Should You Look Into SharePoint?
With Microsoft heavily promoting SharePoint, a lot of our clients are wondering: What exactly is SharePoint? What does it do, how does it do it, and how might it benefit our organization? This month’s newsletter answers all of these questions and more.
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is Microsoft’s enterprise-wide information portal. SharePoint makes it easy for individuals, departments and teams to connect and collaborate regardless of their physical location, and provides a sophisticated document storage, management and sharing platform. SharePoint can be used to host and run Intranet, Extranet, and Internet sites that provide access to shared workspaces and documents, as well as specialized applications such as blogs and wikis.
What Can SharePoint Do For Us?
SharePoint wraps together a range of functionalities, molding it all into one sleek package that makes it relatively painless for your organization to:
• Control Documents – Keep track of your organization’s ever-increasing documents by storing, locating and searching for all of your files in a central site. Create customized document management and access rights policies for these files at the per-item level.
• Organize Information – With all documents and content stored in a central location, users have a consistent mechanism for navigating the system and finding what they need.
• Simplify Web Content Management – SharePoint makes it easy for anyone to create sites for use on your Intranet (including document libraries, surveys, meeting sites and discussion boards), with no coding required. Specialized mini applications called “web parts” provide drag and drop functionality for discussion panes, task lists, document management, and more.
• Enable Collaboration – With SharePoint, teams and individuals from across your organization can effortlessly connect and collaborate. For example, a project team can use SharePoint to set up a project-specific site. Everything for that project, from documents, contact information and task lists to discussion boards, blogs, a wiki for meeting notes, and more, would be stored on and accessed there.
• Streamline Business Functions – SharePoint allows you to use workflows to automate common business activities such as document review and approval, signature collection, and issue tracking. SharePoint’s integration with Microsoft Office products also simplifies things for the end user. For instance, Word and Excel files can be saved directly into a SharePoint site by simply using the “save as” function.
How Does SharePoint Work?
SharePoint is comprised of several different applications:
• Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) – This free add-on to Windows offers basic functionalities, such as document organization, workflow, to-do lists and discussion boards.
• Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) – This paid component integrates with WSS and adds significant functionality, including better document management, an enterprise-indexed search function, navigation features, enhanced RSS support, and integration with Microsoft Office products. MOSS also includes preconfigured website and application templates for quick and easy implementation of professional-looking sites with little or no coding. Finally, MOSS provides easy-to-use site management tools to assist in the administration of the various SharePoint sites used throughout a company.
• SQL Server – This is the database that is used to house all of the backend data. The SQL Server must be purchased separately from MOSS.
Should We Buy the Full Version?
Once you’re sold on the many benefits of this information portal, the question becomes: Should we just use the (free) Windows SharePoint Services, or is it worth it to purchase the full-blown Microsoft Office SharePoint Services product? As usual, the answer is “it depends.”
If you need to implement something quickly and only require basic functionality, or if you’re looking for a more grass-roots approach, the WSS may be the best way to get started. You’ll get the basics without the bells and whistles. On the other hand, if you’re planning an enterprise-wide rollout that will need to take advantage of some of the more robust features, such as search and enhanced workflow, and need to be able to manage multiple sites simply and easily, then MOSS is probably the better solution.
All in all, Microsoft’s SharePoint is a powerful tool that takes both collaboration and file storage to a new level. If you have any questions about this product, don’t hesitate to call. One of our SharePoint experts will be happy to help you.