Many organizations have the requirement to store emails data from PST or mailboxes to an external database for varied reasons – for integration with CRM suites, to generate reports or statistics, or simply for redundant backup, archival or audit purposes to mention a few. However, there is no direct way of exporting emails data from Outlook to a database. That is, Outlook’s built-in Import and Export wizard only supports export of Outlook data to excel or a PST file.

Connecting Outlook to database for seamless export

The AssistMyTeam Database Exporter add-in for Microsoft Outlook is designed to overcome this limitation (i.e., the inability of the Outlook’s built-in ‘Import and Export Wizard’ to export data to an external database), by allowing you to export any kind of data, including custom fields, to a database, in a simple click, or even better, on the fly with no intervention from the user. There are 3 ways of exporting Outlook data to an external database:

1. Exporting items of an Outlook folder to a database

To export the contents of an Outlook folder, click the ‘Export to DB’ button as shown below. You will be shown with the ‘Select Fields’ dialog, with which you can opt which form to be used for displaying the available fields.

By default, the first option ‘Retrieve from the first item’ is selected, and what it does is, to probe the first item of the folder and automatically seek out all the available fields, including any number of user defined custom fields. It is recommended that you stick with this option of displaying the fields, unless, you want to retrieve Outlook specific fields only (second option), or want to use a particular custom form out of many defined for that Outlook folder (third option).

2. Exporting items including those in subfolders

By default, when you export the contents of an Outlook folder using the ‘Export to DB’ button, only the items of the current folder is taken into account. Items inside the subfolders (if any) are excluded from the export. Below are a few export options available.

  1. When exporting to database, include all items from subfolders
    When you choose to export the contents of an Outlook folder, enable this option to include items in subfolders of any number of levels. For example, below, the current folder is ‘My Company’. When exporting this to database, if you had checked this option, the contents of the subfolders such as ‘Bookings’, ‘Cases’, ‘Ongoing’, ‘Customers’ etc, will also be exported to the same database.
  2. Export all data from all subfolders to a single table
    Export all the items in the current folder, as well as those in subfolders in the same/single table, using this option. With this, the fields that you had chosen for the current folder will be applied to all the items in the subfolders as well.
  3. Export data of each subfolder to separate table in same database
    Another option is to export items in each of the subfolder to a separate table. This gives more flexibility in configuring the field options of the subfolders to be exported. For example, you can set the same chosen fields as that of the root folder, or use the default form for that subfolder, or even better, probe the first item of the subfolder to seek out the available fields. The latter option comes handy if you have user defined fields available on the folder or the item level.

3. Automation – Monitor Inbox for live export to database

Database Exporter supports real-time monitoring of any number of Outlook folders (can be a public folder or shared mailbox folder too). This will automatically process incoming mails or newly added appointments, tasks or contact items and add the data for the chosen fields to the database, without any intervention from the user. This automation would be particular useful, if you want to maintain a parallel copy or backup of your current Outlook items. This spares you from having to do that laborious work of copying and pasting the data from Outlook to database manually.

Automatic export works by allowing Database Exporter add-in to monitor selected Outlook folders (can be a shared or a public folder too), such that, when new emails are received or new appointments or tasks are added, Database Exporter automatically processes those items in real time and extract relevant data and add them to a pre-configured database. Each folder would have exactly one database each.

If you enable this option ‘Automatically update DB record when Outlook item is updated/changed’, whenever an existing Outlook item on a monitored folder is edited and saved, instantly the changes will also be reflected in the corresponding record in the database. This feature enables you to maintain synchronization between the Outlook items and the records in the database, on the fly, with no manual work.

If the Outlook folder is monitored for auto export and the option ‘Removing database record on item deletion from Outlook’ is checked, a delete button appears in the Database Exporter toolbar that enables you to delete the unnecessary Outlook items and at the same time, remove the corresponding database records automatically.

Benefits

  • Seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook
  • Export the contents of the Outlook folder to a relational database such as MS Access (MDB), Azure SQL, and all versions of SQL Server (including Express editions)
  • Support pre-defined Outlook fields as well as custom fields defined for that folder
  • Choose any customized form defined for that Outlook folder Supports POP, IMAP, Exchange mailbox and Public folders
  • Export all kind of Outlook items – mails, posts, appointments, tasks, journals or contacts
  • Optionally include items from the subfolders in the export, either to a single table or to separate table for each subfolder
  • Supports export of notes (Plain Body or HTML Body of the Outlook item, including task, appointment and contact item).
  • Real-time monitoring of incoming emails/new items of an Outlook folder, and automatically export the data to a database
  • Special MSI installer available for enterprise wide deployment (upon request)
  • Support for Office 2016 and 64 bit Versions
  • Support export to Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server and cloud based Azure SQL

The Database Exporter addin works in your Exchange Public folders or PST just as fine as it does in your Inbox. To get more info about the tool, you can visit – https://www.assistmyteam.net/DatabaseExporter/

 

SharePoint has become the de-facto sharing platform for teams in organizations; storing business and transactional data on lists, document libraries etc. But unlike the ease of reporting and running statistics on relational database, SharePoint on its own does not provide such flexibility when it comes to querying and building reports. Due to this limitation, often, managers might find themselves spending a lot of time and resource in exporting data to spreadsheet and performing manual computation and parsing. Some organizations even use specialized data professionals and a dozen different software packages, just to produce simple reports. Worst, if the report doesn’t have the required information, you will have to start over, wasting precious time.

As there is a time and expense involved in getting answers from SharePoint lists, a lot of business intelligence information often goes unused, due to that fact that, SharePoint is designed to store data, and not to help you analyze it.

Connecting SharePoint to database for seamless export

The AssistMyTeam Database Exporter app for SharePoint is designed to give you a simple and yet powerful tool to let you replicate your SharePoint list data to a relational database for archival or reporting purpose.

In the Database Exporter tool, you can enter the URL of your SharePoint site (e.g.. http://companyweb/) such that it would show up all the available lists in a hierarchical tree from which you can select the particular SharePoint list for replication to relational database. Alternatively, you can also enter the URL of the particular SharePoint list (e.g.. http://companyweb/Lists/Tasks/AllItems.aspx) to directly load the available fields in the grid. With either techniques, you can choose which SharePoint fields to include in the export.

Before you can export a SharePoint list to a relational database, you are required to choose which fields of the list are to be included into the export. You do this by checking the corresponding check-box of the third column ‘Include in Database’. If you want all fields to be included, you can click ‘Select All’ option located at the bottom.

To export the selected SharePoint list with data of chosen field, click ‘Export to Database’. This will pop-up the database option dialog box, where you can choose the database type, name and specify the path and credentials etc.

A snapshot of replicated tables and their corresponding data in MS SQL Server from the SharePoint lists.

Benefits

  • Works with WSS, MOSS, SharePoint 2010, 2013, 2016 and Office 365
  • Support almost all data types used in SharePoint list Choose your own fields for inclusion to the database export
  • Supports export to relational Microsoft databases such as Microsoft Access (MDB)Microsoft SQL Server including Express editions, and Microsoft cloud based Azure SQL
  • No SharePoint list view threshold issues (i.e., limit of 5000 items) .
  • Install on any Windows PC or server, virtual or physical, and does not require any changes to SharePoint. Optimized for Office 365 SharePoint Online.

To get more info about the tool, you can visit – https://www.assistmyteam.net/DatabaseExporterSharePoint/

 

From my consulting experience, I have noticed one core issue that many IT administrators and power users face in their implementation towards integration of Outlook/Exchange and SharePoint – the ‘incompleteness’ of the captured Outlook data in SharePoint. And this happens when there is a lack of metadata available to describe the published item in SharePoint. Because of this, user adoption of SharePoint could suffer in the organization.

For instance, emails can be saved as Outlook Message Format (.MSG extension) from Outlook > File > Save As, and then can be uploaded directly through the native SharePoint UI. And when one clicks the MSG file from SharePoint, it will open up in Outlook (if installed) which the user can then reply/forward. This provides for a basic integration of storing Outlook emails to SharePoint. However for non-Outlook users, the MSG file is not as useful because SharePoint can’t display the MSG file and its content such as attachments natively.

There are other important limitations with as such! The upload of the MSG file of the email to SharePoint does not bring along any additional attributes or metadata information (To, From, Subject, Sender etc.) to the SharePoint columns. So, one need to manually feed additional metadata information to describe it in the SharePoint columns to give a meaning to the uploaded email MSG file. Not only, it is time consuming and laborious to save, upload the email file and enter metadata to describe it, one has to repeat the same step for each email. And it can be quite a daunting task if you have thousands of emails in your Inbox. This limitation can significantly handicap the usefulness and usability of such data in SharePoint.

Email enabling a SharePoint list or library could be another option (that is, one can include the email address of the SharePoint list as one of the recipients to have that email stored in the SharePoint). But again, the actual email is stored in .EML format in SharePoint, which only recent versions of Microsoft Outlook supports.  Moreover, this process does not populate useful email metadata to the SharePoint columns. Other limitation with this approach is the administration overhead to setup SharePoint with unique email addresses and broadcast it to the users. This approach does not work on your existing emails and other Outlook items such as appointments, tasks or contacts and hence, cannot account as a cumulative solution for your Outlook/Exchange data.

If the solution discussed above is exactly your requirement, then you are in for luck and need not read further of this blog. But if you find yourself needing for a seamless way to bring Outlook emails and data to SharePoint along with useful metadata information of the email to corresponding SharePoint columns, then read on as I am going to discuss how this can be achieved fairly simple with one of my application ‘DataPublisher for Outlook & SharePoint’.

DataPublisher exists as an add-in application in your Microsoft Outlook. In this application, the first step you (or the administrator in Team Edition) would do is to specify any number of destination SharePoint lists that will store the published emails or other items from Outlook. This is followed by simple mapping of attributes or fields between the Outlook mail (or other item types) and SharePoint columns. This is done so that the add-in can extract the relevant metadata information (such as To, From, Categories, Subject, Body etc.) from the email and populate it automatically to the published item on the SharePoint side.

And storing emails from Outlook to SharePoint is just a matter of a click (or two, if you had linked multiple SharePoint lists to Outlook). To be even more productive, you can select multiple emails and publish them to SharePoint.

Once published, the SharePoint item will contain the email (OutlookItem.msg) as well as relevant metadata information that were mapped. Attachments of the email are available as clickable links.

For that matter, you can publish all the items of an Outlook folder to a particular SharePoint list in a click. This will publish all the items in that Outlook/Exchange folder to the chosen SharePoint lists in batch. As the transfer is done in the background outside the Outlook.exe process, you can continue working in Outlook without being interrupted.

No matter what technique you use, DataPublisher add-in pushes the emails to your SharePoint along with attachments of the email and the metadata information (chosen when performing mapping of fields) to the SharePoint columns. In fact, to view the content of the email, you don’t even need to open the MSG file from SharePoint as the metadata information contains the email body too. Attachments of the email can be directly accessed and viewed natively from the SharePoint item without opening the MSG file in Outlook or other email client application.

Outlook items with custom fields – if you use a custom form on an Outlook folder, most likely you might have added custom fields to collect additional data from users.  With DataPublisher, you can map those custom fields to SharePoint columns too to bring the custom data to the corresponding custom fields to SharePoint.

Outlook/Exchange to SharePoint publishing is not limited to emails. In fact, with DataPublisher, you can implement the same technique to push appointments, tasks, journals or contacts to your chosen SharePoint destination, while preserving the metadata information and attachments.

You can also set DataPublisher to automatically push incoming emails in your Inbox to SharePoint without requiring you to do it. That is, as soon as new emails are received or new appointments are added, the add-in would export those items to SharePoint with the same logic. This is ideal if you want to maintain a live copy of your Outlook folder items (e.g. Inbox, Calendar) in SharePoint.

DataPublisher application works in your Exchange Public folders or PST just as fine as it does in your Inbox. And if your organization still uses Public folders to store data and documents, you could make use of DataPublisher add-in to export and migrate all of it to SharePoint repositories without worrying about the integrity or loss of information on the SharePoint side.

In a nutshell, you can just concentrate on deciding which emails to store in SharePoint and leave the question on ‘how’ and other technical complexities to DataPublisher application. So go ahead and adapt our content management solution from Outlook to SharePoint for your varied requirements such as filling caller and problem metadata information from emails to trouble tickets in your SharePoint Issue Tracking lists, submitting meetings and schedules from Outlook Calendars to SharePoint calendars, Exchange Public Folders migration to SharePoint, email retention and archival from Outlook to SharePoint repositories as part of company’s legal policy etc.

Remark: In the Enterprise Team edition of DataPublisher application, choosing the destination SharePoint lists and the mapping of fields is done once by the administrator and deployed to all other users automatically. This makes it very easy for workgroup users to file and publish emails, attachments, appointments, tasks or contacts along with the mapped metadata to the administrator’s specified SharePoint list and columns from within their Outlook. Streamlining these processes for all users of the organization, brings about a bridging solution for content publishing and management from Microsoft Outlook to SharePoint.

For more read:
Data Publisher for Outlook & SharePoint (Personal Edition)
Data Publisher for Outlook & SharePoint (Enterprise/Team Edition) 

 

It’s simple! Computers are so much engraved in today’s businesses, but in the end, the ultimate goal is all about maximizing knowledge wealth and enhancing human intelligence. And for any company, this acquired intelligence is the single most valuable asset. When such intelligence is utilized, shared and factored in, innovation and inventions take precedent, spiraling the business and profit level of the company. Therefore, in today’s competitive world, companies take a great deal of efforts to implement an effective knowledge retention and management policy, to prepare and compete for the future. This is where, a knowledge management system or what we popularly refer to as ‘knowledge base’ can make all the differences in aiding productivity and operational skills of the people of the company.

Besides, enabling knowledge retention for future, a knowledge base system can be effectively used for addressing recurring issues reported by your end-users. Consider a scenario, where you and your support team frequently find trying to solve the same issue over and over. Your end-users send you emails on similar issues repeatedly. And if you are already aware of the solution, typically, you will try to compose the solution or if you have vague recollection of it, you would try to navigate to your existing document libraries, past email conversations etc. Just consider how much time and effort you had wasted in trying to find the right information at the moment of need, not to mention the delayed response to the support request. If there was a knowledge base system at place in the organization, you could have shared your knowledge with other team members so that everyone has the same understanding and are communicating the same message when asked about specific issues.

There are many ways of implementing knowledge management systems. One of them is using Microsoft SharePoint repositories. In most cases, you might already have a SharePoint based site already running in your company’s network, or may be using one of the hosted SharePoint services, such Microsoft Office 365, which is becoming quite popular for small businesses. And we already know, one of the great capabilities of SharePoint is its collaborative and sharing feature. This makes it very versatile for storing knowledge base articles, which can be shared among the staffs and personals, especially those involve in customer service.

However, there is one crippling limitation of SharePoint based knowledge base, which is its isolation state and lack of integration with email clients such as Microsoft Outlook. This is at disadvantage for customer support team that relies on email as the primary mode of communication. Because when a support request email is received, support staff would need to refer to the SharePoint site and search for the relevant knowledge base article, and if they manage to find it, there is no direct and effective way of using that article along with its associated documents and files in the email reply. One can copy the content from the KB article to the email, however, that is time consuming and cumbersome, and often not all information and files make it to the email. So, after putting much effort and time, you still didn’t get the complete KB article inserted into the email reply. Moreover, the frequent switching back and forth between the email client and SharePoint site tends to loosen the focus of the support staff, leaving him/her frustrated. Evidently, organizations and teams that leverage SharePoint as knowledge base would need to reinvent the wheel and implement an efficient way of importing SharePoint based article or document, to outgoing email reply.

Because of such limitation in SharePoint based knowledge base system, it made me thinking on how to bridge this gap and come up with a solution that offers a seamless integration of the SharePoint based KB articles in Microsoft Outlook. The effort of this work leads to the development of an Microsoft Outlook add-in, called ‘Team KnowledgeBase for Outlook & SharePoint‘. Currently available as a beta offering, with Team KnowledgeBase installed, one can effortlessly locate a KB article (stored on SharePoint) relevant to an issue from within Outlook itself, and insert it into an outgoing email reply in a single click. All these and more making sure, the outgoing email retains all the actual files and the original formatting of the selected KB article. No more frequent switching between Outlook and SharePoint, no more copy-paste job etc. In fact, you don’t even need to type in anything into the email reply. Team KnowledgeBase add-in does that for you on the fly.

There are two portions of Team KnowledgeBase – an admin install and a user install. The former is for managers and administrators, who would perform the global configuration of the knowledge base, choose and setup SharePoint KB lists, and map fields between Outlook and SharePoint, whereas the later is for individual support staff that will be making use of the KB articles stored in one or more of the administrator chosen SharePoint lists, from Outlook. Even though KB articles are stored on your SharePoint list, every user can make use of it in Microsoft Outlook to reply to emails in a snap.

A pop-up dialog box allows you to browse through the existing knowledge base articles, and select the relevant article to be embedded either as attachment, inline or as URL into the email reply.

You can make use of a filter, to refine your search. For example, you can display the KB articles listing by specifying a problem category and/or a type. Alternative, you can also specify keywords for a full text search such that matching KB articles that meet the criteria are only displayed, for selection. Selected KB article can be applied or inserted into the replied email in varied format.

You can choose to insert as attachment in the form of a word document (*.doc), Adobe PDF (*.pdf), Microsoft XPS (*.xps) or as single file MHTML (*.mht).


You can also embed the selected KB article directly into the body of the email reply. Any inline images and formatting are preserved in its original state in the reply also.

Alternatively, if your SharePoint site is opened (i.e., accessible via the web), then you can also insert the hyperlink or URL of the selected KB article into the reply, so that the recipient can simply click the hyperlink to open the relevant article in their web browser.

The good thing about a SharePoint based knowledge base system is the accessibility, not only for the staffs, but also for the end users. Over time, the knowledge base repository would have enough solutions on common problems and issues. You can exploit this wealth of knowledge, by allowing your SharePoint knowledge base site accessible on the web. Such that your end-users and customers experiencing technical challenges can self-service the answer to their problem by accessing this web-based knowledge base. They can even make use of the SharePoint inbuilt search functionality to query KB articles by keywords. This can eliminate unnecessary phone calls and allows your customers to quickly get answers to questions and maximize the use of your knowledge base.

On the cost front, as Team KnowledgeBase leverages your existing Outlook and SharePoint resources, there is no extra hardware/software cost that you will have to incur in implementing an enterprise-wide knowledge base for your team. As your team members are already familiar with Outlook, there is no requirement for any elaborate training, further lowering the cost. As you have network and SharePoint administrators in place, you don’t require dedicated personnel for maintenance. And the bigger advantage, in long-term, is the reduced number of inbound customer support questions, which will reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to support issues. This can reduce the number of support engineers needed, thereby reducing costs to your support desk at the long run.

Product Summary:
Name: Team KnowledgeBase for Outlook and SharePoint
Product site: http://www.assistmyteam.net/TeamKnowledgeBaseSP/

Video: Administrative Configuration


Video: Using KB articles to reply to emails in Outlook

 

By now, most of you might be aware of latest Microsoft’s Cloud based Office collaboration  and services – Office 365. The offering consists of Office Professional Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

In the last few months, Office 365 has grown tremendously and widely adopted by small and medium businesses. Add to that, many of our existing customers keep nagging me when the support for Office 365 is planned. Reluctantly, it was decided that the time has come to finally do it. But wait, there is no blueprints or easier way to achieved it. One aspect of Office 365 is the claimed-based authentication which is quite different from the usual NTLM or form authentication, that are quite common in in-housed Microsoft software environment such as SharePoint 2010. So, spent 2 days learning about the new claim-based authentication implementation in Office 365 and another day for finally coming out with a working prototype. The journey was painful, but the end it was worth it, because now, I can proudly display ‘works on Office 365‘ for our products. Moreover, I would be scanning less emails on Office 365 support from now onwards – a relief actually!

The following products are now updated to support Office 365, especially the SharePoint Online service.

1. Issue Tracker for Outlook & SharePoint (Team Edition)
2. Issue Tracker for Outlook & SharePoint (Personal Edition)
3. Team Helpdesk for Outlook & SharePoint
4. Data Publisher for Outlook & SharePoint
5. Team Publisher for Outlook & SharePoint
6. Team TimeSheet for Outlook & SharePoint

The update does not add any new UI or options to go along, only the logic that drives connection to the Office 365 SharePoint Online site is piggyback into existing module. So, there is no new steps to get accustom to and you can keep on using the product the way you had been doing before. What is new is now, you can specify your Office 365 SharePoint site to interface and work with our product, by simply keying in the office 365 team site URL and you will be prompted to provide the credential to log on to the site.

For example, below, the Office 365 team site URL is http://amt100.sharepoint.com/TeamSite

And in the credential dialog prompt, you will enter your Microsoft Online Services ID, as the user name. In this context, it is john@AMT100.onmicrosoft.com and the password characters.

Note that, Microsoft Online Service ID is the same that you use when signing in to Office 365 site in your web browser.

If the credential provided is correct, it should load up all the lists and sub-sites as shown below.


Edited (30th November 2011): Please note that you need the following requirements to be able to integrate Office 365 SharePoint Online with our products:

Operating System – Vista SP2 or above. Windows XP and 2003 won’t work with Office 365 SharePoints.
.NET Framework – 3.5 or above
Windows Identity Foundation – This component is required to be installed on the system so that our product can work with Office 365 SharePoint lists.

You can download and install this component from below:

For Vista 32 bit (Windows6.0-KB974405-x86.msu)
For Vista 64 bit (Windows6.0-KB974405-x64.msu)
For WIndows 7 32 bit (Windows6.1-KB974405-x86.msu)
For Windows 7 64 bit (Windows6.1-KB974405-x64.msu)

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