The Pros and Cons of SharePoint Server
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 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:
- A broad array of portal and content management capabilities. Probably the broadest set of features of any of its competitors. -Ever-increasing set of capabilities given away for free in the product. As an example, Microsoft recently made PerformancePoint Server, one of their marquis business intelligence tools, free to customers with SharePoint Enterprise licenses.
- Available as both a software as a service (SaaS) offering and an on-premise offering. This makes it fairly unique among its competitors.
- Microsoft has maintained a lower price point that most of its competitors while continuing to add more and more features.
- Microsoft has tighter integration with Office than any of its competitors.
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.
Mike Drips is widely recognized as one of the top SharePoint consultants in the world. He has worked on multimillion dollar projects for Levis, American Express, Firemans Fund, CBS, TWA, Sprint, Verizon, Rubbermaid, Microsoft, Hallmark Cards, GE, Lockheed and numerous others. Here is his list of SharePoints most glaring cons:
- Most companies do not invest an adequate amount of time and training into fully understanding SharePoint before implementing it. Once mistakes are made, they are exceedingly difficult to undo.
- Microsoft kind of runs SharePoint like that Monty Python skit, Bring out your dead. In other words, if Microsoft cant sell a product or get people to adopt it, the product finds its way into SharePoint. Examples of this are the Project Management Server, InfoPath, Content Management Server and in the next version of SharePoint, Silverlight! The danger here is that with so many products being tossed into SharePoint, support and enhancements to SharePoint are reaching a critical flash point where Microsoft doesnt appear to have the right amount of management or strategic vision wrapped around the product to support its ever increasing complexity.
- SharePoint is not forgiving and if programmers err in rolling out something to production, its difficult to correct the damage.
- Most of the SharePoint administrative interface is not intuitive although Microsoft seems to have attempted to better organize it.
- The templates that ship with SharePoint have been butt ugly since the original SharePoint Portal Server 2001, and still are. Microsoft could spend some money on graphic designers or UI experts, but they dont.
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 hes unhappy with SharePoint. I cant 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.
With all that SharePoint can do, there are definitely things that it cant 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, lets 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.