Guest post by: Adam Kinsey
Microsoft SharePoint is the front runner in SaaS for businesses. It was first launched in 2001 with the intention of providing a server for businesses to operate on. Since then, it has embraced a broad range of services: content management, coworker collaboration, intranet, and more. Here are some of the Pros SharePoint has become known for and some of the Cons they’ve addressed.
Pro: User-Friendly Interface
One of the greatest assets of SharePoint is that it’s accessible to technophobes, though most companies tend to hire a technology consulting company to handle its actual management. It has a familiar, identifiably “Microsoft” feeling to its interface, making it easy to introduce to your company’s workforce. However, because upkeep of such an ambitious program usually requires third-party help or a particularly talented IT team, it isn’t always realistic for smaller companies. This leads us to the first challenge.
Con: Cost; Solution: Free Software
Small businesses, particularly start-ups, could really benefit from growing up with a stable program like SharePoint to guide it. However, its monthly subscription model is difficult to budget for in the early days of a project, especially when your company is small enough to still use things like paper memos and Google Docs. Some are put off by the fact that you continue to pay a monthly fee and yet don’t actually own anything for your trouble.
Luckily, Microsoft offers two free editions of SharePoint to run on servers, with only the premium editions requiring a paid subscription. Also, when compared to the large initial investment and updating costs of buying your own software, the premium might still be a better deal for business owners. If a venture fails or a different project arises, you aren’t saddled with programs that might not suit your needs- you just cancel your subscription.
Pro: Cloud Accessibility
As is to be expected, the premium editions of SharePoint come with more features than the free ones. Among those features is cloud accessibility. The cloud has revolutionized the way we do business because it unfetters us from our desks. With cloud storage, we can access data and collaborate with peers from anywhere. Also, the off-site storage can mean lower electricity bills, fewer technical difficulties, and security in case of damage to your office via flooding or fire. Most importantly, you can rest assured that your program will always be up-to-date.
Con: Connectivity; Solution: SkyDrive Pro
Every time I write about any kind of internet-dependent system or program, I feel compelled to address the big worry of most consumers: what if you lose internet capability? While I’m somewhat inclined to brush this concern off (after all, this is the digital age), internet outages do occur and there are mobile entrepreneurs who travel to places that really don’t have reliable coverage. If you’re cut off from your storage and collaborative center, you’re dead in the water.
Partly to address this problem, Microsoft Sky Drive Pro is the recent incarnation of Workspace, an offline tool that allows you to sync your data to an on-premise location. This means that not all access to your data needs to be dependent on the system and the internet. This takes a lot of pressure off of connectivity issues, but it will admittedly remain a problem until a stable global network is established.
Pro: System Integration
One of my favorite aspects of SharePoint is that it integrates with ERP and CRM packages. For anyone who has navigated a user interface reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, a patchwork of several programs and their different styles, it is a blessing to be able to incorporate these programs together. If you want your business to avoid the many hiccups that can occur when updating multiple pieces of software, an integrated system is a good option. Microsoft is taking a holistic view of business management by allowing these programs to communicate.
SharePoint is used to develop over half of all intranets. Why? Because it is the most inclusive, progressive program business management has ever seen and, with the titan of Microsoft behind it, it’s likely to continue to grow and improve. There might come a time when a rival takes the throne of most trusted SaaS, but I can’t see it on the horizon just yet.
Adam Kinsey is a tech writer and consultant.