Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sharepoint and inbound emails

One of the benefits of locating a Sharepoint v3 server on a member server rather than a Small Business Server 2003 is that it can be configured to receive inbound emails. This means that you can create a standard Sharepoint v3 list and assign it an email in your domain and then have any emails sent to that address routed directly to the Sharepoint list.

 

So what good is that? Initially I thought that we could use it for customers to send support requests via email. That way they could go directly into Sharepoint, be assigned to various people and the whole support process tracked. However, I thought that an even better idea would be if all the SBS monitoring reports were sent there! This has a lot of benefits when you think about it. Firstly, all the reports are stored where everyone in the business can access them. Secondly, they are all saved together in one library but more importantly they are all sortable and indexable now. This means that if I want to compare a report of one customer from one day to the next all I do is filter the current Sharepoint view to only show that customer. I can then easily view every report for that customer and compare.

 

If you now extend this further and have alerts and reports from anti virus, firewalls and what not all going to the same Sharepoint then it creates a very powerful monitoring tool. Using the inbuilt power of Sharepoint you can really create some useful means of viewing your data using views. Say for example I only want to see all the Trend Antivirus warnings that have come in, I simply create a Sharepoint view and bingo I have the information I need, in the format that I need. I am yet to see a CRM package that can do that. I can even create totals for these emails so I know how many have come in over a period.

 

So far the major downside is the fact that I can't preview the emails that come in like I can in Outlook. To view the contents I have to actually click on the item and open it. Given some more time I'm sure that I can overcome this. However, this is more than offset by the ability to search all the reports that come in. For example, if I think I have seen that error before but unsure when I simply do a standard Sharepoint search and all is revealed. I have already used this a number of times and wonder how I did without it before.

 

I continue to be amazed at the versatility that Sharepoint can provide, it is all just a matter of understanding what it is capable of and then putting your mind to it. It is also amazing to me that Windows Sharepoint Services is FREE! But sadly, it is also amazing how many people (especially IT providers) don't use it. Their loss I say because I can say without doubt that Sharepoint has changed the way that my business operates.