SharePoint Basics for User Collaboration: What is SharePoint?

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SharePoint is a Web-based platform that creates an environment in which teams of people can collaborate together on various types of projects. Things like budgets, proposals, forms, or contracts, or just about any type of project that requires input from various sources.

01 - web-based collaboration

The SharePoint infrastructure is a multi-purpose platform that allows for the creation and managing of business websites, internal or private websites, and even public websites. It can be used for document and file management. It includes collaboration spaces. It even has social networking tools, enterprise search features, and business intelligence.

02 - sharepoint functionality

SharePoint can even be used as a web application development platform. But at its very heart, SharePoint is used for the collection and storing of information. Because it's a web-based program, the only thing you'll need to access your SharePoint is a supported web browser such as Internet Explorer.

SharePoint can help your project stay organized by providing one centralized location where you can access, work with, or collaborate on various parts of your project.

Your site can have things like a project calendar and a task list, which can help you keep track of those important deadlines and team member schedules.

03 - calendar

You can also create discussion boards

04 - discussion boards

and meeting spaces where people can share ideas and get problems solved together.

05 - meeting spaces

Team members can share the latest information about a project using announcements.

06 - announcements

Using the extensive business intelligence tools, you can track, analyze, forecast, and report on many aspects of your business.

07 - business intelligence

SharePoint also provides a central repository for any reference documents or other resources necessary for your project with its document and asset libraries.

08 - annual report documents library

What this all means is that everything is now in one place; one easy-to-access site that has everything you and your team need to manage and collaborate on that all-important project.

You'll have instant access to most current versions of documents, up-to-the-minute news and information about the project, and easy access to your colleagues. That is, everything you need, right at your fingertips.

09 - documents news information colleagues

Now, let's talk about the SharePoint Wheel. What is the SharePoint Wheel? Well, it's what Microsoft uses to describe the functionality built into the SharePoint platform. The Wheel refers to 6 aspect functional abilities: Sites, Communities, Content, Search, Insights, and Composites.

10 - sharepoint wheel

Sites

SharePoint allows you to create any type of website for your business, whether it's public or private. It can be an Internet, Extranet, or your full-public website. Whatever you need, you can create it in SharePoint. And the great thing about it is that it does not require specialized knowledge.

You don't need to be a Web designer or developer to create these websites. They could be created very easily on SharePoint. SharePoint also allows centralized location and management of these sites. That's really one of the great features of SharePoint.

Communities

Communities let people work together in ways that are most effective for them.

How? By providing great collaboration tools that anyone can use to share ideas. You can organize your SharePoint environment into teams, groups, communities, by project, by location, by office, by region, or any other division that is necessary.

Content

This is content management made easy. One centralized location for files. You can set up retention policies, check documents in and out, create a document version history that you can access, manage, and modify easily with your web browser.

In addition, SharePoint has seamless integration with Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps. It allows for simultaneous co-authoring of documents in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote.

Search

People can find the information they need easily and quickly with SharePoint's powerful and enhanced search capabilities. SharePoint uses social clues. Meaning it is search that is people and expertise-specific when finding people and content. You can search for internal and external content types.

Microsoft tells us that there are now over 400 structured and unstructured content types that are supported using advanced content processing with strong link listings. And right now, there are 85 languages supported. There's also a feature known as FAST search, which is only available as an addition to the SharePoint Enterprise edition.

FAST search allows for the addition of tags and metadata to unstructured content, like video and audio, using linguistic and text analytic technology.

Insights

SharePoint 2010 Insights lets everyone access the business information they need to make good decisions. In other words, it's business intelligence. People can use the information in databases, reports, and business applications to address specific needs of the business.

With SharePoint, you can create interactive dashboards and support cards, giving users easy access to information in a familiar format that they are comfortable with.

Composites

Lastly, SharePoint provides an application platform that you can assemble, connect, and configure collaborative business solutions, allowing no-code solutions to complex business problems using SharePoint Designer. SharePoint also allows for custom code solutions to be deployed safely.

Before we end, let's talk about Site Collections.

Site Collections

Every implementation of SharePoint starts at the top level or Root Site as part of that SharePoint web application. And the top-level site is just the first site. There's nothing special or different about it, and it can be any type of site.

Each top-level site can have subsites below it. Now, just because it's a subsite doesn't mean that it's any less important or that there's anything special or different about it either. It's just been created subsequently with the creation of that first site. And we can have as many subsites off of our top-level site as we need.

And you might have already guessed, but each of those subsites can also have subsites of their own. So as you can see, you can end up creating a pyramid of sites in your SharePoint environment.

All of these sites together are called a Site Collection.

11 - site collection

Now, with each SharePoint application, we can have multiple site collections. They can be as big or as small as they need to be. I'm often asked, “Why would I need multiple site collections?” And the reasons for this are many and very, but a very common reason is to create a site collection for each individual team, department, or group in an organization.

12 - web application

Each one would have its own administrator, permissions, user groups, site services, and features.

Now, in a large organization, you might have dozens, hundreds, even thousands of SharePoint sites. And as the company grows, so will its SharePoint. And from an administrative perspective, creating new site collections is easier to manage than continually adding more subsites, which would ultimately make your site cumbersome and hard to administer.

It's much easier to assign a site collection admin to each site collection rather than having one admin trying to manage every aspect of every site.

And that is SharePoint. To learn more about how you can use SharePoint in your organization, watch Bill's webinar SharePoint 101: Intro to SharePoint Basics.

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Contributor

Bill Kulterman

(MCT, CIW, MOS Master Certified) has worked as a web and graphic designer for over 6 years and has enjoyed teaching the Adobe/Macromedia Creative Suite since 2004. Although graphics classes are his favorite, he is also an award-winning Microsoft Office Instructor in Chicago.

His fun and easy going teaching style is engaging and allows for easy assimilation of new skills. When not recording the Best Computer Training on the Planet, Bill can be found at the opera or tending to his backyard pond.