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.
- By John West
- November 01, 1998
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
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
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.
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.
Area of Site Server
||Allows a site to maintain
information about visitors in a way that’s
secure and scalable.
||Allows users to experience
a site in a way that’s customized
to their needs based on their identity.
||Provides powerful mechanisms
for users to easily find the information
they need in an organization.
||Makes it possible to have
customized information automatically delivered
to users instead of requiring users to
search for it.
||Provides the ability to
see usage statistics about your site and
to analyze your site for any problems
with its structure.
||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.
||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
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.
Tips to Site Server Savvy
- 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.
- Use Active Channels or direct mailings
to distribute any changes to important
sections of your site, such as internal
policies and procedures.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Create rules so that a user sees
only content that has been posted
since his or her last time online.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
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
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.
|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
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
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.)
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
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
|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
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:
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.
|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
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
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
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.
|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.
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
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.
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
For example, you might display job
openings on a Web page, as in this example:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.