Microsoft SharePoint is a server-based platform that is often used as a file storage system, though it also has enterprise social networking and project management features.
Its file storage features include the ability to upload, download, move, copy, rename, delete, and search for files and folders; the ability to set permissions (i.e., the ability to dictate who can access which files and folders); and an audit trail (which logs any changes made to any of the files and folders on the platform).
Its social networking and project management feature include “sites” (sections in the SharePoint software where teams of users can share files and messages with each other), task assigning and tracking, shared calendars, and personal profiles and blogs (where users can communicate what they’re working on and indicate how much progress they’ve made, for example).
SharePoint centralizes all of a company’s files. It keeps employees from wasting their time searching for files in multiple devices or databases or having to ask their colleagues to email them the files directly. It helps avoid the errors and delays that can occur when employees mistakenly work from different versions (one older, one newer) of the same file.
It makes it easier to back up and protect all of your company’s files, and to ensure compliance with regulations such as HIPAA, SOX, and PCI DSS that require you to protect your data from unauthorized access and to maintain certain types of records for a certain number of years.
Its social networking and project management features can increase productivity by helping employees to communicate and share files with each other and track each other’s progress; they can also help managers to monitor and direct their subordinates.
SharePoint has more advanced file storage, search, permissions, and audit trail features than file storage alternatives such as file servers or online data storage services. Compared to these alternatives, SharePoint makes it easier for employees to find and organize files, and is more secure and compliant.
File servers and online data storage services also don’t have any built-in enterprise social networking and project management features, so they don’t do much to increase employees’ collaboration and productivity by themselves.
Enterprise social networking and project management software, likewise, have limited file storage features compared to SharePoint. With SharePoint, you get advanced file storage, enterprise social networking, and project management features all in one application, which eliminates the inefficiency of having to switch between different applications to access these different features.
Businesses that would benefit the most from deploying SharePoint include those that have a lot of files, those that have a lot of employees, those that have a geographically-dispersed workforce (multiple offices, a lot of telecommuters or workers that are frequently out of the office, etc.), or that are required by regulations to protect their data or maintain it for a certain number of years.
More specific examples of types of businesses that would benefit the most from SharePoint include healthcare organizations, architecture, engineering, and construction firms, banks, K-12 schools and universities, government agencies, law firms, manufacturers, and nonprofits.
There are two main ways to deploy SharePoint: one is to host it on your own onsite servers; and the other is to pay an IT hosting company to host it for you. Regardless of how it’s deployed, SharePoint is usually accessed via a web browser.
So that’s all the basic info you need to know about SharePoint and its features and benefits. In our next article, we’ll explain the advantages of paying an IT hosting company to host your SharePoint deployment for you.