SharePoint is a content management system (CMS) and collaboration tool for businesses. It allows business and enterprise clients to set up an internal, web-based collaboration portal.
What is Sharepoint Used For?
Employees can share ideas, read the company-related news, share documents, and collaborate. Sharepoint’s interface is similar to that of the Microsoft Office suite. The technical demand of users is minimal; this set of Web technologies supports collaboration and the streamlining of projects.
SharePoint offers a sweet variety of features such as:
Document and File Management
Business Intelligence Centre
Document and File Management
Also known as the DMS, a metadata system where users can upload and manage documents based on keywords. Sharepoint’s DMS is considered a useful tool for large enterprises.
Build and manage intranet portals with ease. This helps both you and your company manage your data, applications in a personalized manner.
Colleagues can create internal social networks for sections, teams, and departments. It’s equally as useful for private and personal use.
Business Intelligence Centre
Microsoft has some useful documentation on their BIC.
The business intelligence center offers pre-built lists, libraries and creates valuable data connections. Again, a useful tool to have for enterprises of any size.
Administrators have access to a variety of individual user restrictions. With tight control measures, the security of data is certainly safer with Sharepoint.
Manage your websites seamlessly with a simple website management interface. This allows webmasters with multiple projects to eliminate the hassle of management, dealing with multiple websites at once.
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.
Departments for Collaboration
While marketing campaigns and product development are easy to manage a SharePoint project, the rest of your company’s departments may take part as well. These can be human resources, information technology, sales, accounting, finance, or legal. Others depend upon the organized collaboration SharePoint can facilitate.
Management of Your Sharepoint Site
Several hosting companies can not only host your SharePoint site but also help you manage it. Opt for a hosted SharePoint experience to maximize functionality.
Furthermore, 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 prefer cloud computing solutions.
Sharepoint CMS Features
Microsoft is overall great at providing informational content.
SharePoint is essentially a web application that offers a number of tools to help teams work together. Managing tasks, and sharing documents is also a perk.
Building Separate Websites
The SharePoint development center is another useful environment for techies.
Through the use of team sites, each group in an organization can host their own website. They can create and share documents, set up workflows and form review processes, create team reports, and share ideas on a team discussion board.
Social Media Profiles for Team Members
Beyond individual teams, SharePoint allows users across the organization to build social-media-like profiles. With this, they can 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.
Now how does SharePoint generally compare to features of other popular CMS software? Let’s take a peek at our ratings:
Ease of Installation
Blog Features and Wiki
The opportunity to create your own wiki. How awesome and handy?
SharePoint offers built-in blog features. Though basic in design, it allows for any number of blogs to be hosted by an organization. Anywhere 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 and build a central knowledge base. You can also store instructional guides, create user guides, and document daily information.
Updates regarding ongoing projects in an easily-managed and user-friendly format can also be conducted.
SharePoint Apps and Extensions
Have a browse and take a look at what SharePoint extensions are on offer at the Microsoft App Store.
The SharePoint environment includes apps and extensions for creating fully-customized user experiences. One can incorporate additional service, such as support for editing office documents, adding maps, customized search, and more. You can install a SharePoint app from the Microsoft App store.
Access Rights and Approval Processes
From a compliance standpoint, SharePoint allows network and team administrators to set up unique access rights and approval processes. That, 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 of SharePoint
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 training, 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.
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.
Lack of Visual Features
While SharePoint offers a number of designs, they are all primarily business-focused. They 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.
Complex Set-Up and Maintenance
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
Intranet Features and Alternative Solutions
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.
Long Live Interact Intranet
Interact intranet is worth checking out for sure.
Interact Intranet or Alfresco could be a better choice for a number of reasons, alternatively other competitors too, due to:
Style and Device-Friendly
Style and Device-Friendly
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.
Software which is priced on the number of users can get heavy on your wallet easily and unexpectedly – do your research.
Alfresco is a more than a decent alternative, should you decide it suits you better.
If you don’t want to be tied down to a big technology company, Alfresco offers similar content management and collaboration services to SharePoint. This is in an open source package.
Alfresco includes document management, a compliance management system to manage your critical records. Both internal and external collaboration is possible using their cloud sync technology, and support for mobile. 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.
These are close to free, alternatively cheap. If you want to add a local site for company news, you could install a custom WordPress site on an internal server.
Ways to Install SharePoint on a Web Host
Microsoft Technet explains the step-by-step installation for the 2010 version of SharePoint.
Since SharePoint is a Microsoft product, it shouldn’t be surprising that it needs to run on a Microsoft OS. It requires any version of Windows Server, as well as Microsoft SQL Server for databases.
There are 3 main ways to get a SharePoint site up and running.
Host Your Own Server
This gives you the most flexibility and the ability to add custom code but is not recommended since you’ll need to take care of maintenance and other time-consuming tasks.
Find a Windows Host with SharePoint Support
This is usually the best option. The hosts listed on this page fall into this category. The server-side code is set up for you, you just need to install SharePoint on your account and you’re set.
SharePoint can be hosted on shared servers, a VPS, or a dedicated server, it just depends on the number of resources you need.
Host it on Microsoft Azure
Azure is worth a try, should you feel like you’ll benefit from its features.
Azure is a hosting platform that’s a part of Microsoft’s cloud services. You can use it for hosting a site, testing, staging, and SharePoint development. You pay as you go by the number of resources you use, but it’s a reasonable cost.
Azure is made by Microsoft, so you know it runs SharePoint flawlessly. The downside is that you need to be fairly technical to use it. It’s a good option for developers, but not normal users. Azure gives you the option of using a Window PowerShell script to speed up SharePoint development.
What is a SharePoint Farm and do You Need One?
A SharePoint Farm is simply a group of SharePoint Online servers in the cloud that can communicate with each other. They can be used to add redundancy to your system or help scale during busy times.
Typically, you don’t need a multi-server farm. If you do, your business will be at the point where you have an IT team that will know if you need one and can set it up.
Best Hosting Providers with SharePoint CMS
Because most hosts only offer Linux hosting, there are not too many hosts to choose from when looking for SharePoint hosting. However, there are some, and these are my top 3.
Alentus is a stable host for a SharePoint web application with a good price, even if it’s a little outdated. They offer packages specifically geared towards SharePoint 2010. You get the same features on every plan, but the price you will pay depends on how much document storage, bandwidth, and email accounts you need.
The plans are all cheap and provide a lot of value. You get free nightly backups, SSL, Office 2010 integration, and setup. You also get 24/7 support, and Alentus currently claims they have a 99.999% Network Uptime Track Record.
Hostwinds is a modern, flexible, high-performance host that has plans that support SharePoint. They offer both managed and unmanaged Windows VPS plans, where you can choose from Window Server 2008, 2012, or 2016, depending on your version of SharePoint.
The plans are relatively expensive compared to the other posts here. However, they’re very fast, with SSD disk space included for free, and tons of bandwidth. The VPS plans include a 99.999% uptime guarantee, and free nightly backups.
As a solid host, A2 Hosting offers the choice of Windows Server 2012 or Linux as an operating system for all plans (shared or VPS). Windows plans operate on Windows server 2012 and come with a free SSL certificate and SSD space.
A2 Hosting main focus is on speed. On top of the SSDs, certain plans come with a “turbo” feature to speed up your SharePoint server even more. It also has 24/7 support if you run into any issues. Overall, A2 Hosting’s pricing is reasonable and is a good middle ground between budget and performance.
A Few Points to Remember
What to look for in a SharePoint service for hosting:
A fairly recent Windows Server OS
A high uptime guarantee (99.9% minimum)
Live support available during your business hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
All this 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. They 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.
Which versions of SharePoint Server are there?
Historically, there’s been three versions available:
SharePoint Foundation (discontinued)
SharePoint Online (bundled with Office)
With the release of SharePoint 2016, the Foundation version was discontinued. You can still use it if you have a copy lying around, but there’s no support for it. Your best option is to either use the Standard version for most cases or Enterprise when you want even more features.
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.
About Dale Cudmore
Freelance blogger by day, developer by night, Dale is a freelance writer who specializes in technology and digital marketing. He studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo. After finding that unfulfilling, he moved onto a career in freelance writing, while self-teaching himself web development on the side.
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Who's Best for SharePoint Hosting?
We think A2 Hosting is the best choice for SharePoint.