Lots of products offer tools to build a powerful Web site. Big deal, right? Site Server moves to another level, letting you analyze and manage your site better and personalize the visitor experience.

Broaden Your Sites: The Site Server 3.0 Story

Lots of products offer tools to build a powerful Web site. Big deal, right? Site Server moves to another level, letting you analyze and manage your site better and personalize the visitor experience.

Have you ever been to a Web site where you felt like the host knew you were coming? Maybe it said, “Hi, John,” or perhaps it already knew your address when you went to place an order. Without your asking, it may even have told you about a sale on your favorite type of product.

Or perhaps you develop intranet applications at your company. Wouldn’t it be nice to recognize that a particular employee is browsing, without that person having to log on separately from the network? How about providing content tailored to his or her business unit or job?

On the back end, wouldn’t it be great to track what your users are doing at your site and have built-in tools for allowing new content to be created, categorized, and deployed to production?

In a nutshell, that’s what Microsoft’s Site Server 3.0 is all about.

Last year, Microsoft introduced Site Server 2.0, a compendium of purchased technologies that added up to a Web management suite. While Site Server 3.0 still struggles to offer tight integration (separate groups developed the main components of the latest product), this release takes Web management and e-commerce to a new level of affordable functionality.

In this article, I introduce you to the functional areas of Site Server. Once you understand what each area encompasses, you may discover new ways to make your intranet or Internet site more valuable to your users.

I should state up front: Site Server comes in two flavors. I cover Site Server 3.0 in this article. It allows you to create intranets and Internet sites that are personalized, customized, searchable, and maintainable. Site Server 3.0, Commerce Edition, allows you to create online stores and Web-based extranet applications. It includes tools to set up a Web-based storefront, take orders securely, customize the ordering experience based on your business needs, and analyze how your store is used. A story about that edition is planned for a future issue of the magazine.

Also in this article:

While Microsoft usually refers to four main areas of Site Server (publishing, search, personalization and membership, and analysis) I prefer to break it down into the areas shown in the chart below.

Membership: Don’t I Know You?

Membership allows an administrator to maintain information about the members—users who are browsing your site—in a way that’s secure and reliable. This information can be used to secure parts of a site from unauthorized users. It can also be used to create a sense of community by allowing users to view other users’ information, in case you want to provide a directory of users or offer chat capabilities. Membership and personalization can be used together to provide each user with a customized site visit experience. Membership (along with personalization) also provides the ability to cross-sell and up-sell related products within an e-commerce environment. You can recommend products based on past purchasing decisions—currently, one of the holy grails of Web marketing.

With Site Server, every member on a site is recognized by his or her credentials. These credentials could be a user name and password, a certificate, a cookie, or some other way of uniquely identifying the visitor.

The Membership Directory stores data relating to membership and personalization, in an ODBC-compliant database. Choose the database carefully, because if you change your mind later, data can’t be migrated. In my experience, the Membership Directory seems to work on SQL Server not Oracle. (All other parts of Site Server seem to work with Oracle and other ODBC-compliant DBMSs. Only the LDAP membership directory doesn’t; this limitation is fairly crippling if you want to use another database system, because membership is at the heart of this product.)

The Membership Directory is an LDAP-compliant database (see Figure 1). It’s arranged as a hierarchy of objects that defines all aspects of Membership. It includes the Directory schema (the configuration and relationship of the objects within the Membership Directory), user information (for example, user name, password, and birth date), groups, site information (site vocabulary, distribution lists, and application data), and data about various sources of content on your site.

Figure 1. The Membership directory is hierarchical. As you drill down through it, you begin to see more detail.

The Membership Directory also stores dynamic data. While dynamic data looks and feels like any other data in the Membership Directory, it’s never physically written to the Membership Directory. Instead, it’s kept in memory. This enables information about a user to persist while the user’s session is active. For example, if a user is placing an order, data about the contents of the current order might be kept in dynamic data as that person shops the site. Data like this is needed only for a short time. Once the user places the order or the session times out because he or she has left the site, the memory is freed.

Tip: If you’ve worked with Active Server Pages (ASP) and specifically the Session and Application objects, you might be wondering if it’s better to use those objects or dynamic data within the Membership Directory. In many cases, there’s no hard and fast rule. However, one case makes the benefit of dynamic data over ASP objects very clear: Web farms. If you have a Web farm that needs to load-balance and be completely fault tolerant, dynamic data is the way to go. Configure each Web server to use the same Membership Directory. That way, even if the user connects to different servers as he or she makes HTTP requests during a session, the data that needs to persist throughout the session will be available to each server via dynamic data.

Functional Area of Site Server What It Does
Membership Allows a site to maintain information about visitors in a way that’s secure and scalable.
Personalization Allows users to experience a site in a way that’s customized to their needs based on their identity.
Search Provides powerful mechanisms for users to easily find the information they need in an organization.
Push Makes it possible to have customized information automatically delivered to users instead of requiring users to search for it.
Analysis Provides the ability to see usage statistics about your site and to analyze your site for any problems with its structure.
Content Management Enables users to post content to a site in a structured way. Users must tag content with standard values. Also, content can be sent through an editorial process where another user has to approve the content that has been posted before it appears on the site.
Content Deployment Allows administrators to set up the Web infrastructure in a way that’s scalable and fault-tolerant by setting up replication projects and routes for content distribution.

Many Routes to Authentication

When an administrator sets up a Membership Directory, he or she must select one of two possible choices to store users’ credentials: Windows NT Authentication or Membership Authentication. While the two authentication methods store user credentials in different places, they both use the Membership Directory to store the user’s profile. (With NT Authentication mode, the NT SAM is leveraged for user credentials. With Membership Authentication mode, user credentials are stored in the Membership Directory. All additional user attributes and information are stored in the Membership Directory.

NT Authentication interfaces with NT’s security account database to authenticate users. This option is preferable for intranets, since administrators need maintain only a single user database and since users can have a single logon for both file and intranet access. For authentication to be seamless, however, users need Internet Explorer 3.x or later. This enables you to use NT Challenge/ Response—better known as NTLM—authentication for your Web site. NTLM authentication uses the same credential validation process to access the Web site that NT Server uses to authenticate a user. The key is that NTLM doesn’t require the actual password to be sent across the network.

If you can’t use NTLM, the other option with which to validate users of a Web site when using NT Authentication is basic/clear text. With basic/clear text, users don’t have to maintain two separate accounts or passwords. However, they must re-enter the user names and passwords they use to access resources in the NT domain when getting onto the Web site. Because the password gets sent over the network as the first request and each subsequent request is made, it’s a potential security risk. If you have to go this route, make sure you’re using Secure Socket Layers (SSL).

A final option besides NTLM or basic/clear text for authenticating users with NT Authentication is certificates. A user’s certificate is manually mapped to an NT user account. This method is the most secure, but also the most complex. If you have a large user population, manually mapping certificates for each user can become burdensome. And since there’s no global way of knowing when a certificate has been revoked, you may not be able to tell that a user has a certificate he or she should no longer have.

8 Tips to Site Server Savvy
  1. Plan your site vocabulary carefully. While it can be changed, doing so will take some effort and coordination. As much as possible, try to get it right the first time.
  2. Use Active Channels or direct mailings to distribute any changes to important sections of your site, such as internal policies and procedures.
  3. If you’re providing personalized pages to your users, you might allow them to change the order in which different content appears on the page. For instance, some users might want company news to be displayed first, while others might want the company’s prior day’s stock quote to be at the top.
  4. If you’re providing a personalized experience via cookies and want to allow your users to gain access to their personalization settings from multiple machines, provide a way of recreating their cookies on a new machine.
  5. Schedule automatic analysis reports about your site and send them to the appropriate parties or post them to a secure directory to be viewed at will.
  6. Create rules so that a user sees only content that has been posted since his or her last time online.
  7. Crawl your competitor’s sites. Getting a direct mailing of changes that have occurred on a competitor’s site saves you from having to look for changes manually.
  8. Because Membership Directory can store dynamic data (data held in memory on the server instead of in the physical directory) about a user, use it to store a user’s session information, if you can’t ensure a user will connect to the same Web server as he or she traverses your site.

         —John West

With Membership Authentication, user credentials are stored in the Membership Directory. If you’re providing membership to Internet users or using NT for Web services and don’t provide each internal user with an NT account, this is probably the way to go.

There are several benefits to Membership Authentication over NT Authentication. First, users can create their own accounts. Second, this method scales to millions of users; NT Authentication can accommodate around 40,000 users. Third, because credentials are stored with the user’s profile information in the Membership Directory, there’s no need to perform reads from two separate locations. Therefore, performance is better.

As with NT Authentication, there are several methods of authenticating a user with this method. You can use basic/clear text, which I described earlier. Another option is Distributed Password Authentication (DPA.) This option is similar to NTLM. However, instead of working at the NT Domain level, it works at the root of the Membership Directory level. It can cache user credentials so that you get a single logon for any application using the Membership Directory. As with NTLM authentication, this method only works with IE. Unlike NTLM, where the logon dialog box can’t be customized, you can customize the dialog box using the Site Server SDK.

A third option for authenticating a user is HTML Forms Authentication. With this method, a Web form containing a user name and password prompt is displayed in the browser for a user to be authenticated. This method supports the largest user base, since HTML forms are almost universal among browsers. Once a user signs on with this method, he or she gets a cookie that contains authentication information, eliminating the need for another logon unless the session expires. With this method, SSL is highly recommended since the password is transmitted over the network at initial logon.

The fourth option involves certificates. This works like NT Authentication, except that instead of mapping a certificate to an NT account, you map it to a Membership Directory account.

A fifth option for authentication, Automatic Cookie Authentication, is useful if your users need personalization only, without verifying who they are. Each user gets assigned an arbitrary identifier (a GUID), and the account is placed under the Anonymous container within the Membership Directory. This method is completely insecure, because anyone with access to the cookie can use it to impersonate the original user.

Once you can recognize your users, you can set up security on your Web site so that you know what users are accessing your site and restrict or allow access to the content based on their group and user permissions. For your content, you can allow everyone rights to access it, require that users provide specific information before they access it, allow only registered users to access it, or allow only a specific group or groups of those registered users to access it. How you control access is up to you.

Personalization: Have It Your Way

Personalization works on top of membership to allow you to provide users with a customized experience while browsing your site. By providing personalized services and views of the information on your site, you allow a user to quickly get to the information he or she needs to be as productive as possible.

The really cool idea here is delivering content within a page based on a user’s activities—called “passive profiling.” This becomes especially useful in e-commerce, where you can recommend products based on other products the user seems interested in. Cross-selling and up-selling, while common in retail, are really just being introduced on the Web.

There are several ways you can personalize content for your users. The most common method is to create Web pages that have content relevant to your users or to automatically deliver content to a user’s mailbox via direct mail (or rather, “direct e-mail”). For example, you might want to send your sales force an e-mail each morning with the current warehouse inventories. You don’t have to maintain the list; you simply create a rule that says, “Send message X to everyone who meets criteria Y and Z,” and Site Server figures the rest out on its own. More on this shortly.

Minimum Daily Requirements
Site Server 3.0 appeared in final shipping form at the end of April. It comes in two flavors: the standard edition for standard business sites and intranets, and a Commerce Edition for large-scale sites that entail business-to-business or business-to-consumer transactions. The estimated retail price for the standard edition is $1,239 per server, which includes five client access licenses; the Commerce Edition starts at $4,609 with 25 client access licenses. Upgrade pricing is also available if you’re currently using Site Server or Site Server Enterprise Edition.

Along with all the software needed to install and customize Site Server 3.0 to meet your needs, the package includes a copy of FrontPage 98 and Visual Interdev 1.0. (By the time you read this, however, Visual Interdev 6.0 should be available, which is a much more robust development tool than 1.0.)

Site Server’s hardware requirements aren’t minimal. To start, I recommend a dedicated server with at least 128M of RAM and a dual-processor configuration. However, to determine requirements for your specific site, you first have to determine what functional areas of Site Server 3.0 you’ll be using and how heavily. Also, since you can scale the different functional areas of Site Server across multiple servers, you’ll have to consider the benefits of a few large servers or several smaller ones. Since the topic of server specifications could take an entire article, I won’t cover it here. Make sure you review the Site Server 3.0 docs carefully when defining your environment.

You’ll also need an ODBC-compliant database management system for the personalization and membership database and the analysis database. I suggest SQL Server 6.5 or later for most installations, although Site Server installs with a default of Access. (If you’re using SQL 6.5 instead of SQL 7.0 you’ll need to implement the latest service pack and patches for 6.5.)

John West

Template-based publishing provides the key to personalizing your Web pages. Web content templates are Active Server Pages containing a combination of static content and personalized sections. The server dynamically generates these to create the personalized HTML pages your users see as they browse. A Web page like the one in Figure 2 could have been created with Visual Interdev and the Membership.FormatRuleset Design Time Controls (DTCs). The hyperlinks on this page would be generated dynamically based on the user’s attributes.

Direct mail uses a concept of templates called mail content templates. Similar to Web content templates, direct mail templates are used to send customized e-mails to members of your user population. There are two extra metatags you can use on mail content templates. The first is DmailAttachment. This allows you to specify an URL to a file you want to include as an attachment when the e-mail is sent. The second is DmailFormat. This specifies whether the mail gets formatted as straight text, MIME format, or HTML format.

Figure 2. Holt Outlet, an educational toy company at www.holtoutlet.com, recognizes you each time you log on. Notice the author's name under the Shopping Lobby logo. Also, it displays dynamic toy lists based on what it knows about the family's children for whom you're buying gifts. The site uses membership and personalization so that you can view another family's children's toy preferences. For instance, if family members have a child and they've registered their child here, you can view the registry they've created.

Site Server 3.0 includes tools for creating Web and mail content templates. Rule Builder, for instance, allows you to create rules for displaying content on a page. An example of a rule is the following:

When

CreditRating > 4

Select content where Keywords

Is exactly equal to GoodCredit

In this example, visitors with a credit rating greater than four would be shown the best offers available.

Another tool, Rule Manager, allows you to create rule set files. These files contain rules that have been prioritized so that content is personalized based on multiple criteria.

Site Server 3.0 also includes several DTCs, which can be used in FrontPage and Visual Interdev to give you a visual interface that writes Active Server Page scripts automatically, based on parameters you pass the DTC. One DTC example is “Insert Property.” This DTC creates a script that displays a user attribute of your specification. For instance, you might want to display the user’s name each time that person visits your site.

On a Treasure Hunt

A major problem with finding information on a corporate network is that the details probably reside all over—on the file server, in a message or two in Exchange public folders, on an intranet page, and maybe in the customer database. Whew! Where do you begin your research? Site Server 3.0’s Search, of course. [For a related article, see “Search the World Over” by Larry Cooper.—Ed.]

Site Server indexes two aspects of content. First, of course, it indexes the words in the content itself. It also indexes the properties of the content, such as the subject of a document, the author, and the creation date. The program pulls these from the content in different ways, depending on the content type. For Office documents, it pulls default and custom properties you’ve enumerated in the document. For HTML documents, it pulls the properties from the metatags on the document. Properties in Exchange are pulled as well. Properties are important because you can specify to search the properties instead of the content itself. For instance, you could search for all documents that were created after a certain date or all documents written by a certain person. Also, searching properties can be quicker than searching the index itself, since the property index is kept in memory as much as possible.

Site Server 3.0 allows you to catalog four types of content: Web (http/nntp), file system, Exchange, and ODBC databases.

A Bug Note
If you’re working with the Inspired Technologies demo in Site Server 3.0, and you get an error when setting up your user preferences, it’s because the userpref.asp page being referenced contains a bug. To get an updated version of the page that works, visit the following hyperlink: www.microsoft.com/siteserver/intranet/Update/ssenhance.asp?A=5&B=1

When indexing Web content, Search follows links from one page to the other recursively. How the crawler works can be configured to your needs. One point to realize, however, is that if access to content depends on answers you submit via a form, the crawler won’t be able to index that content, since it can’t know the values to place in the form.

Tip: And you may be wondering how ASP pages get indexed. Since ASP pages have script on them, does the script itself get indexed or does the resulting page from the script running get indexed? The answer is the latter. To the Web server, the Search crawler is just another user, and it runs all scripts on a page before returning it to the crawling agent.

Files on any operating system can be indexed as long as the server doing the indexing has appropriate access. If the OS is NT, Search won’t just index the content, but will also store the security rights to the files; when a user performs a search, any content to which that person doesn’t have rights will be filtered from the list of results.

Figure 3. You can distribute catalogs to multiple servers to provide load-balancing and fault-tolerance.

If Search recognizes the file type, the file will be indexed intelligently; properties from the document, such as title or author, can be read as well as the contents of the file. Search supports indexing Office documents. However, other third-party indexers, called filters, are also available, such as a filter for Adobe Acrobat .PDF files. If Search doesn’t recognize the file type, it can still index it; but if the file has binary data in it as well as the textual content itself, Search will try to index that data as well. This won’t break your system (at least not that I’ve seen), but your index will be bigger. How much bigger depends on how much of the file is extraneous data.

Exchange’s public folders can be indexed. Private mailboxes, however, can’t. When querying against a catalog that contains indexed Exchange content, users will see in the results list only the content that they have permissions to. This works differently from the way it works with file system-based content. Search includes the permissions in the index itself when cataloging file system content. It doesn’t do this when cataloging Exchange content. Instead, Exchange permissions get checked at the time of the query. When Search finds Exchange content that matches the query, it communicates with the Exchange server to ensure you have rights to see it. If you do, it gets returned with the result set. If you don’t, you’ll never even know the content exists.

Knowing Knowledge Manager
Knowledge Manager isn’t a functional area of Site Server; it’s an intranet application included with Site Server that leverages the functional areas of Site Server to provide services to your users. It includes the ability to share information, search for content, and have content delivered to you. It uses the concept of “briefs” to help users organize relevant information. These briefs can be created by each user for his or her needs. Also, briefs can be shared so that any user with a need for the information contained in the shared brief can have access to it.

You can use Knowledge Manager in two ways on your intranet. If Knowledge Manager does what you need it to do, then by all means implement it for your users. If it doesn’t, use it instead to learn how to pull the different aspects of Site Server together to create applications that empower your users to find the information they need.

John West

The fourth content type you can search is information contained in an ODBC database. For example, if you keep product data in a SQL database, you can have Search catalog the data and make it available to your users. I know what you’re thinking: Why would you want to catalog data in a database when databases can already be searched? Good question. There’s more than one answer for that. First, by indexing the content via Search, results from the database content can be returned on the same page as results from other data sources. Also, data that’s been cataloged from databases is available to all the other tools within Site Server that use Search’s functionality. For instance, database content can be included in daily briefs or pushed to users via Active Channels.

Indexing content can be a very machine-intensive process. For this reason, Site Server enables you to separate your indexing and querying processes onto different servers. You can even specify that a catalog be propagated to multiple servers to load-balance querying and for fault-tolerance (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. When indexing content that’s displayed based on a querystring variable, you must select the “Follow URLs containing question marks” option.

You can also choose whether to do full or incremental builds of the catalogs. A full build means that every document gets read every time. Testing has shown that Search can perform a full build on over half a million pages in an eight-hour period. If you have more pages than this, or you don’t have the eight-hour windows most businesses do, then you can take advantage of incremental builds. With incremental builds, documents get re-indexed only if they’ve changed. While the results vary depending on how often content is changed, my testing indicated that incremental builds are two to three times faster than full builds. If you’re indexing a large content base, you’ll probably want to schedule some combination of both of these methods.

One thing you should be careful of is indexing the file system. As I’ve already mentioned, Search indexes the access control lists along with the content itself when indexing files on an NT server. However, Search doesn’t recognize that these permissions have been changed when doing incremental builds. Therefore, you should always do full builds every once in a while with your file system indexes. How often depends on how long you can afford to have someone see content during a search that they may have had rights revoked from since the last full build.

Channels: The Power of Broadcasting

Push functionality in Site Server 3.0 allows you to deliver content to your users via channels. Channel technology is a method by which you can deliver content directly to the user via the browser (currently, only Internet Explorer 4.x fully supports Active Channels; Netscape also supports channels, but through Netcaster’s Java-based technology, unsupported by IE). Active Channel Server, which comes with Site Server 3.0, delivers the channels. A Channel Definition Format (CDF) file, which is XML-compliant, defines what a channel contains. The content can be a variety of different source types.

Users can either receive the content of the channel, which allows them to view the content off-line, or they can just receive notice that the channel has changed and then hyperlink to the content via the channel interface.

Two types of channels exist. Content channels provide content, as the name implies, and software distribution channels send new software programs and updates to clients. With software distribution you can either simply let the user know the new software or software update exists or, in the case of an automated environment, have it automatically install at delivery time.

The Right Kind of Indexing
When you create a catalog, by default Search Server won't follow URLs with querystrings when crawling the Web site. Many dynamic pages display header information about records in a database and provide hyperlinks for each record that points to a page where more information is displayed. The hyperlink for each record contains a querystring with the record number.

For example, you might display job openings on a Web page, as in this example:

Solution Manager Systems Consultant Product Specialist

When a user clicks on the page, he or she gets taken to JobDetail.Asp and, based on the RecNum passed, the correct job details get displayed. In this example you'd want the job details to be indexed so that users searching for employment will have the best chance of finding the job opportunities they're interested in.

If you want Search to follow each of these links, you must turn on the “Follow URLs containing question marks” option by going to the Catalog Properties sheet and choosing the URLs tab, as shown in the screenshot.

John West

User Analysis: Going Beyond Numbers

Analysis evaluates two things: how people are using your site and how your content is structured. This is necessary to understand your site from an administrative perspective and also to understand how to make the site more useful to the people who are browsing it.

The data for analyzing user patterns on your site comes from your Web servers’ log files. Before you start analysis of your site, you must import the log files into your Analysis database. This database can be either Access or SQL Server. The log files you import can get quite large (many megabytes) on bigger Web sites, so I’d recommend that you use SQL Server. Once you’ve imported the log files, you can run reports against them to see how your site is being used. Fortunately, Site Server 3.0 provides dozens of reports to get you started, and you can create custom reports as well.

One of the most powerful aspects of usage analysis is being able to merge data from your Web servers’ log files with data from your Membership Directory. Information on the user is kept in the log files. You can then associate the user’s attributes in the Membership Directory to extrapolate usage patterns based on those attributes. For example, if you want to know not only how much a particular area of your site is being used, but also the ages of site visitors, you can include the age attribute for the users from the Membership Directory in the reports you generate. Having this level of integration enables you to more fully understand and optimize your site for your audience.

You can also use Analysis to explore the content of your site. Using a hyperbolic view of your site (see Figure 5), you can move around your site’s structure in a graphical way, enabling you to get a better feel for how your site is laid out. In addition to letting you see how pages link to others, this view can be used to see usage patterns, page sizes, and other key information. In addition to this view, there are 20-plus reports available, to show you the broken links on your site, the number and location of errors encountered when crawling your site, the hierarchy of your site, duplicate files on your site, and so on.

Figure 5. You can click on a page in the hyperbolic view and change your perspective dynamically. This allows you to quickly get to the area you’re most interested in..

Understanding analysis is key to optimizing your site for your users. With a full understanding of what content your users want and how they’re getting to it, you can optimize both the content you provide and the placement of that content within your site’s structure. For example, if you find that a popular page is four levels down in your site’s hierarchy and that people aren’t interested in the pages in the preceding levels, you might create a link to the popular page from the home page itself. This will make your site more user-friendly and will also help lessen the load on your server, since fewer pages ultimately have to be served.

Complete Control with Content Management

As intranets get bigger, it becomes harder to post and organize content on a site. As more documents get created, they get scattered throughout the site with no easy way to categorize or find them. Site Server 3.0 makes the process easier by letting you easily post content to the site, create an editorial process for approval or rejection of the content, and tag content with pertinent information.

Content Management allows you to post any type of document to the intranet, whether it was created in Notepad, Office, or Lotus SmartSuite. The only limitation is that the user must have a compatible reader application installed on the browsing machine in order to read it.

Posting new content to the site can be done in two ways. First, you can allow users to add documents to your sites simply by dragging and dropping them in the Web browser, using an ActiveX control that will even let you browse your file system. Second, if you’re using another browser such as Netscape, you can specify the file path.

Content Management also gives you editorial capabilities. You can set up rules to require that an editor approve content before anyone else can view it. The editor can review the document and either approve or reject it. If the editor approves the document, it becomes visible to everyone on the Web. If the editor rejects it, the user can post a revised version of the material and go through the editorial process again.

Even more important than the editorial process is another aspect of Content Management: the ability to tag documents with attributes. Just as you can post any type of document to the intranet, you can also tag documents with attributes such as subject, product line, and company division. These tags make it possible to organize all the documents being added to your Web from different sources using your company’s vocabulary. (What is vocabulary? Simply the ability to add predefined choices for attributes to select from when tagging documents.)

A Word of Warning
Make sure after you’ve created catalogs that you try searching for information that shouldn’t be found. For example, you should try to search for terms like “Salary” and “Confidential.” Make sure you only get what you expect! Search doesn’t affect your security in any way, but it does make it easier for users to stumble upon poor security policies already in place. If you don’t find the holes first, they will.

Here’s an example to help you understand how tagging and vocabulary work together. Let’s say you have areas on your intranet dedicated to the different business units within your company, such as Finance, Training, and Production. You then have a required attribute called “Business Unit” for all content posted to the intranet. To ensure that all users choose only from these business units, you create a vocabulary for the Business Unit attribute with values for the three units defined. By doing this, you force anyone who posts a new document to choose from the three values. If you ever needed to look up all documents relating to the Education business unit, you wouldn’t have to figure out whether or not to look under Education, Training, Education Unit, or some other value that looks similar but isn’t. You enforce consistency. Also, as the site administrator you can set up a rule that all documents tagged with a value of Finance for the business unit attribute must be reviewed by the Director of Finance.

I’ll close this section on content management with one gripe. When you post content to the site, it becomes read-only. The only way to revise posted content is to delete it and repost the changed version. It would be much more useful if you could revise posted content in-place. With this ability, Site Server 3.0 could become an organization’s document repository. I hope to see this added to a future version.

Content Deployment: Divvying Up the Work

Content deployment is the ability to copy Web projects from one location to another. You can copy a project from one location on a server to another location on the same server, from one server to another, or from one server to many servers. You can even set up routes that traverse several servers in a path. With content deployment, you can roll back projects if necessary to their state before replication occurred.

The most common scenario for content deployment is a situation in which you have a development server and production servers. Your developers work against the development server. Once their changes are complete and tested, you can replicate them to all of the production servers in your Web farm. You may even have an intermediate staging server, with a route from development to staging to production. You replicate from the development server to the staging server, and do additional testing against the staging server. This lets you test your changes on that server without affecting the development or production servers. Once you’ve tested on the staging server, the project can be replicated to the production Web farm.

If you have a small development environment, you can place your development and production locations on the same box. While this doesn’t help if your changes hang the server, it does keep your users from seeing changes as they’re being made.

If you’ve used Site Server 2.0’s Content Replication System in an environment where many people and departments were developing content, you might have been frustrated by the inability to give users the right to replicate their own content. With Site Server 3.0 you can designate users as operators on their own projects. You can even create custom Web pages to control project replication.

Powerful and Complex

This article is by no means comprehensive. The level of functionality contained in Site Server 3.0 could fill a book (or, in this industry, many books by many publishers!). I’ve simply tried to give you a feel for the product’s power and complexity. I hope you come away from this article with a better feel for what Site Server 3.0 can do for your intranet or Internet site. If you do use Site Server to enable your site, drop me an e-mail with the URL. I’d love to see it in action.

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