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What is Sharepoint?

I was asked the other day at the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo, ‘What is SharePoint?’

Microsoft SharePoint is a collaboration platform that allows multiple users to share documents, exchange ideas, and work together for a variety of common goals. As the name suggests, it’s a centralized location that is used to share information. You can think of it as a virtual office comprised of meeting rooms, a library, specialized team work rooms, and reference libraries. If you are used to using email to circulate documents round team members in the office then SharePoint is for you.

There are a number of businesses here in Shropshire that use Small Business Server and they don’t realise that SharePoint is bundled in with that server software. Small Business server 2011 uses SharePoint Foundation 2011.

Interaction with SharePoint is done primarily via a Web browser. So you can see that having a company intranet is important. You log into your company’s SharePoint site using a username and password. Then, you can interact with the different pages, sites, blogs, wikis, libraries, and lists as you see fit. You can share documents, add your input to conversations, and work with other available resources. SharePoint can also be used as a small-scale content management system (CMS), including the ability for users to check in and check out documents (like a library book) and follow the history of a particular file though versioning history.

Many SharePoint servers are only accessible from within a network; that is, you have to have local network access. However, if your organization has made your SharePoint server available on the Internet, you can work with SharePoint from anywhere that you have Internet access. SharePoint 2010 includes support for handheld devices, like smart phones.

How SharePoint Works

It is important to note that SharePoint isn’t designed to replace a file server, although small and medium size organizations could use it for such a purpose. Instead, SharePoint is designed to be used in different ways to compliment the business environment. For example, users can create a meeting site that includes a list of attendees, shared documents, and handouts, and a place to share and vote upon ideas. The goal of SharePoint is to provide a centrally accessible place in which to work together, not just share files.

Everything in SharePoint is constructed using Web pages. Pages are contained within sites, and everything is arranged in a hierarchy. The good news is you don’t have to know how to code web pages to use and create sites in SharePoint – all that is handled by SharePoint leaving you the time to collaborate.