The Pros and Cons of SharePoint Server

By Pam Baker

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“Polar views about SharePoint ranging from being naturally integrated and easily adopted by users to horror stories of it growing out of control and swallowing whole IT departments are common,” said Dave Uhler, solution director in Research and Development at Slalom Consulting, a national business and technology consulting firm. “As with most polarized experiences, the truth lies somewhere in between.”

Even sorting the pros and cons of SharePoint invites debate. “Concerning pros and cons for SharePoint, I would first have to ask: in regards to what?” quips Joshua Cliff, a systems consultant at Atrion Networking.

SharePoint as a technology is a massive platform with many applications. It can be utilized as a collaboration portal, a development platform, a document management system, a website content management system and more. The list of pros and cons thus varies. “To truly identify pros and cons you would first have to identify the use and the version,” he said.

Generally speaking, there are some common pros and cons that can help you sort the matter out and decide for yourself if SharePoint is a beast of burden or a beastly burden.

The Pros

The advantages to using SharePoint are many. “SharePoint offers tremendous advantages over a shared network folder,” said Adam Novak, common sense solutions’ director of Applications and Consulting. “Features such as file versioning, notes about a picture, and file check-in/check-out are all vast improvements over a static network drive and all can be implemented without the traditional IT developer.”

Jerry Kaczmarowski, solutions general manager at Slalom Consulting, said SharePoint has the following clearly in its favor:

Charles Wilde, CTO and chief software architect at Aton International, adds to the SharePoint list of advantages stating it's a “very comprehensive tool for building Web portals; large developer community; high level of integration with other Microsoft technologies; easy scalability for a large number of users; and its suitability for large enterprise Web portals.”

The Cons

Mike Drips is widely recognized as one of the top SharePoint consultants in the world. He has worked on multimillion dollar projects for Levi’s, American Express, Fireman’s Fund, CBS, TWA, Sprint, Verizon, Rubbermaid, Microsoft, Hallmark Cards, GE, Lockheed and numerous others. Here is his list of SharePoint’s most glaring cons:

Wilde adds to the list of SharePoint’s disadvantages its “highly complex technology makes it easy to misuse; does not lend itself to easy or quick modification; and its’ dependence on Internet Explorer as a Web browser, which tends to break or render Web pages poorly when using other browsers such as Firefox.”

Users also have their criticisms. Yianni Garcia, marketing specialist for GradeGuru.com, a platform for college student note-sharing owned by McGraw-Hill Education, said he’s unhappy with SharePoint. “I can’t access SharePoint from Firefox on my Mac so I need VMWare to get PC access on my Mac to use Explorer to properly access SharePoint and be able to check in-out documents,” he said. “Huge pain in the derriere and it slows down my whole operation.”

User discontent can develop more problems with SharePoint. “A common issue with SharePoint is its ability to spread virally through an organization, disregarding corporate information management and compliance requirements,” said David Mackey, global solutions director, Enterprise Applications, at Avanade. “But, with proper information management techniques and a governance model, SharePoint can be managed in an effective way that scales with each business.”

The Take-Away

With all that SharePoint can do, there are definitely things that it can’t do out of the box or things that it could do but that require planning, setup and managed governance.

“Additionally, as with any other product that bears many fruits, there are things that SharePoint, even with its rounded capabilities, does weakly as compared to individual best of breed products in particular scopes on the market,” said Cliff. “It is not truly an all encompassing, all in one solution for everything.

“That said, let’s not forget that because of its multitude of abilities out of the box and its extensible design, one should view SharePoint as an application technology platform, a system and a development foundation, not a simple server product,” adds Cliff. “Compared to any simple server product out there regarding capabilities or potential applications, in addition to particular offerings, SharePoint itself, backed by the power of the .NET framework, is in a class of its own.”

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's  published credits include numerous cover stories for international, national and regional media from women's and general interest to finance, business and technology magazines, online content and newspapers; analytical studies on technology; and, six books. She is a member National Press Club and Avant Guild/Mediabistro.com. She was 2004 nominee for the Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Relgion (UK) and wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making.