Once used by most as a replacement for the command-line, Windows PowerShell has evolved into a very useful automation tool; one that every IT organization should utilize. If you are bound to the Microsoft ecosystem, you need to use PowerShell, or you will fall behind.
Why? Well, let’s break down the administrative capabilities of PowerShell within Office 365 and, more specifically, SharePoint Online.
PowerShell and SharePoint first came together in the SharePoint 2010 release. In addition to the deprecated STSADM.exe tool, 200+ cmdlets (pronounced command-lets) were provided. These cmdlets provided the framework for developers and administrators to write their own scripts, functions, cmdlets and modules.
When SharePoint 2013 was released, roughly 720 cmdlets were included, further reinforcing PowerShell as the administrative tool for SharePoint. While SharePoint 2016 has over 800 cmdlets, SharePoint Online only lists about 42 cmdlets.
While it’s certainly helpful that Office 365 provides cmdlets for SharePoint Online, the small number (due to the multitenant infrastructure) limits your capabilities from an administration perspective. Let’s explore the nouns you have access to using the Microsoft.Online.SharePoint.PowerShell module:
While there are several areas you can administer from SharePoint Online via PowerShell, you don’t get the granular level you do in on-premises versions. This is why Blue Chip developed a tool called BluePrint.
BluePrint is a framework for the development of custom PowerShell cmdlets for use with SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013/2016 on-premises.
To align with the shift to client-side code, Blue Chip developed PowerShell cmdlets for SharePoint using C# with client-side object model (CSOM) code. This allows BluePrint to work with both on-premises and online versions of SharePoint Server.
To really understand the value that BluePrint adds, let’s look at the nouns available in the BluePrint PowerShell module:
With BluePrint, there are 43 new nouns implemented and key areas with which automation is now possible.
Imagine you are implementing SharePoint Online for a global company with many departments and divisions. You may have dozens of site collections, subsites, lists, libraries or standard managed metadata terms used across the tenant. Implementing all of those things manually is possible, but it would take a very long time. It would also open up opportunities for mistakes or misconfigurations. But, by using BluePrint, an entire architecture could be opened up front and implemented very quickly.
Imagine a mature IT organization implemented multiple Office 365 tenants for development, testing and production purposes. Migrating the SharePoint Online configuration from one tenant to another is possible using other methods (e.g. a 3rd party migration tool) but, using BluePrint, the configuration can be documented once in XML format. Then, the same configuration can be used for other tenants while specifying a different tenant URL, administration account and other high-level, tenant-specific variables.
Simply put, Office 365 and SharePoint Online are now the de facto standard for collaboration within the Microsoft ecosystem. While there are tools available to you out-of-the-box, IT partners, like Blue Chip, can extend your tool belt. Using a tool like BluePrint, value can be added to solutions and consistent, repeatable processes for deployment automation can be defined.
Want to learn more about BluePrint? Drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.