Archive for December, 2015

Playing Outside your Sandbox (Part 3) – Secure Store and BCS Authentication

Welcome to the third installment of my SharePoint BCS overview series.

If you wish to see part 2 of the series please click here.

Today I would like to discuss the different methods of authentication with Business Connectivity Services (BCS).  There are actually many ways to perform the authentication.  You can use methods such as connection strings and OData Authentication Providers.  However, if you want to go with a total no-code solution (as discussed in this series) SharePoint Secure Store Service is the way to go.  You can use a non-code solution that doesn’t make use of the Secure Store as well, and I intend to discuss, but you will soon learn why you don’t want to use this in a production environment unless your system is setup a particular way.  This post will cover those different methods of authentication as well as discuss how you can use the SharePoint Secure Store Service to help you make your BCS connections.

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Alternative Way to Maintain Workflow Retention

Going to take a quick break from my BCS series to talk about a request I just completed for a client. I wanted to provide an alternative method for SharePoint workflow history retention.  If a person needs to see what happened during the course of a workflow for an item they simply need to go to the item and view the link to the workflow from there to see the entire history laid out for them. However, as we all know; SharePoint will purge any completed or terminated workflows from a site. So if a user is to try and view the data after 60 days, they will not be able to see the summary any more. For some this is a big deal as they need to track that data for years.

What some may not know is that SharePoint hasn’t actually removed the data from the system. It’s all still there in the workflow history and task lists. However, what SharePoint does is actually removes the references between the list item and the workflow history. This is done so the references that SharePoint has to scan don’t grow too large and cause performance issue.

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Playing Outside your Sandbox (Part 2) – SharePoint BCS Features by Version

In this post we will discuss the different features that are available to you within your SharePoint environment.  The information I am providing will be based on SharePoint 2013, but unless I specifically state the features are new to SP2013 you can assume they exist in SP 2010 as well.

Click here for part 1 of this series

SharePoint Foundation

Although this is the free and most basic version of SharePoint you actually get some great features from BCS.  Many environments are more than capable of fully utilizing everything they could possibly need with just the foundation version of SharePoint.

External Content Types

The External Content type is the heart of BCS.  99.9% of everything you do with BCS starts with an External Content Type (ECT).  ECTs basically act as the connection between SharePoint and the external data.  An ECT maps all the data within the external source that you want to bring into SharePoint.  I say that you want because even if you hit a data source with 25+ columns and you want 3, then you only have to bring in 3.  The ECT then maps all the connections, and configuration of the data from the external data source to objects within SharePoint.  The ECT in the end is really just a content type which contains columns that just happen to get their data from a source outside of your SharePoint farm.

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Playing Outside Your Sandbox – Connecting SharePoint to External Data Sources (Part 1)

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in my opinion is one of SharePoint’s most powerful, yet most under-utilized services.  Let’s think about this for a second.  If you are building a .NET app that needs to connect to an external database you need to create the connections to it and the basic CRUD methods into your data layer (you better be using a separate data layer or get off my blog ;-p  ).  Yes I know there are lots of code out there that will generate it for you, or you could just build your own.

But what if I told you that you could do it all with your already existing SharePoint environment and in a lot of cases without writing a single line of code.  Now before you developers get out your torches and pitchforks (remember I am one of you), let me assure you, for the more complex data connections you will still need to write code.  You will need to be able to write the code that can access, update and insert the data properly.  All I am saying is that for simple to moderately difficult data operations you can do it within SharePoint without writing any code.  Perhaps this means you could delegate some of this to the non-developers on your SharePoint support team so you only get the fun development work.

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