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Takeaway: When it comes to document management and collaboration, SharePoint can do just about anything you need it to—given the right infrastructure and applications. In this series of 3 articles, we offer SMBs tips for finding the right SharePoint solution for improving productivity and lower costs.

Ever worked on the wrong version of a document? Or emailed the wrong version to a client? Then you already know the limitations of Microsoft Office when it comes to sharing and collaborating on files.

That’s where document management and collaboration software like Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and 2010 come in.

SharePoint is the most popular, powerful, secure and cost-effective web-based collaboration platform in the world. Because it is a horizontal platform, SharePoint can be adapted to all sorts of industries, unlike many other document management systems which are often designed for a specific industry.

Because of this built-in flexibility, SharePoint is more of a customizable solution than a one-size fits all band aid. And different businesses will look for different functionalities from SharePoint: from branding to mobility to business connectivity and much more. Choosing the right version of SharePoint is therefore an important decision, because the wrong choice could result in lost time, money and benefits.

In this first of 3 articles, we show you how you can fully benefit from SharePoint’s many collaborative and management capabilities. In subsequent articles, we offer tips for choosing the right version of SharePoint (foundation, enterprise, 2010, 2013), the right deployment and equally important, how to choose the right hosting provider.

2 Important Questions to Ask

1. Is it the right time to migrate to SharePoint or upgrade to 2010 or 2013?

This is an important question because there are many factors to consider. Change at any given point might be a huge advantage to one company, but a disadvantage to another.

While there’s no set recipe to follow, we recommend you start by looking at:

Internal factors:

• Strategic
• Growth
• New partnerships or mergers and acquisitions
• Current technology
• Limitations / problems with your existing solution
• Budget

External factors:

• Functionalities of more recent versions
• Other solutions on the market
• Costs
• Corporate cultural change (mobility, social etc.)
• Competitive advantage

2. What do you want your document management and collaboration solution to do?

When stated, this seems simple enough, and yet, far too many organizations fail to give this question enough thought.

Many document management systems are designed for a specific industry such as the healthcare sector.

Organizations are forced to work around their limitations. In contrast, SharePoint is a horizontal platform that—with the right architecture and applications—can be tailored to your specific needs.
With SharePoint, you first decide what it is you want it to do. Then you choose the best deployment for your needs, and build a collaborative solution that’s as tailored to your organization as you want it to be.

The good news is, SharePoint makes this process relatively easy. While standard workspaces are very easy to implement, organizations seeking a more customized deployment can get started quickly with application templates that address specific business processes or sets of tasks.

Just like in the smartphone industry (Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry), the success of any flexible platform can be measured by its popularity among developers. This is one of SharePoint’s strongest selling points: its platform is extremely popular with developers; the new SharePoint Store feature in the 2013 version makes it even more promising.

Worried that a highly-customized SharePoint solution will entail a complex deployment? Consider running SharePoint in the cloud. Hosted SharePoint offers two added advantages: extremely simple deployment and much better cost efficiency. An experienced SharePoint hoster can also ensure a smooth deployment so that your new collaboration solution is up and running optimally and quickly.

In our next article, we offer tips for choosing the right version of SharePoint.

Want to get more from SharePoint while saving on IT and infrastructure costs?

SherWeb offers Hosted SharePoint 2010 and will soon offer 2013 plans. Our low monthly subscription fees come with no user or bandwidth limitations, along with free expert 24/7/365 technical support.

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