Understanding SharePoint Business Connectivity Services

Sharepoint business connectivity services is a centralized-infrastructure in office 2013 and sharepoint-2013 that supports integrated-data solutions. With this connectivity service, you can use office 2013 and sharepoint 2013 clients as an interface into the data that is not contained by SharePoint-2013. BCS (business connectivity service) can easily connect to data that is in a web service and data that has been published from an O-data source or external source. The BCS uses custom connectors to communicate between external-systems that host external-data and SharePoint 2013.

SharePoint contains several ways of representing external-data and the most commonly used way is external list data presentation. External-lists look like regular sharepoint 2013 lists and most people prefer them because of their easy presentation interface. If you run a sharepoint site and would like to integrate external-data with a library or list item, use external-data columns. An external-data column can be easily created in the same way you create a group, person and time & date column in your sharepoint site.

Understanding SharePoint Business Connectivity Services

Problems that SharePoint Business Connectivity Services Solves

Every company stores data in different places and it’s accessed in many different ways. Some of the ex-data might be in a sharepoint 2013 server or in a cloud system and the company’s system administrators usually have full control over the data files and servers that host them. In some instance, a company or business may require to access some data that is provided to them by a third party. In this type of a scenario, the third party represent the data to the company and the data administrators stores it for the purpose intended by the company.

Most companies create custom-applications that fetch data from third party sources and make available to their employees through a custom-interface. The process of developing custom application is very complex and requires a team of developers with a lot of competent knowledge and experience in the related fields. Maintaining custom made application can also be very challenging for sharepoint administrators and they may end up losing important data while trying to fix the application. BCS (business connectivity service) gives business and company a good way to easily integrate external data with their office 2013 clients and SharePoint 2013 solution. Depending on type of sharepoint business solution that you will use, you can easily manipulate data and update-it in the external-system.

Planning a Business-Connectivity Service Solution for Your Site

Unlike other solutions and features in SharePoint 2013, microsoft business-connectivity service solutions comes with no predefined forms. Most of the solutions will require you to read about them and understand what they will need in order to cater your business needs. Every BCS from microsoft is custom-made and you must use visual studio 2012 or sharepoint designer 2013 during your solution-development process of defining the external-data source. There isn’t any “out of the box” business connectivity-services configurations and templates that you modify and use. What you can only be assured is that the BCS will serve to intensively integrate external-data with your office 2013 tools or sharepoint 2013.

Before you start planning and developing a “design for-your BCS-solution, you-must-understand the business-needs that” drives type of the-solution’s and the environment in which your solution will operate in. Below are five factors that will help you to plan and design a working sharepoint “business-connectivity-services-solution”.

Data Location

The first step of planning a BCS solution is to completely understand the source of the external-data in these three perspectives

1. Administrative perspective

-You must know who has the daily administrative permission of the external-data source. The admin group will help you to set up connectivity with the external-data. The administrator of the database will tell-you how the-data is made available for-other external consumption and how it-is-secured . Ask the admin to write credentials in the external-system for your own use.

2. External-system perspective

In most case the external-data is kept on an external-system. The connecter which is used by is determined by the source of the external-system. If the data is in a SQL sever, you will require some credentials or admin privileges of accessing the servers database.

3. Network perspective

You must know the source of the external-data and how it the source will relate with the BCS (business connectivity services) application. -If the external-data source and the BCS infrastructure are all located on your controlled network, use an all in one premises solution.

  • If you want to use a BCS in a sharepoint site that is online and on which the external-data source is stored in a cloud, consider implementing a cloud solution.
  • If the BCS infrastructure and all members are on your-own corporate controlled network, you will use an all in one premises solution.

How Data is Secured

BCS handles all authentications and communication between-itself and the external system. In a security perspective, the BCS will present the external-system with information that will be used to determine whether the person performing the action is authorized to access the “external-data-system”. All microsoft BCS supports many-types of authentication and a user can choose a suitable option when configuring the application.

Types of BCS (SharePoint-business-connectivity-services) Solution

BCS can be used to build many types of integrated solutions and the list below contains some of the commonly used solutions.

1. Help desk

BCS can be used in enterprise help desks that provide technical support to sharepoint users and connection services. You can use BCS to create support tickets that can be submitted by site members whenever they have an inquiry to make. Large websites that have frequent users and a large audience can create business connectivity solution service links that will allow users to submit their problems to the relevant departments for attention.

2. Sales Dashboard

A sales dashboard app can-be used by businesses and organization to quickly identify sales information. The companies sales information can be managed by an external-application and then later integrated into the solution using a BCS (business connectivity-service). Depending on the employees roles in a company, team members or administrators can view sales information, customers information and analytic information with the use of BCS.

BCS do not come in templates or custom-made design that can be directly installed and used. You must configure a BCS application according to your own requirements in order for it to work perfectly. If you run a SharePoint site, consider having a SharePoint business connectivity services solution that will enable you to smoothly run your site, control database sources and easily access external data.

Marissa Hart is the Lead Author & Editor ShareMe. ShareMe is a blog focused on SharePoint Online. SharePoint Online delivers the powerful features of SharePoint without the associated overhead of managing the infrastructure.