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SharePoint Wiki! Sharing is gaining...

That’s right, it’s true. You can use the free version of SharePoint 2010 to meet your document and content management needs and even run your public facing website or an internal knowledge bank

SharePoint Foundation 2010 is free. It may not have all the features that you get in the enterprise license but it still has enough to cater to your needs to build a document management system and replace age old file shares or folders. I’ve built a dozen content management sites for internal and public use exploiting SharePoint. There are hundreds of web content management systems out there (see CMS Matrix).  On one hand we have commercial platforms like SharePoint, SiteCore, and Ektron etc. which are the most frequently used and on the other hand there are free options like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Plone etc. which are pretty common popular as well. But I would be very surprised if anyone was able to find a single CMS platform that is all things to all people. Infact not a lot of people consider SharePoint’s free version under the free CMS side but its high time organizations benefit from this.

Through this blog post I wanted to present SharePoint Foundation as an option for running a FREE CMS platform. Even if you knew that there is a free version of SharePoint, what most people don’t realize is that SharePoint Foundation is a great option for running web sites of all kinds – not just team sites. It is a great option for many reasons, but in reality it is supported by Microsoft, and above all it is FREE (yay!), and it is extremely easy to get started. 

From a functionality perspective – it’s hard to beat SharePoint. Even the free version, SharePoint Foundation, offers simple data connectivity (through BCS), cross browser support, accessibility, support for Office Web Apps, blogs, wikis, templates, document support, health analyzer, support for presence, and MUCH more.

I often get asked: “Can I use SharePoint 2010 as a document management system?”

The answer really depends on

·          What are your specific requirements?

·          What systems you currently have in place for managing documents.

·          And of course how much money you have J

Benefits?

Not many large organizations have benefited from SharePoint yet. For some it has been an IT project to see what they can achieve with it, for others it has been used as a collaborative platform or in many cases an extended intranet. SharePoint 2010 has changed the game slightly as the improvements that Microsoft have made have been noted by organizations, and we are seeing a lot of companies starting to build specific business applications using SharePoint as the basis, and nearly every business process will require documents at some stage.

If you require a document management system and have SharePoint in place then it can be a relatively straight forward decision to use SharePoint, as long as you have reviewed the considerations just discussed.

The collaborative nature of SharePoint 2010 is also a massive advantage, as specific departmental or project sites can be created quickly and easily that allow workers to interact in a variety of different ways using one source of information.  This also benefits an organization with regards to how they manage the knowledge that they have, as if all of their information is in one source then it is naturally easier to search and manage.

Is SharePoint right for your organization?

As just discussed, this can only be determined after defining your requirements and also planning a longer term strategy for how you will manage your documents and information.

A key factor to look at is how the users would interact with the system and how much value would it get for your organization. The amount of data and documents that organizations are creating is increasing rapidly each year. Therefore the ability to archive this information, whilst keeping the ability to know what you have and where it is, is vital to any organizations management of their information life cycle. SharePoint is best used for the initial life of business documents where they need to be referenced and accessed after time. It is often beneficial to archive these to overcome for storage and performance issues.

FREE CMS – SharePoint, Really?

In order to show some of the completely of what comes with this free version of SharePoint 2010, I thought it would make sense to use Wikipedia (since every one trusts it as a credible source). Wikipedia shows that a web content management system typically has the following components:

  • Document Management:  

-       CMS software may provide a means of managing the life cycle of a document from initial creation time, through revisions, publication, archive, and document destruction.

SharePoint is king when it comes to document management.  Version history, exclusive check-out, security, publication, workflow, and so much more. 

  • Content Virtualization:  

-       CMS software may provide a means of allowing each user to work within a virtual copy of the entire Web site, document set, and/or code base. This enables changes to multiple interdependent resources to be viewed and/or executed in-context prior to submission.

Through the use of versioning, each content manager can preview, publish, and roll-back content of pages, wiki entries, blog posts, documents, or any other type of content stored in SharePoint.  The idea of each user having an entire copy of the website virtualized is a bit odd to me – not sure why anyone would need that for anything but the simplest of websites.

  • Automated Templates:  

-       Create standard output templates that can be automatically applied to new and existing content, allowing the appearance of all content to be changed from one central place.

Through the use of Master Pages and Themes, SharePoint provides the ability to change the entire look and feel of site.  Of course, the older brother version of SharePoint – SharePoint Server 2010 – also introduces the concept of Page Layouts which allows page template level customization and even switching the layout of an individual page using different page templates.  I think many organizations really think they want this but rarely end up using this bit of functionality. 

  • Easy Edits:  

-       Once content is separated from the visual presentation of a site, it usually becomes much easier and quicker to edit and manipulate. Most WCMS software includes WYSIWYG editing tools allowing non-technical individuals to create and edit content.

This is probably easier described with a screen cap of a vanilla SharePoint Foundation page in edit mode.  Notice the page editing toolbar, the multiple layout options…  It’s actually easier to use than Microsoft Word.

  • Workflow management:

-       Workflow is the process of creating cycles of sequential and parallel tasks that must be accomplished in the CMS. For example, a content creator can submit a story, but it is not published until the copy editor cleans it up and the editor-in-chief approves it.

Workflow, it’s in there. In fact, the same workflow engine is running under SharePoint Foundation that is running under the other versions of SharePoint.  The primary difference is that with SharePoint Foundation – you need to configure the workflows yourself.  

  • Web Standards:

-       Active WCMS software usually receives regular updates that include new feature sets and keep the system up to current web standards.

SharePoint is in the fourth major iteration under Microsoft with the 2010 release.  In addition to the innovation that Microsoft continuously adds, you have the entire global ecosystem available.

  • Scalable Expansion:  

-       Available in most modern WCMSs is the ability to expand a single implementation (one installation on one server) across multiple domains.

SharePoint Foundation can run multiple sites using multiple URLs on a single server install.  Even more powerful, SharePoint Foundation is scalable and can be part of a multi-server farm to ensure that it will handle any amount of traffic that can be thrown at it.

  • Delegation & Security: 

-       Some CMS software allows for various user groups to have limited privileges over specific content on the website, spreading out the responsibility of content management.

SharePoint Foundation provides very granular security capabilities. Read @ http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee537811.aspx

  • Content Syndication: 

-       CMS software often assists in content distribution by generating RSS and Atom data feeds to other systems. They may also e-mail users when updates are available as part of the workflow process.

SharePoint Foundation nails it.  With RSS syndication and email alerts available out of the box, content syndication is already in the platform.

  • Multilingual Support:

-       Ability to display content in multiple languages.

SharePoint Foundation 2010 supports more than 40 languages. Read More

Read more @ http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd776256(v=office.12).aspx


You can download the free version from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=5970

Posted on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 3:33 AM | Back to top


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