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Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003

Since its launch in 2001, the original SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) has sold over 15 million user licenses. Billed as an out-of-the-box web portal solution, the application allows users to easily create a single point of access to files, folders, applications, databases and web sites throughout their organization. The application also moonlights as a robust document management system with versioning features, approval-based publishing and the ability to add meta-information to documents within the SharePoint store.

Launched in October 2003, the next version of SPS, now dubbed Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, promises to be a more powerful and flexible version of the popular server application. What's with the "Office" modifier, you ask? The new version of SPS will be incorporated into Microsoft's newly branded "Office System" of products which includes the 2003 versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. The new branding strategy reflects Microsoft's desire to position the suite of applications as a collection of enterprise productivity tools and less as a collection of personal productivity tool.

Names aside, Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 provides most of the functionality of its predecessor, but in a more elegant manner using SQL Server 2000 or the Microsoft SQL 2000 Desktop Engine and Windows SharePoint Services, the technology on which SPS 2003 is built. In addition to the core SPS functions, the application also provides a number of new features including:

  • Support for distributed server architectures for larger organizations
  • Support for multiple document libraries
  • Improved alert functionality to notify users about content changes
  • Improved backup and restore capability
  • Integration with enterprise applications from PeopleSoft, SAP, Siebel
  • New filters to search the contents of Visio and Publisher documents
  • Ability for users to personalize their own portals
  • Support for SSL (https)
  • Faster search results and better indexing
  • Single sign-on and credential mapping
  • Ability to import user profiles from Active Directory

Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 will also support the .NET framework allowing users to develop portal components or "web parts" using the .NET development tools. The product also promises to expose a richer object model for developers to use for building and tweaking their own custom applications against SPS 2003.

So what's the catch? To run Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 you'll need to install it on a Windows 2003 Server, something that many organizations may not be immediately prepared to do. And to really take advantage of its integration with the Office suite you'll need to upgrade to Office 2003.

On the bright side, however, if you have purchased a version of SharePoint Portal Server 2001, Microsoft plans on providing and upgrade path for migrating your content from SPS 2001 to SPS 2003.

All in all, Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 promises to be a worthwhile upgrade to its predecessor. If you'd like to learn more about SPS 2003, a good place to start is the Microsoft site, particularly the FAQ and the Top 10 Reasons to deploy the tool. There are also some extremely useful posts, particularly regarding migrating from SPS 2001 to 2003, at http://groups.google.com.