Microsoft Sharepoint is a collaborative server environment with the purpose of sharing documents and data among multiple groups within the company’s network. The groups can control workgroups, data, documents, and security. It is deployed as multiple intranet sites on a company’s network. Version-controlled documents like excel sheets or word documents are most often handled using the SharePoint. To share documents, emails are used in a number of environments. It is quite complex to store a number of versions of the same document. Also, doing so will require a lot of space on the disk. Most of these issues were resolved as SharePoint provides a single platform for storing, viewing, and updating the documents.
When multiple teams want to collaborate for their large projects, SharePoint is used to combinedly store different types of documents(videos, photographs, project drawings, schematics, workbooks, etc.) as it can easily handle almost any type of document.
Some time ago, technologies available had many shortcomings. Users were not able to access the same file at the same point in time. They could copy the file to the local system and make changes to it but that also led to confusion, overwriting, etc. Microsoft SharePoint provides solutions to these problems. Some of the advantages of SharePoint are:
- Check-in/Check-out: This is a feature for a user to lock a file from modifications by another user. SharePoint prompts the user to download the file on local if the file has been checked out by another user. Also, SharePoint gives a warning with the prompt that any modifications made may go out of synchronization with whatever the current user is doing. This provides a simple workflow as until one user is finished, others will have to wait. In newer versions, the users can also be notified once the file is free.
- Web Interface: Improved search along with the web interface has made SharePoint a single place for teamwork on business content.
- File Versions: For a single file we can have multiple versions of the file in SharePoint. For example, we have a file named “project analysis report.doc”. We can have “rework 1”, “rework 2”, etc. These versions can also have additional comments in which the changes or modifications can be described for reference.
- Integration: In many windows programs like Microsoft Office, there is an option to get a file from SharePoint using File>Open dialogs.
- Indexing and Searching: Indexing and searching is a noteworthy feature as many people now use search to find files and folders instead of going down many levels to get a single file. This feature allows users to have quick access to their documents and files.
Microsoft has also smartly retained the older file drive concept. In this concept, the user could open a file from his drive, make changes and then save it while in the background SharePoint would version the file for the user and also check-in and check out the file for the user.
The Combined Platform
With the advancement in cloud services, companies like Google and Apple enhanced their capabilities. Microsoft also went with this need of the time and launched a new file sharing service called SkyDrive that provided a great replacement for the basic file sharing. This service is now known as OneDrive. SharePoint combined the cloud-based collaboration with subscription-based access to Microsoft Office and became an important element of Microsoft’s Office 365 product. SharePoint is also a Web Content Platform. Pages can be created and then published as a website using SharePoint. A website for a team can also be created with SharePoint and web parts can be dropped into it that can have a blog, a list of team members, a library of documents, etc. If it is to see as a public-facing web CMS, it was only adequate but if it is to be seen as an intranet that could present corporate data, it had a lot of advantages.
SharePoint is usually known as a document management and storage system but it is customizable and its usage can be considerably different for different businesses. It is available in two main editions namely, SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online. SharePoint Server is used by companies who want to have more features customization according to their needs. It is installed on the company’s IT infrastructure. On the other hand, SharePoint Online is a service that is provided as a part of Microsoft Office 365 subscription or it can also be availed separately. It doesn’t provide customizations but it has a benefit that the user needs not to maintain his own server. The main applications of SharePoint are in the field of enterprise content and document management, intranet, and social network, collaborative software, file hosting service, and custom web applications.
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