Like every business that’s dependent on consumer sales to fuel growth, you and your team members are probably constantly thinking about how you can make your organization’s sales processes fast and efficient enough to support the growth and customer retention that your executive team desires.

Well, we’ve figured out a way to do just that – our client organization is in the highly competitive insurance industry, and needed a way to increase sales volumes. Enter AIS; we were able to provide our client with an automated method of providing customers with a quote for insurance rates via a self-service web portal solution…resulting in the higher sales volumes they were seeking, while also reducing costs. Read More…

In the world of SharePoint upgrades and migrations, a number of terms are thrown around and often used interchangeably. This post outlines several key terms that will be surfaced throughout a three-part series on upgrade/migration strategies for SharePoint 2013. If you would like to jump to another post, use the links below:

  • Part 1 – Definitions (this post)
  • Part 2 – Considerations Outside of SharePoint (Coming soon)
  • Part 3 – Diving into Database Attach (Coming soon)

In past revisions of SharePoint, we had multiple ways to upgrade our farms (and the content within them) to the latest version using the tooling Microsoft provides. Over the years, Microsoft used a number of terms related to the types of upgrade available:

  • In-place upgrade – Often considered the easiest approach, but the most risky. The setup of the new system is performed on existing hardware and servers.
  • Gradual upgrade – Allows for a side-by-side installation of the old and new versions of SharePoint.
  • Database attach/migration – Allows for the installation and configuration of an entirely new environment where content is first migrated, and then upgraded to the desired state.

As SharePoint matured, the number of available upgrade options dwindled. For instance, in an upgrade from SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to Office SharePoint Server 2007, we could follow any one of the three upgrade paths noted above to reach our desired end state. In an upgrade of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to SharePoint Server 2010 we still had two paths available: the in-place upgrade and the database attach approach. For SharePoint 2013, we’re left with just the database attach approach.

Before we dive further into the database attach upgrade scenario, it’s helpful to take a step back and establish a common language as we discuss the upgrade process. Read More…

2013 was a great year for AIS — we worked on exciting projects for our terrific clients, built some cool apps and won some cool awards. We were honored with the 2013 Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Cloud Practice Award and are among the first Amazon Web Services partners to earn a “SharePoint on AWS” competency. And throughout the year, we wrote and blogged about our passion for cloud computing, SharePoint, going mobile, and doing “more with less” for our government and commercial clients.

Here’s a round-up of 2013’s most popular posts and series, in case you missed them:

We have big plans for the blog for 2014 — more posts, more events and more compelling content from the entire AIS team. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our Events page for details on our free presentations and webinars.

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

Dynamics CRM 2013 is about to be released and if you have already made a large investment into SharePoint as a development platform, you may be asking yourself why Dynamics CRM matters.  After all, you are already using a wildly successful platform that underpins collaboration tools, intranets, your ‘corporate’ social media and quite likely a base of custom applications and tools. Why would you need yet another platform if SharePoint is capable of handling everything you throw at it?

First off, let’s clear up a misconception that everyone generally has the first time they hear about Dynamics CRM: it’s not “Dynamics versus SharePoint,” it’s “Dynamics AND SharePoint.” Dynamics CRM offers some pretty significant benefits that are not available when using the SharePoint platform alone. Likewise, SharePoint has capabilities that Dynamics CRM simply wasn’t designed to even begin to replicate. The trick is knowing when and how to best leverage the benefits of each tool. Simply put, both tools need each other to offer a truly complete platform that offers you the best of everything: a collaboration tool, an intranet and content management tool, a repository for unstructured data, an application platform, and a quick and easy way to rapidly and efficiently build applications to manage structured data. Read More…

It was more than 10 years ago when AIS first began to explore and envision the idea of using SharePoint as an application development platform. Although Office was a great product to author content, it did not provide a means to manage that content. From the moment we heard that Microsoft was going to provide a centralized, managed repository for Office and other forms, documents and records we immediately started to envision solutions for our clients, along with a laundry list of new features.

Automated workflow and integration of development tools were immediate needs. It wasn’t until 2007 that we felt we had enough features to address our client’s needs to automate paper-based workflows. You can view the whitepaper we published on January 30, 2007 (the very day SharePoint 2007 was released) on our YouTube channel. We published an updated version on the day of the 2010 release, which was a major release in terms of features and performance that also marked the expansion of Search features.

READ MORE: SharePoint App Dev Platform: The Journey So Far & the Road Ahead

Over the years we have built countless large-scale, human-to-human (and human-to-system) workflow solutions. Some support tens of thousands of users, hundreds of thousands of workflows, and hundreds of millions of documents and records. We’ve built task, event, investigation, legal matter, and assessment management systems (just to name a few) across DoD and the military, many Intel agencies and some civilian agencies in the public sector. In the commercial sector our clients range from the largest law firms, international NGOs with far-flung offices, health plans, wealth and financial management, among many others.

Today, SharePoint 2013 has fully matured.  It finally contains all the features we need for a fully-featured application development platform.  We now have enumerable building blocks which allow us to write less code and deliver solutions for a fraction of the cost of other solutions. Read More…

Want to stream your local user group, code camp live over the Internet? This blog tells you how.

Setup Requirements

  • IIS Media Services 4.1
  • Expression Encoder 4 with Service Pack 2
  • There a couple of new changes/fixes done over SP1; you can read about them here.

What is Live Streaming?

  • Enables adaptive streaming of live events to Smooth Streaming clients
  • Communicates through HTTP to deliver live events
  • As IIS Media Services Extension
  • Adaption based on User Network Bandwidth

How Does it Work?

  • Acquire will be the source of your input, like a webcam, screen capture, etc.
  • Encode & Deliver will be done by the encoding tool (like Expression Encoder) which will perform the real-time encoding and send the streams to the IIS Media Services endpoint.
  • On the Consume side you can have a Silverlight player/HTML5 page (for Apple) which can play the live stream in a smooth streaming way. More info on Smooth Stream can be found here.

Read More…

I recently completed a large document management system on SharePoint 2010 that used FAST Search and claims-based authentication. The client wanted to secure and limit access to customer-specific documents based on data coming from their CRM system.

We decided to implement a custom claim provider that would query the CRM system at login for customer claims based on the user ID. On upload (based on the customer that was assigned to the document), we used the content organizer to route the document to the correct site, library and folder based on the organization and security rules that we had. Each library had a claim for the customer assigned to it so only users with that claim could view the documents in the library. We would use search for the UI so that the users had a single place to find and view the documents. Sounds simple, right?

It should’ve been.

Unfortunately, the implementation was anything but simple. From the beginning, we hit the core limits of SharePoint 2010, FAST and Claims. Now that we’ve made it to the end, I want to talk about the limits we ran into and steps you can take in your design to avoid them. Read More…

SharePoint adoption is widespread in most organizations today, and a very common use case for SharePoint is as the core technology for an intranet. There are many features of SharePoint 2010 that make it an excellent choice for an intranet, including web content management, workflow, publishing and search. SharePoint offers a secure, scalable technology that empowers content owners to create, approve and publish pages in an easy-to-use, Microsoft Office-like user interface. With SharePoint, you get a great looking, high-functioning intranet that’s secure and easy to use. (In Jakob Nielsen’s “10 Best Intranets of 2013”, he notes 70% of the awardees are using SharePoint.)

With the release of SharePoint 2013, however, there are several new features that are worth noting if you’re thinking of upgrading your intranet from a previous version of SharePoint, or migrating from another product. If your organization is considering a redesign or a technology update of their intranet, SharePoint’s newest release is more compelling than ever as the platform of choice.

Read More…

If you have been following any of the news about SharePoint 2013, you already know that the workflow capability has been enhanced significantly. The most important change is that workflows now execute outside SharePoint. Please refer to the diagram below. (This diagram is taken from MSDN with some annotations.) As you can see, workflows are hosted externally. The external host for workflows can either be Windows Azure or customer-provided infrastructure.  Why is this change so important?  Recall all the knobs and switches we had to turn as SharePoint developers to prevent workflow execution from overwhelming the SharePoint farm. Read More…

I recently attended SPC12 with many of my colleagues from AIS.  One of the sessions I really enjoyed was High Availability Solutions with SharePoint Server 2013 delivered by Bill BaerThis sessions was geared toward the ITPro (admin) audience and detailed the options when making SharePoint Highly Available.

During this session I found it interesting how much time was spent talking about mirroring.  Mirroring is now considered a deprecated technology but is still supported by SharePoint 2013.  Today I’d like to break down the session and talk about my thoughts on each point.

Read More…