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10/3/2011
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Sharepoint Outages: Skimping On Training Backfires

Increased downtime and costs result when companies don't sufficiently train admins on Microsoft's collaboration platform, study finds.

Top 20 Top Add-Ons For Microsoft SharePoint
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Top 20 Top Add-Ons For Microsoft SharePoint
As Microsoft users gather Monday in Anaheim, Calif., for the SharePoint Conference 2011, a new study shows that inadequate IT administrator training on the platform leads to subpar use of SharePoint by end users and a spike in the number of SharePoint outages.

The study, conducted by Osterman Research and commissioned by Microsoft partner Azaleos, shows that enterprises where unplanned SharePoint downtime was caused by administrator error experienced 72% more outages, and paid twice as much per user per month to manage the platform, compared to enterprises with with adequate training.

Among these organizations, 43% cited lack of administrator training as a roadblock to efficient use of SharePoint. Azaleos, which provides managed email, collaboration, and unified communications services, doesn't blame Microsoft for the outages, rather it pins responsibility on enterprises that skimped on training in the upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010.

"Companies are perhaps trying to cut corners a little bit," said Scott Gode, VP of marketing for Azaleos. He described a scenario in which a company may have a SQL-certified IT administrator and, knowing that SharePoint has SQL running on the backend, will tap him or her to do SharePoint training, without allowing time to bone up on SharePoint specifically.

[Box is rolling out new features that it claims will make SharePoint irrelevant. Learn more at Box Ups Ante To Challenge SharePoint.]

"The main issue becomes one of governance," Gode said. "Plans need to be carefully executed so that the ideal of the platform doesn't get too far ahead of the way it's supported on the backend."

IT trainers lucky enough to attend the sold out SharePoint Conference will be able to expand their knowledge of the unified communications tool and pass that onto their end users, as the agenda includes sessions on SharePoint governance, best practices, certification, and change management, among other topics. Twenty-five percent of survey respondents said they felt their SharePoint support staffing levels were insufficient.

SharePoint 2010 added many new features but with that came added complexity, which can overwhelm poorly trained end users, Gode said.

"You've got this Swiss Army knife, essentially, that does everything from portals to document management to collaboration to social media, etc., so there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of things that are going on with that platform," he said.

And SharePoint is unlike Exchange, Gode added, which may be complex for IT to manage on the backend, but is quite simple for the end user to operate. You open your e-mail, read it, and either delete it, save it or reply to it.

Inadequate training can be costly, too. The Osterman study showed the average cost of SharePoint support per user, per month is $46, versus $15-$25 for Exchange. It also revealed that 80% of respondents experienced SharePoint downtime over the previous 12 months, often as many as five outages. However, Gode said the survey did not ask for details on the cause of the outage. A third of respondents said their outages usually lasted 30 minutes or less.

Nonetheless, SharePoint remains "wildly popular" in the enterprise, he said. The study showed that 37% of respondents have already migrated to SharePoint 2010, with another 41% in the midst of a migration, and 35% expecting to migrate within the next 12 months. In addition, 34% expect SharePoint to become a mission-critical application for their business, an increase over the results in a 2009 survey.

Unlike SharePoint 2003 and 2007, which were largely deployed on a department-by-department basis, SharePoint 2010 is now being deployed on an enterprise-wide basis, Gode said, increasing the demand for better training.

"Companies realize they need more competent, trained administrators to handle that [growth] and they're just not out there," he said.

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