Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Alternative SharePoint Forms Options after InfoPath Forms 2013 discontinuation

Alternative SharePoint Forms Options after InfoPath Forms 2013 discontinuation

I will review here some SharePoint Forms options for SharePoint with main focus on KwizCom Forms. Forms have always been an integral part of most intranets, from SharePoint 2007 to 2013 and Office 365. Out of the box SharePoint creates some basic forms mapped to the SharePoint lists. They are good to do some basic information collection stuff, however for advanced user interactions SharePoint site owners often find them limiting. In past we had InfoPath forms for advanced form development. However, Microsoft InfoPath 2013 is the last product version and there are no plans to release any future versions.

There are solutions in the market that fill this gap i.e. rolling out custom forms as per your requirements. One of the solution provider is KwizCom and their product is KwizCom Forms for SharePoint Online, 2013, 2010/07 that I have reviewed recently. Besides some issues with product installation I found it was a good product for deploying SharePoint forms for the business users.
KwizCom Forms extends standard out-of-box SharePoint forms and allow you setup and define the forms as per your business requirements. You do not require to do coding, instead you can roll out advanced forms by means of configuration. It supports both web and mobile interfaces. It is not as powerful as InfoPath forms used to be but can be a good alternative to InfoPath.

KwizCom Forms Key Features

1. Visual form designer
2. No code form deployment
3. Field and View level security/permission control
4. Repetitive field support
5. Field grouping onto form tabs
6. Mobile support
7. Custom actions

Visual Forms Designer

SharePoint designer is not a user friendly tool when it comes to designing SharePoint forms. In past we had nice form designing tool InfoPath Designer. KwizCom Forms provides you with an easy to use forms designer.  It is not that advanced as the InfoPath forms designer however can meet the requirements for business in general.

Field and View Level Security/Permission Control

By default, SharePoint Object Model does not support field level security. It means we cannot set different column permissions in SharePoint lists or libraries. KwizCom Forms feature could fill this gap. With this feature installed, we can set the type of field to “Disabled”, or even “Hidden” for different groups of users:


We can also set View-level permissions and build the dynamic behavior, when field displaying is based on another field's selection. In addition, we could dynamically set fields to be mandatory or not depending on business logic

"Default values” feature of KwizCom Forms allows to fill the defaults dynamically, by example automatically pre-fill the title of uploaded document:

Field groupings into Form Tabs

Another feature, named “Field Grouping” – allows to split form fields into different tabs. We can create different groups and rearrange fields according to business logic:

Repeating form fields/rows

KwizCom Forms editions contain different interesting features like “Repeating rows” field that allows adding connected (lookup) items dynamically from parent Edit form in InfoPath-style, Custom Ribbon buttons for SharePoint forms, and Mobile View feature.

Custom Actions

KwizCom Custom actions, or Custom ribbon buttons - allows to reduce the number of clicks, by example “Assigned to me” button sets the appropriate status to Editor, updates current item and redirects user to the previous page.

Support for Mobile Devices

KwizCom mobile feature modifies mobile view making it more optimized for mobile devices and more process-oriented: mobile view reduces scrolling and shows all available actions as well as in web UI version.


In summary, Kwizcom Forms for SharePoint is impressing and extends standard SharePoint forms functionality well. It is not just forms interface improvement. It extends standard business logic and allows to add new behavior to out-of-box SharePoint forms. One thing the KiwizCom needs to improve is the stability of the installation process.

Product versions

There are three versions available,
Professional and
The diagram below lists the key features grouped by the product versions

Installation steps

Kwizcom web installer will be downloaded:

Press “Run”

Scroll down and agree:

Select Kwizcom forms from products list:

And download product dependencies:

Then wait until download is complete and press “Next”:

Other SharePoint Form Options

There are a few other form solutions available which I would write in more details if get a chance.


Although Nintex is famous for its workflow product but they have also a solution ‘Nintex Forms’ to roll-out SharePoint forms quickly. It has a drag-&-drop form editor for easy form creation. The forms work on mobile devices and the form creators do not need to learn programming languages too. However, the licensing costs could be a concern when comparing with other similar products.

Microsoft Excel (Office 365)

Some basic survey forms can be creating in Excel Online in Microsoft Office 365. You can design the forms in excel and capture the data. This Microsoft support article provides details on how to do that.


K2 Forms are similar to Nintex forms except K2 forms have more features. However, these additional features come at the cost of added complexity and extra time it takes to learn the tool.

SharePoint Designer

SharePoint Forms Designer is basically the next from SharePoint Designer. It provides with you a rich interface to easily customize the out of the box SharePoint forms. You can customize the forms without doing any coding but if you want to do something complex then you can inject your code through SharePoint Forms Designer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

FlyView - SharePoint Site Menu And Navigation Tool

Introducing FlyView for SharePoint Online, 2016, 2013, 2010 and 2007

I like to introduce one of the SharePoint tools I have been working on lately, for SharePoint Online, 2013, 2010 and 2007.  A tool that is designed to improve SharePoint user experience.

A SharePoint user would know what this phrase means 'Working on it...'. It means the time it takes for us to browse through the layers of SharePoint sites, libraries and folders of our SharePoint intranet and team sites and discover SharePoint content.

The SharePoint User Experience - Today

The present SharePoint experience involves a lot of page loads and as such delivers a 'Stop n Go' user experience. No doubt Microsoft have improved their SharePoint products a lot and in the world of collaboration they stand out form the crowd, however SharePoint users often complain about the difficulties in exploring and discovering SharePoint content. So much so sometimes it is said if you want to hide something then store it in SharePoint. Definitely it is not that it is due to SharePoint product design. In part it could be because of a number of factors such as bad governance, inefficient information architecture, lack of processes and standards, SharePoint search not properly configured etc. However yes, to some extent the problem exacerbate due to the way SharePoint offers the user to navigate the sites, click by click, page loads by page loads.

Furthermore the absence of breadcrumb menu in SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013 (even limitations with SharePoint 2010) doesn't help either. Often you find yourself lost, not knowing where exactly you are, how did you arrive here and how to get out of here.


Whatever could be the reason, in the end it is the end users who suffer. They love SharePoint but complain about the user experience, delivering a kind of love-hate User-SharePoint relationship.

Solution: FlyView for SharePoint, a lightning fast SharePoint Site menu

I decided to give it a try, with one of my best friend, and ended up with developing FlyView for SharePoint. We wanted to bring back the true love of SharePoint to its users. Researching and creating a product (in an evolutionary way that took about two years of product development and refinement including failures :) ) that would address the navigation challenges in SharePoint in an intuitive way. I humbly hope it would genuinely help the SharePoint users in getting most out of it.

So what is it?

It is a chrome web browser extension for SharePoint that you can add to your browser in seconds. FlyView detects when you visit a SharePoint intranet or team site (where you need to authenticate) and adds a self hiding Site menu nav bar on the top of the site as an overlay.

Now as you move your mouse on this nav bar it reveals it's self expanding menu and sub menus. You are essentially gliding through the SharePoint site structure. Your landing page doesn't change and you see everything that you are allowed to in FlyView, your focus is on the structure and files/documents. It significantly reduces the page loads and thus optimise the network bandwidth too.

See FlyView in Action here

Any concerns?

You do not need to install anything on the server or the desktop (apart from the chrome extension). It is developer in pure javascript and can only perform the actions on your behalf. That is if you are not allowed to do something then FlyView couldn't either. Also it is a ready only tool that reads the site structure and helps you navigate the site very fast.

Testimonials and Feedbacks:

I personally use it and a big fan of it. I can see it has increased my productivity where I spend less time in discovering SharePoint content and more time in consuming the knowledge.

In a short period of time we now have over 600 users and have received some great user feedback (see on chromestore) which is very encouraging and enable me to keep moving forward.

What's Next?

A server version and a SharePoint Online app is on it's way which will enable the organisations to deploy it once and have it available in all major browsers including Internet Explorer and on mobile devices such as IPads. The users will not have to install anything as it will be installed on the server.

Additionally soon I will be releasing the History and Favorites features (Feb 2016) which will further improve the speed with you which you could navigate the SharePoint sites and libraries.

Follow us on twitter for the updates : Aurorabits
Visit our website: www.aurorabits.com 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SharePoint Apps are now SharePoint Add-ins

Didn't see that coming...From Apps to 'Add-ins'.. 

"The name "apps for SharePoint" is changing to "SharePoint Add-ins". During the transition, the documentation and the UI of some SharePoint products and Visual Studio tools might still use the term "apps for SharePoint". For details, see New name for apps for Office and SharePoint."


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The SharePoint Governance Puzzle

The SharePoint Governance Puzzle

If you have been using or managing SharePoint then you would know how quickly SharePoint content, customisations and their growth, if not properly governed, can get out of control. Today most of the SharePoint customers have realised this and have SharePoint governance plan and policies defined for their SharePoint deployments. A governance plan could just be a brief document focusing on what users can and cannot do or a detailed framework governing every bit from SharePoint development to usage and maintenance.

However, a large number of organisations are still struggling in having effective SharePoint Governance in place despite of having a well-defined governance plan. To understand the reasons behind this issue we have to remember that a governance plan is not the solution but a part of the solution. Often organisations' focus is on defining a detailed and comprehensive governance plan but that focus gets shifted away when it comes to implementing the plan. Once a governance plan is created it is somehow assumed that it is now up to IT support to ensure the processes and policies defined in the plan are enforced and implemented.

So let's first take a look at the key implementation challenges and then we will see what can be done to address them.

Implementation Challenges

A. The implementation deserves respect, treat it just like another project!
One of the reasons why the implementation doesn't get due attention is the absence of some tangible outcomes. Implementing a plan and associated policies is not like delivering a system. Furthermore it is not that straightforward to measure the outcomes and see the associated benefits. Therefore often interest in rolling out the governance plan dies soon after its creation. As a result governance 
documents are put somewhere on the same SharePoint site that is being governed and forgotten.

B. Yes, it does require (a little bit) of efforts and resources!
Another challenge is the availability and allocation of the efforts and resources required to enforce the governance policies with consistency. This gets further complicated when we recall the fundamental principle behind existence of SharePoint i.e. user empowerment. This can give rise to uncontrolled SharePoint growth where the balance of end-user power and IT control is not right for the environment. In other words SharePoint governance is lot different and demanding than managing, say your Active Directory. This makes it difficult for IT to enforce the policies without hindering user productivity (and annoying them).

C. If they don't know it then they won't do it!
Finally, enforcing governance does not merely require flicking some switches. The first step in implementing any set of governance policies is communicating them to the users and support staff. However the reality is that users often do not have the time and interest to read lengthy governance documents. Being humans (and as SharePoint users) they do not like tightly controlled environments either, they are needed to be convinced that the controls you are putting place will eventually work for them. An unhappy and ill-informed user may, instead, negatively see the governance policies as a roadblock towards being productive.

The secret behind a successful governance plan implementation

Well, there is no secret here really. In summary, it requires the IT management taking the implementation seriously (just like any other project) and seeing the benefits; doing effective user training and communication; and investing in automation to assist the IT teams in enforcing the governance policies.

User Communication and Training

We know very well that no one loves to read lengthy documents. Furthermore, reading text is one thing and remembering the content is another. So post governance framework creation the next challenge is to communicate it to the users (end user and support staff) while ensuring it is not too difficult for them for them to understand and remember all the key points.
One technique that can help here is creating summarised posters or cheat-sheets for specific group of users such as SharePoint site members, owners, administrators etc. You can combine the information with any visualisation techniques that you feel may be effective, like charts, tables and even comics. See one such an example below

It is also quite helpful (I would rather say necessary) to integrate the governance plan 'knowhow' into HR & IT processes like employees' induction, role change and termination procedures. This will ensure things happen when they are required to.
The next big thing is … Automation
To help with enforcing governance policies without creating a lot of overhead for IT support and end-users, you can also get assistance from some SharePoint governance tools. There are quite a few third party tools available for this purpose. These tools can provide
  • finer control in managing the SharePoint environment;
  • powerful growth forecasting and management;
  • comprehensive and centralized security control and permission monitoring;
  • provisioning workflows;
  • critical alerts and notifications etc.
We can divide the tools into two categories i.e. strategic and tactical. The basis of this subdivision is the product feature set, associated costs and resources required to implement them.

[I had another blogpost written on SharePoint Health Check which you can check here]

Tactical Tools    

Tactical tools are low cost options that enable the support teams to analyse and understand their SharePoint implementation and assess its health with reference to the governance plan and policies.

1. SharePoint Documentation Kit (SPDocKit): A windows application that can run standalone or be installed on the server. For more information check the tool here SPDocKit
  • generates detailed farm documentation on the target SharePoint environment
  • compares SharePoint farm configuration against best practices
  • can take snapshot of the environment and allows the support to compare with other SharePoint farms or the same farm but a different point in time
2. The SharePoint Diagram Tool: This is a quite handy tool that enables you to check if your SharePoint sites are having some kind of mushroom growth or flourishing like a beautiful well-maintained garden. It reverse engineers your site structure and let you visualise it in tree structure form. The tool can generates its output in multiple formats and you can then use MS Excel, a browser or Visual studio to render the site structure. Regular generation and analysis of site structure diagrams can be added to IT support processes for detecting any major violations of site-structure related governance policies. http://realworldsa.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/new-tool-for-sharepoint-2007-and-2010.html

Advanced Tools

1. ControlPoint by Metalogix: Metalogix offers a suite of tools for migrating and managing SharePoint content and that includes ControlPoint. ControlPoint is a well-refined product with an extensive set of features. It includes all the key components such as provisioning workflows, content growth monitoring, user action reporting and site stats; governance policy and permission management etc. For more information see http://www.metalogix.com/Products/ControlPoint.aspx     

2. AvePoint Docave Governance Automation: A solid product for SharePoint content migration and automating governance workflows. It can be seen as a strategic investment i.e. having AvePoint as the provider of some key SharePoint add-ons. They offer a range of SharePoint products, both for SharePoint in cloud and on-premise. However the governance module mainly focuses on SharePoint sites and site objects provisioning and deletion workflows. You will need to buy additional module(s) for end-to-end monitoring and reporting purposes. http://www.avepoint.com/products/sharepoint-governance/

3. Sharegate - SharePoint migration and Management Tool: An easy to use product offering both content migration and governance tools in one product. It allows the SharePoint admin to manage security settings, monitor environments' growth, get rid of unused & obsolete content and ensure that SharePoint meets the organisational standards. However, if you do not have SharePoint content migration needs then you cannot buy the governance module as a standalone product. Find more information at http://en.share-gate.com/

4. Acceleratio Governance Kit for Office 365: This is a low cost cloud based office 365 governance tool (they do not have a version for SharePoint on-premise). They also have another product SharePoint Documentation Kit (described in the 'Tactical Tools' section previously) that can help with reporting and site structure analysis. With this governance kit administrators can setup and configure SharePoint Online rules. The rules then can be applied to a specific site, list or library. It can generate detailed reports. Find more information at http://acceleratio.net/products/governance-toolkit-for-office-365/features/

I conclude here by emphasizing that first and foremost the implementation of a SharePoint governance plan should be taken and treated like a project. This approach ensures that the SharePoint governance policies do not just stay within the boundaries of a document but they do come out into action and reward everyone.

I have also published this post on my own blog The SharePoint Governance Puzzle

Friday, February 20, 2015

Does Enterprise Architecture add any value - Elevator Pitch

Enterprise Architecture is an interesting area, where the most commonly asked question is 'Does it add any value to an organisation?". There is an interesting on linked-in on this subject and the responses from architects round the globe are quite enlightening on how they think and would present (or sale) EA to the executive management. 

Architects are often challenged to describe the value that EA provides. What is your go to "elevator pitch

I contributed to the thread by writing these two short stories, preferred to go for using analogy than some boring technical jargan... presenting them below as on the discussion thread they would be hard to find. Let me know what you think?

Story 1: 

G'day Mr CXO, So you need to know why do you need something known as EA (the guy)? Let me share a short story with you... A warship's captain once took his gunship to fight the submarines and only when he ordered 'Fire' he realised his boat was not well equipped to sink the already sunken sub-marines...it was too late for him then... the story could have a different end..if the captain had an EA (the guy) ensuring the captain and his crew had the right boat, well equipped with all bells and whistles needed for their 'mission' .. I think this is your floor Mr. CXO

Story 2:

Story 2: G'day Mr CXO, So you need to know why do you need something known as EA (the plan)? Let me share a short story with you... A warship's captain committed to his leaders that he would defend the country at all times, above water or underwater. However he had only fought battles above the water surface. However, one day he learned the enemy is heading towards their waters with submarines, no problemo, he ordered his crew to prepare the boats and sail....but....at this last minute he found besides all his rhetoric neither he had the right vessels nor his crew had the ability to stop the submarines....it was too late for him then... the story could have a different end..if the captain had an EA (the plan) ensuring the captain had his crew well trained with the right boats, well equipped with all bells and whistles needed for their under the sea 'mission' .. I think this is your floor Mr. CXO

Monday, November 17, 2014

FIM Create and Populate Custom Resources

Being new to Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager ( FIM 2010 R2), this apparently one simple task took quite bit of my time and lot of unsuccessful googling. Finally I figured it out by some help of one blogpost. 

Issue: I had created a new custom resource type and was then getting "access denied" errors while trying to create new resources for that type.

In summary the process of creating and populating custom resource types are

1. Create a new resource type, say Branch,  at  http://localhost/IdentityManagement/aspx/schema/Schema.aspx 

2. [Optional] create new attributes

3. [Optional] create new bindings (adding the attributes to your new resource type)

4. Create a new 'Set', say 'All Branches', for your resource type or reuse an existing 'Set' to add your new resource type. This is to allow the MPR to operate on the resource type when it comes to allowing or disallowing resources creation.

5. Either create a new Management Policy Rule (MPR) or update an existing one. What basically you want to do is to update the permissions so that an Admin or some other user is authorised to create new resources (or populate the new resource type ). In the MPR you choose permissions like create update etc and then for target resources you choose "All Branches" twice.

6. Now you can go to 
http://localhost/IdentityManagement/aspx/customized/AllCustomizedObjectTypes.aspx, select the new resource type from the list and then add new branches.

See the following blog for the steps but it was missing step 4 form above. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gartner: Top 10 Strategic IT Trends For 2015

An interesting read, I picked two of the 10 trends mentioned

 Cloud/Client Architecture
Mobile computing and cloud computing continue to converge and lead to the growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device. Gartner notes that cloud computing is the foundation of elastically scalable, self-service computing for both internally and externally facing applications. Apps that use intelligence and storage of client device effectively will benefit from lowering bandwidth costs, coordination and management will be based on the cloud. The analysis goes on to note that over time applications will evolve to support simultaneous use of multiple devices. In the future, games and enterprise applications alike will use multiple screens and exploit wearables and other devices to deliver an enhanced experience.
8. Software-Defined Infrastructure and Applications

Agile development methods for programming of everything from infrastructure basics to applications is essential to enable organizations to deliver the flexibility required to make the digital business work. Software defined networking, storage, data centers and security are maturing. Application programming interface (API) calls render cloud services software configurable, and applications have rich APIs to access their function and content programmatically. Gartner notes that in order to deal with the rapidly changing demands of digital business with demand shifts both up and down require computing to move away from static to dynamic models.
Read the full article here  Gartner: Top 10 Strategic IT Trends For 2015

Monday, October 13, 2014

My notes from Azure Dev Camp Sydney - Oct 2014

I have to say it was one of the most productive one day sessions I have ever attended. Mick Badran delivered a fast paced session full of Azure content. The cloud and Azure landscape is continuously changing, it was great to refresh myself and find out what is in Azure pipeline.

Here are some key points from the session

The key message is this : Azure cloud is full of wonders and new things, though they were there before in some other 'form' but how they been (re)positioned in their new forms with some new products is amazing.  Simply put it is gonna make architects and developers reconfigure their way of thinking application design and development approach.

For IT management the challenge will be how to revise and implement their governance model to get max out of their cloud solutions. From migration to adoption there will be surely a new challenges

Now it terms of what is the latest

- SSD Drives are coming to Azure (only D drive yet, see my other post)
-portal.azure.com , the new interface to manage your Azure cloud, though it is not stable, was crashing again and again but def looks cool


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Microsoft Azure Dev Camp - Australia Oct 2014

Microsoft is running Dev camps in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on the following dates

10 October 2014 – Register
11 October 2014 – Register
31 October 2014 – Register
1 November 2014 – Register
21 November 2014 – Register
22 November 2014 – Register

From the program details it looks to be an interesting event for all those interested in Microsoft Azure platform

"At this Cloud Dev Camp you will learn how to use the new Microsoft Azure features and services including Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, Websites, and Visual Studio 2013 to build and move a variety of apps to the cloud.  You will see how to build websites, mobile applications, and enterprise-class applications. The Microsoft Cloud Dev Camp is a great place to get started with Microsoft Azure development or to learn what’s new with the latest Microsoft Azure features."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SSD-based instances for Azure VMs and Cloud Services announced

New SSD-based instances for Azure VMs and Cloud Services

Love to read this, Azure now offering D-Series for virtual machines and cloud services, hoping it will help improve the performance of Azure based infrastructure and services. However, it wasn't all good news, the SSDs will only be available for the temporary drives (D drive, for caching/buffering purposes). So in essence we still have to wait to get SSD based C (primary) drives.

As I wrote in one of my recent post  it is a serious issue when you do not get the output from the infrastructure that you expect on the basis of the h/w configuration. In my experiment my sony vaio machine (dual core with 8GB ram) completely outperformed my Azure VM (8 cores, 14GB ram). I believe disk i/o could be a major factor as the sony machine was running on SSDs.

This is from one of my Azure VM running SharePoint 2013 (with just a basic site) and hosted in Southeast Asia, showing how the disk was performing (yet to do a comprehensive test in machines in other MS datacenters)

this is what Microsoft says about their new D-Series 

"These instances have solid-state disk (SSD)-based local drives and faster processors relative to many of the A-series instances. The D-series instances can be used as VMs, as well as web or worker roles in Cloud Services, and are well suited for applications that demand faster CPU performance, local disk performance, or higher memories. Please note that the SSD drives in the D-series are non-persistent. "


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Azure - My Notes from Cloud Challenges, Opportunities & Migration Strategies presentation

This week I have attended a short but an informative presentation on Azure at a Readify breakfast event. The presenters were Mitch Denny and Alessandro Cardoso. I have been working with azure for quite sometime now and this presentation gave me an opportunity to get myself up-to date on what is happening (and will be happening ) in near future in Azure space.

Azure's popularity and adoption is increasing, thanks to an easy to user interface, powershell based accesses to your assets in Azure cloud and reduced cost of high speed net connections. However, in my experience I have found that there still gaps/limitations in Azure offering such as inconsistent performance across different data-centres, migrating large databases to azure etc.

Key points that I took note of

1. Leveraging SQL always on feature to move large dbs to cloud

2. Data archives can be sent to Microsoft (physically) for restore followed by sync with data on premise then switching to cloud

3. Australian data centre will be available around Oct 2014

4. Clients can get on high speed dedicated links (gigabit connections) to Azure data centre within Australia

6. Remoteapp is available on ios and Android to access your Azure cloud from a mobile device http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/remoteapp/. I was able to have that up and running on my mobile in a few minutes while attending the presentation.

7. Inconsistent performance across different Azure datacentres. Not all the datacenters have the same/latest hardware, some have got older CPUs etc and it takes time for Microsoft to upgrade the hardware. This is a bit bizarre though as you would pay the same amount but you may get sub par performance form the data-centre closer to you. Furthermore it is an issue in sizing the environment (definitely an issue when I find my 3 years old 4 core 8gig local VM outperforms an azure VM with 8 cores and 14GB ram in Microsoft's Southeast Asia's datacenter). Personally I think there are other contributing factors too like efficiency of Azure in virtualising the hardware for the hosts.

8. Users/consumers are getting more focused on apps/services then underlying OS

9. Disaster recovery with Azure is an interesting topic. Theoretically this is an excellent option to have the DR strategy based on Azure cloud with Azure Recovery Manager. You can have your DR backups managed through Azure Recovery Manager from your primary site to the secondary site. Alternatively you can have your DR environment in Azure cloud.

10. A reminder that do not forget shutting downs your VMs and services when not in use otherwise you have trouble answering your finance people.

11. You can download the azure presentation from here 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fixing sql server 2012 edition upgrade failed error on azure with SharePoint 2013

I was facing an error "sql server 2012 edition upgrade failed" while trying to setup a SharePoint 2013 farm on a virtual machine in Windows Azure cloud. It would fail when I run the Complete SQL 2012 setup wizard. I followed this article  http://blog.appliedis.com/2013/10/17/sharepoint-2013-in-azure-a-dev-environment-in-15-minutes-or-less to setup the farm and the domain.

The article was written for an older image of the server  however, I believe the issue is with the latest server image (at the time of writing this) "Visual Studio Professional 2013 Update 3 Windows Server 2012"that I selected. Although it suggests you can run the vm for six months in evaluation mode but SQL server setup would fail if you try to setup the sql instance with  'evaluation' license selected. Also didn't get much help from the Microsoft server setup guides pre-stored on the VM, I think they are outdated now.


Anyways, I thought to use the SQL Server 2012 key from my msdn ultimate subscription ( The key was not available directly and  had to download SQL server 2012 Standard x64 edition  iso image). I downloaded the image directly on the azure server from msdn. I then tried to do the edition upgrade by running the SQL setup from the downloaded iso, edition upgrade was successful but 'Complete SQL server 2012.." wizard would still fail. Tried to setup the whole new sql using the msdn version but it failed too.

Then the last attempt was to run the SQL setup (SQL Server installation centre) from msdn ver, copied the product key from there (Edition upgrade option), ran the 'complete sql server 2012..' wizard (from the very intuitive windows 2012 UI, huh..) and used the key instead of selecting evaluation license.
It worked!

After finishing up SQL setup ran the script ConfigureSharePointFarmInDomain.ps1 and it worked like a charm!
Hope it helps someone as this 15 minute setup took about 4-5 hours of my time (while repeatedly saying why Microsoft why!).

PS: Do you experience degraded performance on Azure VMs? right now running my azure VM with 8 cores and 14GB RAM but I feel my local VM with 4 cores and 5GB RAM performs better than the Azure vm.

Update: I checked with Mitch Denny and acknowledged that he himself had experienced the same and explained the reason is that (which logically makes sense) not all the datacenters have the same/latest hardware, some have got older CPUs etc and it takes time for Microsoft to upgrade the hardware. This is a bit bizarre though as you would pay the same amount but you may get sub par performance form the data-centre closer to you. Furthermore it is an issue in sizing the environment (definitely an issue when I find my 3 years old 4 core 8gig local VM outperforms an azure VM with 8 cores and 14GB ram in Microsoft's Southeast Asia's datacenter). Personally I think there are other contributing factors too like efficiency of Azure in virtualising the hardware for the hosts.

Monday, July 22, 2013

SharePoint 2010 - Two different Ampersand character symbols

It might be something trivial but it just ate a couple of hours of my time while debugging my SharePoint code. I thought to share it with others in case someone will be struggling with the same issue.
My code was failing to do a successful comparison between two similar looking strings.
I was trying to match the Taxonomy terms to find a matching term. The following value comparison might look equal but looking it closely you would say there is a bit of difference

Nut & Fruit = Nut & Fruit

The two ampersand characters are different, the one on the left was from the termset, while the one on the right from a single text field in a list. Anyways the resolution was simple, just update the termset with the standard character '&'

A quick resolution was to slightly modify my code to take care of this special scenario

 if (termVlaue.Contains("&") && term.Name.Contains("&"))
                        if (term.Name.Replace("&", "&").Equals(termVlaue))
                            return term;
                        if (term.Name.Equals(termVlaue))
                            return term;

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SharePoint 2010/2013: System.IO.FileNotFoundException on setting master page

If you are trying to set a master page to your newly create or imported site through code and getting the following error
System.IO.FileNotFoundException: The file{path}.master/ does not exist.  
at Microsoft.SharePoint.ApplicationRuntime

then try this in your code: [some sites suggested to use {subsite}.ServerRelativeUrl but it won’t work for the sitecollections under multi-level managed paths, so it is safer to use the sitecollection object].

newSubWeb.AllowUnsafeUpdates = true;
newSubWeb.CustomMasterUrl = newSubWeb.Site.ServerRelativeUrl + "/_catalogs/masterpage/{mymaster}.master";
newSubWeb.MasterUrl = newSubWeb.Site.ServerRelativeUrl + "/_catalogs/masterpage/{mymaster}.master";
powershell script for any further troubleshooting:
$web = Get-SPWeb "http://{subsitepath}"
$web.MasterUrl = "/{sitecollectionpath}/_catalogs/masterpage/{masterpage.master}/"
$web.CustomMasterUrl = "/{sitecollectionpath}/_catalogs/masterpage/{masterpage.master}/"
hope it would save someone else’s time.                               

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Installing SharePoint 2010 on Windows 2008 R2 using AutoSPInstaller – Lessons learned

(Note: The issues might be fixed with post-Mar 2013 releases of SP 2010 and/or AutoSPInstaller)

1. Known Issues and Resolution

1.1 Input XML file should have the name of the current server

If you are running the autospinstaller scripts one by one on the servers then ensure you have the server name specified at least once, with a search role, in search service application configuration section. This is a bug in the scripts, even if you have disabled the search service application it will still go inside the search section and will abort if doesn’t find the name of the server there

1.2 Rerun PowerShell if it fails after installation and before running the configuration

There is a known issue where the powershell will halt after installing SharePoint and before configuring the farm. The resolution is simple and straight forward. Rerunning the ‘AutoSPInstallerLaunch.bat’ will resolve the issue and execute the remaining configuration steps.

1.3 Create search services manually

If the installation scripts fail to create the search service application then create the service manually. If for some reasons the search service application cannot be created and gives errors then one possible resolution could be detaching the server from the farm and deleting the farm databases (worked for us).
1. Step 1: Run the powershell command psconfig –cmd configdb –disconnect
2. Step 2: Using SQL Management studio, delete all of the SharePoint databases.
Ref here for more details: http://www.scottjamison.com/blog/2009/12/rebuilding-your-sharepoint-2010-farm/

1.4 Fix windows security token service. Remove and add the server

If ‘Claims to Windows Token Service’ fails to stop/start properly then try the following
1. Find the service instances running on the farm
2. Identify the ID of the service instance of the ‘Claims to Windows Token Service’.
3. Attempt to stop it
a. Get-SPServiceInstance -Identity IDHere | Stop-SPServiceInstance
4. If it fails to stop then attempt to delete the service instance
a. $badjob = Get-SPTimerJob | where {$_.name -like "job-service-instance-IdHere"}
b. $badjob.delete()
c. Restart timer service
d. Attempt to stop the service again through powershell
5. If the above does not work then the other option is to remove the server from the farm and add it back
a. Login to the server using the Install account where the service is failing
b. Run the SharePoint 2010 Configuration wizard and remove the server from the farm
c. Verify the sites and app pools have been deleted from the server
d. Login back to the server and rerun the SharePoint 2010 configuration wizard
e. Add the server to the farm again
f. Finish the SharePoint and the Farm configuration wizards
g. Verify the server has been added back to the farm
h. Verify the service can now be stopped and restarted.


1.5 Error Adding Index or Crawl Components

There is a possibility that SharePoint central admin will be stuck at adding an additional crawl or query component. In order to resolve this issue simply restart the SharePoint 2010 Timer Service and SharePoint 2010 Farm Administration Services and then try again

Installing SharePoint 2013 on Windows 2012 – Lessons learned

I have recently installed and configured a 3 server SP 2013 farm in in azure cloud. Like to share some lessons that I learned  (Note: The issues might be fixed post Mar-2013 releases of SP 2013 and Autospinstaller)
The key lessons learned
1. AutoSPSourceBuilder should not be used for SP 2013 to prepare the binaries (slipstreamed). It caused issues both in win 2013 and win 2008 R2 env with SP 2013. So manually copy the SP 2013 files to the SharePoint folder (and do not include cu Dec 2012, you can install later)
2. AutoSPinstaller on win 2012 doesn't install the required pre-requisites and configure the server properly, instead (I am going to test with) use the scripts from here first http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/office/DownloadInstall-SharePoint-e6df9eb8 and then run AutoSPinstaller

Monday, December 3, 2012

Introduction To Nintex Workflows and Forms 2010

I have recently attended a 3-day training ‘Introduction to Nintex’ and thought to share what I learnt, I have created a mindmap, it was easier to do this then writing an article and i think it would be easier for you to read too. (click the image below to view it in full-size)

Update: Besides Nintex Forms, I have posted another review blog post on KwizCom Forms,as infopath forms alternative 

Nintex workflows and Forms - 2010

  Nintex workflows  and Forms - 2010



Main features
Main features
Key Components
Key Components
Workflow Designer
Workflow Designer
Forms Designer
Forms Designer
Nintex Live (cloud services)
Nintex Live (cloud services)
Licensing Costs (approx, needs verification)
Licensing Costs (approx, needs verification)






http://connect.nintex.com/ Nintex Connect allows you to discuss technical issues related to Nintex products , to ask questions, to share answers and to provide feedback. It also gives access to our Nintex product knowledge base (for Software Assurance customers), learning materials, whitepapers and RSS feeds.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SharePoint 2010/2013 Health Checking and Monitoring

[Update Mar 2015: I have written another article on SharePoint Governance, published on my new blogsite www.mycloudview.net ]


I have lately tested another SharePoint health check tool SPDockit for SharePoint 2010/2013 (SharePoint Documentation Kit) for SharePoint 2007/2010/2013 and have to say it saved at least 2-3 days of my time on a consulting engagement, this tool is impressive and works better than the out of the box health check rules. In my job I often conduct SharePoint farm health-checks and  perform farm audits and honestly SPDocKit does help me immensely in collecting and analyzing SharePoint farm and site data. The idea itself is no rocket science, it is simply all about extracting almost every possible piece of information from your SP farm and then presenting them by means of an elegant and interactive dashboard interface. The same information displayed in the dashboard can also be generated and saved as reports in pdf and word formats.

The reports can be used as AS-Built documents, created with speed. The tool has its own set of health check rules that enables you to quickly perform healthcheck on your farm against the SharePoint best practices though in some cases you may find not all the rules and recommendation applicable to your environment. Nevertheless it does explanation or refers to best practices if you are not clear what you should do. Another feature that I love is that you can take a snapshot of your farm configuration/settings, save them in a file and then can compare them with other farms or with the same farm later using them as a baseline for comparison.

It is priced reasonably around $400-700 /farm or consultant. If you are working for a consulting company then I suggest buying licenses for consultants. For the clients/business farm based licensing would be a better option.

You can download the SPDocKit here and try it for 30 days : Download

(I was able to deliver my engagement by using the trial version, was fully functional with all information available through the dashboard options, the only limitation was the cut-down version of reports generated, nevertheless I used the screenshots of the dashboard screens to populate my reports, we are going to buy the full version for the future.)

B. SPFarmReport:
A free tool that I tested on a farm e where I had to do a quick sp2010 farm (with 5 servers) healthcheck, produced a very detailed and nicely formatted report, however I did find it missed some details, on content databases and application pools. Still a good tool that you can pass it on to admins to provide you with a detailed view of Farm configuration and settings.
C. Out of the Box:

So if you opt to go Out of the Box then you have to leverage SharePoint Health Anayzer.

- To configure the SharePoint health analyzer jobs
  1. And then ask the System Admin in prod to grab the SharePoint Health Analyzer reports from the central admin
D. SCOM - System Center Operations Manager

The SharePoint 2010 Products Management Pack (MP) is built to detect, diagnose, and alert on software and hardware incidents discovered by agents installed on SharePoint machines.
  1. Health monitoring of SharePoint Server 2010, Project Server 2010, Search Server 2010, and Office Web Apps
  2. Monitors Events and Services and alerts when service outages are detected
  3. Monitors Performance and warns users when SharePoint performance is at risk
  4. Forwards users to up-to-date TechNet knowledge articles
E. Custom Health-check rules

One more thing that can be done (looks beyond the scope of engagement but for future reference) is creating custom health check rules.

Probably you won’t create the rules, but prefer to wait till they appear on codeplex or as a separate product

F. FlyView For SharePoint - Helps you with SharePoint Site content structure health check

Also like to share this Site exploring tool FlyView that I created. It allows you to explore the information architecture of your entire site with ease, you can see and search the sub-sites, libraries, lists and documents with ease. This way you can check how healthy your site is from content structure perspective. It is a free tool that you can add to your Chrome browser in seconds and it works when you login to your SharePoint site. It is compatible with SharePoint Online, SharePoint 2013, 2010 and 2007. 

(Installation Video)

Download FlyView browser plugin for SharePoint from the Chrome Store 

Hope it would help