Microsoft SharePoint.

July 19, 2008

Most businesses have to deal with a wealth of information on a daily basis, in the form of emails, office documents, meeting agendas, business plans, project milestones etc. You don’t have to be a genius to realise that even the most well oiled business can find it hard to organise all of this information in a way that is centralised and accessible to the key individuals that need it. In many cases this information is stored in a number of locations including: file systems, web sites, databases, excel files or even in paper files.

Tying these pieces of information together is crucial for the success or any aspiring or enterprise level business. The best place to start is by making this information easier to find by creating a centralised location to store it in. The next step is allowing individuals and teams to have access to this information inside and outside your organisation via intranets and extranets. This is where Microsoft’s SharePoint comes into play.

What is SharePoint?
SharePoint is best described as a “browser based collaboration and document management platform.” It can be used to host a wealth of different data storage mediums in a manner that make accessing the relevant information extremely easy.
Each individual piece of SharePoint functionality is exposed as web part, which is an individual frame or column based piece of information (similar to the way web pages are separated into section like: main-content, left-sidebar, footer etc). Each web part can represent a predefined collation of related information (i.e. monthly meetings, current projects, today’s weather, industry related blogs/RSS feeds etc). Users can view a summary of the web parts content or click through to access a more detailed view of that particular topic.

Each SharePoint site is built using ASP.Net 2.0, .Net Framework, IIS Web Server and an SQL Server database. This has huge advantages to IT companies that already use these technologies as SharePoint is fully customisable. Even if you aren’t a developer or database administrator it is still possible to create impressive workspaces using SharePoint’s intuitive templates and drag and drop web part functionality.

Office 2007 Integration
SharePoint has tight integration with Microsoft Office and can be used to manage large amounts of documents by creating a centralised point of access. The addition of version control means that groups can ensure that they are working with the most up-to-date version of a document and that any changes they make will be reflected across an entire organisation. This integration provides a simple, familiar and consistent user interface.

Security and Authentication
Using window authentication, all users of SharePoint can be identified accurately identified. SharePoint administrators can designate specific privileges / permission so that only certain users can view, add, edit or delete certain content. Network users can be invited to view new content via email and online status can be verified via SharePoint’s integration with Instant Messenger.

Separate SharePoint sites can also exist, that target specific departments or topics. These sites can be as simple or as complex as necessary, restricting access to authorised members only. Each site can also have child sites (i.e., the Datadial site contains an Accounts and an IT site. The IT site can then contain an SEO sub-site and a VB.Net sub-site.).

SharePoint has a wealth of possibilities depending of the needs of an organisation, department or individual. It s ability to centralise data from a number of data sources in a manner that is both searchable and collaborative is so astounding that once adopted, many will wonder how they work without it.