Thanks to Business Connectivity Services (BCS), it’s now easy to integrate external data into SharePoint 2010. If you’re a SharePoint administrator keen to know what BCS is, what it offers, and how to manage it in your SharePoint environment, this top 10 list is for you.

1. What is BCS? BCS enables SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 applications to read and write data from external systems, such as databases, web services, and custom-built applications. BCS provides tools that streamline development to deeply integrate external data and services. To learn more about BCS, see the MSDN article “Business Connectivity Services Overview.”

2. How different is BCS from the Business Data Catalog? The major difference between the Business Data Catalog that’s available in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and BCS in SharePoint 2010 is that Business Data Catalog is a read-only service, but BCS enables create, read, update, and delete (CRUD) operations on the external system.

3. What is the BDC service in SharePoint 2010? Business Data Connectivity (BDC) is a shared service that lets users build declarative models, which expose the external data to SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 applications. BDC is the data connectivity to different external systems and the set of operations for BCS to interact with the external system.

4. How do I manage BCS? BCS is a service application. You manage service applications from SharePoint Central Administration. You manage BCS in the BDC service metadata store by using the BCS service application. Multiple instances of this service application can be created for different external systems if needed.

5. What are external content types? External content types are the building blocks of BCS. They describe the schema and data access capabilities of an external data source and its behavior within SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 applications, enabling interaction with the external data. To learn more about external content types, see the MSDN article “What Are External Content Types?”

6. What is the BDC service metadata store? The BDC service metadata store contains all the BDC models, external content types, and external systems available in the farm. You manage it from the BCS service application in the SharePoint Central Administration website.

7. How do I manage permissions, security, and access to the external data in BCS? Permissions can be applied to the metadata store and to every object in the metadata store, and they can be associated with an individual account or a group. You should be aware of two security principles: BDC service authentication, which deals with authenticating with the BDC model and the external system; and BDC service authorization, which deals with user access to the external data managed by BCS. These controls shouldn’t be confused with the permissions set in the external data system. Permissions set in the BDC service metadata store apply only to connections from SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 applications to the external system.

8. Is BCS available in SharePoint Foundation 2010? Yes, BCS is included in both SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010. However, the BCS features available in SharePoint Foundation 2010 are limited when compared to the features available in SharePoint Server 2010.

9. Can I upgrade from Business Data Catalog to BCS? Yes, upgrading from Business Data Catalog to BCS is supported. To learn more about planning your upgrade to BCS, see the TechNet article “Plan to upgrade to Business Connectivity Services.”

10. Is SharePoint Search integrated with BCS? Yes, you can configure SharePoint Search to crawl external data. You can create a new content source of type Line of Business Data and configure search for your BDC service. To learn more about searching external data using BCS, see the blog post “Searching External Data in SharePoint 2010 Using Business Connectivity Services.”