Everything You Wanted to Know about SharePoint

Sharing files is important for both companies and single users. High speed networks allow you to share files without the need to write the files to a flash drive and copy them manually for each user. Microsoft provides many capabilities for sharing files, from a traditional file server that uses SMB protocol to more advanced cloud-based services such as OneDrive and SharePoint. This blog post covers Microsoft Office SharePoint, explains what SharePoint is used for, and how you can use SharePoint with a focus on SharePoint Online.

What Is Microsoft SharePoint?

Microsoft SharePoint is a collaboration platform developed for sharing files and simultaneous editing of shared files. When using traditional sharing features and sharing files by using the SMB (CIFS) protocol, only one user at a time can edit a file. Once a file shared by using SMB is opened by a user, other users can open this file only as a copy. Changes saved by the first user are not visible to other users until they re-open the file saved by the first user. Other users can save a copy of the file with changes made by them. Each copy of the file contains different changes and it is difficult to merge all changes into a single file. This approach may be not convenient for a collaboration-intensive process when multiple users have to edit the same file simultaneously. Microsoft SharePoint is developed to resolve this issue, allow multiple users to edit a shared file and save changes to the file.

What Is Microsoft SharePoint Used for?

Microsoft SharePoint is a platform used for sharing files at your organization, creating sites and content libraries to organize content, managing files, automating business processes and facilitating team collaboration. SharePoint is used to improve teamwork efficiency. SharePoint is usually used by medium-sized and large organizations with more than one hundred users when functionality of traditional file servers is not sufficient.

What Is Microsoft SharePoint Online?

SharePoint Online, launched in 2001, is a cloud-based version of Microsoft SharePoint, and it is part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. If you use SharePoint, you need to deploy a SharePoint Server manually and then you have to support a standalone SharePoint Server, related storage, Active Directory, install security patches, etc. The locally-hosted SharePoint Server is autonomous and is fully under your control.

If you use SharePoint Online, also called SharePoint 365, all software updates are installed automatically on Microsoft datacenters once they are released. All tasks related to maintenance and support are performed by Microsoft. An organization must pay for using Microsoft Office 365, including SharePoint Online, on a per-month subscription basis. There are no difficulties in configuring access to a SharePoint portal from any place in the world where users have an internet connection (unlike traditional Microsoft SharePoint Server that is running on an intranet).

How Does Microsoft Office SharePoint Work?

As mentioned above, Microsoft Office SharePoint is a collaboration and document management software that can be installed on a Windows Server on premises or run in Microsoft datacenters in the cloud as part of Microsoft Office 365. Here’s an overview of the main components of SharePoint.

A SharePoint site is a collaborative hub, a web portal to store files and share documents with members of your team. There are two types of SharePoint sites — a team site and a communication site. A team site connects your team to content, includes a group of web pages, document libraries to store files, customizable web elements, and lists to manage data. A communication site is a place to share information with others, and it is used to broadcast information to a specified audience.

A SharePoint library is a location on a SharePoint site used to create, update, upload, and collaborate on files with other users on your team. Information about the last change made in a file and about the user who made the change are displayed in a SharePoint library.

A SharePoint list is a collection of data intended to organize information on a site by users in a flexible way. Users can add custom columns to display different types of data for files such as date, time, currency, text, etc. Lists are used to sort, organize, and filter data in different ways and help users track versions and change history of shared files.

SharePoint can be considered as a set of sites that are automatically generated by using the ASP.NET technology with IIS and content stored in an MS SQL database that interacts with other applications and platforms (for example, MS Exchange, MS Project, etc.). As you can see, traditional server roles are used:

  • Web servers
  • Application servers
  • Database servers

From another point of view, SharePoint is a content management system (CMS) inside which content is divided into different logical blocks. The largest logical block is a SharePoint Site Collection that is related to the URL of a site home page and a web application on an IIS server. A site collection contains multiple sites. It is important to understand the structure of SharePoint sites for correct URL naming related to DNS names of a SharePoint portal. Just like traditional file systems, the logical site structure affects the permissions that are inherited from parent objects. Permissions set to a group on a root site level are applied to access any object of this site.

How do I access Microsoft SharePoint? You can access a SharePoint portal by opening a link in a web browser. For example, if you use SharePoint online, a link to access a SharePoint portal looks like:


Features of SharePoint Online

There are useful features provided by SharePoint Online to make life easier. Let’s look at some of them.

File versioning is a great feature that allows you to restore previous versions of documents stored in lists or libraries after they are changed. File versioning is useful to track change history, view previous versions, and revert to a previous version when you have unwanted changes saved to a file.

Indexing is a point for fast and precise file search. This feature allows you to easily access files. Find the needed information quickly by using Microsoft Search. Indexing is the mechanism that scans all files on your site to sort and integrate scanning results to a search database. When you enter a search query, it is faster to search in the indexed search database than in the entire file storage.

Windows integration. SharePoint Online can be integrated with on-premise servers running Windows Server. You can configure Windows 10 drive mapping to SharePoint.

Web browsers support. SharePoint sites can be accessed in popular web browsers and from standalone Microsoft Office applications. Accessing SharePoint sites from mobile versions of web browsers is supported.

Integration with OneDrive for Business allows you to copy files from OneDrive to SharePoint Online and vice versa. SharePoint Online uses sync agent functionality in OneDrive for Business. Integration with other Office 365 products such as Word Online, Excel Online, and Exchange Online creates a unified Microsoft Office ecosystem.

Permissions management is used to configure access to shared documents in SharePoint Online. Grant permissions for certain users and restrict permissions for others. Set permissions for groups of users. For example, users of one group can write changes to shared files, and users of another group can open files only in read-only mode.

Governance. Configure data governance policies if your company operates with confidential and sensitive information that you want to protect. You can also read about data governance tools for Office 365.

Secure storage for documents. Files stored in the Microsoft cloud are encrypted. Encryption is enabled for network connections when accessing documents in SharePoint Online. You can configure two-factor authentication for your Office 365 account.

Management with PowerShell allows you to use automation for SharePoint Online configuration by creating scripts and running them in the command line interface. Using PowerShell is convenient when performing repetitive tasks.

Originally published at nakivo.com