Over the past five years, many organizations have abandoned their legacy Lotus Notes/Domino environments and transitioned to a platform based on Microsoft Exchange Server, SharePoint and Office. However, some of these companies have hesitated to tackle the most difficult part of the transition: migrating their applications from Notes to SharePoint. Their concerns range from the cost of rebuilding applications on SharePoint to uncertainty about whether SharePoint has the capabilities needed.
The release of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Foundation 2010 offers new features to make a Lotus Notes migration simpler and easier. Here are 10 SharePoint 2010 features that will change the game for any sized enterprise interested in adopting SharePoint to replace or enhance Notes environments.
1. Scalability: It’s not unusual for Notes databases in large enterprises to contain tens of thousands of documents. Organizations attempting to move this content to SharePoint 2007 ran into some severe size limitations on SharePoint lists and libraries. With SharePoint 2010, however, the recommended maximums for many criteria have more than doubled. Even better, the penalty for exceeding them is less severe, and SharePoint will now automatically throttle certain operations that previously would have brought your servers to their knees.
2. Managed Metadata: Keyword fields are central to most custom Notes applications. These range from simple pop-up or drop-down lists of terms all the way to lookups in other views and databases. While SharePoint 2007 already had ways to achieve this functionality, SharePoint 2010 adds a powerful new feature called Managed Metadata. Think of this as the next level beyond Choice and Lookup fields. SharePoint now will allow you to keep all your terms in a managed term store, which includes a complete interface for allowing administrators to maintain them.
The Managed Metadata feature scales well from simple needs to enterprise knowledge management solutions. You can create a simple Managed keyword field and term set scoped to just one SharePoint site. The same term set can be referenced by multiple lists and libraries within that site, and, when needed, it can scale out to “Enterprise” term sets spanning many site collections and even be replicated between multiple SharePoint farms.
3. Office Integration: For the last 15 years, Notes developers and third-party product companies have tried to achieve good integration with Microsoft Office. SharePoint has always had excellent Office integration, and SharePoint 2010 offers additional capabilities. Collaborative editing of Office documents allows multiple users to open the same Word document simultaneously and a sophisticated change tracking interface allows them to see changes made by other users almost instantly. Office Web Apps provide completely browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., so users can view and edit documents in SharePoint without having to install Office clients.
4. Offline Capabilities: Although many of us count on continuous internet connectivity and bandwidth, many legacy Notes applications depend on the ability to “go offline.” Notes is famous for its ability to replicate to your laptop whatever data you need to continue working while unplugged.
SharePoint appeared a decade later, designed for a modern connected world and optimized for server applications that delivered much lower cost of ownership and many other benefits. However, there still are times when you need the ability to work on a plane, at a customer site where you can’t access the internet, or in your vacation home “off the grid.”
SharePoint Workspaces address this need. You can synchronize lists, libraries and entire sites to your laptop, use them offline, and then sync up with the site the next time you connect. This functionality is largely based on the Groove technology built by many of the same developers who worked on the original Notes product. Microsoft has done a great job at taking the best of the Groove plumbing and repackaging it as a very compelling offering to fulfill most of the “offline” needs of a typical Notes application.
5. SharePoint Online: Many organizations considering a move from Notes to Microsoft have investigated a hosted environment. The Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is an obvious choice with its “Dedicated” version that allows large enterprises to have dedicated private hosted servers, and “Standard” version, in which multiple customers share one hosted environment.
While Exchange Online has been popular for replacing Notes mail/calendar environments, movement to SharePoint Online has been much slower, mainly due to the limited capabilities for customizing applications and the platform’s inability to migrate legacy content to hosted servers. The next generation of SharePoint Online, based on SharePoint 2010, is a different story.The SharePoint Online team previously had to limit customizations because there was no way to ensure they would not cause problems. To resolve this, SharePoint 2010 contains a sandbox, providing a safe way for the server to run code written and uploaded by other people. Another important feature of SharePoint Online is a set of web services that enable migration tools to do a good job moving Notes application design and content. It’s worth mentioning that some customers take a hybrid approach, migrating certain Notes applications to on-premises SharePoint environments, and others to SharePoint Online.