Microsoft SharePoint and SharePoint Alternatives

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Accessed through a standard Internet Explorer Web browser or by using Microsoft Outlook 2007, Microsoft SharePoint 2007 provides businesses with an easy to use Web portal or extranet system.

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There are several ways SharePoint can be used - by uploading documents directly to the SharePoint site, uploading files directly from Microsoft Office applications such as Word or Excel or by emailing a document to the SharePoint site. All in all, SharePoint is a powreful platform. Users can collaborate with others on tasks and activities, share resources and BI (business intelligence), create and manage content, search for information, and create workflows to streamlines business processes.

The solutions come as both hosted and dedicated offerings. The Hosted solution is an SaaS shared platform - a low cost alternative for operating SharePoint sites without the need to purchase or maintain any hardware of software. The Dedicated SharePoint solution is for those with special requirements needing their own server. The Dedicated SharePoint platform allows for unlimied sites, users and business applications. In addition to the ability to create team workspaces (which is what has brough many into the fold), SharePoint can benefit an enterprise in a number of ways with its feature set; calendar coordination, document organization, alerts and announcements, company and employee blogs, virtual meeting spaces, online surveys and offline synchronization capabilities.

Another benefit of SharePoint is the ability to easily manage documents. Ensuring the integrity of content is a top priority for many organizations, especially as working remotely becomes more commonplace. Employers also benefit by being able to track the progress of projects, check if and when workers are online, and automate regular administraive responsibilities to reduce operational costs through workflow management.

One of the main selling points of SharePoint is that it integrates with the Microsoft Office suite to create a full-scale business utility. From PowerPoint and Excel to Access and Outlook, engaging in a collaborative work environment with your colleageues and peers could bring your business to a new level of efficiency. The downside is that applications like SharePoint require quite a bit of setup and those using the application need to understand exactly how it works. This requires training so if you're thinking about running with SharePoint, know there will be costs involved. And while SharePoint requires a fairly sophisticated administrator for set up and configuration, its a top-tier solution if you need a very flexible extranet or intranet.

If SharePoint doesn't seem to be a good fit for your business, there are a few alternatives. Many CRM solutions (dotProject, SugarCRM) can be retrofitted to create a unique business environment, but many go the way of solutions such as Basecamp or activeCollab and FreeCRM. These solutions are solid alternatives to the sometimes unnecessary hierarchy and complexity of SharePoint.
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