Surfacing external data in SharePoint

By - April 7, 2017

As SharePoint is being used to streamline Line of Business (LOB) activities, it may be necessary to incorporate external data, such as databases, with SharePoint. solutions, such as the Business Data Catalog (BDC) for SharePoint 2007 or the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) for SharePoint 2010/2013, are complex, require additional tools or programming, have serious limitations, and can be deprecated in certain SharePoint editions.

BCS external list limitations:

  • Workflows cannot be associated with external lists
  • Cannot export external list items to Excel
  • Item-level permissions are not available
  • Versioning cannot be configured
  • Item history is not available
  • Datasheet view cannot be used
  • Can only connect to a limited type of data
  • Cannot create a site column of type ‘external data column’
  • No write support for BLOB
  • Ratings feature is not supported
  • Metadata based navigation is not supported
  • No RSS feed support
  • No REST based access
  • Cannot configure alerts

Edition comparison:

BCS Feature SharePoint Foundation Standard Edition Enterprise Edition
External List Yes Yes Yes
External Data Column Yes Yes Yes
BDC Service Yes Yes Yes
Connector Framework Yes Yes Yes
Secure Store Service No Yes Yes
External Data Search No Yes Yes
Profile Pages No Yes Yes
Business Data Web Parts No No Yes
Rich Client Integration No No Yes

We have found that business requirements and processes drive the solution to integrating external data in SharePoint, not the other way around. When BCS cannot meet the needs of our clients it becomes necessary to look for a third party solution. To surface external data in SharePoint for our clients at RSM we have found that The Layer2 Cloud Connector for Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 and OneDrive for Business completely solves these issues. It connects and syncs to almost any on- premise or cloud-based data source directly to SharePoint lists and libraries in any SharePoint Online / 2010 / 2013 installation – without any programming. All native SharePoint features are available for the connected lists, including views, search, managed metadata, lookups, offline and mobile access, change notifications, and workflows. To find out more about this or other ways that RSM can assist you with your Microsoft solution needs, contact RSM’s technology consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.

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