SharePoint has been the go to CMS for collaboration, document libraries, and business intranet sites for years. Being on the same release schedule as the Microsoft Office Suites, 2013 ushers in a new version of the beloved SharePoint platform. With its Windows 8 Metro inspired interface, upgraded and enhanced collaboration features, and better mobile support, there’s no doubt that an upgrade from previous version is warranted.
SharePoint 2013 - Central Administration
Undoubtedly the first thing you will notice about the new SharePoint 2013 is the modern user interface (previously coined as Metro UI) utilized in it. The sleek, simplified design allows for less clutter, better organization, and faster loading. The ribbon, first introduced in SharePoint 2010, is still employed giving the radical design changes somewhat less of an overall shock.
SharePoint 2013 - Main Site
The user interface, however, is not the only thing that Microsoft has managed to simplify and streamline. One new feature that will please storage administrators and DBA’s is what Microsoft is calling “shredded storage”. Basically, instead of storing a completely separate copy of the document that a user edits, SharePoint only stores the differential. Depending on the size of your document libraries, this is a significant improvement. Lots of space will be saved and backup times will be much shorter.
SharePoint 2013 - Shredded Storage
SharePoint 2013 also supports Microsoft’s new SQL Server 2012. With this new support come several SQL improvements to speed up queries, a better caching mechanism, and request management. The cool thing about request management is its ability to redirect requests to other servers based on the information inside those requests to separate or dedicated servers within the farm. This would have several applications in larger farms where some sites get hit hard while others are intermittently viewed.
Cloud App Model
One of the neatest things that SharePoint 2013 introduces is the Cloud App Model. Microsoft defines apps as “self-contained pieces of functionality that extend the capabilities of a SharePoint website.” These are things like tasks, document libraries, and other specific purpose web parts. This is SharePoint’s answer to the issues site collection owners had with fully trusted farm solutions being too invasive and sandbox solutions being too limited.
Apps can be directly deployed via “Napa” Office 365 Development Tools or Visual Studio 2012. Alternatively, apps can also be published to the App Catalog within the organization that wishes to use them. Externally, apps can be submitted to the SharePoint Store.
Mobile and Social
SharePoint 2013 has made great strides in the mobile and social space since the last version. In the mobile space, one single site can be put into a “device channel” in order to make it look in certain ways on separate devices. Tablets obviously have more viewing space than smartphones; now a developer doesn’t need to have separate sites for each one. Office Web Apps can be employed to view Excel, Word, and PowerPoint documents from within a mobile device’s browser. Optimized and lightweight rendered sites, push notifications, and a new geolocation field type for location-aware development makes SharePoint 2013 a dream for mobile workers.
In the social realm, My Site document libraries have been updated to better support sharing, moving, and synchronization. When coupled with an Office 2013 installation, the user’s My Site library is the default file save location for applications. Other enhancements include interactive feeds, micro blogging, and better privacy settings.
Overall, SharePoint 2013 seems to be a rock solid and tightly integrated collaboration solution. Speed enhancements, better mobile support, new social options, and a new development model makes this release by far the most radical and revolutionary release to date.
My next post will be a step-by-step guide of how to install SharePoint 2013.