Choosing the right collaboration tool nowadays is not as easy as it sounds. There is so much choice available that it’s time-consuming and tricky to get an informed decision – free tools vs. paid tools, feature-rich vs. more-focused tools.
Two of the most popular collaboration tools on the market are Atlassian Confluence and Microsoft SharePoint. If you are about to take a decision between the two, then this article is for you. Both tools have pros and cons and one can be a better fit for you, depending on your needs.
Let’s start with a little bit of history.
Confluence is a web-based corporate wiki (collaboration software) developed by the Australian software company Atlassian. It was released in 2004 and it‘s based on Java. Confluence Standalone comes with a built-in Tomcat web server and hsql database and supports other databases.
The vendor, Atlassian, has been founded by two students Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar in Australia in 2002. They started the company with a $10 000 credit card debt. Their core products are JIRA, Confluence, Trello, Bamboo and more. Today the company revenue is $2.1 billion (2021).
Confluence is basically a team collaboration software that gives a space for all teams working on a project to work together and share updates effectively. It helps all teams to organize, share and discuss their work. Confluence is a one-stop solution to have all content accessible to everyone and communicate with with everyone.
The Confluence software is available in two types.
- Subscription-based: Hosted in the clod
- Self-hosted: Can be hosted in-house or in the Confluence Data Centers.
Some of the key confluence terms are Page, Space and Page tree:
Your content lives in pages. You can create pages for almost anything, from project plans to meeting notes, troubleshooting guides, policies, and more. Confluence comes with templates that help you make beautiful pages for any kind of content. You can start from scratch with a blank page, too.
Pages are stored in spaces where you can collaborate on work and keep all your content organized. It’s best to group related content together in the same space, but you can create as many or as few spaces as your team needs. For example, one marketing team might keep all its work in one space, with a page for each campaign, while another might set up a separate space for every single campaign. Each space comes with an overview (or homepage) and a blog, so it’s easy to share updates and announcements with your whole team.
Organize space content with a hierarchical page tree that makes finding work quick and easy. Nest pages under related spaces and pages to organize pages in just about any way.
SharePoint Online started as a browser-based collaboration and a document management system from Microsoft. Its content management feature allows organizations to securely store, share and collaborate on documents or page content with each other. It is one of the award-winning products from Microsoft which helps millions of organizations to improve productivity on a daily basis.
The Microsoft Corporation is way larger than Atlassian. Founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen with $161 billion revenue for 2021.
SharePoint is one of the popular choices for company Intranet portals. Over the last decades, it has helped lots of organizations from any size to create their Intranet. It is famous for its extended customization abilities.
It is designed to help you store, share and update the digital information within your organization. You can create team sites to collaborate with each other in no time. By using the built-in SharePoint lists and libraries you can store almost any type of documents and content.
It’s best to compare the tools only after you know your business need, what issues are you trying to solve and what’s your budget (including time) that you’re willing to spend to meet that need.
Below we will present you with a couple of questions and a table with pros and cons of both tools that may help you decide which is the right one for your business.
Before making a decision try answering these questions:
- How big is your organization?
- Do you need to collaborate within the boundaries of your organization only? Do you need to collaborate with your customers or partners? Or you need both worlds?
- What is your budget (including licensing costs)?
- What is the tech-savviness of your users? Are you willing to invest in training them on the tool you choose (you should!)?
- Are you using mainly Microsoft document formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)?
- Are you currently using any other products from the Microsoft or Atlassian suite?
- What data residency rules does your organization have to comply with?
- It offers a free plan. Atlassian Confluence give you an option to test the tool free of charges with up to 10 users, 2 GB of storage, unlimited spaces and pages, macros, page versioning, template library, apps & integrations.
- Confluence is better in document control. It’s easier to upload documents and files in this platform. Furthermore, the pre-made templates that Confluence comes with can significantly cut down the efforts you need to give to start and finish a project.
- Confluence is widely used for project management in developer communities. Using the platform in this manner is particularly good for small businesses that need an innovative, clean, simple tool that gets the job done. Confluence has all the basic features of an office document management tool and is easy to use.
- Search within Confluence is extremely powerful. Search a specific keyword or phrase and Confluence quickly sorts and delivers expected results.
- Granular permission controls allow teams to control what certain people see whether they are part of the organization or not.
- Integration with Jira (the most popular Atlassian product) allows issue tracking directly on product requirement documents in real time. Reporting can also be done within those documents as well with live updates from Jira.
- Importing/exporting documents in and out of Confluence is simple and configurable (Export to Word, PDF, etc.)
- “Spaces” within Confluence allow organizations to split Confluence so that teams are shown what’s relevant to them.
- External collaboration. You can’t easily add people outside your organization to particular spaces. This feature is still not generally available as of the date when this article was written. It will be available only in the Premium and Enterprise plans.
- Build flexible rules to minimize manual tasks and keep teams organized, still not in general availability. It will be available only with Premium and Enterprise plans.
- Confluence is far less comprehensive in terms of features that support your collaboration and communication needs. It also requires you to have a consistent internet connection before you can access the platform because it entirely relies on the cloud and internet connection. SharePoint, in contrast, offers a mechanism to access your files even if you’re offline. If you need a platform that you can use regardless of your internet connection, then SharePoint is the better option for your needs.
- Confluence does not have the myriad of customization options that SharePoint does.
- There’s hardly any integration with Microsoft products.
- The UI is good but bland. It could be updated a bit to make it more modern and interesting to look at.
- Limited geo locations. At the time of writing this article data residency move is suspended. Confluence depends on AWS geo locations. The following regions are offered:
- Asia Pacific – Australia
- Europe – Frankfurt and Ireland
- USA – East US and West US
- Global – Asia Pacific, Europe and USA
- Supports almost all file types.
- It offers Data Loss Prevention (DLP). You can take advantage of advanced data-loss prevention (DLP) capabilities to identify, monitor, and protect sensitive information.
- External sharing. You can securely share files and content with people inside and outside your organization.
- Content Management. You can organize and manage content in libraries and lists with metadata, records management, and retention policies.
- Storage Space. SharePoint Online comes with plenty of storage (starts at 1 TB).
- In-Place Hold. You can use In-Place Hold to programmatically prevent content deletion or editing.
- A better data residency offering. With SharePoint Online you can provision and store data at rest in the geo locations that you’ve chosen to meet data residency requirements, and at the same time unlock your global roll out of modern productivity experiences to your workforce. German Data Center is available.
- You and your team will need to spend time on getting to know SharePoint as opposed to Confluence’s ability to let you start as soon as you’ve downloaded their platform. You will need to train your employees how to leverage all benefits of SharePoint Online or consult with an external expert.
- SharePoint Online is more expensive than Confluence out of the gate but you get much more because of the Microsoft 365 Apps (formerly Office ProPlus) integration. Since there are so many moving parts in SharePoint learning and training is difficult.
- SharePoint Online‘s Wiki capabilities aren’t great.
Each software (Confluence and SharePoint) has it own benefits and negatives. The right questions are: What are your requirements? Which one is right for your business needs? What kind of issues are you going to solve by implementing one of them? What is your budget?
We at Impactory have extensive experience with Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online. Don’t waste more time and reach out to us for a deeper look at your business needs. If you’ve already rolled-out SharePoint Online as part of the Microsoft 365 suite, we can help you with Training and Support, too.
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