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September 29, 2016
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Becoming a SharePoint Hero Has Never Been Easier

By Andreas Grabner, Performance Advocate, Dynatrace.

As a group, SharePoint developers, architects and site owners understand that optimizing digital performance has reached new levels of importance for businesses. But they also know that as systems become more complex and user demands increase, eliminating SharePoint slowdowns and keeping business-critical functions up and running at full capacity is far easier said than done.

This article offers several important tips from recognized SharePoint experts on ways to address performance challenges and help readers become heroes within their organizations.

SharePoint has a somewhat sneaky way of growing in an organization. At first one or two teams start using it and hardly anyone notices. Then a few more teams adopt it, and find it's tremendously useful, and the next thing you know the entire organization is using SharePoint, even for business critical processes, and organizational efficiency jumps to new levels. Third-party and custom Web Parts play a big role in this success as they allow integrating other data sets and services into a single SharePoint dashboard, page or site.

But SharePoint success also raises the stakes—if it slows down or fails, an organization can find itself crippled—and subsequently wary of relying on SharePoint in the future.  This means that SharePoint teams must carefully manage the application as it spreads within a company. As SharePoint adoption grows and usage increases, potential for performance issues can grow too, and the more people relying on SharePoint the bigger the potential impact.

So, how do you ensure that you won't lose control of the program as more content gets stored, and SharePoint bandwidth is stretched? It's not easy, especially since many features that make SharePoint attractive are actually driven by third-parties, which sometimes experience performance issues that are hard to understand.

In order to be sure you get the most out of SharePoint you need to emphasize the performance aspect of the application. Otherwise you run the risk of not only hamstringing your organization, but jeopardizing SharePoint adoption at your company. With every performance issue that occurs, users are more and more inclined to revert to old methods: hard drives and log files or going with competitive offerings like Dropbox or Google Docs. Modern application performance management (APM) solutions, with insight into third-parties and deep visibility into root causes of any and all issues, can go a long way in identifying risks early on instead of waiting until users drop SharePoint.

Additionally, there are numerous best practices that can make the waters more navigable for everyone. Here are three that can put you on the road to becoming a SharePoint hero:

1. Track Your End Users

SP1 Wendy Neal, a senior SharePoint Consultant at McGladrey, stresses that it is key to observe your end users. It doesn't do any good to arbitrarily implement a bunch of usability fixes if you don't have a really great understanding of user behavior. And if you haven't taken the time to actually identify pain points, then you really don't know what needs fixing. There are a number of ways to track your users, from conducting usability tests, to implementing APM solutions that trace every single one of your users and give you a clear picture of end-user behavior.

2. Have a Strong Logging Strategy

SP2 Martin Etmajer of Dynatrace highlights the potential usefulness of log files, but recommends against using them in production because they generally fail to analyze application failures in production. The lack of context with log messages makes them overly dependent on individual developers to interpret and they can even slow down the application if they are not handled correctly. Similarly Jason Himmelstein, Senior Technical Director for SharePoint at Atrion, recommends logging, but only if you have a good logging strategy in place. Proper use and configurations, health data collection and the developer dashboard, can enable quicker trouble shooting by helping developers avoid getting flooded with too much data.

3. Optimize Default Settings

SP3 One source of SharePoint's great popularity is its ease of use right out of the box. However, while many features are useful immediately, some of the default settings can cause performance issues if they are not configured correctly for the use-case at hand. For example, SharePoint comes with a default setting that only allows Web Parts to use two simultaneous connections to backend systems. But if you are using a SharePoint dashboard with multiple Web Parts that query data from three or more sources, your end-users will begin to experience extremely long load times. If you don't change the default value to at least the number of web ports on a single dashboard then all that time you wanted to save by using SharePoint will be spent waiting for it to load. Additionally you should look into the inner workings of Web Parts to make sure they don't impact overall system scalability and performance.

Final Thoughts

In the end, SharePoint can be hugely beneficial for any organization looking to boost its efficiency, but it is critical to control the implementation strategically from the outset. At the end of the day, you really have to be careful that you keep your focus on digital performance optimization, and avoidance of performance issues. Otherwise you could jeopardize adoption and end up with a back-fire situation, ultimately damaging organizational efficiency instead of enhancing it.

SP4 Andreas Grabner has 15+ years' experience as an architect and developer in the Java and .NET space. In his current role, Andi works as a Performance Advocate for Dynatrace. In his role he drives the Dynatrace Free Trial and provides his expertise to the larger performance community. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences on performance and architecture related topics and regularly publishes articles blogs on apmblog.dynatrace.coms.

Tags: Google Docs, SharePoint, DropBox, end users, APM, log files, default settings, business-critical functions




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