Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SharePoint or Google Apps, which is best for you?

I have come accross this very intuitive post by Clare from Pentalogic Technology

SharePoint or Google Apps, which is best for you?: "

apples and orangesWith both Google and Microsoft offering collaboration solutions in the form of Apps and SharePoint it’s only natural that organisations should look at comparing the two. We think it’s worth looking at this debate for ourselves.

So which is better – Google Apps or SharePoint? As ever, the answer really depends on what your business needs to operate and evolve. The key point to remember is that while they offer some similar features, both solutions are very different beasts.

Google Apps has come a fair way over the past few years and one of the main advantages it has over SharePoint is its lower cost. The standard edition is free, but most organizations tend to upgrade to its premier edition option that includes intranet with Postini, a high-end email security solution. You could outsource your entire “Office” for $50 per user per year, which represents a huge cost saving over any in-house IT solution.

The main features that Google Apps has are its messaging facility, including Gmail, Google Calendar and Groups, and its collaboration offering, with Google Docs, Sites and Video. Being a cloud-based service, Google strongly emphasize their security, support and reliability features. On the face of it, Google Apps may be a perfect entry-level alternative to SharePoint if you have a small business or are a one-person operation.

Of course cost savings come at a price. Google Apps doesn’t come close to the range of collaboration features that you get with. With powerful workflows, reliable secondary functions like Information Rights Management and an application development platform. If you factor in how easily SharePoint integrates with an existing Office suite then it’s easy to see how Microsoft can waggle accusatory fingers at Google Apps for not being enterprise-ready.

For many organizations though the rich array of features offered by SharePoint will simply be overwhelming and what Google has to offer will be enough. Particularly for smaller organizations and those who are more “outward facing” – have more interaction with people outside, rather than inside, of the organization, the sheer intuitive simplicity of the Google Aps solution, plus the ease of collaboration with the “outside world” may give Apps the edge over SharePoint.

There are limits to some functionality if you opt for SharePoint Online (see our post on SharePoint In House Vs Cloud for more on this), but even if you choose Microsoft’s cloud offering, the range of features outweighs Google Apps and costs start at $120 per user per year for a minimum of five users. However, Google Apps does have open API’s for developers which allows for some customization if you need it.

Google Apps is a great solution for a small enterprise and it can easily work alongside other more powerful software. Sure cloud based solutions lack the power of SharePoint, but if you’re in a small company, you probably don’t need these advanced capabilities anyway. When it comes to collaboration, Google Apps can also compete in terms of cost, speed and the ability to engage users. However, with no integration with Microsoft Office applications, a limited development platform and limited collaboration features, Google Apps often struggles to be a comprehensive business solution when compared to SharePoint.

Are you using Google Apps and SharePoint? How do you think the two solutions measure up?

Further reading:

1. SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 web apps better than Google Apps?


2. Google Vs SharePoint can be apples vs oranges


3. The Big Switch: From SharePoint to Google Apps


4. Review: Microsoft Office Web Apps vs Google Apps


5. SharePoint and Office Web Apps


Related posts:

  1. SharePoint in the Cloud – Pie in the Sky? This article looks at what SharePoint in the cloud has...

  2. How Much Does SharePoint Cost? How much does SharePoint cost? It can be difficult to...

  3. SharePoint Versions through the ages – Confused? This post gives a brief overview of the different versions...


Monday, August 9, 2010

Evolution of the Social Networking Map

In February 2008, in my What is Web 2.0 blog post I showed the following map about Social Networks, which came from xkcd.

Today, I saw on Le Journal du Geek the 2010 version and it speaks by itself. Notice the rise of FaceBook, YouTube, and Google for example but also the decline of MySpace and some others.

Only two years and an half between the two pictures. Changes are fast on the internet.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Import Calendar data from Outlook to Lotus

Importing calendar data from Outlook to Lotus is not the most usual operation. On the Internet, there are rather plenty of examples and instructions describing how to make the exact opposite. The easiest operation is maybe this one.

In Outlook (2007 or 2010), go to your calendar view and perform a save as ... and select the ICS format. Use the date range option to limit the scope to future events only because later on during the import process, Lotus will impose a limit to maximum 500 events.

Once you have your ICS file, go to Lotus Notes (8.5 in my case) and open the Calendar. Select then file -> import and choose the ICS file type. Click OK and that's it.

Easier than expected.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Install Microsoft Dynamics AX Enterprise Portal Server

Last week, I finally decided to look at the installation of the Enterprise Portal (based on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0) for Dynamics AX 4.0. I therefore started to investigate about its installation and configuration. Microsoft provides a very complete document about it: Install and Configure a Microsoft Dynamics AX Enterprise Portal Server.

The instructions are quite detailed and can be followed as is. However there is no guarantee that everything will happen by the book. This is why before configuring and deploying the Enterprise Portal itself, I decided to check if all previous settings change did not prevent WSS to run. I checked the WSS Central Administration and it was full of "SharePoint encountered an unknown error." preventing me to view any page.

I decided to run the SharePoint Configuration Manager but it did not solve the issue. A quick look at the Event Viewer revealed hordes of different nasty errors under both the Application tab and the System tab: error 10016, 5214, 18056, 3351, 2424, 6611, 2426, 110, and 8214.

The solution was to concentrate on the errors from the System tab by order of appearance starting with the first one (Error 10016). As you can see, the error consisted of a service account requiring additional security permission on a Component Service administrative tool. Ultimately the solution was to add the Network Service account as user authorized to start that Component Service component service. The additional trick here was to identify the right Component Service as error 10016 message only referred to the CLSID of the Component Service and not to its full and clear name. Happily Google quickly provided the right component service name: IIS_WAMREG. The operation had to be repeated as well for the Business Connector account (as described in the installation document).

Once both accounts' permissions were set up, all errors stopped occurring and WSS was running correctly. It was then time to start with the configuration and deployment of the Enterprise Portal itself. I launched the Dynamics AX client and went to the Enterprise Portal setup in the Administration panel.

The Enterprise Configuration wizard is pretty straightforward and I have no particular comment about it. Upon completion, it proposes to launch the "Manage deployments" wizard. That wizard is slightly different than what is described in the documentation but it serves the same purpose.

However when running it, we had a small error upon completion. That error was unhelpfully logged as event ID 1000 in the Event viewer. On top of that, the EP custom site template was not deployed in SharePoint and this alone completely prevented the creation of the EP site.

The solution came from the following article from Customer Source (Article ID 940365).

Before finding the solution I tried a few time to remove and redeploy the Enterprise Portal. During these try-and-fail tentatives, I discovered that:
  1. Clicking on the Remove button (see below screenshot) while any site was selected would immediately and automatically crash the AX client.
  2. To remove the Enterprise Portal, you need to first double click on all ticked boxes then click the remove button.

After applying the fix from Customer Source, I still had the AX error, still the crash-upon-remove behaviour but the EP custom templates were correctly deployed. I could finally create successfully my first Enterprise Portal site.

After its creation, the first step is to link the EP site to a company from Dynamics AX. And of course the first tentative failed miserably. This time the solution came from article ID 931939, still from Customer Source. Once the solution got applied, I could link a Dynamics AX company to the EP site and start checking all its nice features.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Internet Explorer 9 (IE9): On the Road to Salvation ?

Recent reviews of the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 report that Microsoft is definitively making a step in the right direction. Instead of diverting attention with new (useless ?) features, IE9 concentrates on the core business of a browser: the surf experience.

Several sources such as PCMag.com, TechWorld or PC Pro all stress the promising progresses made by Microsoft with IE9 into two main directions: speed and standards.

Regarding speed, it seems that IE will finally compete with the others and stop lagging behind. This is already good news but the best piece of news comes with the compliance to standards such as HTML5 and CSS 3. (Even if the test version does not support all tags yet)

For the first time since a while, I am really curious to see the release of that particular browser version.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Evolution of Star Wars Combine Development Process

That's it! We just migrated the Star Wars Combine online game to our new servers. We perform such an upgrade of hardware every 3 years roughly to cope with growth of both users and resources. We also use these upgrades as an opportunity to improve our development processes. Or maybe it is the opposite: we decide to update our development processes and we upgrade our hardware at the same time.

To make it short when we we started the Combine back in 1998, all we had as environment was a few text flat files as database, some HTML files for the website and a downloadable client developed by a single person who uploaded the compiled software on the server so that our players could download it. Back then the server was in fact just a small account on a free hosting services whose name I have long forgotten. Do not forget that we are just a bunch of volunteers working on this project during their free time and for free (or least for the sake of code).

Over time, we switched from a client/server model to a pure web-based model. Our architecture became clearer in our mind and since 2006 we were using 2 servers: one as production environment and one as development environment. Since a couple of years, we even decided to release our new features and bugfixes as weekly patches, allowing us to fix most problems on the development environment before going live.

This was already an improvement but we still had several issues regarding code quality due to our developers working in parallel and most of them having very different programming levels and background.

Now, since our recent Development Meeting of last February in Berlin, a new process has been introduced along with new tools. First we have created a virtual machine our server so that developers can work locally on their repository. That VM includes the database and the web server. When they perform some changes, all they need is to save their file and refresh the concerned VM webpage. Once they are happy with their changes, they can commit them to the development server.

On the development server, we have testers performing functional tests and providing input to the developers. On top of the functional testing, we have some unit tests that ensure that new developments will not break existing code (and features). Then, once all our tests are passed, we can proceed with our weekly release. Database schema changes are pushed and the production code is updated.

Even if this new process require more efforts from the developers such as writing unit tests and spending more time in the testing phase, the middle-term and long-term benefits of this new process will be invaluable. We are creating today a way to decrease tomorrow's bugs.

At the same time, we introduced a powerful database dedicated server to cope of the increasing database demands generated by our natural growth and increasing game complexity. Our frond-end web server can now only take care of generating webpages and will so open us the gate for future load-balancing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hard drive manufacturers to stop supporting Windows XP and DOS by 2012

Hard drive manufacturers to stop supporting Windows XP and DOS by 2012: "

Microsoft did something right with Windows XP. While hardly an exciting operating system by modern standards, Microsoft still managed to deliver a flawlessly realized OS at the time… so well executed that it has happily met the needs of computer users for over a decade, even as hardware has radically changed. It’s been so popular [...]


That will be a change. Most of us have been using XP since a decade and saying good things about it at least since Vista.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Google Latitude can Go Wrong !

Yesterday, I was coming back from a business trip in France. During the travel back, the Thalys train shuttling me from Paris to Brussels suddenly came to a total stop. I wanted to know where we were so that I could estimate the remaining distance.

I looked at my Blackberry and could already see from the telecom operator name that we were in Belgium already. I then decided to use the Google Latitude application to get more information. Here is what I got:

And I got the address as well, confirming that Google really located me north of Vilvoorde and that it was not just a display error:
Where you know the Thalys, you know that you arrive to Brussels from the south and so you cannot be on the north. A few minutes later, I had the confirmation that we were well in the south as we crossed the Halle (Buizingen) train station. As you can see from the Google map below, there is quite around 40km between my reported position (B), and my actual position (A).

Moreover when refreshing my position, I noticed that while the train was driving north toward Brussels, my position was moving from north to south, also toward Brussels.

Who said that Google is always right ?
There is always one more bug I would say.

Friday, January 15, 2010

HRESULT: 0×80040E14 error when adding items to SharePoint

When attempting to create a new folder in our SharePoint, I faced the following error message: Exception from HRESULT: 0x80040E14 with an impressive stack filling in my entire screen.

Googling this error message will send you to the Microsoft KB 841216 as first result. However the 3rd result will display an alternative solution from Alex Pearce's SharePoint blog. Alex suggest that your the reason can be in fact totally trivial and due to:

  1. Your SQL server data drive being full, or
  2. Your data or log file reached there full allocated size, or
  3. Your database size is full and not set to increase.
In my case, the log file was full and I simply needed to shrink it. Kind of stupid, no ?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Deploying Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Project SharePoint Site

Because we run several Dynamics AX projects in parallel, with many more to come, we decided to start using more and more the Microsoft methodology: Sure Step. The 2010 version of the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step client allows you to create a local project repository or instead a SharePoint site on your SharePoint portal.

The portal deployment wizard is quite straightforward and if you are the primary administrator of your SharePoint site collection then there should not be any problem.

Except we ran into a rather strange issue. While the Sure Step wizard showed we have the right permissions to create a site, we ran immediately into an error which caused the SharePoint site creation to fail and simply stated that it could not be created.

After checking the Events and logs on the SharePoint site, the Events and firewall settings on the local computers (we tried from several computers), and even the network firewalls settings, we were still stuck with no clue. That error message remained cryptic and sadly, googling it did not bring any help as all words are far too generic.

We then decided to use fiddler to at least check if the problem was on the local computer or on the server by checking where it will stop. That helped a lot. Through Fiddler, we spotted a returned error message stating that the Sure Step Project Site.stp template could not be found. So we manually uploaded it in the Site Template Gallery and restarted the Sure Step Project Wizard. This time, the Sure Step Project site was perfectly deployed and the result can be seen below, using a Dynamics AX 4.0 project as example.