What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is the most recognized Microsoft product these days. It was released more than 2 decades ago and continues to evolve nowadays. Below are the successive versions (in chronological order):
- Office Server Extensions
- SharePoint Portal Server 2001
- SharePoint Team Services
- Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (free license) and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (commercial release)
- Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (free license) and Office SharePoint Server 2007 (commercial extension)
- SharePoint Foundation 2010 (free), SharePoint Server 2010 (commercial extension for Foundation), and SharePoint Enterprise Server 2010 (commercial extension for Server)
- SharePoint Foundation 2013 (free), SharePoint Server 2013 (extension on top of Foundation), and SharePoint Enterprise Server 2013.
- SharePoint Online (Plan 1 & 2).
- SharePoint Server 2016 and SharePoint Enterprise Server2016
- SharePoint Server 2019 and SharePoint Enterprise Server 2019
SharePoint evolved from projects codenamed “Office Server” and “Tahoe” during the Office XP development cycle.
“Office Server” evolved out of the FrontPage and Office Server Extensions and “Team Pages”. It targeted simple, bottom-up collaboration.
“Tahoe”, built on shared technology with Exchange and the “Digital Dashboard”, targeted top-down portals, search and document management. The searching and indexing capabilities of SharePoint came from the “Tahoe” feature set. SharePoint’s search and indexing capabilities derive from a feature set – a combination of the indexing and crawling capabilities of the Microsoft Site Server family of products and the Microsoft Index Server database query language.
Many people called SharePoint a Swiss Army Knife because it is a complex tool that could do a lot of things, most of them to match a business need almost 100 % out-of-the-box.
Nowadays teamwork is not about where you are, it is about being connected. With SharePoint you can create, store, and share content on the Internet wherever you are.
You can build Intranet sites and create beautiful pages, document libraries, and lists to share information across your organization. All that without being a developer. This is done through using built-in web parts where you display information of your choice – text, images, documents etc.
SharePoint allows you to connect the project team members with the so-called team sites and showcase important news and visuals in a modern web layout with the more recent communication sites. Your users can discover, follow and search for sites, files, and people across the organization. You can also optimize day-to-day process within your organization by automating some of it with SharePoint workflows. SharePoint does provide lists, libraries and customizable forms out-of-the-box.
With the cloud version (SharePoint Online) you can store your files in the cloud so you can work with them anywhere, on any device and collaborate easily within the borders of your organization, as well as with external parties.
Organizations still have two choices to get started with SharePoint
- SharePoint Online – a scalable cloud service (SaaS), hosted by Microsoft. This is suitable for organizations of all sizes. Instead of deploying and maintaining SharePoint Server on-premises, you can get a Microsoft 365 or a SharePoint Online plan within minutes.
- SharePoint on-premises – larger organizations can still choose deploy and manage SharePoint Server on-premises. The latest on-premises version is SharePoint 2019 which is very similar to SharePoint Online by look and feel, but as with all Microsoft products, nowadays it’s cloud first. That means new features get delayed with months, even years before they get shipped in the on-premises version.
Let’s review the pros and cons of SharePoint, regardless of which version you go for.
SharePoint Intranet Pros and Cons
- Full Integration with Microsoft 365 Apps (formerly Microsoft Office)
No other collaboration product beats the integration with the familiar Microsoft 365 Apps. SharePoint Online, part of the Microsoft 365 suite makes working with Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents a breeze. If your organization is heavily using any of these, there is no doubt SharePoint will fit nicely in the Microsoft ecosystem.
- Endless customization capabilities
SharePoint is a platform that can be heavily customized. You can start with simple web parts and go all the way to a full-fledged custom solution to meet your business need.
On top of it, with the Microsoft Power Platform you can easily build no-code and low-code solutions that utilize SharePoint in various ways. With deep security and compliance features across the whole Microsoft 365 suite you can rest assured that your data flow is safe.
With SharePoint Online you get multi-layer security:
- Physical protection – Microsoft data centres are an etalon of the highest industry standards when it comes to security. You don’t need to manage any of that.
- Network and identity protection – The networks and identities are isolated from the Microsoft corporate network. Service administration is done with dedicated Active Directory domains, separate domains for test and production, and the production domain is divided into multiple isolated domains for reliability and security.
- Application security – Engineers who build features follow the security development lifecycle. Automated and manual analyses help identify possible vulnerabilities. The Microsoft security response centre helps triage incoming vulnerability reports and evaluate mitigations. Through the Microsoft Cloud Bug Bounty, people across the world can earn money by reporting vulnerabilities.
- Data protection – data is encrypted at the disk level using BitLocker encryption and at the file level using keys (Microsoft or Customer keys).
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your data is to require two-factor authentication for your identities in Microsoft 365. This prevents credentials from being used without a second factor and mitigates the impact of compromised passwords. The second factor can be made through a phone call, text message, or app.
- Costs – SharePoint is free if you have a Microsoft 365 plan. Your licenses for SharePoint Online is already part of your plan. The only thing you would also need, is to budget for eventual customizations, the team that would roll-out and support your Intranet and some training for them as well as for the end users.
- Setup and Maintenance
As we already laid out, SharePoint is a complex platform with a myriad of features that can easily overwhelm your IT team. Larger organizations usually need a team of professionals to ensure the governance and maintenance of SharePoint are up to the standards that they have set.
- Complexity, if not properly managed can lead to a potential mess
If you don’t plan your roll-out ahead and don’t setup any governance, chances are that your SharePoint deployment will become a mess – a document graveyard, messy metadata, missing data loss prevention policies and what not.
Is SharePoint the right choice for your organization?
To answer that question, you’d need to be honest on your business needs and budget. SharePoint is suited for organizations of all sizes and from virtually any industry, but there could be better choices at a better cost.
We at Impactory can help you with analyzing your business requirements and taking you a step ahead to an informed decision. We would guide you through every step from the planning your Intranet to the launch party, and beyond with training and support. Reach out to us today.
- Migrating to SharePoint Online? You can find helpful tips in our detailed blog post.
- Don’t want to start your Intranet site from scratch? Check out which are the top three SharePoint site templates here.
- Planning your new SharePoint Online information architecture? You can find out more about SharePoint hub sites in our detailed blog post.
- Want to find out new some new cool features in SharePoint Online that you don’t have on-prem? Start with the SharePoint Home site.
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