By Cathy Dew
Get Under the Hood to Configure Just What You Want
If you are managing multiple different site collections in your SharePoint intranet, then you need to be aware of the metadata Property Bag feature, as well as of how to search across multiple site collections. These two features are somewhat technical and advanced parts of the SharePoint software. However, both are worth knowing about, especially for higher-level intranet management.
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The Property Bag
Let’s start with the Property Bag. While we will be discussing this particular feature in the context of managing site collections, you can use it at various levels of a SharePoint intranet. Indeed, Property Bags are just a way for SharePoint developers to store their custom configurations outside the SharePoint application. Using a Property Bag, you can save your SharePoint settings (or “properties”) as well as retrieve them later. The configuration data gets stored in a Hash-Table format, rather than being stored in a web.config file.
In addition to the site collection level, Property Bags allow for hierarchal storage at nearly every level of a SharePoint intranet. These levels include farms, web applications, site collections, individual sites, lists, folders, files, and list items.
Editing property bags is not for the faint of heart. While in SharePoint On-Premise, there are administration screens to manage the multiple levels of property bag locations, with SharePoint Online you need to either code your own admin tool using Visual Studio, use PowerShell with the SharePoint extensions or use SharePoint Designer 2013. (Open the target Site, on the ribbon bar click on Site Options, and in the dialog box work in the Parameters tab to add / edit / remove property bag keys & values.)
Using Property Bags for Configuration and Category Storage & Retrival
Property Bags are, in part, a form of ad-hoc storage. You can use them to hold information about your SharePoint configurations and make sure those features don’t get lost. However, you can also use a Property Bag to make your SharePoint intranet more searchable. All data stored in a Property Bag are saved using Key-Value pairs. You can then search for those values and use them to find specific configurations, which you can use on other sites you are developing.
With a bit of planning, you can use property bags to group and categorize site collections and subsites. These categorizations can take a few different forms, such as Basic Info, Retention Policy Tags, or Site Category. In Basic Info, property bags can be used to save details like creation date, original requestor, and expected end date. For Retention Policy Tags, they would help identify site collections that five-year, ten-year, or permanent retention policies. In Site Category, property bags could maintain the values organizing different sites or subsites by department (HR, legal, IT, etc.) or sector (public versus private).
Using Property Bags for Search
In addition to serving as a location to preserve the organization and compliance of your SharePoint site collections and subsites, property bags can also be used to optimize searches. As mentioned above, configurations and properties that are stored in different property bags are always assigned specific values. By searching these values, you can find the settings you need—either to identify groups of site collections or to use similar configurations on a new site within your intranet.
The caveat with using property bags for search is that there is no easy built-in feature to make it happen. In other words, while you can use property bags to navigate and reuse your SharePoint configurations, if you wish to do so, you will have to start by indexing all of the keys or values. There is no direct command to add property bag keys to the index, which means you can only carry out the indexing process manually.
If you have a bit of knowledge about coding and programming, you might try your hand at indexing the property bag keys on your own. This post from the Microsoft Developer blog explains a (relatively) simple workaround that you can use to index your property bag values using CSOM (Client Side Object Model) scripting. This post, on the other hand, explains how to accomplish the same indexing goal using PowerShell scripting. If you are familiar with either or both methods for scripting, you can select the one you prefer to index your property bags.
If you choose to follow the steps provided in one of the blog posts linked above, you should be able to index your property bags and begin freely searching any content stored therein. Exposing your property bag values to search, in turn, can assist your employees in finding site collections or subsites with information relevant to their questions or projects. In short, taking the time to index those keys and values can make your entire enterprise run just a little bit more smoothly.
However, it’s important to note that PowerShell and CSOM are advanced scripting technologies that not every person will be familiar or comfortable with on any level. Property bag keys and values can be highly useful in the context of Administrative and Inventory scripting, but they are certainly among SharePoint’s more advanced and less accessible features.
If you are interested in utilizing property bags for search purposes, but don’t feel comfortable using a scripting vector like PowerShell to carry out the necessary configurations, the 2Plus2 team is available to help. We would be happy to schedule a free consultation to discuss your enterprise and find out about the unique needs of your SharePoint intranet. To get in touch with us directly, please call 510 652-7700.