User profiles are a collection of information that can be imported from a database or manually entered. The data in a user profile can then also be further customized by the user. Profiles store personal information about the users in your company or organization. All of the user profiles are stored in Profile Services, which is part of the Shared Service Provider for the site collection. User profiles can be helpful when you need to determine some type of personal information about another user. Also, user profiles help by pointing out the connections, or relationships, that a user has with other users. For example, a manager would be able to see other managers in the organization, and use them as a resource when help is needed.
You can use user profiles through the user interface or through the APIs provided by the object model. There are many ways that user profiles can be helpful to an organization. For example, if a department is trying to use an unfamiliar program, they could search all of the user profiles to find someone who lists using that product as one of their skills. If there are only a handful of people in the organization who have experience using that product, the user profiles would provide a way to find them quickly and get the help needed. Figure 8-1 shows an advanced search of user profiles.