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What is SharePoint Hosting?

SharePoint is a content management system and collaboration tool for businesses. It allows business and enterprise clients to setup an internal, web-based collaboration portal, where their employees can share ideas, read company-related news, share documents, and collaborate. With an interface similar to that of the Microsoft Office suite, and minimal technical demand of users, this set of Web technologies supports collaboration and the streamlining of projects.

Among the specific offerings of SharePoint are document and file management, intranet portals, social networks, business intelligence, security, and websites. You can use these features as a team or individual to keep track of various advancements in your work. The program is designed to use minimal resources while providing users with fast service.

While marketing campaigns and product development are easy to manage within SharePoint, the rest of your company's departments may take part as well. Human resources, information technology, sales, accounting, finance, legal, and others depend upon the organized collaboration SharePoint can facilitate.

Several hosting companies can not only host your SharePoint, but also help you manage it. Opt for a hosted SharePoint experience to maximize functionality and further streamline the process in ways that you could not if managing the infrastructure yourself. Microsoft also offers a cloud-based version of SharePoint, if you would prefer not to host it on your own servers.

Features

SharePoint offers a number of tools to help teams work together, manage tasks, and share documents. Through the use of team sites, each group in an organization can host their own website, where they can share ideas, files and calendars. They can create and share documents, setup workflows and form review processes, create team reports, and share ideas on a team discussion board.

Beyond individual teams, SharePoint allows users across the organization to build social-media-like profiles, post public comments and blogs, and share ideas via a Facebook-style messaging system or Microsoft’s Yammer application. Teams can also create publishing sites, which allow them to share select content with the entire organization. These sites can draw from a number of available apps to add reporting capabilities, a picture gallery, a public calendar, and more.

SharePoint offers built-in blog features. Though basic in design, it allows for any number of blogs to be hosted within an organization, from an individual team site to a company-wide publishing site, and even a public-facing website.

The built-in wiki provides teams with a place to share knowledge, brainstorm ideas, build a central knowledgebase, store instructional guides, create user guides, and document daily information and updates regarding ongoing projects in an easily-managed and user-friendly format, very similar Microsoft Word.

SharePoint includes apps and extensions for creating fully-customized user experiences and incorporating additional services and features, such as support for viewing and editing office documents, adding maps, customizing search features, and more.

From a compliance standpoint, SharePoint allows network and team administrators to set up unique access rights and approval processes across every level of the installation, from the global site to individual files.

SharePoint also offers full integration with many of Microsoft’s other services, including Office365 and OneDrive for Business.

Pros and Cons

SharePoint offers many advantages for businesses, including:

  • A single installation to cover most, if not all of your company’s intranet requirements
  • Highly-responsive customer support, online and in-person trainings, and a variety of certifications available for users and administrators
  • Full integration with other Microsoft business products

On the other hand, there are some drawbacks that should be considered before investing in SharePoint for your organization:

  • Many features offer only basic functionality or customization. If you’re looking for rich experience in only certain areas covered by SharePoint, there might be a better solution available for that task
  • While SharePoint offers a number of designs, they are all primarily business-focused and offer far fewer visual features to other CMS software. While many services are available to build site templates, these can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars
  • SharePoint can be complicated to setup and maintain. If you’re planning to launch SharePoint across your entire organization, you need to plan for the IT resources necessary to administer it

Alternative Solutions

While it may be difficult to find the level of support and integration to other office features that Microsoft SharePoint provides, there are a number of alternatives available that may be a better fit for your business.

Interact Intranet provides nearly all of the features of SharePoint, including an intranet homepage, a people directory with social features, workflow and forms management, analytics, calendar, blogging tools, task management and a variety of interactive apps. It’s more stylish than SharePoint and was built with mobile in mind. It comes in a variety plans for both cloud-based and on-site installation, priced based on the number of users, and there’s even a free plan for businesses with fifteen users or less.

If you don’t want to be tied down to a big technology company, Alfresco offers similar content management and collaboration services to SharePoint in an open source package. Alfresco includes document management, a compliance management system to manage your critical records, both internal and external collaboration capabilities using their cloud sync technology, and support for mobile technologies. They are several pricing options available, depending on your business’s size and needs.

On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a simple way to collaborate with your teammates, you probably don’t need a full-on CMS. Google Docs, OneDrive for Business, or Box.com might work just fine, and at a much lower cost to your organization. And if you want to add a local site for company news, you could install a custom WordPress site on an internal server.

FAQs

Do users have to be on-site or can they access SharePoint from anywhere?

With a traditional SharePoint installation, your users will normally need to be on-site, or access your company’s site via a secure VPN connection. However, with SharePoint Online, a cloud-hosted version of the tool, users can access files, team sites, and all of your company’s internal pages from anywhere, while allowing the network administrator to maintain control and set the appropriate compliance requirements for your organization. SharePoint online can also be combined with Office 365 to provide employees access to Exchange, Skype for Business, and Office, for an additional cost.

What types of apps can users add to their site?

There are currently hundreds of apps available, all of which can be found on Microsoft’s website. These are categorized by industry and applications. They include a mix of integration tools for other Microsoft products, such as Bing and OneNote, standard add-ons such a Google search and a news ticker, and business applications like DocuSign and a variety of CRM solutions.

Can I create a public-facing website with SharePoint?

That depends on the version of SharePoint you are using. In early 2015, Microsoft announced they were dropping the Public Website feature from SharePoint Online, and will instead be suggesting third-party services that will integrate with SharePoint Online and provide a richer web presence. Customers using SharePoint 2013 can still create public-facing websites using this self-hosted solution. Keep in mind, however, that SharePoint offers very basic public-facing website options, and you should always review your company’s compliance requirements before implementing any public-facing content alongside your internal site.

SharePoint Frequently Asked Questions

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