Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Review

A stable solution for document and records management

What is most valuable?

Document management and records management features are the most valuable.

What needs improvement?

It is a bit restrictive to develop in the cloud version. A lot of features are in the cloud now, and you have to develop on the outside. As far as the platform and the programming side of things are concerned, it is moving more towards configuration management rather than programming. When we are doing solutions, we are basically just configuring it to make solutions happen rather than actually using the Visual Studio code and developing from scratch in the cloud. It is almost like creating an app. You have created an app for your phone, but the app doesn't really sit on your phone. It sits somewhere on a server, and the database sits on another server. The app is just pulling and pushing information. The whole development has changed. We used to install things directly on the server and then run the application from the server. Now, it is more of a modular architecture.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server for seven years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Its stability is pretty good. It also depends on whether the implementor has configured it right or not. Sticking to the best practice, that is, trying to use what you can out of the box, is always the best way. A lot of companies start selling custom solutions, but when there is a fix, a patch, or an update, it could easily break any of the applications below it.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their technical support is a little different. It could be challenging. The problem with Microsoft is that they have different tiers. Unless you are a premium partner, you are usually dealing with a third party. Microsoft has these third-party companies, and they are basically just reading off a script. In the company I work for, we have to have certain certifications for Microsoft. We are like a gold partner where we get immediate support from an actual Microsoft representative. If you are just a company, you will usually deal with the first-line technical support, which is usually a third party.

How was the initial setup?

It is usually a multi-tier environment where you have more than one computer or server for different parts. You have an application server, a database server, and a web front end.
You install the Windows Server, databases, and SQL Server. There are a lot of pieces. With on-premises deployments, there is a lot more hardware, and you have to worry about everything. In cloud deployments, you don't have that responsibility. Security is taken care of in cloud deployments.

Deployment duration depends on the number of users and the size of your implementation. It could take a year or so for big companies. Generally, everything gets scaled out as you go along, but it all depends on the solution or the project. Deployment is obviously quicker with the cloud version. It goes a lot quicker, and it is a lot more secure.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It can be expensive for on-premises deployments, especially when you have to support SQL Server as your backend database. That's where the cost comes into play. SQL Server has its own licensing, which Microsoft keeps on changing. Therefore, it can become costly. 

In the earlier versions of SharePoint, version 2007 or 2010, they had an express version where the SQL Server licensing was free. It wasn't like a full-blown SharePoint. It was only a slimmed-down version. It used to be whatever your hardware costs. You would install the free software and work with it, but you were very limited in what you could do in SharePoint. If you wanted the SharePoint Enterprise Server with all the bells and whistles, then you had to pay more to get the SQL Server license based on the number of users or servers.

The subscription model is different for cloud deployments. Licensing is per user and per month. The cost also depends on the storage required. If you have a lot of sites or documents, then you need to expand it based on your needs.

What other advice do I have?

A majority of enterprises are moving to the cloud now. However, a lot of on-premises deployment companies are still reluctant to go to the cloud because the data centers are all across the world. When you have different privacy laws, as compared to being subjected to the law of just one country, there is always a conflict. The nice thing about the cloud is that you don't have to worry about the hardware and backups etc. 

There is a lot more flexibility in the cloud, especially for mobile development. For instance, with an Office 365 subscription, you get access to a lot of apps. One of the apps is called Power Apps, which allows you to connect to any data source. It could be any connector or application. It could be an on-premises database or Salesforce. You just tie it in and then give a mobile front end. It is just so easy, whereas you don't have access to all this in on-premises deployments.

To implement a SharePoint server, it will be helpful to hire a partner who is experienced and can basically help in planning it out rather than straight away jumping to installation.

I would rate Microsoft Office SharePoint Server a nine out of ten.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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