Do you wish you had an easy answer for SharePoint users who ask, "How can I update my SharePoint documents while I’m away or offline?" or "How can I access my SharePoint content quickly and easily without a browser?"

Installing SharePoint Workspace on client computers may be just that answer. SharePoint Workspace is part of the Office Professional Plus 2010 suite, and it’s designed specifically to support remote and offline SharePoint users who need to work offline or have minimal access to SharePoint servers.

With SharePoint Workspace, an end user can easily connect to a designated SharePoint site, get a local copy of selected SharePoint libraries and lists, and add or modify library or list content within a private "SharePoint workspace". Content in a SharePoint workspace automatically synchronizes with the associated SharePoint site when users are on their network, or it can be manually synchronized on demand. No browser access needed and no need for VPNs or special IT setup.

If Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) is running in your organization, you can use Group Policy to manage and customize a SharePoint Workspace deployment according to your IT practices, just as with other Office applications. Alternatively, you can use the Office Customization Tool. The most important policy you’ll want to consider for SharePoint Workspace deployment is one that blocks the use of peer workspaces. SharePoint Workspace typically lets users create collaborative "Groove workspaces" and Shared Folders where they can share information with trusted invited peers. Groove workspaces are separate from SharePoint workspaces and do not support connections to SharePoint sites. But if your org prohibits or discourages this type of activity, be sure to include the Prohibit Groove workspaces policy in your Office ProPlus 2010 deployment.

Other important policies to consider are one that requires Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protection for SharePoint Workspace client connections to SharePoint Server 2010, and one that prevents Windows Search 4.0 from crawling SharePoint Workspace content.

For information about how to plan and deploy SharePoint Workspace, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee649106.aspx.

Once employees start using SharePoint workspaces for contributing SharePoint content, they’ll barely notice that they’re using another app. Soon they’ll be creating multiple workspaces for accessing multiple SharePoint sites. And because working with SharePoint content in SharePoint a workspace not only solves the offline problem but is typically easier and faster than accessing it through a browser (think, image rendering or saving changes on a distant server), your calls from remote users trying to get at their SharePoint content should be a thing of the past.

For information about how SharePoint Workspace helps end users, see http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-workspace-help/CH010289332.aspx.

-- Mena Paton, SharePoint Workspace writer