SPDocKit webinar Q&A: Compare different SharePoint farm environments

Because of your growing interest in SPDocKit and SharePoint related topics, our webinars have become a regular thing here at Acceleratio. And so, our MVP Toni Frankola held a SPDocKit webinar on the subject of SharePoint farm comparisons.

Just in case you missed it, check out our previous blog post to catch up! In this webinar, Toni provides a step-by-step understanding of some of the key benefits of SPDocKit and how the tool can help you administer your SharePoint environment better. After the webinar, our webinar attendees were quite inquisitive, so we’ve gathered all of their questions and concerns in an effort give additional information and advice. However, if you have any more questions or you would like a demo, contact us.

Questions & Answers

Q: Do you install the tool on just one node for each farm?
A: Yes, this is correct. You just need to install it on one server, ideally one of the servers that runs background processing jobs like the one that hosts Central Administration or one of your app servers.

Q: Do I have to install SPDocKit in the development or in production environment?
A: SPDocKit needs to be installed on a SharePoint server in each of the two farms mentioned above. You can connect both instances to the same SPDocKit database and then you will easily be able to compare farms and snapshots. Learn more.

Q: We’re using four different environments: development, test, staging and production. Is it possible to get three licenses for the non-production environments?
A: Yes, it is. We offer non-prod licenses. In your case, you would have to purchase a single farm license with software assurance for your production environment and staging environment, and two non-production licenses for your dev and test farms.

Q: Our DEV/PROD environments use exactly the same DB / user accounts. So how does it discover both farms?
A: You would have to install SPDocKit in both farms in order to gather farm configuration for both farms.

Q: How is SPDocKit workstation licensed? Can it check and manage permissions?
A: SPDocKit Workstation requires a separate license that can be purchased for USD 299 per workstation. Ideally you would combine your workstation with existing farm licenses, i.e. connect it to the same SPDocKit database. With this setup, you can use the workstation to its full extent with all reports being available. On top of that, you can use the workstation to manage permissions on all your licensed on-premises farms and up to one SharePoint online tenant. Learn more.

Q: Are ALL the reports and interfaces identical using the new workstation license since I do not have access to the data center (no farm admin access)?
A: Yes, they are. You have three options. (1) If you can connect to the SPDocKit database, then you can use the reports from the database. (2) Farm snapshots can be stored to a file share, and you can use your workstation to import these. (3) You can ask someone who has access to the farm and SPDocKit to export snapshots for you.

Q: Can SPDocKit generate a comparison report? And is it possible for it to show only differences?
A: Yes, you can export differences in PDF format.

Q: Can the tool compare IIS settings?
A: Yes, you can compare SharePoint, SQL and IIS settings.

Q: Can you help us setup and run the first comparison between our farms?
A: Of course. Just contact us and we will arrange a support call.

Q: Can you please give some advice/best practice for documenting and then comparing multiple farms? Can we use just one DB as stated earlier?
A: Yes, just connect all the farms to a single SPDocKit database. As long as your farms can connect to this central database you should not have any problems. SPDocKit snapshots are relatively small, so having multiple farms in the same database should not be a problem. You can further restrict the growth of the SPDocKit database by enabling data retention.

Q: How long does it take to generate a snapshot for a large farm?
A: It’s really hard to tell. Creating a snapshot of all the farm settings even for the largest of the largest farms should not take more than an hour. (Some customers experience delays when they try to load all the installed applications, updates and pending updates from all the Windows servers in a farm. We have made this step optional, to make the load more efficient). For permissions load, this really depends on the kind of content you have in your content database. If a significant percentage of your sites, lists, libraries, folders, list items and documents have unique permissions with lots and lots of users, then the load may take a lot of time. If you are not sure how this is going to work for you and your farm environment, we recommend that you start with just the farm settings and then gradually expand while monitoring farm performance.

Q: Can consultants set snapshots to run automatically?
A: When you are using SPDocKit with the consultant license, you cannot schedule snapshots to be created automagically, but you can create them manually.

Q: If a scheduled snapshot fails for any reason, does it generate an alert or an email to inform the user?
A: Unfortunately, it does not. But that’s a great idea, and we will try to implement it in one of the future releases.

Q: At the moment we are using SPDocKit v5. Can we seamlessly upgrade to v6? Can we retain our settings?
A: Yes, SPDocKit fully supports in-place upgrades. All your settings will be preserved when you upgrade to v6. Please bear in mind that v6 does not support SharePoint 2007.

Q: Does a site collection comparisons reveal differences between what features are active?
A: Yes, it does.

Q: Does the user running SPDocKit ever require more than read permissions on the SharePoint farm?
A: No, they only require read permissions. Check our help page for more details. The only exception is Permission Management. If you would like to use this, you must have the right privileges to manage permissions in SharePoint.

Q: How long are logs kept when comparing permissions?
A: The simple answer is: indefinitely. However, to curtail the growth of the SPDocKit database, we would recommend enabling data retention.

Q: What’s the story behind the whale logo?
A: Great question! Our company, Acceleratio, was founded and is based in Croatia. You might have seen our beautiful Adriatic coast as the King’s Landing in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. The Croatian word, “kit” translates to “whale”. And due to our inspiration and enchantment with the seaside, we decided to choose a whale logo for our products.

A big thank you goes to all the attendees of our webinar. We appreciate your many questions and hope you’ll join us in the next webinar with as much enthusiasm. If you have additional questions that we didn’t cover in this blog post, don’t hesitate to contact us.