What is SharePoint?


SharePoint is a collaboration software platform used by more than 75% of all Fortune 500 companies. This according to Microsoft who publicly launched it in 2001.

In those days it was used for intranets and managing documents. Today, its capabilities goes significantly beyond the original core features. This is possible because SharePoint is an Application Platform. This means third party developers can create plugins for it.

I must admit, I have very little experience with this software. So this article is mostly an exploratory piece. I want to examine it from the perspective of a Newbie and give you my initial review without bias.

What are the main features of SharePoint?

Cloud Collaboration: This software is a pioneer in virtual document sharing and collaborative editing. It has features that are similar to Google Docs and other platforms. But I suspect SharePoint introduced these to the world long before any modern competitors.

These specific features for managing documents include cloud storage, permissions, multiple editors and historic versioning among others. It also includes various live communication applications for chat, phone and more.

Social Component: Yammer is a social network developed for businesses. It’s integrated nicely into SharePoint and allows a very rich communication experience. This is a revolutionary concept that I’ve never seen in other enterprise software.

What’s more important is all the related features that come with a social network including sharing, liking, following, embedding media, highlighting posts, and more.

But here is where its power really manifests. This social piece also connect and share information with other Office 365 software like Outlook. This opens the door to appointment settings, task management and much more.

Group Collectives: Even with cloud collaboration and a social app, this software still has more to offer in the communications area. This includes community collectives aka Groups.

Groups are akin to Teams. When your organization is very large with hundreds or thousands of people, teams are very common. But with the Groups feature it solidifies the team in a modern social environment.

Search Engine: I myself find it very difficult to track down documents. With SharePoints search engine built into the entire system, you should have no issue finding docs, conversations, and any other searchable information.

Mobile Centric: SharePoint is part of the Office 365 suite and as such has undergone a make-over in branding and some technology. The technology feature to note here is portability. This software is available on Windows, Apple and Andriod phones as an in Browser App. This means there is no software to download. And that means it can run on practically any device.

Beyond this, there are many features to support the various key parts of this software.

What are SharePoints weaknesses?

Dependent System: SharePoint Server has many dependencies. This is because this software interacts with several key components in the computers. If any of these are broken, the entire business flow can freeze.

Developers Nightmare: It is generally accepted by Software Developers who have worked with SharePoint how difficult it is to maintain this system. With so many features stuffed into it, things go wrong almost all the time.

The fact it’s also an Application Platform makes this worst. Many companies, and developers make extensions that are filled with bugs and security issues.

High Maintenance Cost: Because this software is bloated and dynamic, it’s often very difficult to maintain. This is more so the case for the server version vs the online version.

But if you must host the software yourself, the cost will not be low, as compared to other de-coupled solutions. Big organizations will need a team of IT personnel to manage the system. Small Companies may not be able to afford all the maintenance required.

Some alternatives to SharePoint

Huddle: Huddle is an alternative to SharePoint that runs completely on the web. It has almost none of the headaches of SharePoint, but it’s also not as extendable or dynamic.

In many cases you may need a robust collaboration platform that requires no custom plugins. This is what Huddle offers. It allows file sharing, and simultaneous editing. It also offers intranet and extranet portals. And best of all it integrates with SharePoint for even more power.

But Huddle’s niche is around Files and Tasks only. This system does not have the free flow social aspect as SharePoint does with Yammer and Groups.

Regardless, there are many who will find this Platform perfect for their business structure. It seems from initial review that it’s an advance project management system.

Google Drive (Docs): I use Google Drive often. It’s FREE up to 15 gigabytes. It was created to be an alternative to Microsoft Office. Today it is transforming into a file management and collaboration system.

Just like Huddle and SharePoint, Drive allows collaborative editing. But that’s where the collaboration features end. There is no intranets or extranets. But this may change as Google build’s out the product. It may become a robust platform with many features to rival SharePoint and other similar software.

BaseCamp: Basecamps focus is on Project Management with file and task management its primary features. Ofcourse there are communication features around those files. The platform is completely web based.

Although Basecamp is great for managing projects, it has little in common with the previous systems I mentioned here.

Conclusion

Any of these software can work for your business. Your choice should be based on the specific requirements of your company. If you need a full suite of tools for an engineering company or project, then SharePoint or Basecamp may work. On the other hand, less technical businesses can do fine with just Google Drive or Huddle.

My take and preliminary review

Google Drive is simply not a broad enough solution for most businesses in my estimation. And SharePoint may be too much for a small team. Huddle and Basecamp does not have enough features to support businesses who need more than project management or file management. But this is my take.

The next step for me is to actually try one of these solutions. I really like Basecamp and SharePoint Onlines web presentations. I will be sure to update this article once I have more data to share.

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