Pros and Cons of SharePoint for Small Business

IMG_1047.jpgSharePoint is a great tool for team collaboration. It’s the unquestioning ruler of the intranet – those internal company websites that are perfect for project-related communications.

SharePoint is not only a large file storage tool; it also was designed to bring together dispersed teams. But there are pros and cons related to using this robust software tool. While big businesses use SharePoint to facilitate communication, is SharePoint really the right choice for the non-enterprise level organization? Is SharePoint too much of a good thing for an office with less than 25-employees?

This article seeks to define the benefits and drawbacks of SharePoint for small business. Let’s look more closely at whether SharePoint is right for your team. 

SharePoint for Small Business? 

It’s easy to define the benefits of SharePoint for small business. SharePoint Online offers the affordability of a monthly subscription service that can be accessed from any digital device. Documents can easily be uploaded and then worked on by multiple users without the traditional version control issues that plague many collaborative teams. An internal website can be set up that is client or project specific, and all communications can be organized and stored in that single location.

But these pros could quickly turn into cons if there are only a few members of your office team. For example, while SharePoint helps eliminate traditional hard copy printouts of documents, your organization may still prefer to do business this way.

But even the smallest business would likely benefit from the mobile access inherent in web applications. SharePoint for small business allows any size organization to take advantage of some of the best tools on the market to improve office and project productivity.

It is precisely the communications features of SharePoint that could be of particular benefit to small businesses. For example, SharePoint offers social networking tools like chat that will let teams and individuals talk online instead of by phone. If your small business has employees that travel, SharePoint offers project-specific intranet sites where teams can engage in project-specific communications from anywhere in the world.

One clear benefit of SharePoint for small business is the integration with Microsoft Office tools. Many small businesses rely heavily on Office for daily tasks from spreadsheets to sales presentations. Adding an online SharePoint subscription is immediate; existing MS Office tools are already integrated with SharePoint.

But there are also drawbacks related to SharePoint for small business to consider. One is simply that the platform may be too sophisticated for what your business currently needs. For example, the SharePoint search feature requires some administrative customization that small business teams may not be comfortable using. If this is the case, SharePoint simply won’t be optimized and the end user may be frustrated in the long-term. 

Conclusions: SharePoint for Small Business

So, is SharePoint right for your small business? The answer is: it depends. Typically we see the small business owner who does not have access to an IT team overwhelmed by the sheer volume of SharePoint features. In these environments, we recommend an online subscription to Office365, which allows document storage in the OneDrive.

Having the expertise to set up SharePoint is an important part of optimizing this tool. If you have a small to mid-sized business that is ready to upgrade to a more powerful document collaboration and communication tool, CWPS’ Cloud Assist 365 is the easiest way to get started. Contact CWPS to learn more.

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Differences Between Sharepoint vs. Office 365

IMG_1056.jpgSharePoint and Office 365 are some of the most widely used software tools in the world. Microsoft designed these products as an interconnected set of tools that help the modern office get things done faster and more efficiently. But how are they similar – or different from each other? What are some ways to use these tools and how can they compliment the work you do every day?

Commonalities Between SharePoint vs. Office 365

While there are more differences between SharePoint vs. Office 365 than similarities, we’ll start with what they have in common. The first and most obvious commonalities are the fact that these software products are designed to support today’s office applications.

Another similarity is that both have been released for a few years with multiple upgrades. In fact, there are multiple versions on the market that Microsoft supports to this day: SharePoint 2007, 2010, and 2013; and the Office 365 2011 version plus an upgrade in 2013.

Another similarity between SharePoint vs. Office 365 is that the software can be installed on local machines (on-premise) or in the cloud. When you start talking about on-premise or the cloud version of both types of software, some big differences start to emerge. 

SharePoint vs. Office 365 -- Cloud vs. On-Premise

Any review of the differences between these two types of software programs must begin with the debate over cloud or on-premise applications. There are pros and cons related to both. For example, hosting on-premise means your organization will have local control over the software application. However, you will have the added expense of maintaining local servers to host the application. 

Cloud services are generally viewed as less expensive than on-premise solutions. Security patches are updated more frequently, and organizations typically can scale up to add more users very quickly.

Now let’s dig into the core differences between SharePoint vs. Office 365 from a features perspective.

SharePoint vs. Office 365 – Features

First, think of Office 365 as the umbrella office product that offers a variety of productivity applications. While SharePoint can be purchased separately, it technically falls under the Office 365 umbrella of services.

From a features perspective, there are differences between cloud and on-premise applications of both SharePoint and Office 365. 

The cloud subscription to Office 365 offers Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as Outlook email, Yammer for instant communications, Skype for video conferencing, and storage on OneDrive.

In a rudimentary way, you can think of Office 365 as a way to create documents, while SharePoint is the hub where you can store and communicate about them. SharePoint online is great if:

  • You have a large organization that needs the ability to co-author documents.
  • If you need tighter security and maintenance of larger files.
  • If your organization is running a variety of projects that have separate work teams.
  • Or even, if you need a content management site that requires customized workflows or configurable data types.

SharePoint is a sophisticated file repository and content management system that allows collaboration between large, dispersed teams. For smaller companies or organizations that don’t require complicated collaborations, Office 365 may provide exactly what you need.

We hope this brief article shed some light on the differences between SharePoint vs. Office 365.

To talk more about how these tools could benefit your organization, please don’t hesitate to contact the CWPS team.

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Managing Document Storage: Sharepoint Best Practices

IMG_0740.jpgAny file storage system can turn into a jumbled mess if best practices aren’t established. From naming conventions to sharing permissions, how an organization uses digital document storage platforms should help curtail the complexity, easily allowing users to find what they need quickly and consistently.

SharePoint is a sophisticated document management system that uses containers to store files. In order to use the software properly, it’s important to establish and follow SharePoint best practice across the organization. 

This article will share some tips and tricks on SharePoint best practices that will improve the user experience.

SharePoint Best Practices #1: Governance

SharePoint administrators should establish a governance model that coordinates processes, roles, responsibilities, and policies to help run the site. Some of the questions to consider include:

  • Who is allowed to create sub-sites or content for these sites? How much data can be stored on these sites? How long can information be stored there?
  • Who is responsible for discarding outdated files, so that storage space is clean and neat?
  • Who will have access to the types of stored files?
  • In order to create a consistent brand, what templates or themes should be offered to users?

A governance structure will cover all these questions and more. It’s an important first step toward establishing SharePoint best practices.

SharePoint Best Practices #2: Information Architecture

Establishing the organizational layout of your SharePoint software will help keep the files, content libraries, and sub-webpages organized. Ask the following questions as you set up the site’s information architecture:

  • Will files be stored in lists or libraries?
  • What types of content will be allowed on sub-sites?
  • How will navigation flow?
  • How will information target specific stakeholders?
  • How will you optimize the search features?
  • Will some of the data fall under compliance rules that require it to be stored in a certain way?

SharePoint Best Practices #3: Site Support

All software needs maintenance, and SharePoint filing, along with the sub-sites it houses, will require consistent support. That way SharePoint will not spiral into disorganization when team members leave. Establishing site support as a SharePoint best practice should include:

  • Training for new employees. This should include a run-thorough on SharePoint best practices, navigation, document storage, search, and more.
  • Troubleshooting responsibilities should fall on an IT team that will have time to provide support to users.
  • Compliance upgrades and data protection should be set and regularly reviewed by the administrator.

SharePoint Best Practices #4: Document Storage 

Ultimately, SharePoint was designed for document storage, although it offers other features. Deciding how and where files will be stored is an important SharePoint best practice. SharePoint lets users store files in lists as item attachments or in document libraries. Here are two tips to help you decide:

  • We’ve found lists are great for storing emails with attachments, meeting agendas with attachments, or other historical items that don’t require modification.
  • SharePoint libraries allow for multiple editors and simultaneous editing and co-authoring. It’s also good for invoicing, proposals, and presentations.

Contact CWPS for more information on how to get the most out of your SharePoint software.

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Top Four Cool SharePoint Features

CWPS-0_06.jpgMicrosoft’s SharePoint continues to improve. The goal of the entire Office365 online suite is to create a connected universe to help users work smarter. To this end, SharePoint continues to evolve from the basic file-sharing portal it was 15 years ago.

Today, SharePoint has cornered the market as a content management and communications hub. This article looks at the top four cool SharePoint features that are must-haves for any business.

Best SharePoint Features

1. Let’s start with the SharePoint Communication Hubs.
The latest version of SharePoint included with your Office 365 subscription offers feature-rich, customizable Intranet communication sites. We’ve seen these used effectively as the hub for a particular project where you’re working with a large, dispersed team but need to coordinate all the work in one place.

The communication websites come with templates you can select, which is perfect for branding by client project. These sites also translate well to other digital devices so the work can travel with you. You can store links to document libraries, send messages, list procedures or tasks, and a lot more. Instead of waiting for an email, just follow the comments thread on the communication site. Or, list important meetings in the built-in calendar.

2. Next, if you’ve ever wanted to make your own web or phone app, check out Power Apps.
Power Apps is integrated directly into SharePoint now, delineating it as one of the stand out cool tools in SharePoint for 2017. If you’re trying to get things done but can’t find an app to help, you now have a way to intuitively design your app to fit whatever you’re working on.

You can use Power Apps to build customized mobile-savvy apps and push them out to your collaborators. This feature is perfect if you’re not a programmer and can’t afford to hire one. Power Apps draws information straight from Excel data stored on OneDrive or in SharePoint.

The Power Apps integration with SharePoint has a web player, which means you can display your own cool tool as part of the communication sites. It integrates directly with the data you’re using to create something totally new and customized to get the job done exactly the way you want it.

3. Third, there’s Flow, a timesaving automation tool.
Technically Flow is a part of Power Apps but it does something completely different. Flow stands for workflows, and Microsoft Flow allows you to set up decision trees, and processes that automate repetitive tasks.

For example, you could easily set up Flow to alert co-authors if a document changes. Or, tell it to sync your Office 365 calendars with Salesforce. Or, create a decision tree for a proposal approval process.

4. Finally, SharePoint’s social networking features keep people connected.
Users can set up profiles and follow other users. This is great for large enterprise organizations with dispersed teams. Teams can IM each other and develop online relationships that build camaraderie. There are also wikis and blogs that are fun and effective ways to share information between teams.

There you have it -- our four favorite SharePoint features. Contact us if you’d like to find out about these or other cool tools in the Office 365 universe.

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Fan Favorite – Box vs. SharePoint

1._cloud_to_cloud_backup.jpgThere’s a new competitor in the file sharing and collaborative office hub space. That’s because Box, a relative newcomer to the web-based content management company marketplace, has added some features to allow the software to make a play to compete against industry leader Microsoft. This has led to some discussion recently about which is better: Box or SharePoint?

Let’s compare features to determine which application might work better for your business.

What’s Box and What Does it Accomplish? 

In October 2017, Box announced that they ware adding new features to their file sharing application. Silicon-Valley start-up Box was created as a competitor to Google Drive and DropBox, but with the addition of new file collaboration features, it seems Box is making a play to finally start competing with Microsoft SharePoint.

Like SharePoint, Box integrates well with Office 365, Adobe Sign, Salesforce, and many more applications. Some users say that Box is easy to use, but that’s probably because Box has fewer features. Because it’s not a web server, you cannot host websites or online calendars on Box. The latest features include the ability to keep comments on a document in one place, better versioning control, and shortcuts to access files that you frequently work in. Box Notes lets you coordinate ideas in real-time, creating an online brainstorming portal to collaborate with dispersed teams.

As an entry into the online content management marketplace, Box is a very good start.

SharePoint's Advantages

When comparing Box vs. SharePoint features, SharePoint beats out Box as a full-service company communications hub. That’s because SharePoint offers the full Intranet experience with a company directory, discussion boards, event listings, calendars, and even individualized pages. Box will need another upgrade to catch up to Microsoft in this area.

SharePoint also offers users a chance to leverage the application as a project management resource; teams can set up project sites where tools and resources can be stored, due dates can be calendared, and real-time chat and edits can ensure.

Some of the resources offered by SharePoint that Box doesn’t match include:

  • Digital asset management
  • Case management
  • Contract management
  • Records management
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Web/Intranet hosting

The other difference between Box vs. SharePoint is that SharePoint has been around for 15 years. That longevity in a competitive marketplace is just one of the reasons why SharePoint is a better choice for organizations seeking the best tools. With more than 250,000 organizations using SharePoint, the application is still going strong, no matter how many competitors are encroaching on the market. 

Understanding the Options -- Box vs. SharePoint

The SharePoint advantage over Box is clear; co-authoring documents from a centralized, branded project hub will ensure more efficient workflows for your teams. You can use OneDrive apps to link to your SharePoint online Intranet libraries and files. According to industry information, SharePoint is being used by about 80% of the Fortune 100 today. That’s in part because SharePoint can be customized to fit businesses of all sizes and in all industries. US Cloud points out that comparing Box vs. SharePoint is like apples to oranges -- because Box simply isn’t in the same league.

If you are considering SharePoint, then CWPS’ Cloud Assist 365 is the easiest way to migrate to Microsoft’s platform. Contact CWPS to learn more.

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What to Look for in a SharePoint Consultant?

IMG_1012.jpgSharePoint is Microsoft’s answer to improved office collaboration and communication. SharePoint isn’t like some of the online storage tools you’ve used in the past; it was designed to change office workflows and improve how teams work together across any digital device.

This post looks more closely at the importance of making certain the migration of office workflows and files is an efficient and seamless process. For many small businesses, ensuring successful implementation of a sophisticated tool such as SharePoint requires the help of a trusted consultant.

Hiring a SharePoint Consultant

SharePoint consultants are often hired when a small business or non-profit wants to migrate all of their files over to the online service. The flow of when and how to migrate documents, how to retrain staff, and how to set up some of the internal SharePoint tools are often best handled by a SharePoint consultant.

Finding the right consultant will be crucial to making sure you get the full benefit out of this super-productive and efficient office tool. Here’s what to look for in a top-notch consultant to guarantee your success:

1. Collaboration, not Cookie-Cutter
The best SharePoint consultants are the ones that conduct an assessment then create a custom-designed plan for implementation and training. Look for consultants that ask lots of questions as a way to understand your organization and what you’re trying to accomplish. They should be genuinely curious about your organization and interested in gaining a deeper insight into your company.

2. Change Managers
Without good change management, technology adoption can fail. That’s why the best SharePoint consultants are expert change managers. They can guide your organization through difficult implementations where the staff has difficulty learning new things or is less-than-wiling to embrace change.

3. Plan for After the Implementation
Make sure your SharePoint consultant walks you through a plan for after the implementation. Sticking around until after the dust has settled will ensure that even the most reluctant adopters will gain confidence in the new workflows and in how to use the software itself. Look for consultants that address SharePoint governance and user adoption rules.

4. General Knowledge of Third Party Tools
Will your consultant understand how to integrate all of your applications effectively under the SharePoint hub? Having a strong understanding of third-party tools will help achieve a better, stronger implementation. When it comes to your existing applications, the best consultants are generalists in all things tech.

How you roll out SharePoint is just as important as how you use it. Make sure your SharePoint consultant implements as slowly or as quickly as you deem appropriate for your organization. Approaching each roll out by applying all their skills, while still looking objectively at your unique situation is exactly what makes a good SharePoint consultant.

Working with best practice consultants will ensure the success of user adoption over the long haul. SharePoint deployment requires a range of skills that meld people, process, and technology. Finding the right partner during this process can make all the difference. 

To get a customized SharePoint experience, consider CWPS’ Cloud Assist 365.

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What is SharePoint?

7810627_s-1.jpgSharePoint is Microsoft’s answer to improved project management and office collaboration. The SharePoint software application is part of the Office 365 online subscription for businesses.

SharePoint integrates seamlessly with the office productivity tools you use every day. It serves as a hub where you can access and collaborate on project documents, communicating with teams in real-time no matter what their location.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is: 

  • A one-stop shop for office collaboration.
  • A secure cloud-based file storage system.
  • An Intranet portal where teams can meet.
  • A news portal.
  • A communications platform. 

What is SharePoint? It’s the tool to use for today’s modern, mobile, and collaborative business world.

Top Three SharePoint Features

Office 365 users can connect to this feature-rich platform through a browser and then use SharePoint in three crucial ways: 

  1. Secure file storage. Employees waste a lot of time searching for files, but SharePoint can serve as a single source of truth when your business suffers from file decentralization. Instead of files being stored on local machines or multiple drives, SharePoint can serve as the centralized hub for all documents. You can make a document edit, and then request a team member to review your work before sharing it with the full team. Because you’re working from a single source of truth in an integrated workspace, you won’t waste time finding files. There is also an integrated and robust search feature gives offices a better way to look for files and manage documents and resources.
  2. SharePoint is a great tool for document collaboration and information sharing. Version control is easier; no more emailing multiple document versions or struggling to consolidate duplicate desktop files. Content management rules ensure documents are only shared with the right people at the right time, and automation can streamline the document approvals process. There is an instant message feature that allows collaborators to talk in real-time as they’re working on a document. Finally, because SharePoint is cloud-based, you’ll be able to access documents from anywhere at anytime.
  3. SharePoint is a great communications tool that brings teams together. SharePoint lets users create Intranet websites for teams that serve as the dashboard for project management. It can integrate Outlook calendars and you can build a variety of sub-sites from one hub. You can set up custom libraries, creating communities where teams can share insight. You can even create personal web pages so that other people in a company can get to know you better.

SharePoint is more than a software application. It integrates fully with your existing Microsoft Office applications. Because it’s easy to use, implementing SharePoint frees up IT resources – you can build SharePoint Intranet sites on your own without utilizing technology expertise.

So, what is SharePoint? It is simply one of the best ways for offices to come together around the work we do every day. Whether it’s streamlining workflows through automation or improving version control when you’re on the road, SharePoint is an invaluable office tool that has irrevocably changed the way we do business – for the better.

The easiest way to get started with SharePoint is to sign up with CWPS’ Cloud Assist 365. To learn more, contact CWPS.

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SharePoint vs. OneDrive – What’s the Difference?

microsoft sharepoint onedriveSharePoint Online and OneDrive are both relatives in the Microsoft family of products, housed in the Office 365 suite of services. Both products offer online document services and are great not only for storage but file sharing as well. Both were designed for the small to enterprise-size business and work well for any industry.

If you have a Microsoft online account, you have OneDrive for personal use. There is also OneDrive for Business that comes with an Office 365 subscription. But you can also access SharePoint storage locations from your Office 365 dashboard.

If you’re using both of these software applications at work, it might be confusing to figure out which software is better for the various tasks you undertake every day. This article seeks to demystify the SharePoint vs. OneDrive conundrum.

The Basics of SharePoint vs. OneDrive 

Let’s start with OneDrive. First, anyone with an email address can sign up for free document storage with OneDrive. You can sync the online storage service with any digital device and securely store photos or documents.

At work, if you subscribe to Office 365, you can access OneDrive for Business. This service is very different from the free offering. You can save your files in OneDrive for Business, just like the personal application, and use them anywhere. You can access OneDrive for Business in the cloud on your Office 365 dashboard. OneDrive for Business supports all kinds of files; from the portal, you can share documents and invite others to edit them. When on the road, you can add, manage, and share files from your cell phone or laptop. If you make any changes to files when offline, they will automatically sync once you join the cloud again.

When comparing SharePoint vs. OneDrive, there are a few key differences. First, while Office 365 subscribers have access to SharePoint, there is no free consumer version. SharePoint also allows you to store, share, and edit files. But SharePoint is more often used as the jumping off point for greater office collaboration, where OneDrive is really considered to be more of a holding tank for file storage. That’s probably because of how the permission defaults are set up in each application. OneDrive defaults to private on every document, while SharePoint allows you to set permissions by directory or folder. This makes SharePoint generally a better choice for files that are meant to be part of a team collaborative effort.

One big differentiator for SharePoint is that it allows offices to create a collaborative hub for shared workspaces; an intranet website for teams that seek to work together on a project. From that hub, you can manage an entire project, add status updates and use the embedded calendars to track due dates. SharePoint also allows instant messaging via Yammer

So the bottom line, when comparing SharePoint vs. OneDrive is really all about how you plan to use it. For simple document storage, OneDrive is a great option. But for true team collaboration, SharePoint is probably the best choice. 

If your organization is considering SharePoint, then CWPS’ Cloud Assist 365 is the easiest way to migrate to Microsoft’s platform. Contact CWPS to learn more.

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