SharePoint is a web-based, collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. Launched in 2001, SharePoint is primarily sold as a document management and storage system, but the product is highly configurable and usage varies substantially between organizations.
Microsoft states that SharePoint has 190 million users across 200,000 customer organizations.
There are various different editions of SharePoint which have different functions:
SharePoint Server is provided to organizations that seek greater control over SharePoint’s behavior or design. This product is installed on the customer’s IT infrastructure. It receives less frequent updates, but has access to a wider set of features and customization capabilities. There are three editions of SharePoint Server: Standard, Enterprise, and Foundation (free) which was discontinued in 2016. These servers may be provisioned as normal virtual/cloud servers, or as hosted services.
Microsoft SharePoint Standard builds on the Microsoft SharePoint Foundation in a few key product areas.
- Sites: Audience targeting, governance tools, Secure store service, web analytics functionality.
- Communities: ‘My Sites’ (personal profiles including skills management, and search tools), enterprise wikis, organization hierarchy browser, tags and notes.
- Content: Improved tooling and compliance for document & record management, managed metadata, word automation services, content type management.
- Search: Better search results, search customization abilities, mobile search, ‘Did you mean?’, OS search integration, Faceted Search, and metadata/relevancy/date/location-based refinement options.
- Composites: Pre-built workflow templates, BCS profile pages.
SharePoint Standard licensing includes a CAL (client access license) component and a server fee. SharePoint Standard may also be licensed through a cloud model.
Built upon SharePoint Standard, Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise features can be unlocked simply by providing an additional license key.
Extra features in SharePoint Enterprise include:
- Search thumbnails and previews, rich web indexing, better search results.
- Business intelligence integration, dashboards, and business data surfacing.
- PowerPivot and PerformancePoint.
- Microsoft Office Access, Visio, Excel, and InfoPath Forms services.
- SharePoint Enterprise Search extensions.
SharePoint Enterprise licensing includes a CAL component and a server fee that must be purchased in addition to SharePoint Server licensing. SharePoint Enterprise may also be licensed through a cloud model.
Microsoft’s hosted SharePoint is typically bundled in Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions, but can be purchased outright. It is limited to a core set of collaboration, file hosting, and document and content management scenarios, and is updated on a frequent basis, but is typically comparable with SharePoint Enterprise. Currently, additional capabilities include:
- Support for SharePoint Framework extensions
- New “Modern” (Responsive) SharePoint UX (partially included in 2016 – Feature Pack 1)
- Yammer Integration & Office 365 Groups
- Integration with Outlook Web App
- Newer versions of Online Office Document Editor Tools
- Removal of various file size/number limitations
- Apps Concept
Missing capabilities include
- Some search & UI customizations
- Many web publishing capabilities
- Service Application administration options
- Many customization/solution types will not run
- No ability to read error (ULS) logs
N.B. Changes in SharePoint Online are listed on the Office Roadmap.
SharePoint usage varies from organization to organization. The product encompasses a wide variety of capabilities, most of which require configuration and governance.
The most common uses of the SharePoint include:
Enterprise content and document management
Main articles: Enterprise content management and document management
SharePoint allows for storage, retrieval, searching, archiving, tracking, management, and reporting on of electronic documents and records. Many of the functions in this product are designed around various legal, information management, and process requirements in organizations. SharePoint also provides search and ‘graph’ functionality. SharePoint’s integration with Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office allow for collaborative real-time editing, and encrypted/information rights managed synchronization.
This capability is often used to replace an existing corporate file server, and is typically coupled with an enterprise content management policy.
Intranet and social network
Main articles: Intranet portal and Social Network
A SharePoint intranet or intranet portal is a way to centralize access to enterprise information and applications. It is a tool that helps an organization manage its internal communications, applications and information more easily. Microsoft claims that this has organizational benefits such as increased employee engagement, centralizing process management, reducing new staff on-boarding costs, and providing the means to capture and share tacit knowledge (e.g. via tools such as wikis).
SharePoint contains team collaboration groupware capabilities, including: Project scheduling (integrated with Outlook and Project), social collaboration, shared mailboxes, and project related document storage and collaboration. Groupware in SharePoint is based around the concept of a “Team Site”.
File hosting service (Personal Cloud)
Main articles: Personal Cloud and File hosting service
SharePoint Server hosts OneDrive for Business, which allows storage and synchronization of an individual’s personal documents, as well as public/private file sharing of those documents. This is typically combined with other Microsoft Office Servers/Services such as Microsoft Exchange, to produce a “personal cloud”,
This capability is often compared to services like Box or Dropbox.
WebDAV can be used to access files without using the web interface. However, Microsoft’s implementation of WebDAV doesn’t conform to the official WebDAV protocol and therefore isn’t compliant to the WebDAV standard. For example, WebDAV applications have to support the language tagging functionality of the XML specification which Microsoft’s implementation doesn’t. Only Windows XP to Windows 8 are supported.
Custom web applications
Main article: Software framework
SharePoint’s custom development capabilities provide an additional layer of services that allow rapid prototyping of integrated (typically line-of-business) web applications. SharePoint provides developers with integration into corporate directories and data sources through standards such as REST/O Data /O Auth. Enterprise application developers use SharePoint’s security and information management capabilities across a variety of development platforms and scenarios. SharePoint also contains an enterprise “app store” that has different types of external applications with encapsulated and managed to access to resources such as corporate user data and document data.
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