The Pros and Cons of SharePoint Server

“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:

  • 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.”

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:

  • 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 can’t 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 doesn’t 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, it’s 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 don’t.