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What is SharePoint - A Beginner’s Guide to SharePoint

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by Pradeep Kumar Kasipuri
Last modified: April 26th 2021

Organizations globally are moving towards agile approaches in developing and executing their business and IT strategy and looking for opportunities and ways to strengthen the data management capability. They need solutions that provide advantages of usability, reliability, scalability, mobility, speed, effectiveness, contextual, and safety.

SharePoint is not just a solution or any application but is an enterprise-level web-based collaborative business platform developed by Microsoft that is closely coupled with Microsoft Office 365. In this blog, we will discuss "What is SharePoint" in detail.

Before getting started with SharePoint, first, let’s understand what SharePoint is.

A Complete Guide for Microsoft SharePoint 

What is SharePoint?

Sharepoint is a collection of various products, technologies, solutions, applications, programs. It provides multiple meaningful solutions to different business use cases across the organization and its stakeholders. 

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Some use cases are:

  • Document and content management system
  • Enterprise-level social networking
  • Project management and reporting tool
  • Data capture and processing in electronic form
  • Learning and development tool
  • Task management and calendar 
  • Team collaboration and meeting management

Features of SharePoint 2021

SharePoint 2021 brings improved user experience to all the customers using SharePoint, SharePoint On-Premises, and hybrid scenarios.

[ Related Article: SharePoint features ]

Modern Homepage

We can find all the organization's sites on the SharePoint home page or start page which gives a modern experience.  You can follow sites and get news from such sites.  We can create, manage sites from the home page. 

Modern team sites 

Modern team sites are designed to give modern experience to the teams with modern news, quick links, site activity, optimized for mobile, faster site provisioning, in-line editing of the quick start menu among many others that make team sites more collaborative. 

Modern communication sites 

Similar to publishing sites, communication sites have the same purpose. Communication sites use modern pages and our boards and do not require subsites. Without code and, beautiful pages can be created that are mobile-ready. 

With Communication sites, we can share news, events, showcase products, team, or event, and create our own design based on our requirements. 

Modern lists and Modern libraries 

Sharepoint 2021 provides a modern experience.  We can create, upload folders, easily copy and move files, pin documents, add files as links. We can create custom views, change file info, access previews, and additional details of files, format columns, and add rich location data among others. 

Modern Web parts

The look and feel of web parts have been updated. It is now easy to resize, move, and design custom web parts. 

Modern search 

In the modern experience of SharePoint 2021, you can see the results of the search the moment you type the letters in the search box and becomes highly contextual to update the results, as you type in the search box 

Search results are grouped by type

Sharepoint start page, hub sites, communication sites, and modern team sites provide a modern search experience to users. 

Branding

For a custom look and feel, we can use site themes and modern UI pages in SharePoint 2021. 

Hybrid experience

The Sharepoint 2021 and office 365 lets the enablement of the hybrid experience. Office 365 should be a global administrator.

[ Related Article: Learn and Practice SharePoint Interview Questions ]

Why use SharePoint?

Organizations use SharePoint for various business purposes depending on their business use cases. SharePoint is used by hospitals and health care, pharma, staffing and recruiting, financial services, construction, manufacturing, production, telecom, management consulting, higher education, government administration, and non-profit organizations, and many more.

Imagine those emails that pile up every now and then and documents stored in racks.  It is more than difficult to respond or keep a track of them.  SharePoint with its powerful document management system enables individuals, and teams to securely store, streamline, organize, share, collaborate, archive their documents, information, content seamlessly and access on any device or any location anytime. 

Benefits of Using SharePoint

Given such capabilities and usefulness of SharePoint can be used for:

Effective communication  

Communication of the right information at the right time and place plays a vital part in making mission-critical decisions.  Teams can collaborate regardless of time and place reliably and securely to do work, interact, and share information. 

Sharing and Tracking

Teams can share the documents after editing, reviewing, etc.  It is impossible to know which is the original document and which is edited and who has edited it.  

Flexible Solution for all 

Sharepoint is available on Cloud, on-premises, and as a hybrid. SharePoint can be used as standalone or with Microsoft Office 365 depending upon organizational needs.  SharePoint Online Service is suitable for small, medium, large enterprises.

SharePoint Online can help companies to reduce IT and Hardware involvement. Either with Office, 365 enterprise subscriptions, or on-premises Organizations can take the maximum benefits that fit their needs. 

Cost-Effectiveness 

SharePoint integrates several enterprise solutions into a single, manageable system that helps organizations to provide solutions to various use cases.  The development costs, IT infrastructure costs, management costs are reduced by SharePoint with its endless evolving capabilities.

Its features help organizations to develop applications and manage operations reducing the overall cost of ownership (TCO).

Seamless Deployments

With the powerful APIs and Web services, SharePoint can be integrated into almost any legacy systems and other old or existing or any new software and technologies. 

Corporate portal

With the powerful intranet, Internet, and extranet capabilities and features, any organization cannot miss the powerful solution to use SharePoint not only as a website but as a power-packed intelligent, and interactive corporate portal. 

Corporate portals can save various business information and business functions in the form of sites, and intranet portals, keeping in the view of various stakeholders of the organization. 

Modern intranet 

SharePoint modern intranet helps organizations to create landing pages, corporate communication portals, departmental sites such as IT, Marketing, HR, Finance, Sales departments. 

Modern experience

SharePoint brings modern experience with site collections that are associated with a hub that contains elements as navigation, branding, publishing, search, sharing, and permissions, multilingual, performance.  

Collaboration

Collaboration in SharePoint helps organizations to create communication metrics, systems, tools, structured and organized processes, roles and responsibilities, and interactions among relevant people. 

Productivity

SharePoint integrates with legacy systems, existing software, technologies, and Web applications, through web services and APIs. SharePoint analytics, business intelligence, workflows help organizations to gain insights while automating the business process thereby increasing productivity.

Better information management

Organizations permit access to the relevant employees securely to the information.  Collaborators can search in document libraries and can access documents securely with relevant permissions, check for version information and metadata to know who and when someone worked on the same document, and track changes.  

Customizations and scalable development

SharePoint is a collection of products, software, technologies, and it’s a platform. Organizations can leverage the capabilities of SharePoint to build functionalities and customize the platform as per their business needs.

Central administration

SharePoint configurations, systems settings, security can be monitored and controlled from a SharePoint console. Backup, restore, upgrade, and other deeper control mechanisms ensure smooth administration at the central level.

Reporting

SharePoint allows you to track, record, and schedule, and analyze various information-sharing aspects.  SharePoint reporting tools provide a comprehensive overview of the SharePoint environment to the stakeholders of SharePoint.  

Maximize ROI

SharePoint is a cost-effective way to share, organize, and collaborate. Organizations can maximize their ROI with team collaboration, content, knowledge and document management, employee communities, automation of workflow and processes, corporate intranet, effective corporate communications, branding. 

[ Related Article: Microsoft SharePoint Tutorial ]

SharePoint Apps

The SharePoint app comes as a stand-alone and mobile app. The SharePoint App helps employees to search and discover relevant content such as communication sites, news posts, and other related sites. 

Standalone app: The SharePoint app comes as a standalone app that resolves the business need. The users can download the app from the public SharePoint store from their organization's internal catalog and install them on the SharePoint sites.

Mobile app: Microsoft SharePoint comes with a mobile app to access permitted sites, files, and collaborate with relevant people and work on tasks on the go. Employees can access websites, news, records, and collaborate with concerned people of the organization. 

Versions of SharePoint

Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003
23-11-2003
Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Service Pack 1
18-10-2004
Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Service Pack 2
18-10-2005
Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Service Pack 3
18-09-2007
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
27-01-2007
Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2001
Review Note
Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2001 Service Pack 2
30-05-2001
Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2001 Service Pack 3
23-03-2004
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Service Pack 1
28-06-2011
SharePoint Server 2010
15-07-2010
SharePoint Server 2010 Service Pack 2
23-07-2013
SharePoint Server 2013
09-01-2013
SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1
25-02-2014
SharePoint Server 2016
01-05-2016
SharePoint Server 2019
22-10-2018

[ Related Article: SharePoint Architecture in Detail ]

The History of SharePoint

SharePoint Portal 2001 came from the now-discontinued FrontPage, along with Office Server Extension and Team Pages. The inception was with an objective of collaboration with the discontinued Frontpage, Server Extension, and Team Pages. 

SharePoint initially was focused on top-down portals, search, document management. With the combinations of search, indexing, query language Microsoft Index server, and WSS Windows SharePoint Services SharePoint 2003 evolved. 

SharePoint 2007 has publishing features and web content management with an integrated version. SharePoint 2010 focused on making it a feature-rich business solution that included document management, records management, Microsoft Office integration, global metadata, social networking, reporting, taxonomy, and web content management. 

It was then named as SharePoint Foundation. Service architecture was introduced for the sharing of services and permitted more flexible scaling. BPOS was replaced with Office 365.

Microsoft extended the capabilities and released SharePoint 2013. Microsoft released SharePoint Online based on SharePoint Server 2013. Microsoft’s cloud-first initiative bought more incremental enhancements to Office 365 and SharePoint.

SharePoint server 2016, with the combined capabilities of Office 365 and SharePoint Online got introduced as an on-premises SharePoint platform.

Integrations were made simple with Office 365 services such as yammer, OneDrive for Business, tools to optimize the way people work, introducing comprehensive solutions to engage and connect people to their relevant information, and a proper mobile version was introduced.

Microsoft took advantage of the cloud and with the combined capabilities of SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint online introduced SharePoint Hybrid.  

Microsoft introduced its much-awaited modern version of SharePoint Server 2019, basing on the capabilities of both on-premises and cloud put together.

SharePoint Server 2019 brings modern experience, with a more exceptional ability to share and access information, data, content regardless of device, place, and time, without compromising on security, compliance, and collaboration. 

Overview of SharePoint 2021

Built on the success and foundation of SharePoint 2016, SharePoint 2019 is the newest version of Microsoft’s website-based service that empowers business processes and teamwork by offering a unified platform for communication and collaboration.

SharePoint 2021 is flexible, reliable, scalable, secured, and yet modern, intelligent, intuitive, collaborative, and communicative.

SharePoint 2021 brings the capability to people and organizations to share and work together, stay informed and engaged, and supports organizations to transform their business processes and can be used on all devices. 

Deployment options 

SharePoint is a business collaboration platform that is designed to fit the requirements of organizations regardless of the size of the organization and the place and time to work. 

Microsoft offers the following deployment options

  • SharePoint on-premises 
  • SharePoint Online with Microsoft Office 365 
  • Hybrid. 

SharePoint on-premises deployment

Government organizations, finance companies, Healthcare, production, and manufacturing organizations generally deal with sensitive data that cannot be stored elsewhere except on-premises. 

Such organizations can customize SharePoint and maintain their own governance policies for accessing SharePoint for information, internally and externally, extracts project reports.  

SharePoint Online deployment

The organizations opting for SharePoint online take license to use SharePoint Online. Microsoft takes care of infrastructure in its data centers and applies patches regularly, Microsoft ensures latency reduction, high network bandwidth, disaster recovery capability with industry compliance standards and Active Directory for authentication. 

Hybrid deployment

Hybrid deployment ensures that the organization can use features of both SharePoint On-Premises and SharePoint Online. Authentication can be on the Active directory on-premises or Active directory online. Organizations follow compliance based on regulatory authorities of various countries. 

SharePoint Pricing

SharePoint Online is licensed per user. Organizations can choose a standalone solution or choose with Office 365. The pricing starts at $5 per user per month. 

Roles in SharePoint

Intranet sites are licensed using a Server/CAL (Client Access License) model.

SharePoint Standard CAL: The Standard CAL delivers the core capabilities of SharePoint. 

SharePoint Enterprise CAL: The Enterprise CAL delivers the full capabilities of SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint Online is available as standalone or coupled with Microsoft Office 365. 

Plans and pricing defer based on the capabilities offered in each plan.

It has two plans namely:

Plan 1 and Plan 2.

Plan 1 starts from $5 per user per month and Plan 2 starts with $10per user per month.

Pricing for Office 365 Enterprise varies as follows:

  • E1 is priced at $8 per user per month.
  • E3 is priced at $10 per user per month.
  • E5 is priced at $35 per user per month.

[ Related Article: Framework in SharePoint ]

Roles in SharePoint

Role
Description
Product owner
The product owner is responsible for the platform and assigns roles
Business Owner
A business owner decides how SharePoint is implemented in an organization
Farm server administrator
The person takes charge of the hardware that supports the platform
Farm system administrator
The person is responsible for the operating system that runs the SharePoint
Contributors
Contributors collaborate with others and make use of the SharePoint environment
SharePoint trainers
New recruits who need training on the platform
SharePoint power user
The Power-user is the primary user
SharePoint Developer
The developer customizes the SharePoint application as per the enterprise’s need to increase the productivity
SharePoint Business Analyst
The business analyst conducts evaluation and analysis on the organization’s workflow and suggests how to implement SharePoint 
SharePoint QA Analyst
The QA analyst plays an effective role in the organization during the implementation of SharePoint.
User administrator
The user admin is responsible for users and groups, resetting passwords, managing service requests, and monitoring the service health.

Companies Using SharePoint and their list

Businesses are exponentially shifting to SharePoint for their various business needs and challenges for more than a decade and the numbers are still increasing. Here is the list of some companies that are using SharePoint Server / Microsoft Office 365 capabilities for their business.

  Amgen
Wells Fargo
Parsons Corporation
JPMorgan Chase
Perspecta
Integris Health -
Viacom
Valero Energy
Kraft Food
Avnet
Emerson
IBM
HCL
Unisys
Sapient
Amazon
Cybage
Capgemini
Google
Hexaware
Nestle Nutrition Institute
FCA North America
Petronas
Northwestern Mutual
Tampax – P&G
Ingram Micro
ADM
Valero Energy
Dell Financial Services
HESS
NuStar Energy
INTL

Future and scope of SharePoint

SharePoint enables file share and collaboration on any device. It is content management, collaborative, and extensible platform. The scope of SharePoint is encouraging and promising, and the industry lacks experienced SharePoint professionals.

SharePoint is built on ASP.NET, WCF, & .net. You can start your career as a SharePoint programmer, developer, administrator which suits your passion and matches your skills.

Final Verdict

Regardless of the time, place, and device, SharePoint can be easily accessed. SharePoint server 2019 is a platform that enables and empowers people to transform the way work.  SharePoint ensures the existing IT investments, structured processes, and compliance are taken enough care of.

SharePoint provides modern experience, information, integrated platform, collaborative environment, and procedures that meet the needs of the businesses. SharePoint helps people and businesses to optimize the way they do their work, improve them to be agile, drive high-value innovations, and growth.

I hope you may find 360 degrees of what is SharePoint in the above article. Feel free to ask any queries by commenting in below comment section.

About Author

author
NamePradeep Kumar Kasipuri
Author Bio

Pradeep is tech-savvy, currently working as a content contributor at mindmajix.com. He writes articles on various tech spaces - Software Testing, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Project Management, Document Management etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn.