SharePoint for Everyone
I have been working with Microsoft (MSFT) SharePoint for 6 years and have become a strong evangelist for it’s use. I have seen many other website platforms like Joomla and 1&1 and found them weak compared to SharePoint. They run $40-60 per month and are limited in capability and clunky to use. For SharePoint online, I have found the E1 level (Enterprise 1) to be the most cost effective for the power and capabilities it brings. In this “article”, I’m going to cover a lot of ground and be kind of abrupt plus I am not a great writer. So hang on and try to keep up ;-).
Yes, I build sites for businesses. Still, I see so much potential for SharePoint. Whether you call it Office 365, SharePoint Online, or just SharePoint, it is a powerful collaboration tool. It gets you a public (and\or private) website to share your thoughts (blogs like this one), documents, forms, pictures (slideshows), videos, favorite links, etc. It also has social capabilities like discussion boards, likes, etc. It is like having your own Facebook for your family\organization\group. For those of you familiar with My Yahoo and Google+, you can also create your own news feed page(s). Imagine being free of the whims of My Yahoo, etc. who change offerings and layouts forcing you to change.
So what is SharePoint? It is a “collaboration website”. That means you can share content – documents, pictures, videos, etc. and assign who can see\edit\download that content by assigning rights (even to groups). There is a lot to SharePoint and I won’t attempt it here. I suggest you Google SharePoint and learn more. But consider getting yourself a site for $8 per month, get the Plain & Simple SharePoint book at Amazon to learn about it. I guarantee you’ll be impressed.
Let’s go over the plans MSFT offers. There are around 9 offerings from Microsoft (it changes often) and like everything they do, it is a complicated and tangled mess to sort through. Prices and plans change and are charged per user, per month. You can compare them in detail here, but here is an overview:
- Kiosk 1 & 2 are for viewing information or ordering products, say in a mall.
- Plans 1 & 2 offer cheap collaboration sites but limited multimedia.
- P site, a “Personal” site with limited capabilities but a good basic collaboration site that includes email. This level may no longer be offered and is kind of hard to find.
- E1-E4 – supposedly for “Enterprises”. These offer everything, including multimedia, online meetings, email, office apps, strong customization and more. E3-4 offer other server tools like SQL and Exchange.
As I mentioned, I build sites, mostly using my offshore developers but sometimes just me (when no .Net is involved). But you really do not need me if you are patient, adventurous and willing to do a little research. With SharePoint online, you can build a basic site using WYSIWYG menus (though a knowledge of HTML helps). You get a nice public (and/or private) webpage. You can control who sees what, who can download, contribute, edit content. You can get really complicated with customization with JQuery, .Net, SQL, and other really complicated components. But it is not necessary.
If you need help, someone like me can add branding (think logos and custom design) and other custom components for anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars, depending on your need. There are also a ton of third party apps out there, many free. Most sites do not need such complexity. We also offer training for less than $250. The best place to start is a book I recommend: SharePoint Plain and Simple (see it at Amazon, $20 paperback, $11 Kindle)
Here are most of the feature highlights:
- Document sharing
- Links to external sites
- Social features
- Powerful custom pages
- Blogs (like this one)
- Alerts (when something changes)
- and much more!
If you share a license among groups, you can have a powerful yet low cost site. Here is an example E1 site I built for our church:
- 4 licenses for total $32\month (plus your annual domain cost, about $20)
- Admin (me) controls everything
- Pastors can access everything and have a private library
- Elders\Officers can share everything the members see AND sensitive documents like financial spreadsheet\database, documents, reports, etc.
- Members can share church documents like the member directory plus they can collaborate and meet among themselves like Facebook & Skype combined.
- Visitors (general public) can view limited documents and videos (sermons, messages, etc). submit queries, request prayer, contact me request.
- Online video meetings, IM, shared docs (see Skydrive), share desktops, post sermons, shared discussion board, announcements, email lists, and much, much more!
I have just barely skimmed the surface of Office 365 (also called SharePoint online). It is not just for businesses or organizations. I can see families using it to share family information, photos and videos, kind of like their own family Facebook.
I hope Microsoft does not ruin this with price increases or major changes. This is a gold mine waiting to be discovered! You can try it free for 30 days.
Everyone I’ve talked to that has had a support issue and was on an Enterprise Office 365 plan had nothing but rave reviews for the Microsoft support staff. They were able to pick up the phone and get their issues resolved immediately. While there are cheaper plans, the E1 plan is only $8 a month (per licensed user. You don’t need to license all your users!). Not too mention you also get full blown Office 365 including Exchange and Lync. You do get a TON more for a few more dollars a month.
Just think, a family site to share albums, chats, files, video meetings, etc. Or perhaps a site for you programmers to test your code. How about a site for your church, club, other organization? Do you have a small business that you would like available on the web? Consider trying out SharePoint online (Office 365). I will bet you will be pleasantly surprised.