Cloud Based Collaboration: SharePoint Online

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Microsoft SharePoint Online, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams can help organizations keep their files safe, share information more effectively, and communicate with ease. In this post, learn the basics of how to configure and manage SharePoint Online, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams. I will explain how to create a SharePoint site, manage SharePoint storage, and share documents in OneDrive. I will also outline the basics of working with Microsoft Teams, as well as how to deploy the communications platform within your organization.

Learning objectives

  • SharePoint Online team sites
  • Creating a SharePoint Online site
  • Configuring external sharing for a site
  • Managing SharePoint Online social collaboration and themes
  • Managing SharePoint Online storage limits

Sharepoint Online

SharePoint Online is a ready to use cloud-based application which provides solutions for document management, collaborative working, and information distribution. SharePoint Online uses web technologies and creates a website known as a team site for your teams or projects that your team members can use. This team site is a portal, allowing your end users to view information, access apps, and collaborate with others in their team. Within the team site you can share news, documents, and edit these either locally or in the web. Additionally, you can collaborate with other users by sharing access to the documents. You can also access your team site’s own documents from the Files area of Office 365 apps. Documents can also be accessed from File Explorer and from OneDrive for Business. Let’s review some of the core SharePoint Online functionality that’s available for you to use. You have the central information repository for files, a familiar environment, offering a customizable platform, plus various information creation tools. You also have information sharing tools, controls for data protection and security, tools for tracking tasks and processes, and tools to manage workflow. Let’s review some of these in more detail. At the heart of SharePoint Online is a central information repository. You can think of this as an online database management system which is used to securely store and manage documents, share documents, allow documents to be edited by multiple users all at the same time, and retain the previous versions of a document whilst editing the current version. Because SharePoint has been around for many years, the SharePoint Online interface is likely to offer many of your users a familiar working environment, and new users to SharePoint Online can become productive quickly since they can use the Office 365 tools to create and share content within SharePoint Online. SharePoint Online provides you with a highly customizable platform to build out either a simple or complex website which can include many add-ons and features. Sites can be branded, have a bespoke color scheme, personalized background, fonts, and page layouts, and much more. For all SharePoint Online users there are user-friendly information creation tools embedded within the pages, which offer access to Office applications including Word and Excel directly from the team site. SharePoint online includes several information sharing tools, which provides users with access to enterprise information and applications. This includes collaborative software functionality, such as project scheduling, social collaboration, access to shared mailboxes, and project-related document storage. Additionally, if you enable news feeds, all members can be kept up to date with team news. To keep your data secure, SharePoint Online offers several data protection controls. These allow you to implement different levels of data protection and permissions within your site. These settings can be based on your users and groups, content, devices, and even the data location. Collaboration, task, and process tracking is very important for project teams, and in SharePoint Online you can follow activities related to individual documents, people, sites, and metatags. You also have some enhanced search tools allowing to search documents and also within the metadata. And for process tracking, you can set deadlines and track projects and tasks. By building workflows into organizational processes, you can use SharePoint Online to control and track activities. For example you can automate document reviews, where reviewers will be automatically notified when their attention is required. The use of workflows can help ensure that businesses adhere to consistent practices. You can see that SharePoint Online offers a rich set of tools and capabilities for enterprises which go far beyond a simple website management system.

Types SharePoint Online Sites

Team Site

A SharePoint team site connects you and your team to the content, information, and apps you rely on every day. For example, you can use a team site to store and collaborate on files or to create and manage lists of information. On a team site home page, you can view links to important team files, apps, and web pages and see recent site activity in the activity feed.

Communication Site

A SharePoint communication site is a great place to share information with others. You can share news, reports, statuses, and other information in a visually compelling format. Communication site content is read only, and these type of site are used to disperse information, such as news, messages, and other company information.

Hub Site

SharePoint hub sites provide an important building block for your intranet. They are the “connective tissue” you use when organizing families of team sites and communication sites together.

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SharePoint hub sites help you meet the needs of your organization by connecting and organizing sites based on project, department, division, region, etc. making it easier to:

  • Discover related content such as news and other site activities
  • Apply common navigation, branding, and site structure across associated sites.
  • Search across all associated sites.

SharePoint administrators determine how many hub sites can be created in your organization, who can associate sites with each hub site, and whether associating a site to a hub requires approval. Planning your SharePoint hub sites will ensure you get the most out of using hub sites.

SharePoint Online Team Sites

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A SharePoint online team site is usually created for a new project or a new group within an organization. The team site is the portal where group members can access apps, store documents, and importantly, collaborate with others in their group. It can be the central and primary location that your end users use to connect and collaborate with each other. Team site is used as a collaboration platform. When a team site is first created, it will have a home page. The team site home page is where your users can view links to team library files, apps, lists, and discussions. Let’s look SharePoint Admin Center for team sites at Microsoft 365 Admin Center to view in more detail. We can see the group owners, a description, external sharing information, and, notice, we can edit many of these attributes. When you launch the site. You can see the home page. If I click the plus then New from drop down, here we can see I can add documents, pages, news posts, and more. Lets look at different app types availabe. I want to add an app option, so I’ll select app. Here we can see your app screen appears. And we can see a selection of the apps that we can add to our team site. These include apps for the Document Library, Custom Lists, Tasks, Site Mailboxes, Links, Announcements, Contacts, and Calendars, and many more. Let’s click the Document Library App Details. And here we can see more information related to this app. We can see in the description that Document Library is used to store documents with people, and that users can upload and create documents, collaborate with files, and share and track changes on documents. With the Wiki Page Library, we can see that this app allows you to collect and share ideas within your organization using a set of linked and editable web pages. And finally the Survey app allows you to poll team members. Here you can create questions and view the graphical summaries of their responses. As you can see, there are lots of different web app types that you can use on a SharePoint online team site that are built into SharePoint online. You should click on each of the App Details links and understand what each app can offer.

Create a Site in SharePoint Online

To Create a site:

  • Select + Create site on the SharePoint start page. In the wizard: Select whether you’d like to create a Team site or a Communication site.
  • Enter the title (and a description, if you want) for the site. You can select Edit Image of the pencil icon for editing a flow. and then edit the group email name, if you want.
  • Select whether the group will be public or private. (If you configure a site to be private, then individual members need to request access to the site. ) Choose a sensitivity level for your site information.
  • Select a default language for your site and then click Next. In the next pane, enter the owners and members. Select Finish.

A modern SharePoint Online site is provisioned and ready for use in seconds. If you selected a team site, a Microsoft 365 Group is also created.

Once you’ve created a site in SharePoint in Microsoft 365 or SharePoint Server, you can make changes to the site’s settings, such as the name, logo, description, privacy level, and site classification, as well as service limits and permissions for the site.

Go to your SharePoint team or communication site.

In the top right corner, click Settings Settings icon and then click Site settings.

How should you create role separation within your SharePoint Online service?

We have two primary ways we can achieve this. Through various levels of administrators, and also by giving users access permissions. There are three types of administrator accounts pre-configured in SharePoint Online. These are global admin, the SharePoint admin, and site admins. The global admin is the administrator for the Microsoft 365 portal. A global admin is also a SharePoint Online admin. The primary job of a SharePoint admin is to manage SharePoint Online. They can do this through the SharePoint Online admin center. They’ll manage the Office 365 groups, and create and manage sites. Manage site administrators, and other user profiles, and manage service requests and monitor service health. Site admins, which were previously called site collection admins, are users with administrative positions to manage a team site. A team site can have several admins, but only one primary admin. You can also delegate the ability to manage your SharePoint sites to someone outside of your organization, such as a Microsoft partner, who might, for example, specialize in SharePoint Online administration.

Sharepoint Online Permissions

Once we’ve created a SharePoint team site, we need to consider who will use it. This can be either users from our own organization or external users, such as partners, vendors, clients, or customers. Access is configured by assigning permissions directly to users or groups of users. Administrators also need to manage other aspects, such as removing users from a group, deleting groups, or amending the permissions for a group. Users and groups can be given one of five default permission levels. These are full control, design, edit, contribute, and read. The main difference between edit and contribute is that editors can also delete lists.

Configure external sharing for a site

SharePoint Online is usually used as an internal intranet resource. However, you may want to share a site or document with people from outside of your organization. For example, with vendors, clients, or contractors. The external sharing facility is turned on by default for your entire SharePoint Online environment. You can turn it off globally if needed. The SharePoint Online sharing option allows you to share team sites with external users. Microsoft defines an external user as someone outside of your organization who does not have a license for your SharePoint Online or Microsoft 365 subscription. You can set sharing in three ways. You can share an entire team site or documents with external users who are already in your office 365 user directory or have accepted a sharing invitation. These are known users. You can share the entire site or documents with authenticated external users. These are external users who have a Microsoft account or work or school account from another Office 365 subscription or an Azure Active Directory subscription. Finally, you can give users a guest link that they can use to view individual documents and folders on your site anonymously. These users do not have access to the rest of your site. When you share a document or site with an authenticated external user, an invitation is sent to them via email. This contains a link to the resource, such as a site or a document. When they click the link, they’ll need to log on with their Microsoft account or their work or school account. They are then added to the users list in your Office 365 subscription. You’ll see them listed with EXT in their user name. You can discontinue sharing with them by removing their permissions or deleting them from Office 365. When you share content with anonymous users you can allow them to edit or to view a document or even upload to a folder. The view and edit links are created separately. And you can set them to expire at a specified time in the future. You should note that once you’ve created a link they can be reused and anyone with the link can access the document. Unlike authenticated external users, anonymous users are not added to the user list in Office 365 and cannot access sites or be assigned Office 365 licenses. And finally, you can discontinue sharing with them by deleting the anonymous link. A team site can be shared by a site owner or by any user with full control permissions to a team site. Any external users will inherit the usage rights of the Office 365 customer who provides them with an invitation. Also, external users can perform tasks that are consistent with the permission level that have been assigned. For example, an external user added to the editors group will have the same permissions as an internal member of the editors group. However, by default external users cannot access the search center and cannot execute searches against everything.

Let’s see how to configure external sharing for SharePoint Online. First, we’ll take a look at how to turn on or off the global external sharing option. In Microsoft 365 admin center select the SharePoint admin center. On the left hand side, under policies, select Sharing. We can now manage the sharing options for both SharePoint Online and OneDrive and manage their settings for all team sites. Here you can see the sliders that allow us to set permissions with choices of most permissive, least permissive, or somewhere in between. Selecting the most permissive option allows everyone to share content and selecting the least permissive option sets the sharing permissions to no external sharing allowed. This will then prevent all users on all teams sites from sharing sites or sharing content on team sites with external users. Other options include new and existing guests who must sign in or user a verification code. And there’s also an option for only guests who are already in your directory option. These external users may exist in your directory because they have previously been shared to before. If they have the EXT in their user name then they are external users. There are other sharing settings that we can manage, such as advanced settings to limit external sharing, settings for the default type of link used when sharing a document, managing any one permissions, so if you have the setting, allow anyone with the link to access a file then you can grant them permissions, such as view only on that file. Let’s now move to team site level to configure external sharing for individual team sites. You’ll need to be a SharePoint Online admin. In the admin center, on the left hand side under Sites, click Active sites and then we need to select one of the pages that we want to configure. Then, on the right hand side, under the Properties, we can edit the external sharing. Click Edit and here you can see the various options we saw earlier. Remember that if the global or tenant-wide setting prevents sharing then the global settings will override any settings on the individual team sites. I’ll choose to limit the sharing to only people in my organization and click Save. The site permissions are updates and take effect immediately. Invitations are usually sent to external users by email. By default, invitations expire after 90 days and can only be used once and expire after use. However, if an invitation is not used, it can be forwarded to someone else. The recipient of the invitation uses a link and must long onto the site with a Microsoft account or a work account. If the share was via an anonymous link then they don’t need to sign in and the links can be used multiple times and shared to others. When sharing access to external users you have three levels of access. These are full control, edit, and read. Most commonly, you would allocate read access to anonymous users and edit permissions to known users. You should be careful issuing full control, since this could give users too much access to resources. Let’s see how to share a site using SharePoint Online. You’ll need to be a site owner or have full control permissions to be able to share a site with external users. From home page, set the site that you want to share. For example a communication site and on the right hand side we can see a link to share the site. This allows us to share the site to external users and also other users within our organization. We share this site to a specific person. we can include an email message and then click Share. That person will receive an email. That person can click the link in the email to get access to the SharePoint site. By default, any invitations that you send to external users will expire in 90 days. You can also send links to share specific documents or folders within SharePoint. Lets say I want to share a launch campaign. Let’s take a look. On the left hand side I’ll select Documents and I want to select one of files. On the top menu bar we can see a link to share and here we can define how we want the share to perform. By default, anyone with a link within the organization can see the content. We can share to people with existing access or define specific people. Note that a link who has, note that anyone with a link at the top is grayed out because external sharing for this site has been disabled. Additionally, we can configure if we want the recipients to edit the document. We’ll enter the user’s name or email address, add an optional message and then we can either choose to send the message directly from SharePoint or we can choose to copy the link and we can send the link. Click Send and the link is sent to the email address. Another method is to click Copy link and this will generate a link directly to the file. Again, we can review the settings for the link and here we can see that anyone within our organization with the link can edit the file. We would then send the link in social media, a teams chat, or via email. If I open a new browser tab and paste the link, the page displays just the item and not the website.

SharePoint Social Collaboration

SharePoint Online has been developed beyond a document management system. It now offers tools to allow users to view, share, and collaborate with others, both inside and external to an organization. With the rise in popularity of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, SharePoint Online now incorporates some limited social collaboration tools. These tools enable users to engage with others within a safe and secure environment of SharePoint Online. In this way, enterprises are able to support and encourage users to participate and interact with social networking in relation to work projects which often leads to increased collaboration within the workforce. Some of the social collaboration tools that can be incorporated into SharePoint Online include Ask Me About where staff members are experts or product leads, Blogs, communities and groups, Reputation, Badging, and Moderation, public news feed or Company Feed, and Yammer conversations. Let’s take a look at what some of these social features can offer. When you need to engage help or assistance from within your organization, you can use the Ask Me About feature. This allows users to add information to their profile listing, such as expertise and skills and experience and history. Other users within your organization can then see who has the relevant experience to help with projects and tasks. Most users will have come across blogs on the Internet. These can be great places for sharing information. Within an organization, blogs can be useful for sharing guidance information about new procedures or practices with employees, partners, or customers. By encouraging and facilitating a virtual online community within the workplace, users can become more connected at work, especially when contributing to a project or a shared task. A community in SharePoint is a great place to discuss ideas and share expertise. Reputation and badging allows participants to be rewarded and receive feedback for their participation in community discussions. Over time, a reputation can build through active participation and by earning points, badges, or accolades. If you have users who like to help support the community environment, then they should be encouraged to become moderator. The Company Feed is the organization’s public newsfeed and it can be a useful method of disseminating information to staff or customers. A group of users, for example, members from the marketing team, can contribute to the news feed and posts will appear which will originate from the same company source. A feed is similar to a company public blog but often the messages are more frequent and smaller such as a microblog with viewers being allowed to reply to posts. Your Office subscription may also include Yammer, which is an enterprise tool that allows secure communication within an organization based on conversations around a topic or a group activity. You can think of Yammer as a private version of Facebook. Yammer is fully integrated into Office 365 and SharePoint Online and can downwardly access files stored in the document library or within OneDrive for Business. Within the organization, there may be many dozens of groups that you can follow or you can easily create your own groups. Users can also subscribe to new posts or replies that might interest them. In addition to the enterprise features of SharePoint Online it’s worth mentioning that each SharePoint Online user can create their own personal site for free within the platform. This could be personalized for their own hobbies, interests, or even as a blog and can include items such as a newsfeed, site pages, and even a personal document library.

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When you start to deploy some of the social collaboration tools within SharePoint Online, you need to be aware of several features, such as Photos and Presence, Ratings, Shared with Me, Site Feedback, Enterprise Keywords, Tasks, and even a Wiki Page Library. Let’s review some of these items now. Allowing your profile photos and online presence to be synced between applications can be useful within the enterprise, as this allows other users to see when colleagues are available or offline or away. Ratings allow site users to rate items within a SharePoint Online Document Library, using a star rating of one to five stars or giving an item, such as a micro-article, a like and allow users to gauge the relative usefulness or appeal of rated items. In this way, the use of ratings can help your users prioritize content to read and identify good practices in relation to content production. Users who create online content, such as a blog page or wiki entry, should use Enterprise Keywords. In fact, whenever authors create new content, they’re offered existing keywords to tag to their work. Enterprise Keywords help readers group and sort content and search and filter similar articles by clicking on the related keyword links. While over time, these keywords can form a metadata keyword cloud, which enriches the library and provides metadata consistency. Previously, this feature was referred to as Tags. And finally, a Wiki Page Library can be created in SharePoint Online. This can quickly capture and share ideas by creating a library of webpages and linking them all together. Within a large enterprise, wikis are used as intranet information sites, containing thousands of related documents all stored and made available online. On a smaller scale, you may want to create a wiki for a specific project to gather and share ideas about a project within a team.

Explore SharePoint storage limits

When moving to a hosted SharePoint Online solution, one of the major advantages that administrators appreciate is that you get a large amount of storage which is included as part of your tenant subscription. Unless your enterprise has a huge data storage requirement, it’s unlikely that your site will breach the SharePoint Online tenant storage allowance. Let’s explore the storage allowances and see how they’re applied. With a hosted SharePoint Online solution storage space is allocated depending on the subscription that you’ve purchased. We can see the differences in the table on the screen. For most subscriptions you’re granted one terabyte of total storage per organization plus an extra 10 gigabytes per user license purchased. If you own an Office 365 subscription and then you add a new stand-alone SharePoint Online subscription, the storage amounts of both subscriptions are added together. The total storage capacity is pulled and then made available to all team sites within the tenant to draw upon. Storage allocation for sites is automatic by default. Therefore administrators do not need to allocate space to each team site. There’s a hard maximum of 25 terabytes or 25,600 gigabytes to be precise. But in practice the tenant capacity will be much less than this. Finally, it’s worth keeping an eye on the recycle bin. If you’re ever near a storage limit for a team site, you can consider emptying the recycle bin, since this storage space is also included in the organization’s total file storage limit. Ideally you should leave the storage limits as automatic. If you really must you can set storage limits to manual. And then you’ll have to carry out some admin tasks regularly including you’ll have to monitor the storage usage, track and analyze usage trends and patterns, you’ll need to manually reallocate available storage space to sites, and you can set and configure warning levels which will email site owners when a set percentage of the space is used up.

To manage storage limits

Go to the Settings page of the new SharePoint admin center, and sign in with an account that has admin permissions for your organization.

Select Storage Limits

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Select Automatic or Manual, and then select Save.

For The part 2 please follow the Cloud Based Collaboration: OneDrive and Teams

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