Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating Web Applications and More

10/1/2013 3:49:21 AM

You have everything installed and a fully functional farm. Before you can invite users to the party, however, you need to create something for them to access — web applications, site collections, and webs. The first subsection takes a brief detour to ensure that these terms are clearly understood. Then you will walk through the steps to create these items.


Don’t skip this section. Even if you are quite certain you know all the terminology, humor us by reading this material. Even the most seasoned SharePoint “professional” can lack an understanding of exactly what each part of the SharePoint hierarchy represents.

Figure 1 is the SharePoint containment hierarchy. The main thing to understand as you look at the items is that a one-to-many relationship is reflected as you work down the list, whereas a many-to-one relationship is reflected as you work up the list. For example, a content database can (and often does) contain more than one site collection, but a site collection can only be located in one content database.



The most commonly misunderstood term is site, which end users often use when they actually mean web, and which developers often use when they actually mean site collection. This leads to utter chaos when it comes to troubleshooting or scaling your farm because they represent totally different things. As a best practice, never use the word “site,” and take every opportunity to encourage your fellow SharePoint admins to do the same if you catch them using it. Remember site is a four letter word and should be treated as such.

Web Applications

It’s easiest to think of a web application as the thing that lives in IIS. This is the address that your users will enter in their browser. Because it is something users will work with on a regular basis, you should try to choose a short, meaningful name. Names like or work much better than a name like http://scificharacter.scifiplanet.scifigalaxy.local. You want to choose a name that is both memorable to your users and easy to type. Also, the temptation is to only use the NetBIOS name http://portal, but that can cause confusion in different ways later. Best practice is to use a fully qualified domain name from the beginning.

SharePoint 2010 introduced claims-based authentication, although many users continued to use the classic Windows authentication because they had no idea what the new method was or why they should care about it. In SharePoint 2013, claims-based authentication is now the standard. Indeed, when creating a web application using Central Administration, it’s the only available option. The three seemingly different options — Windows claims, forms-based authentication (FBA), or Trusted Identity provider — are just different flavors of claims.

Use the following steps to create the web application

1. Return to the home page of Central Administration.
2. Under Application Management, click Manage web applications.
3. From the Ribbon, click New.

On the Manage web applications page, generally speaking things work as expected; but every now and then SharePoint will throw you a curveball. For example, you might find the New button is grayed out. There are a couple of reasons why this might be the case. One is if you are not a local administrator on the SharePoint server but you are a farm administrator. In this case, you can access central admin but you don’t have the Windows rights to create a new web application so SharePoint doesn’t display the option. The second reason is harder to catch and happens only when you are opening Central Administration from the server itself. When you launch Central Administration using the shortcut on the Start menu, it actually runs psconfigui.exe, which launches IE and disables all the lockdown behavior. If you open IE and type in the URL for Central Administration, there is a good chance that the scripts you need run to enable the button will be grayed out. Moral of the story? Anytime you are troubleshooting the New button being grayed out, you should RDP into the SharePoint server and run the shortcut. That is the solution most likely to resolve the problem.

4. For Port, enter 80. You could use a different port but users often don’t understand URLs with ports, so use the default of 80.
5. For Host Header, enter You want to have more than one web application using port 80, so you have to make them all unique by using host headers.
6. In most scenarios, all the defaults until you get to Application Pool will be fine. For this section, select Use existing application pool.
7. From the drop-down, select Default SharePoint Web App Pool (Contoso\sp_webapp). If you don’t have that application pool, return to the section, “Configuring the User Profile Service.” In that section, you created the web application, which should create the application pool.
8. In the next section, change the Database Name to WSS_Content_Portal. The idea here is to ensure that anyone looking at the list of database names can easily identify the purpose of each web app. A simple naming convention saves a lot of headaches later.
9. Accept all the other defaults and click OK.
10. After a moment you will get a pop-up window indicating that the application has been created. Click OK to close the window.

Now your web application and content database have been created. Because you just created the host header, you need to ensure that you have a DNS entry that resolves to your SharePoint server. As a word of caution, use a host or a record in DNS. Don’t use an alias or CNAME, as those just lead to trouble.

Because you are using to access the server named Server, if you try to open that URL from the SharePoint server itself you will get an authentication error. This is because of a security mechanism called the loopback check that protects you from reflection attacks. There are two ways to work around the issue, both of which are covered at You can review the article and choose which method you prefer. Method 1 is very specific and disables the check just for names you specify, whereas method 2 turns off the security feature entirely. The choice is yours but you need to select one for SharePoint to be happy.

To make it easier to manage SharePoint in a multi-server farm, it is recommended that you modify the hosts file on each machine so that each web application points to the local server. You can find the file in c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\ and it is named just hosts with no extension. Using Notepad, modify it to add an entry to point to as shown in Figure 2. If you have a problem trying to save the file, that is because you have the user access control still enabled. In that case, you need to run Notepad as an administrator.



For an automated way to change both the hosts file and the loopback setting using a PowerShell script, see Todd Klindt’s blog post at

Site Collections and Webs

Now that you have a web application sitting there, you need to create a site collection so it has something to serve up. Site collections are the unit of scale in SharePoint. The easiest way to think of a site collection is as a bag, because it is really just a boundary or container. It is not actually content users can touch. The reason why this “bag” is so important is because it determines a lot about how your information is stored.

Site collections are a storage boundary and they are stored in one and only one content database. They cannot span multiple databases. When you create a site collection it is created in a database, where it will stay unless you manually move it. If, for example, you want to limit all your content databases to 40GB because that is the largest size you are comfortable with, then you need to ensure that no site collection is larger than 40GB. Similarly, if you have multiple site collections (and everyone does), then you would need to apply quotas to those site collections to ensure that the sum of the site collections doesn’t exceed your 40GB database limit. For instance, if you had 10 site collections, then you would set your quotas to 4GB per site collection.

Site collections are the only objects in SharePoint to which you can apply a storage quota. If you want to limit a user to storing only 10GB of content in a particular document library, there is no way to do that. You would have to set that entire site collection to a 10GB limit. If you have two document libraries and you want to give each one 10GB of storage, then you have to ensure that each document library is in its own site collection.

Even if you have no intention of holding users to limits, quotas are generally recommended for all site collections, as they serve as a checkpoint and prevent runaway site collections. If a user calls and says that he is getting warnings or errors because he has met his quota, it is a simple process for you to increase his quota, and it gives you a chance to ask, “So what are you doing with SharePoint that you need so much storage space?” It would be good to know if he is just backing up his MP3 collection to SharePoint.

Site collections also serve as an administrative boundary. Site collection administrators are a special group of users who have complete power over the site collection without necessarily having any access to other site collections. The Site Settings page contains an entire menu of configuration options that only a site collection admin can set. If you have two groups — such as HR and Accounting, for example — in the same site collection and one of them approaches you because they need to administer one of these special settings, you have to do some rearranging. If you make Nicola from Accounting a site collection administrator, then she can fully administer the account site as needed but she also has full control over the entire site collection, including the HR web. You need to instead move the Accounting web to its own site collection and then make Nicola an administrator there.

Site collections are also boundaries for out-of-the-box functionality such as navigation and the various galleries. This can be a drawback of many site collections. Out of the box, it is impossible to enforce consistent, self-maintaining navigation across site collections. The galleries such as the themes, Web Parts, lists, and solutions are all scoped at the site collection level. For example, if you need a list template to be available to multiple site collections, then you have to manually deploy it to each one.

Site collections also serve as security boundaries. The All People list and the various SharePoint groups are all scoped at the site collection level and are not accessible for reuse outside of the site collection.

Inside of site collections you have one or more “webs.” A web is the object that is referred to throughout the user interface as a site. It can also be called a subsite or a subweb. Again, because the term “site” can be very confusing, whenever possible refer to these as webs. This is the first object users can actually touch. You can apply security to it, and it contains all the user content. Each web has its own lists (libraries are just a special type of list) and all of those lists store items, which refers to the actual content, such as documents and contacts.

All of that is said to remind you not to take site collections lightly. Create them deliberately and often because they will keep you out of trouble down the road.

Follow these steps to create that first site collection:

1. Return to the home page of Central Administration.
2. Under Application Management, click Create site collections. Avoid the temptation to make fun of the fact that the link says Create site collections even though you can only create one site collection using the link.
3. Confirm at the top of the page that Web Application says; if not, you can click the link to change web applications.
4. For Title and Description, enter something helpful or creative. In this example, use Contoso Portal for Title and leave Description blank.
5. For URL:, you need to choose the root site collection by selecting the / from the drop-down. Creating this site collection first is a requirement.
6. The Select experience version drop-down is interesting. You can choose 2013 or 2010. For this example, choose 2013. Keep this setting in your memory bank. It is a new twist to SharePoint that you might find handy down the road.
7. In the Select a template section, choose Team Site.
8. For Primary Site Collection Administrator User Name, enter Contoso\sp_install. In a real-world environment you would use an account that makes sense for the site collection you are creating.
9. For Secondary Site Collection Administrator User Name, enter Contoso\administrator. Again, in your environment use a better account. The key point is that every site collection should have both a primary and a secondary owner.
10. While every site collection in the world should have a quota, you haven’t learned about them yet so you can leave this at No Quota for the moment.
11. Double-check all your settings and click OK.

After a minute or so you will get a message indicating that the site collection was successfully created. Click the link to dive into the awesomeness that is SharePoint 2013.

  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 7) - Configuring the App Management Service - Configuring the User Profile Service
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 6) - Configuring the App Management Service - Configuring PerformancePoint Services , Configuring the Search Service Application
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 5) - Configuring the App Management Service - Configuring the Managed Metadata Service
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 4) - Creating the Subscription Service Application , Configuring DNS for the App Management Service
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 3) - Configuring the Farm - Checking Your Available Service Applications , Access Services 2010
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 2) - Configuring the Farm - Creating the Service Application App Pool, Provisioning the State Service
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013 : Creating the Farm (part 1)
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013: Running Setup
  •  Installing and Configuring SharePoint 2013: Running the Prerequisite Installer
  •  Becoming Anonymous On The Internet (Part 4)
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