In order to deploy SharePoint as an extranet site, we need to know what extranet means. SharePoint is generally utilized as an intranet portal only available to internal employees. In this setup, SharePoint is accessed only on-premises through local system credentials. There is no access from the Internet. However, as many administrators will tell you, there are a host of benefits for deploying SharePoint as an extranet site.
An extranet site allows access to internal resources from the Internet at large. Here, I will look into how to deploy SharePoint as an extranet site, and what dependencies need to be considered while doing so.
Considerations When Deploying SharePoint as an Extranet Site
Organizations deploy SharePoint as an extranet site for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the ‘why’, many variables need to be seriously considered in order to provide the most stable and secure transition to an extranet site. Organizations can, of course, deploy SharePoint as an Extranet site using custom Forms Based Authentication. However, there are better, safer, and more impressive ways to achieve a similar goal.
When deploying SharePoint as an extranet site, consider the following actions as pitstops for success.
Create a Customer Facing Login Portal
The SharePoint login portal was not built for external access. The overall look and feel is very bland, and the login does not include support for the features required to securely add new users to your SharePoint page.
When deploying SharePoint as an extranet site, consider using a fully branded login portal. Providing a consistent look and feel throughout your website improves usability and familiarity, and assures new and returning users that they are in the right place. Additionally, a customized web portal opens the door to additional features necessary for a successful extranet deployment of SharePoint.
Automatic Registration to Your Local Directory
Let’s face it: your local IT Staff have quite enough to deal with already, and that is without the extra strain of manually registering vendors, business partners, or customers who request access to your SharePoint extranet site.
To successfully deploy SharePoint as an extranet site, self-service registration will substantially reduce the strain on local resources. In the long term, this addition will even save you money!
Proper implementation of automatic registration provides organization of new users into the appropriate group for privileging, and even opens the door to self-service functionality for improved usability and reduced IT strain. It’s a win-win!
Managing Authentication Security
Of course, it is not enough for additional users to be registered quickly and securely. New users still need to be assigned the appropriate security polices for access management. On the surface, this can be a real hurdle to successfully deploy SharePoint as an extranet site. However, proper implementation of the previous steps will filter each new user to the appropriate OU in your directory.
From there, SharePoint administrators are only required to apply adequate authentication and security polices for each OU. This is much easier without sacrificing granularity or flexibility.
When deploying SharePoint as an extranet site, it is important to keep the following security considerations in mind:
- Password Policies
- Multifactor Authentication Requirements
- Increased Security for specific access scenarios (Risk-Based)
- Seamless Authentication to Linked Applications
When you deploy SharePoint as an extranet site, you may also want to provide users with access to additional resources. This could mean connecting to an additional SharePoint instance, or using local credentials for accessing other extranet applications.
With the appropriate implementation, organizations can also provide Single Sign-On access to additional applications and resources directly from SharePoint. Simply federate logins using industry standards or forms-based authentication, and new and existing users can access related web applications without the annoyance of multiple login prompts.
Remember, a successful User Experience can make or break a deployment of SharePoint as an extranet site. Streamlining the process not only helps reduce user frustration, but it improves the credibility of your organization and the resources you have to offer.
Partnering with the Right Solution – Bend, Don’t Break
Alongside the right authentication solution, SharePoint is a fantastic extranet platform. SharePoint is flexible enough to be used for resource management, collaboration, and even as a jump-off point for other applications. Not to mention, many organizations already have a significant investment in SharePoint for an enterprise-level intranet portal. Scrapping that investment for a new solution to support extranet access is unnecessary, and downright fiscally irresponsible.
Thankfully, many solutions exist to help you deploy SharePoint as an extranet site. In order to limit confusion, some solutions provide only limited functionality. Others provide a fully integrated authentication package for SharePoint which helps deploy SharePoint as an extranet site without the fuss.