Microsoft offers web browser-based access to Microsoft Project via Project Server 2013. As you'll learn, Project Server 2013 relies on SharePoint 2013 as its foundation.

Do you use Microsoft Project to track your projects? If so, how do you share your project data with others? It's not too easy to do with the thick desktop client, is it?

Believe it or not, Microsoft had a server-based project portfolio management (PPM) solution on the market ever since 2000, when they introduced Project Central. Today, we have Project Server 2013, which uses SharePoint Server 2013 as its foundation.

If you aren't a particular fan of on-premises SharePoint deployments, be aware that Microsoft offers Project Server access in some of its Office 365 stock keeping units (SKUs).

If you rely on Project, I think you'll love (as I do) the great flexibility of being able to create and update my projects using a web browser. Because I travel so often, I simply cannot be tied to a single device and to a single installed copy of MS Project.

In this article, I'll give you the basics of installing Project Server 2013 in a SharePoint Server 2013–based farm that is presumed to be up, running, and healthy. In the meantime, download an evaluation copy of Project Server 2013 so you can follow along with this tutorial and kick the proverbial tires.

Project Server 2013 installation overview ^

Here are a couple of important things that you need to consider as you prepare to install Project Server 2013:

  • You need to install Project Server on every SharePoint server in your farm. The bottom line is that you must install the Project Server bits and run the configuration wizard on every SharePoint web front end (WFE) and application server in your farm. Fun? I don't think so.
  • Project Server integrates directly into SharePoint Server. Unfortunately, Project Server manifests itself as both a SharePoint service and a service application. Thus, Project Server runs in-process with SharePoint and can feasibly affect the performance of your farm as load increases.

The current trend we're seeing in SharePoint Server 2013 is to remove as much "heavy lifting" from SharePoint as possible to maximize server and farm performance. For instance, the latest version of Workflow Foundation runs completely outside of SharePoint, as does the new app model.

Phase 1: Laying down the bits and running Psconfig ^

If you have installed SharePoint Server before, the two-stage initial installation workflow should be familiar to you. First we install the bits, and then we run the SharePoint Products Configuration Wizard (Psconfig) in order to install the Project service application and associated service into the farm. I show you a couple of representative dialogs below.

Installing Project Server

Installing Project Server is easy if you've performed a SharePoint installation before. In the foreground dialog, you can see an error that lets me know I "forgot" to install the Project Server binaries to my other SharePoint WFEs.

Phase 2: Configuring the environment ^

After you run Psconfig, log into Central Administration and dismiss the farm configuration wizard. You know by now that we never want to run that thing.

Head over to the Services on Server page and start the Project Server Application Service service.

Now we have to create the Project Server service application. Navigate to the Manage Service Applications page and create a new instance of the Project Server service application.

Creating the Project Server 2013 service application

Creating the Project Server 2013 service application

Note that you'll need to associate a SharePoint managed account to run the Project Server IIS application pool. Remember the IT security principle of least privilege: the Project Server service account need only be a standard domain user account, not an administrator.

Remember that a service application proxy is the connector between the service application instance and a SharePoint web application. To that end, make sure that you leave the option Create a proxy for this service application? enabled in the Create Project Services Application dialog box.

Phase 3: Deploying the Project web app instance ^

In SharePoint nomenclature, a "Project web app instance" is nothing more than a special site collection template that has all of the Project Server features enabled already. Open the management page for your Project Server service application and click Create Project Web App Instance to deploy the site collection.

NOTE: Microsoft best practice suggests that you create a new content database and configure each Project web app instance to use its own content database. Doing so makes Project Server–related backup/restore and content migration procedures much easier to do.

Our PWA instance

After our PWA instance is provisioned, we can manage it directly from the service application's UI.

As you can see, we can open the drop-down menu for our PWA instance to manage it. Click the link directly to open your new Project Web Apps site collection.

Phase 4: Testing it out ^

Notice in the screenshot below that Project Web App uses (a) a variant of the Team Site template, (b) a cool green theme color, and (c) a couple of Promoted Links Web parts that constitute the primary UI.

The PWA site collection

The PWA site collection looks and acts like the standard SharePoint Team Site template.

The Project Center page (shown in the screenshot below) allows project administrators to view and edit all projects that are stored in the instance. Users of the Project 2013 desktop application should feel quite at home with the browser-based interface; you even have the Ribbon toolbar controls as expected.

Browser-based Microsoft Project is cool

Browser-based Microsoft Project is cool!

I will close this blog post with a series of hand-picked online resources that can help you gain additional information on planning for, deploying, and maintaining Project Server 2013.

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