Product analysis by Vlad Catrinescu – requested by Aquaforest, but thoughts are my own.
With over 65 000 customers ,125 million licenses, and 80% of fortune 500 using it, Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most used collaboration and intranet platforms in the world. With that many users, and companies relying on SharePoint, the SharePoint admins behind every company’s farm must make sure the farm is always working properly and the users are happy. However, the surge in SharePoint usage often gives rise to “SharePoint Sprawl” which is a significant challenge for those tasked with management and administration.
Furthermore, with the rise of Hybrid SharePoint deployments, where the SharePoint admin now has to manage both the internal, on-premises SharePoint farm, as well as the Office 365 SharePoint Sites. To ease the SharePoint Administrator’s task, and to help him prevent problems before they happen, Aquaforest created a product called Checkpoint. Before we go into the review, here is a description of the product from the company’s website.
Aquaforest CheckPoint is a SharePoint Governance tool that is designed to monitor and report various details from an organization’s SharePoint farm. It supports both On Premise and Cloud SharePoint installations. It connects to SharePoint remotely, as a result you do not have to install it on the same machine as your SharePoint server and one installation can serve multiple SharePoint farms.
- Duplicate Files
- Very Large Files
- Legacy Office Documents
- Non-Searchable PDFs
- Obsolete Content
- Non-Standards Compliance
- Newly Created sites, Lists and Libraries
- Many other issues
Aquaforest CheckPoint Review
First thing to note is that CheckPoint is a client application, so I was able to install it on my laptop. After installation, I was prompted to enter the first Site Collection I wanted to manage. Each site collection is called a “Connection” and you cannot connect to a Web Application or a Farm.
After you create your first connection, and every time in the future when you open the application, you go directly to the dashboard. The dashboard is where you can see all your current connections, reports and alerts. Alerts will need to be configured, so that is why we don’t have any yet!
When we go into a connection, we are able to see the Subsites, Lists & libraries, Users, Groups, Permissions and Content Types.
When you go on one of the items, such as a list, or a person, you can view all its properties. A bit like SharePoint Manager, but without having to be logged in on the server.
Now, let’s take a look in the Reports section. The Reports section in my opinion is the heart of the product and is the section that brings the most value. There are thirteen reports out of the box, however you can add custom ones that fit your business needs. Here are the ones included out of the box.
Let’s take a simple one, such the empty site description. Having a site description for every site, can be a part of the company governance policy and as the SharePoint Admin, you need to find out regularly if new sites don’t have it. When we open it, we first have some information about the report schedule and name.
Next Step is to choose the fields you want in the report as well as conditions. By default, this report will give you the Title, URL and Description of all the sites who have no description.
In my case, I want to also add the Owner of the site, so I know who to contact incase a site is missing a description. So by using the new column button, I added Owners to the list of buttons I want in the report.
In the next step, I will choose the targets where I want to run the report. On this step you basically decide what Site Collection you want to check.
After clicking next, the report took less than a second to run and showed me all of the sites without a description as well as their owners. Unfortunately, I only see the name of the owner and not username, so this could become a problem if you have thousands of John Smiths who don’t put in their description. However, Aquaforest has informed me they will make this available in the next update.
You can easily export the report to PDF/CSV to follow up on it. If we go to the next tab, we have the option to schedule this report to run every day, or every hour. This will be useful, so we’re alerted when a site gets created without a description, so instead of having a monthly task to check all the company Governance, we can be proactive about it and get it fixed before it becomes an issue. For the sake of this review, I made it run every 2 minutes.
However, for alerts to work, you have to enable them in the next step. Here you have the choice if you want the alert to show on the dashboard, and if you want to receive an email if it fails, and also if you want the report attached or not. Since the site description is an important part of the company governance policy, I decided to activate all and get an email if more than one site doesn’t have it.
Two minutes later, the report ran and I now see the alert on my dashboard. S
When you click on the alert, you are able to see the history of the last runs, as well as the results and easily export them to CSV or PDF. As you can see, as soon as one of my users entered their description, the numbers of row went from 4 to 3.
If you want to create your own Report, you simply click the new report button in the bottom bar. First thing you will have to choose if it’s report that will run on List/Library, User, Site or Document. In this example, I want to see all the document libraries where a document was not modified in the last 1 year. (Or 10 days for this demoJ). Afterwards, I created my conditions as well as columns that I wanted.
And I selected my targets. I added another connection to an Office365 tenant that I manage, so this report will search in both.
And, as you can see we found a few old lists that haven’t been used in a while!
The report is now in the Report Gallery and ready to be run.
Another useful report can for example be, finding if a certain user has any documents checked out to him before he quits the company. I did this report in a few seconds and now I can see if Vlad’s account has any checked out files and tell him to check in his modification before his final days.
Some other useful Out of the box reports include:
- Duplicate Documents
- PDFs that are not fully searchable (PDF files, where the text in them is not actual text, but kind of an image).
- Lists with items above X number of items
SharePoint is one of the most, if not the most popular intranet platform in the world, and there is a lot of pressure on the SharePoint Administrators to keep it running, as well as make sure that the sites / site collections and even content respect the company Governance Plan and are in good shape. With the rise of the hybrid SharePoint deployments, SharePoint administrators will have a lot more to take care about and that is why they might need an Administration or reporting tool to help them know what shape their farm is in, and if anything needs to be corrected. The best SharePoint admin is the one that end users don’t have to contact, because he finds the problems before his users do.
In this blog post I did a review of the CheckPoint SharePoint Administration Tool by Aquaforest and found it extremely easy to use and pretty powerful. I have reviewed the first version of the software that included 13 reports and a lot of ways to customize your own reports, and found everything included worked out very smoothly and I was able to create reports with many things that could save me a helpdesk call later on. There are some small things that would be nice to have in the reporting, such as user name instead of display name of the user, but overall the tool can be very helpful for today’s SharePoint admin that only has one on-premises farm to manage, as well as tomorrow’s SharePoint Admin who will have to manage both on-premises and Office365 farms.
To learn more about CheckPoint, visit their site by clicking on the logo below.