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Overview of the User Profile service application in SharePoint Server 2013

Published: July 16, 2012

Summary: Learn about the User Profile service application and how SharePoint Server 2013 uses it to enable features such as social computing.

Applies to:  SharePoint Server 2013 Standard | SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise 

The User Profile service application stores information about users in a central location. Social computing features use this information to enable productive interactions so that users can collaborate efficiently. In order to provision My Sites, enable social computing features such as social tagging and newsfeeds, and create and distribute profiles across multiple sites and farms, you must enable the User Profile service application.

In this article:

Uses and benefits of the User Profile service application

The User Profile service application in SharePoint Server 2013 provides a central location where service administrators configure and administer the following features:

  • User profiles – contain detailed information about people in an organization. A user profile organizes and displays all of the properties related to each user, together with social tags, documents, and other items related to that user.

  • Profile synchronization – provides a reliable way to synchronize groups and user profile information that is stored in the SharePoint Server 2013 profile database together with information that is stored in directory services across the enterprise.

  • Audiences – enables organizations to target content to users based on their job or task, as defined by their membership in a SharePoint Server group or distribution list, by the organizational reporting structure, or by the public properties in their user profiles.

  • My Site Host – a dedicated site for hosting My Sites. A My Site Host is needed in order to deploy the social features of SharePoint Server.

  • My Site – a personal site that gives users in your organization a central location to manage and store documents, links, and information about colleagues.

  • Social tags and notes – enables users to add social tags to documents, to other SharePoint Server items, and to other items, such as external web pages and blog posts. Users can also leave notes on profile pages of a My Site or any SharePoint Server page. Administrators can delete all tags for employees when they leave the company or remove a tag they do not want.

These features make it possible for users in an organization to share information and to stay informed about what happens within the organization. Social tags, for example, enable users to tag and track the information in which they are most interested. Users can be alerted when people with which they work author new blog posts or when there is a change in organizational metadata.

Like other service applications in SharePoint Server 2013, farm administrators can delegate the administration of all or part of the User Profile service application to one or more service application administrators. This enables the User Profile service application to be managed by the appropriate business group. One administrator can manage all areas of the User Profile service application or areas can be isolated and managed by different administrators who might not know about the other areas of the service application. For example, one administrator can manage My Sites while a different administrator manages social tags and notes. The User Profile service application can be restricted and made available only to certain departments or sets of sites based on business need, security restrictions, and budgets. For more information, see Delegate administration of User Profile service applications in SharePoint Server 2013 and Logical architecture components in SharePoint Server 2013.

Architecture

When you create a User Profile service application, SharePoint Server creates three databases for storing user profile information and associated data:

  • Profile database – used to store user profile information.

  • Synchronization database – used to store configuration and staging information for synchronizing profile data from external sources such as the Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS).

  • Social tagging database – used to store social tags and notes created by users. Each social tag and note is associated with a profile ID.

Each of these databases can be accessed by My Sites, Team Sites, and other SharePoint sites by using the User Profile service application. This provides a dynamic, personalized experience for the users in an organization.

Related service applications

The User Profile service application relies on other service applications to implement the full range of social computing features in SharePoint Server. These related service applications include the following:

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