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Recommended Host for SharePoint
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.
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
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.
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 Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is an Enterprise-level web application framework and platform that provides content management, intranet, project management, and document management services. SharePoint is developed and sold by Microsoft.
What operating systems can I use for hosting SharePoint?
SharePoint is available for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012. It cannot be run on Linux hosting.
What webservers are supported by SharePoint?
SharePoint works with Microsoft’s IIS web server.
Who uses Microsoft SharePoint?
SharePoint is primarily used by large and mid-sized organizations with Enterprise-computing needs.
What does SharePoint do?
SharePoint provides a single platform for a large organization’s data and communication. It offers integrations to Microsoft Office and a rich programming API for building business applications.
Is SharePoint available for free?
Yes. SharePoint Foundation is a freeware version of SharePoint. It does not include all the available features.
Do I have to host SharePoint myself?
No. Microsoft offers a SharePoint cloud services edition as part of their Office 360 subscription service. Additionally, many third-party vendors provide managed cloud-based SharePoint hosting plans.
What is a SharePoint intranet portal?
An intranet is an internal internet. That is, it is a network of sites and or applications that function like the internet, but they are all controlled and accessed only by a single group of people. SharePoint provides tools for building intranet portals (loosely, a “portal” is the intranet equivalent of a “site” on the larger internet), which can be used for a number of business needs. Common applications for intranet portals which are supported by SharePoint include providing access to enterprise data, creating knowledge management systems, and handling customer relationship data.
Does SharePoint provide document management features?
Yes. SharePoint can manage electronic documents and images of paper documents. It is especially adept at handling documents created in Microsoft Office, and can provide search tools for finding documents based on content, not just meta-data. SharePoint also has version control features, allowing you to track document changes and see an earlier version of documents.
What kind of public-facing web features are available in SharePoint?
SharePoint can be used to build extranet portals and public-facing websites. Extranet portals are secure sites available to third parties (vendors, customers) who need to be specified and limited access to enterprise data. SharePoint can also make any of its data or functionality accessible in public websites. This provides a very robust form of content management.
What development tools does SharePoint offer?
SharePoint can be used as a web application development framework. It is built on top of ASP.net, and offers all of the functionality of that platform, along with APIs and libraries for accessing any of the data types managed by SharePoint and publishing them in a number of formats, both publicly or internally.
What is Microsoft SharePoint Designer?
SharePoint Designer is a GUI-based HTML editor and website builder for creating SharePoint sites. It can be used by non-programmers to publish websites as well as intranet and extranet portals. It is very similar to Microsoft Frontpage and Expression Web.
How does Microsoft SharePoint work?
SharePoint manages data using the concepts of lists and libraries. A list is a collection of items, roughly analogous to a database table. When lists are created, the data model of the collection is determined by the administrator or developer. Items can be added to lists through a number of tools built-in to SharePoint (like online forms) or through custom-built features (such as an integration to a third-party web service). Libraries are similar to lists, except that every entry is also a file, in addition to a collection of (meta)data. Lists can include a variety of View styles, or different ways to present the data. Views can also be created to “mash up” several different lists to create combined views. Sites (whether websites or portals) can be created which provide access to certain views, lists, and libraries. SharePoint also includes a large number of data manipulation tools for handling the data contained in lists and libraries. Additional tools can be written as plugins.
What type of data can be managed in SharePoint?
Any type of data can be managed. To give you an idea of the types of data typically handled in a SharePoint deployment, consider the built-in list and library definitions: Announcements, Blogs, Contacts, Discussion Boards, Document Libraries, External Content, Pages, Surveys, and Tasks.
How does SharePoint integrate with Microsoft Office?
The most common point of integration is moving data back and forth between SharePoint and Office applications quickly and easily. For example, a document in a SharePoint library can be easily opened into Office with a single click. Similarly, a document created in Word could be saved directly into SharePoint, making it accessible to other organizational users. Lists based on Contacts or Appointments can be synced automatically with Outlook.
Can SharePoint be used to create a wiki?
Yes. SharePoint pages can be created in different formats, and one of those formats is a wiki page that allows for fast, semi-public editing. Editing wiki pages is done in a GUI that mirrors the familiar WYSIWYG environment of Microsoft Office.
Are there any non-Windows alternatives to SharePoint?
Yes and no. There are many enterprise-level data management platforms available. Some of the best of these are Open Source: Alfresco, Nuxeo, and eXo Platform are all good options. However, due to the prevalence of Microsoft Office for routine business tasks, it is often not feasible for an existing business to implement an ERP system without close integration to that platform. Microsoft SharePoint is the only option if you need extensive integration with Office.