The Future of SharePoint: Can It Contend with Google Apps?
SharePoint has long been the primary collaboration tool for Windows environments. During the past several years, Google has tried to take some of the market share by offering a cloud collaboration environment that competes directly with Microsoft SharePoint. While Google Apps offers several advantages, it still lacks the enterprise infrastructure that SharePoint has featured since its deployment. If you’re considering a switch to Google, here are a few reasons why you should stick with SharePoint.
Where Google Apps Fails and SharePoint Wins
Google Apps is a tempting solution because of its price. It’s much cheaper — and provides you with a solution that’s entirely in the cloud. It’s even easier to set up than SharePoint if you start from scratch, but once it’s set up you’ll find that its solutions are far inferior.
First, SharePoint is a full collaboration infrastructure that integrates user credentials with the domains’ Active Directory server. SharePoint has its own individualized permissions that let you give certain users control over groups and sites, but basic access is synchronized with Active Directory. You can compartmentalize each department on the server, so they have their own public and private sites. In other words, SharePoint gives your users their own little space on the intranet.
For instance, an HR department must have increased security for its documents, but still needs to publish public documents for employees. With SharePoint, the administrator can assign full administrative permission to the department head, who delegates responsibilities to the department and lets it make security decisions. This gives complete control of user access to the affected business owner instead of relying on an IT organization to understand the intricacies of departmental responsibilities. The owner of the SharePoint HR site can then assign permissions to their files and make others publicly available at their own discretion.
Think of SharePoint as its own multifaceted file storage and web server that puts control into the hands of each department. Users can store files, share them within their own organization, and choose to publish documentation and sites based on their own discretion of what should and should not be public. They can set up their own repositories and create sites for their department. Of course, administrators have overall control, but SharePoint provides flexibility for each department so that they can choose the collaboration method that’s best for them.
SharePoint’s distributed system that gives departments control over their documents makes it a better enterprise solution than Google Apps. Other features that distinguish SharePoint include the customizations that users can make for their sites, as well as the numerous SharePoint applications that can automate the system, provide reporting, or customize a process using the SharePoint API. Administrators can use PowerShell to gather reports, or developers can integrate SharePoint into the internal applications they create for the business.
The bottom line is that SharePoint is much more flexible and scalable than Google Apps.
So, What Can Google Apps Do?
Google Apps enables you set up users, and these users can then share their documents at will, but there are limitations. Google Docs can either be shared for editing or just viewing, but there is no granularity in user permissions and security. There is no collaboration other than specifically sharing with different users or sharing within the organization. You can’t share with an entire group of users within a specific authorization group. Not only that, but you must set up each user individually.
SharePoint integrates directly with Active Directory. You can seamlessly add it to your environment without going through the tedious steps of adding every one of your users into the system. With Google Apps, you must set up your users as a separate perimeter network in the cloud. If you have thousands of users, think how tedious and time-consuming this could be. Even a few hundred users could take days for someone to go through the list and set up the cloud environment.
You’re also limited to Google products. Users can create a blog, but this is not the enterprise-site solution that SharePoint offers. As a business, you need more options with large groups of users.
Are There Any Advantages to Google Apps?
If you’re an individual or very small business owner, Google Apps is sufficient. It’s also very affordable. But, if you need the power of an enterprise solution, SharePoint is far more scalable.
Unlike SharePoint, which requires infrastructure such as SQL Server or web server, with Google Apps, you can operate without a supporting infrastructure. As a result, SharePoint is a bigger investment in the beginning. However, implementing a solution that isn’t scalable as you grow can cost you more in the end. SharePoint can grow as your organization does.
Google has a great product for individuals or small businesses, but if your organization has several different departments and needs to provide each department with their own collaboration solution, SharePoint is the better option. SharePoint integrates smoothly with a Windows domain, and administrators will appreciate the ease in which they can manage the server. It gives you a full intranet solution for your business and won’t limit you to only a few options.