Do you know your own installation of SharePoint? Do you know it well enough that if questioned you could provide complete answers on the spot? As a lifelong consultant, one of the privileges I get is to see many installations of SharePoint. My first action when I get onsite to an existing installation is to ask for the documentation.

I do this because every installation has its own thumbprint, and before debugging or modifying anything, one must understand the structure. In reference to the title of the popular 1951 musical, there is a song called “Getting to Know You.” SharePoint is the King, and you must know your King. Here are 10 items that should be documented for an on-premises installation:

1. Hardware specifications. This includes the RAM, IP addresses, machine role (WFE/APP/SQL), whether it is virtual or physical, and operating system.

2. Accounts created. At a minimum this section should detail the SharePoint accounts that are being utilized, permissions, and whether they are managed or not. Additionally, this should also show the SQL accounts that are being utilized, such as the analysis service account. I often don’t find this and have to do some forensic digging.

3. SharePoint topology. This section is typically a diagram representation of the SharePoint infrastructure. It shows components and where they are running—for example, knowing what machine is running central administration. Another hot, complex topic is search and understanding all of its components. Items like crawl and query processing should be detailed out, to name but a couple.

4. SQL install. While you don’t have to have a screenshot for every part of this process, the ones that count are server configuration and database engine configuration. The former shows the SQL accounts running the services. The latter details the directories immediately answering questions like where the SQL logs are kept, where the data files are, and where the temp DB is. Another great item to detail here is the PowerPivot implementation and/or the SSAS implementation.

5. SharePoint install. There are a couple of items that are important to see in this section. The first one is whether or not any firewall rules are set up on the SQL machine in order to facilitate communication with the WFE. The next screenshot that is good to see is the configuration database settings summary. This shows the username for the database account, and the port on which central administration is hosted.

6. SharePoint site creation. Shows the created Web application and site collection. Look for the site collection administrators, the port the site is running on, and the template used.

7. Service applications. This section shows the service applications that were created and application pools utilized, including screenshots. Search, its implementation and how it was implemented should be detailed here with a screenshot showing the topology. The user profile should be detailed here along with a screenshot of the policy for Web application. It is very helpful to show any PowerShell here along with associated screenshots.

8. Alternate Access Mapping (AAM). Show a brief screenshot of this configuration.

9. Workflow installation. Installing this now consists of PowerShell, trusts, certificates, and multiple components like Service Bus. It is critical that the installation of workflow be documented so if something stops working, an assessment of the infrastructure can quickly be done.

10. SSL. Certainly not the final component, but another configuration critical to the operation of a site (if implemented). Certificates utilized here are important, along with IIS bindings and AAM.

This list is certainly not everything, and I know there are other ways to get the information. But why waste the hours or pay a consultant’s high billable rate when a bit of upfront due diligence could save hours, which translates to dollars. To paraphrase the aforementioned song:

“Suddenly I am bright and breezy
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I’m learning about you.”

Follow the guidelines above and SharePoint might be your cup of tea.

Peter Serzo is a published author of the “SharePoint 2010 Administration Cookbook,” a founder of the SouthEastern SharePoint group, a speaker, and SharePoint Architect for High Monkey Consulting. Peter has been in the IT industry for 20 years. He has extensive experience with SharePoint implementing business solutions for several enterprise organizations over the past seven years.