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SharePoint 2013 and Cross Site Publishing

One of the questions we are most frequently asked by users with previous versions of SharePoint is how to access content (library and lists) residing in another site collection. Previously, this could only be achieved by using custom code to surface the data or by bending the principles of information architecture to simplify access to the content. SharePoint continues to build out the available tools for Web content management (WCM), including new authoring and publishing capabilities, such as cross-site publishing for managing multiple sites.

The new SharePoint 2013 publishing models allows content authors to write content and surface it in other locations through search. This means content stored within a site collection can be published in a variety of locations, and even tailored for mobile device channels. And, as cross site publishing removes the site collection barrier, content can now be disseminated across web apps and farms, as well as site collections. The following technet diagram highlights provides a overview of the cross site publishing feature:


Cross-site publishing’s a publishing method. It lets you create and maintain content in one or more authoring site collections, and publish this content across one or more publishing site collections, by using Content Search Web Parts. Cross-site publishing uses search technology to retrieve content. On a site collection where the Cross-Site Collection Publishing feature is enabled, libraries and lists have to be enabled as catalogs before the content can be reused in other site collections. The content of the library or list catalogs must be crawled and added to the search index. The content can then be displayed in a publishing site collection by using one or more Content Search Web Parts.

One question which I am asked quite often is the availability of an option around using the cross-site Publishing Feature to publish Information from an on-premise SharePoint 2013 to a SharePoint-online/Office365 environment. SharePoint Online can’t be deployed hybrid with on-premise SharePoint at present. The cross-site publishing feature can only be used for SharePoint Online alone or on-premise SharePoint alone.

Some benefits of SharePoint 2013 Cross-site publishing feature include:
• The cross-site publishing feature when combined with the new continuous crawl feature of the SharePoint search, allows decreasing the gap between publishing of the content and the moment when it become available in the search index (and those shown to end users). It also gives performance advantages when compared to Content by query web parts which rely on queries to content database being performed synchronously when user loads the page with web part, which in turn consumes server resources, while in search-driven approach queries are done to the search index which already contains crawled content.

• One of the major limitations with prior versions of SharePoint was no support for users to access content across site collections and having to design custom solutions for users to access information across site collection barriers. It wasn’t that getting around these barriers was impossible, but required a custom-build of this type of function into a business’s platform and resulted in more time and greater expense. SharePoint 2013 has this type of functionality right out of the box and allows users to do more with their implementation in less time, which probably ends up costing less in terms of both time and revenue.

• The other benefit of cross-site publishing is that content can be stored in standard lists or libraries rather than requiring end users to populate all web-based content into pages. The feature allows users to focus on the content they want to maintain without requiring additional knowledge or skill sets related to managing publishing pages. It can also provide greater control for system administrators over the content that is displayed on each page. Content publishers will update a list that impacts a single Web Part on a page, rather than being empowered to edit all content on the page.

• Multilingual sites and separation of Authoring and publishing.

However, there are still certain aspects to consider when using this new feature including:

• Cross Site Publishing is dependent on the search crawler and content cannot be published accurately if there is latency in the search crawl process. SharePoint 2013 does provide a new Continuous crawl process which ensures that newly added content is indexed instantaneously by the search crawler. However, there is some lack of information around what happens during the Continuous crawl process if crawl threads get backed up.

• Utilizing the Cross site publishing seems complicated for end users. There are many configuration settings which require a good understanding of the relationships within SharePoint.

• One of the outcomes of using the Cross site publishing feature and SharePoint 2013 search-based publishing model is that it only applies to the content that can be indexed. All other assets such as images or files are not included in the search index and therefore must be made available everywhere where the content from a catalog might be published. For example, sharing published news articles between an intranet and public facing SharePoint sites.
• Cross-site publishing is delivered through search and a number of new features, including list/library catalogs, catalog connections, and the content search web part.  Unfortunately, SharePoint Online/Office 365 doesn’t currently support these features.  However, there are alternatives as suggested in the article by Richard diZerega.

Additional Resources: