Is there an app for that? We’ve all heard the saying and probably have even asked it ourselves when trying to get something done. Apps are everywhere, on our smartphones, tablets, and now with SharePoint 2013 comes SharePoint apps. Apps allow SharePoint users to customize and configure more than ever before. SharePoint apps can also deliver specific functions to users that you couldn’t get out of a normal SharePoint 2013 installation. So without futher ado, here are some tips and tricks to getting started with apps in SharePoint 2013.
What Are SharePoint Apps and How Do They Work?
SharePoint apps are typically small, standalone packages that provide a function, like event planning, that solves a particular problem. Apps can be developed using any of the various web standards and do not use any server side SharePoint code. They run independently from SharePoint therefore it doesn’t change any of the SharePoint elements and can be installed, updated, or even uninstalled without affecting your main SharePoint farm resulting in less outage for the users.
Apps running on a SharePoint 2013 farm use a different domain name than the SharePoint farm, so it’s key to properly assess the implementation of using apps and how they impact your current infrastructure. When an app is installed in a SharePoint site it creates a subweb on that site with its own unique URL on a different domain name. The reason for the isolation on a different domain is to add a layer of security to prevent any cross scripting between sites and allowing the processes to run independently without affecting the main SharePoint site.
Make an App Plan
Once you have determined that you want to use apps in SharePoint 2013 you will need to do some planning to build the correct infrastructure that will support apps. Apps can be hosted in the cloud by Microsoft’s SharePoint app store, by hosted providers, or it can be hosted internally in your own network. When apps are hosted by a provider or are cloud hosted, anything related to that app is maintained on those servers. However, if an app is hosted on a SharePoint in your network it’s stored in the subweb of that SharePoint site.
Regardless of which hosting option you choose, there are key lists of items that need to be reviewed or completed so the apps will work in your SharePoint environment.
- Determine the governance around app deployment. Before you start deploying apps you will need to determine conditions as who can install apps, the types of apps, and how the apps are obtained. A governance plan for apps can help outline those items.
- Plan for app purchases. Plan for the possible of app purchases from the Microsoft Office App store and determine how site owners can obtain these apps. You'll need a Microsoft account when purchasing apps from the SharePoint store, and, depending on your environment, perhaps a central account with purchasing power.
- Choose a domain name for your apps. You must configure a separate domain name for your apps. This domain name should not be a subdomain of your SharePoint domain name. You will need to configure the DNS settings for this new domain name on your DNS servers.
- Plan for an app catalog. The app catalog is a SharePoint site that contains the approved apps that site owners can install. Having an App Catalog will give administrators some control on what apps can be installed in their environment.
- Plan for licenses. Even with apps there is no getting around licenses. You will need to plan for any type of licenses that will incur with using apps. Licensing is only applicable to apps that have been purchased from the Office apps store. Apps that were developed internally or from other sources other than Microsoft may have different licensing requirements that you may need to account for when deploying apps in SharePoint.
- Plan for monitoring and support. Plan for any type of monitoring or reporting that may be needed for the app, especially in industries that have strict policies and standards. Depending on the app and where it originated, you should also plan for some sort of support, whether it is in house or third party.
Apps for SharePoint can bring some additional functionality to your SharePoint 2013 farm that may not have been easily available in previous version. Deploying apps in SharePoint 2013 can be complex, but with proper planning it can be successfully done.