To know whether you need SharePoint, first you need to know what it is and does. When the topic comes up on one of our courses there follows a conversation along these lines…
What is SharePoint
SharePoint is Microsoft’s intranet solution for businesses of all sizes.
The short description of SharePoint I normally use is ‘a SQL database with a web front end’. Essentially its a place to store lists of information where the data in the list can be presented on a web page in many ways.
For example, a SharePoint document library stores information about a document with one of the columns of information being the document itself. Or if the information is date based then it can be displayed as a calendar. These scenarios naturally fit well with Word and Outlook and indeed Microsoft Office in general.
I then go on to explain that while Excel (for example) is a good place to store data and an excellent place to analyse data it is not great for making that data available to many people. If lots of people need to view information then web sites and pages are ideal as this is exactly what they are designed for. SharePoint, like most web sites these days, is driven by a database and an Excel Table is a very good match to a database table so its almost a perfect synergy. A few of the integration points with Microsoft Office are outlined below.
Publishing an Excel Table to a SharePoint site involves specifying the address of the SharePoint site and a name before sending it on its way. Other people can then browse, sort and filter the data from within the web browser or download that data and analyse it in Excel themselves.
Managing Word documents in a SharePoint document library allows simple permission control and versioning. This enables easy document collaboration within a team with only the final versions available for everyone else. It also prevents the proliferation of versions via email with the confusion and storage requirements that ensue. Use the File tab in Word to check-out, check-in and generally manage versions.
Outlook is the primary email client for Microsoft Exchange and includes personal calendars and task lists along side email. SharePoint provides central email with site mailboxes (provisioned in Exchange) and central task lists. These display very nicely alongside their personal counterparts in Outlook.
Access and SharePoint provide an exceptionally easy route for non technical types to create a web application. Access is the application/database design environment, SQL provides the data storage and SharePoint handles the permissions and web front end. An amazing 3 way relationship brought together nicely with an Office 365 subscription.
Jarrold Training is seeing many more people who have access to SharePoint because of Office 365. SharePoint is included with all business editions of Office 365, this sits alongside Exchange providing email services and of course Microsoft Office. Office 365 is great value, but all you need is a Windows Server and SharePoint technologies are available at no extra cost with SharePoint Foundation. Naturally cost options exist with additional features, but first test the product using the cheapest option!
Some may argue about when SharePoint really started, but my view is it started when Microsoft released FrontPage back in 1996 along with some server side extensions. The first official release of SharePoint was in 2001 and it has evolved over the years to what we see today. Perhaps the full SharePoint history is another blog post though.