Implementing a green strategy can be accomplished in many ways and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 can be a very useful tool for many organizations wanting to help. We will explore several ways that SharePoint Server 2007 can help you reduce the amounts of waste that your company generates.
Idea #1 – Document Imaging
Companies’ use and store paper… lots and lots of paper. In addition, depending on the regulatory compliance that may affect a company, this paper sometimes needs to be stored for up to 10 years. 10 years of paperwork can become a burden in many ways, including the storage that it requires.
Here are a few little-known facts about paper:
- Paper production is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries in the U.S., according to Department of Energy statistics, and uses 11.5% of all energy in the industrial sector
- One third of all wood harvested in the U.S. is used for paper products
- Despite advances in the electronic age, paper use is on the rise — about one third of waste sent to municipal landfills is paper and packaging
Through the utilization of a document capture solution; SharePoint Server can make documents and information readily available to users when it’s needed. Once captured with a scanner, OCR (optical character recognition) software is utilized to turn the “pictures” of text into actual data that gets stored in SharePoint’s back-end database system (Microsoft SQL Server). Once in the database, SharePoint’s advanced indexing and search system can be utilized by information workers to find the information that they need, when it’s needed, rather than having to search through mounds of paper archives.
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise Edition also includes a site template called the Records Center that can help in storing and organizing your company’s data. The Records Center is intended to serve as a central repository in which an organization can store and manage all of its records. The Records Center supports the entire records management process, from records collection through records management to records disposition.
It is important to remember that fully implementing a document management system can be a timely investment, but the amount of time, money, and energy saved makes it a worthwhile option for companies looking to “Go Green” and streamline worker productivity.
Idea #2 – Using InfoPath and Workflows to Automate Forms Handling
An important aspect of working in a business environment and collaborating with others is the gathering of information. In most cases, businesses use paper forms, however, this process not only consumes large amounts of paper, but also can be very time consuming. A common challenge for many organizations is to identify ways to make this process more efficient and effective. One solution to this problem is to collect information in an electronic form that contains preconfigured fields for the data you want to receive. This ensures that all the required information is collected, and it also helps consolidate information that can be used for comparisons or calculations.
Forms simplify the task of gathering important information. Microsoft InfoPath is a member application of the Microsoft Office Suite that allows you to create electronic forms that you can publish to team members and others through Microsoft SharePoint Server. InfoPath is simple enough that non-programmers can use it for a simple forms creation, yet flexible enough for programmers to create sophisticated forms-based applications. The SharePoint Forms Server, a new component of SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise Edition, allows users to fill out forms not only through the InfoPath application, but also by using a standard web browser. This means that users can have access to your organization’s forms from anywhere, using any computer with a web browser. Once users fill out the electronic form, the resultant data can be either stored indefinitely in SharePoint or can be processed through a business automation workflow. This not only saves paper, but it also can improve worker efficiency by automating standard business processes.
Idea #3 – Telecommuting
Telecommuting, Teleconferencing, and Telepresence technologies are being implemented more and more in green computing initiatives. The advantages are many; increased worker satisfaction, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to travel, and even increased profit margins as a result of lower overhead costs for office space, heat, lighting, etc.
Microsoft SharePoint is a web-based technology. This means that you can easily expose your SharePoint deployment to users outside your corporate firewall. Since the standard interface to SharePoint is web-based, telecommuting employees can access their documents, meeting agendas, e-mail, and important business information from the road and at home. In addition, no additional costs are incurred, since VPN technologies are not required.
Join SharePoint Server 2007 with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, and the 2007 version of Microsoft Office Live Meeting, and you really start to experience instant global communication. By integrating these additional tools as Web Parts in SharePoint sites, you provide real-time communication as well as a visual experience for your users.
Idea #4 – Server Virtualization
Microsoft SharePoint is a very good candidate for virtualization since it can involve many server components. By separating these server components into smaller, more manageable ones, processing resources that may have been underutilized can be used to handle user requests for data through SharePoint.
SharePoint’s core server features can be broken apart and run on different servers. In SharePoint terms, this is called a “server farm.” Each of the following components can be run on the same server or can be separated into smaller components and virtualized:
- Web Front-End
- Application Server (Excel, Workflows, etc.)
- Indexing Service
- Search Service
- Central Administration
In most corporate environments, server virtualization makes sense. Redundant server hardware can rapidly fill datacenters to capacity; each new purchase drives up the costs for power and cooling. With virtualization, many companies are able to easily reclaim unused resources, rather than having to dedicate additional funds for new ones.
Microsoft SharePoint can be a key component in helping your organization reduce its impact on the environment. Whether it is used as a stand-alone application or it is combined with other Microsoft Office Server applications such as Exchange Server, Office Communications Server, or Live Meeting, SharePoint Server has several features that lend itself to the going green ideal. It doesn’t matter if you implement a single idea mentioned in this document or all of them; What matters is that we all do our part to conserve the valuable resources that we have on our planet. After all, it’s the only world we have.