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Different SharePoint Users and Definitions

SharePoint has many different types of users, and depending on where your role fits in, you might have a very different experience from a fellow SharePoint user. For example, you might be assigned to create and administer a SharePoint website for your team. In this case, you might see first-hand the vast functionality of SharePoint websites.

On the other hand, you might be a user of a SharePoint site. In this case, your SharePoint world might be only the site that someone has already created for you. To confuse matters even further, many organizations will roll out SharePoint and give it a spiffy internal name; for example “Connect.”

On the more technical side, if you’re an infrastructure administrator, you see SharePoint as a platform capable of offloading the difficult job of website administration. If you’re a software developer, you see SharePoint as a web platform for developing programs for users.

The vastness of SharePoint creates areas of specialization. The result is that a person’s view of SharePoint is greatly affected by how that person uses the product. It’s important to keep this in mind when talking with people about SharePoint. If you ask ten people to define SharePoint, you’re likely to get ten different answers.

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SharePoint has many different administration levels, and each requires a different level of technical ability. For example, if you’re comfortable working with software like Microsoft Word and Excel, then you won’t have any problem administering a SharePoint site. At a deeper level, there are also SharePoint infrastructure administrators. To administer SharePoint at the infrastructure level is a role that falls squarely into the realm of the IT geeks.

SharePoint is a platform, so the user roles an organization defines depend on the organization itself. Here are some examples of the possible roles of users in SharePoint:

  • Anonymous visitor: A person that browses to a website that just happens to be using the SharePoint platform. An anonymous visitor just sees SharePoint as a website and nothing else.

  • SharePoint visitor: A person that browses to the site and authenticates so that SharePoint knows who they are. The visitor might still just see a SharePoint site as any other website, except he notices his name in the top-right corner of the screen and knows he must log in to reach the site.

    Visitors might not use any of the features of SharePoint, however, and just browse the information posted to the website.

  • SharePoint casual user: A person that knows all the company documents are posted to SharePoint and knows she can upload her own documents to her personal SharePoint site. A casual user might realize that she is using SharePoint, or she might just think of the platform as the name the organization has given to SharePoint.

    For example, some organizations give their web platform tool names such as Source or Smart or Knowledge Center. SharePoint is the name of the web platform product from Microsoft, which is often unknown by users of a tool built on the SharePoint platform.

  • SharePoint user: A person that is familiar with SharePoint and its main features. A SharePoint user often performs various administrator functions even if he doesn’t realize it. For example, he might be responsible for an app that stores all the company policies and procedures. He is thus an app administrator.

    A user might also be responsible for a site for a small team, in which case he is a site administrator. As you can see, a user can play many different roles.

  • SharePoint power user: A power user is not only familiar with the main SharePoint features and functionality but also dives deeper. A power user might be familiar with the functionality differences of different features, routing documents using workflows, and building site hierarchies. A power user might also be a site collection administrator and thus is responsible for a collection of sites.

  • SharePoint technical administrator: A technical administrator is someone from the IT department who is responsible for SharePoint. A technical administrator is less concerned with using SharePoint for business and more concerned about making sure the platform is available and responsive.

    An administrator might play many different roles. For example, farm administrators are responsible for all the servers that make up SharePoint, such as web front end servers, applications servers, and database servers. Specialized database administrators focus just on the database components. There are even administrative roles for specific services, such as the search service or user profile service.

    Depending on the size of the SharePoint implementation, these technical administrator roles might be filled by a single overworked individual or a team with highly specialized skills.

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