. The SharePoint 2010 Administration Toolkit is a free download off of Microsoft TechNet that includes many handy utilities, including a Load Testing Kit that helps demonstrate how well your sites and deployment are configured to handle under the pressure of many simultaneous users; and the SharePoint Diagnostic Studio (which in the community you will hear called by its affectionate nickname, SPDiag) that rolls up critical performance and event log information into  a single view that really lets you take a look at the health of your farm—and any problems that bubble up to the surface—in a simple, straightforward way. The tool also helps to export problem related information right over to Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS). You can find the SharePoint 2010 Administration Toolkit on TechNet here:

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