A lot of people still don’t know the answer to a simple question: What is SharePoint? There are a few really good answers out there but in my opinion they need to start their explanation a little bit earlier.
Let’s see the common mistake we are confronted with when searching for the answer:
“SharePoint is a browser based business collaboration tool with composites and insights and search and communities and content and publishing and a document management. It’s collaborative, it’s business intelligence, it’s colleagues, partners, intranet, extranet, internet and much more.”
This guide answers the question ‘What is SharePoint?’ independent of your role. It shows the reasons why we need it and how it solves our problems.
Our Problem With Information
I bet you know the following situation from your daily work:
What to do next?
Information overload is a term which can be found in history before the digital or information age even started.
Usually it means that you have difficulties to make a decision because of too much information.
The amount of available information and the rate in which it is created increased and the way people communicate changed. Within an intranet scenario information can be stored at:
- File shares,
- Local hard disks,
- Personal folders,
- Different applications,
- E-Mails or
- In the head of a person you don’t know.
People may have problems to make decisions because they have too much information.
They may also have problems because they can’t find the information they need.
You can imagine that storage is one of the problems: Files are stored in different folders or sub folders without Meta information or with strange file names.
Information may not be retrieved since people just don’t know that certain information exists.
The access to information can be problematic because of remote or mobile access or due to granular security.
So how should I make a decision if I can’t find or use the information I need? Even if I find all the information how should I make a decision in time if it takes me hours or days to search and rate them?
Yes you are an Information Worker!
In our daily work we all have problems making a decision since we can’t find or use the information we need to make a good decision.
I need to have access to information and I need to know if they exist or not independent of their storage.
So how about an application that helps me:
- To work more easily and more efficient and
- To securely store, manage and retrieve any information from anywhere?
I don’t want to waste time finding something, doing the same job someone else already did or to prepare information just to make a decision based on that.
I need something to store, to manage and to retrieve information, to find a person who may have the information I need and to access it from anywhere. I also need something that not only gets information I also need something that prepares,visualizes it or sorts it by relevance.
An application that can do all the things will have a great impact on my performance during my working day.
Being more efficient doesn’t mean working more.
The Solution called SharePoint
SharePoint is the tool Microsoft provides which can improve my work and the result of my work. It can also improve the work of my team, my department, my company or my partners.
You already know the following graphic:
You can use sites and communities to store and manage information as well as to collaborate with colleagues.
You can use content management features to set up compliance features for the information stored.
Content management also allows you to use information in your already existing working environment like Microsoft Office.
Search allows you to retrieve information independent of their storage or to find people with the skills needed.
Insights allow you to get, to prepare and to visualize (business) information stored in a different repository.
SharePoint provides a solution to all your information management needs with a secure and remote access.
Furthermore SharePoint can be enhanced with no code solutions called Composites.
The great thing is that SharePoint has a lot more facets and advantages than outlined here.
SharePoint Product Overview
See the different SharePoint 2010 products available…
There are 3 different version of SharePoint 2010 if it comes to differences in functionality:
- SharePoint Foundation 2010
- SharePoint Server 2010 – Standard
- SharePoint Server 2010 – Enterprise
For an overview about the different functionality visit SharePoint 2010: How to buy.
SharePoint 2010 Licensing
If you create an intranet you need to license:
Each server running SharePoint needs to have a license.
- Users or devices
Each user or device needs a CAL (client access license)
For each user or device you can buy the standard CAL. If you want enterprise features you need both: The standard CALand an enterprise CAL.
If you create an extranet or internet site you need to license:
Each server running SharePoint needs to have a specific SharePoint 2010 for internets license.
What is SharePoint for end user?
Maybe too complex to use… I don’t know. If you are trying to search a column in a list it works with one column globally defined in the columns gallery but not with another locally created. Well for me SharePoint is easy to use and it comes with a lot of cool things like uploading to, filtering, sorting or grouping a list… there is a lot of out-of-the-box functionality. It has a mix based on lists and wikis: Have you ever tried to create and sort a table in a wiki? Even if they are supported it can’t be compared to the usability of a SharePoint list.
What is SharePoint for developers?
SharePoint developers evolve from ASP.NET developers and as a web developer you are used to implement things and to test it right away pressing F5. As a SharePoint developer you need to configure XML, deploy a solution, need to know about infrastructure including Active Directory, SQL Server, DNS or IIS… usually an ASP.NET developer doesn’t need to take it into account. The worst thing as a SharePoint developer is to explain SharePoint and how to use it to consultants, project managers, end user, authors and even administrators. The actual task called development gets smaller and smaller as you knowledge grows.
What is SharePoint for administrators?
Instead of having a lot of different systems which are easy to handle for their own but getting complex in a huge infrastructure SharePoint is a complex system. SharePoint is so complex that it doesn’t behave sometimes as expected: On one day it works and on another day it suddenly stops working. E.g. if you have hundreds of different folders on file shares and no global read group you need to manually assign read permission to the search account which can result in the membership of hundreds of groups for the search service account. Using Kerberos the token becomes bigger and bigger and only after a service restart you encounter the problem of the search not working. Looking for the reason takes a lot of time and requires a lot of specialized knowledge.