By Michael Alexander

SharePoint is Microsoft’s premier collaborative server environment, providing tools for sharing documents and data across various organizations within a company’s network. Typically deployed on a company’s network as a series of intranet sites, SharePoint lets various departments control their own security, workgroups, documents, and data.

As with any other website, a SharePoint site — or an individual page within the site — is accessible by way of a URL that the user can access using a standard web browser.

SharePoint is most often used for the storing of version-controlled documents, such as Word documents and Excel worksheets. In many environments, email is used for passing documents back and forth between users. The potential for mixing up different versions of the same document is considerable. Also, storing multiple copies of the same document takes up a lot of disk space. Because SharePoint provides a single source for storing, viewing, and updating documents, many of these issues are eliminated.

And because SharePoint easily handles virtually any type of document, it is frequently used to consolidate and store various types of documentation (project drawings, videos, schematics, photographs, and workbooks, for example) that are required for large projects where multiple teams must collaborate.

Microsoft chose SharePoint as the platform for Excel publishing because of the significant features built into SharePoint, including these:

  • Security: SharePoint supports users and groups of users. Users and groups may be granted or denied access to various parts of a SharePoint website, and designated users may be granted permission to add, delete, or modify the site.
  • Versioning: SharePoint automatically maintains a version history of objects and data. Changes can be rolled back to an earlier state at virtually any time. The ability to roll back changes can be granted to individual users, and DBA support is not required.
  • Recycle bin: Deleted data and objects are held in a “recycle bin” so that they can be recovered, if necessary. SharePoint supports an Undo feature for its data.
  • Alerts: Users and groups can be alerted by email message whenever a specific document in SharePoint is added, deleted, or changed. When granted the proper permissions, users can manage their own alerts.
  • End-user maintenance: SharePoint sites are meant to be maintained by their users, without the intervention of IT departments. Although SharePoint pages are not as flexible as typical web pages, a SharePoint developer can add or remove features from pages; change fonts, headings, colors, and other attributes of pages; create subsites and lists; and perform many other maintenance and enhancement tasks.
  • Other features: Every SharePoint site includes a number of features, such as a calendar, a task list, and announcements that users may turn off or remove.

Most IT organizations have already implemented a SharePoint environment, so your organization likely already has SharePoint running on its network. No lone user can simply start up a SharePoint site. If you’re interested in using SharePoint, contact your IT department to inquire about getting access to a SharePoint site.