Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is a complicated application. Any organization with a Microsoft Windows Server already has the ability to use parts of SharePoint – SharePoint Services has been included with the Windows Server operating systems since Server 2003. With Windows Server 2003, Microsoft included SharePoint Services 2.0 (WSS 2.0), which was essentially equivalent to SharePoint Server 2003. In 2007, when Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 was released, the free version upgraded to SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS 3.0). Now with Microsoft Windows Server 2008, the free version is called SharePoint Foundation.
However, Microsoft also provides a Standard and Enterprise version of SharePoint 2010, so the obvious question arises: what do organizations get in the paid versions that is worth the price above the free Foundation version? Hopefully we can shed some light on that here today.
SharePoint Foundation 2010 offers companies many of the standard features that users think of when they consider SharePoint. You get document management and collaboration, you get wikis, discussion boards, photo galleries, and you have the ability to create sites and sub-sites to organize your data and provide access to specific areas for different parts of your business. You can create blogs, lists, and workflows. You get the new Ribbon interface, the ability to create pages of web parts, all of the integrations with Office products, the mobile interface for access from mobile devices, and the search capability to search for documents across the site. You also get the Office Web Apps – web-based versions of the standard Office applications (Word, Excel, etc.) that allow you to create, edit, and view Office documents without needing the full application installed on your computer.
There are, obviously, a number of limitations. For example, you can search for documents within the site you are using, but if you want enterprise-level search, you need SharePoint 2010 Standard, the first paid level of the applications. You can create workflows, and workflow models, within SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio, but if you want to be able to use workflow templates, you again need to get Standard. SharePoint 2010 Foundation provides support for Windows 7 to maximize your user experience, but you can search SharePoint directly from the desktop if you have Standard.
SharePoint 2010 Standard offers a lot more in the way of being able to tag and apply metadata to your documents. Some of the key features added by purchasing Standard include audience targeting (the ability to further refine who sees what by defining an audience for different types of documents or webparts), duplicate detection, and document sets (think of them as a mini-site organized around a set of documents within a document library). From the user perspective, you are able to navigate or refine your search results based on metadata. From a system administrator point of view, you gain the ability to manage the metadata used across the SharePoint deployment to ensure consistency.
You also receive a lot of the “social” enhancements present in SharePoint 2010 with Standard. Some of these include tagging (and the ability to manage the tag cloud from an organizational level), status updates and personal news feeds, personalized profiles and content, and colleague suggestions (which goes with the colleague network – this lets you track your network of coworkers and stay up-to-date on their activities).
Finally, stepping up to SharePoint 2010 Enterprise, the system starts to offer more in the way of automation and business intelligence. Enterprise includes something called the Business Intelligence Indexing Connector, which allows users to browse through Excel or SQL Reporting Services (SSRS) reports with thumbnails, and see information on the underlying data. Enterprise also adds Excel Services (which allows you to publish Excel workbooks as interactive reporting or dashboard elements within SharePoint), PerformancePoint services (improved intelligence tools like interactive dashboards or scorecards), and calculated KPIs (key performance indicators which aggregate and display metrics from other systems). Enterprise also provides services for Access databases and Visio diagrams, allowing interaction with these files without needing Visio or Access on your desktop, and InfoPath services, to build InfoPath forms for the submission of data in a forms-based workflow.
In a very general sense, the distinctions between versions can be considered as follows: Foundation provides all of the base functionality that SharePoint 2010 offers, Standard adds the social elements and more advanced metadata capabilities, and Enterprise completes the picture with more advanced business intelligence and reporting functions. These levels also align well with the degree to which an organization will develop with the application. At the most basic level, a company (or even a department) may want to find better ways to manage documents and collaborate between teams – SharePoint 2010 Foundation is a perfect place to start. Once the base need is met, users may realize the power of the system and want to be able to do more with metadata and the social aspects, at which point SharePoint 2010 Standard becomes valuable. Finally, once SharePoint is being used for collaboration by end users, executives and planners can realize the full power of the data in the system by extending the business intelligence aspects and maximizing their reporting and visibility into the business, at which point SharePoint 2010 Enterprise is perfect.
Hopefully these distinctions can help you determine which level of SharePoint 2010 is best for your organization. For any questions, or for assistance on getting started with SharePoint 2010, contact OTT, Inc.
By OTT, Inc., Minnesota SharePoint Partner