Governance as a resource control tool

Use your governance document to create structure and prevent sprawl in your SharePoint installation.

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Although you can often get away with winging the deployment of a server application, there are some exceptions. One of the most notable exceptions is SharePoint.

There is nothing inherently difficult about the setup wizard, but deploying SharePoint by trial and error can have consequences far greater than what you might encounter with other applications.

The reason is that SharePoint is architecturally different from most other server applications. As network administrators, we are used to simply installing and then configuring and maintaining applications. Although SharePoint is technically an application, it can also be thought of as a development platform. Any user with the appropriate permissions can create document libraries, lists, Web parts and even entire portal sites.

Because SharePoint is so flexible, it is easy to unintentionally grow your SharePoint deployment in a completely unstructured manner. As you can imagine, the lack of structure can lead to problems.

One of the most common problems is sprawl. If users are allowed to create new SharePoint sites at will, you can end up with hundreds or even thousands of SharePoint sites. As the number of sites increases, it becomes easy to lose track of who created each site and why. You may also run into problems related to server resource consumption. In other words, your server may not have enough memory, hard disk space or processing power to support the ever-expanding load that is being placed on it.

Fortunately, SharePoint governance can help with those types of issues. A SharePoint governance document is designed to create structure. If your goal is to avoid a completely unstructured SharePoint deployment that could quickly become out of control, then a document that mandates structure is just what the doctor ordered.

Traditionally SharePoint governance documents have been used primarily in large corporations or in regulated industries. As such, smaller, unregulated companies may be a bit apprehensive about creating a SharePoint governance document, especially given the document’s reputation for being oppressive.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if you work for a smaller, unregulated company, then there is no reason why you have to have a huge, monolithic governance document filled with hundreds of pages of legal mumbo-jumbo. Instead, start small by figuring out what types of governance policies make sense for your organization. For example, one of the first issues to consider is who should be allowed to create new SharePoint sites and under what circumstances.

Once you have addressed that issue, then the next logical decision involves the types of mechanisms you will put in place to ensure that unauthorized SharePoint sites are not created.

But even authorized SharePoint sites can become obsolete over time, so you might also want to create a policy for periodically performing a site review. That way, you can get rid of SharePoint sites that are no longer being used and reclaim the server resources that were being consumed by the obsolete sites.

Once you get past some of these initial planning issues, you should address the types of content that will be stored within any SharePoint document libraries that you are planning on creating. Deciding ahead of time what types of data will be stored in document libraries is essential to effective capacity planning.

A SharePoint governance document that is created in a smaller organization can be completely different from the governance document that a larger organization might use. Although SharePoint governance documents in larger organizations are typically designed to keep the lawyers happy, it makes a lot more sense for smaller organizations to use a governance document as a planning tool. You could use such a document to outline the initial SharePoint deployment and to create a plan for how the SharePoint server should be used.

Even though a governance document helps prevent uncontrolled SharePoint sprawl, it is inevitable that your SharePoint deployment will grow over time. So plan for that growth early on by using a governance document to address issues such as server expansion.


About the Author

Brien M. Posey has received Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional award five times for his work with Windows Server, IIS, file systems/storage and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox.

This was first published in July 2009

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