Applicable Limited, a Microsoft Partner in the UK has rebuilt its website at http://www.applicable.com using SharePoint 2010 with the help of an extended team drawn from its own service delivery group, and associate Microsoft Partners with specialist development and design skills.
Applicable chose SharePoint 2010 because of the enterprise social collaboration and web site themes of the 2010 release. You can read from Microsoft directly about the capabilities of SharePoint 2010 so I won’t repeat that positioning here, but this isn’t just a web site it is a response to the culture shift towards social enterprise collaboration we are observing in the community that includes our customers, suppliers, partners and competitors.
In building the site Applicable kept in mind several objectives:
• To clearly position what the company does, and showcase its capabilities in managing and hosting its own complex SharePoint 2010 farm.
• To provide a razor sharp focus on the purpose of the business, what is going on ‘now’ through social media including Twitter, YouTube and Linked-In; and case studies, services, information for the CIO or head of IT, and positioning about cloud collaboration services.
• To provide a focus area for key partners including Microsoft. Driving potential customers to very specific pages, with a call to action, to respond to our marketing.
• To engage with people outside Applicable; from customers, partners, suppliers, and even with competitors. Engagement is two-way. Static web sites do not foster two-way engagement. Consequently the site must be editable by people with no special skills in web formatting or HTML.
Together with our partners, we achieved all these objectives, and more.
There is one click access to the topics we are interested in engaging with customers about, as well as all the usual information such as links to events, offices, partners, products and jobs. The sites contain SharePoint 2010 blogs and enterprise wikis for specific information, and have different permissions pertinent to the teams responsible for them.
Curating content is being devolved to managers in the company who use the Office 2010 style ‘ribbon’ user interface in the browser and the WYSIWYG editor to edit directly the content for which they are responsible. Content owners do not require special knowledge of web content management technologies in order to achieve their objectives. All that is required is the ability to use Office 2010, and a web browser. The AJAX enabled interface means that most end user actions do not require page load, making for a very positive user experience.
To keep the main pages under control there is a light touch publishing workflow to ensure governance of the main content pages.
Keeping the content on the site fresh and engaging was a major goal for the SharePoint implementation too. Bliss Systems, a specialist development partner, built our Social integration with Twitter, and several custom format regions through special Applicable web parts for SharePoint 2010. Our Twitter feed @appl1cable is on the home page. The web part is reused inside the site to highlight focus areas and events by twitter hashtag.
The Applicable.com SharePoint site runs on a server farm, with an additional SQL Server 2008 backend, which is setup in a mirror configuration across 2 datacentres for high availability.
The SharePoint servers and SQL Servers are running Windows Server 2008 R2 64bit.
The SharePoint servers are virtualised servers which have been assigned Dual CPUs and 8GB of RAM each. The use of virtualisation combined with the ease of adding additional servers to the SharePoint farm, allows for rapid expansion of the farm if resource requirements increase.The content databases are stored within SQL Server on a NetApp SAN which also allows us to provision large amounts of extra disk space when and if required and gives very low latency access to the SQL content which is at the core of SharePoint.
The farm is hosted within a datacentre with 1 Gbit/s bandwidth and links to other international networks to allow for fast page loads when combined with the virtualised hardware. The front end web servers accept incoming requests and serve the site content, while indexing and searching – synchronisation with Active Directory and the central administration of the site is separated. The web servers are separated in a DMZ network to provide the best security and separate the website from the SharePoint administration and our Active Directory environment. Only limited traffic is allowed to reach the web frontend servers on port 80 and any traffic destined for our internal network will be filtered by an additional firewall level.
The combination of Applicable best in class service delivery capability plus specialist help from Microsoft Partners with the skills required has allowed Applicable to deliver the new site with the latest technology, hosted on its own high availability infrastructure, with a great set of engagement capabilities that can be adapted and grown to support business objectives for the foreseeable future. Of course everyone involved learned a lot as well, and that will directly help Applicable SharePoint customers as they look to move to the latest release to enjoy these benefits for themselves.
Angus Fox, Product Management , Applicable Limited @appl1cable