8 Faces of SharePoint You Probably Aren't Familiar With

The most underrated Microsoft collaboration features and how they can help expand your business enterprise

It is common knowledge (at least in the world of IT) that Microsoft's SharePoint Service is categorized as a Web-friendly document management technology solution that fosters collaboration in the workplace. With a range of easy-to-use features, SharePoint makes putting software technology to work for your business something you don't even have to think about. But, as anyone who really understands the platform will tell you, thinking of SharePoint as just a document management platform is a skin-deep representation of what it can really do.

It's easy to get stuck on a fixed impression of what a document management system looks like and what options it is capable of. Unfortunately, by doing so, you may be missing out on some of the platform's most surprising and invaluable tools for business technology.

Here are some of the most underrated SharePoint features you should be taking advantage of:

1. SharePoint as an email organizer

For those of us who utilize Exchange Server to manage email traffic, you can create a site as a single point for receiving Exchange transfers through SharePoint. That way, with a quick click, you can set up automatic distribution of email traffic to particular groups, including security settings and built-in membership. Basically, by setting up a public folder for SharePoint in Exchange, SharePoint can pull from the folder and do all the work.

2. SharePoint as an adjustable collaboration solution

It is well-known that, at its core, SharePoint is essentially an anthology of collaboration tools. Simplified searching, data consolidation, and organized content structure are all innate processes that come with platform. But one feature that doesn't get as much hype is that SharePoint tools are highly-scalable, meaning that what begins as a small internal infrastructure can be easily extended across an entire organization or customer community.

3. SharePoint as a website designer

Using all of the editing tools of FrontPage 2003, SharePoint Services allows users to craft custom sites and have complete control over style and formatting through XSLT if they choose. By leveraging FrontPage (and ASP.NET for advanced development), you can import live data from a wide range of possible sources and quickly enable superior drag-and-drop controls.

4. SharePoint as a platform for InfoPath forms management and data transport

Another sophisticated but underrated technology is InfoPath, Microsoft's desktop application for integrated forms management and data transport. InfoPath is seamlessly blended into SharePoint, making it easy for users to publish forms directly to a library. These InfoPath forms can then be stored and shared readily.

5. SharePoint as a metadata whiz

Don't you hate using the traditional hierarchical system to organize folders in your document libraries? By using metadata, which is a critical “building block” of the SharePoint Server platform, you can create searchable document pools that engage active organization, without having to physically alter any of the documents themselves. In this way, SharePoint makes metadata manageable.

6. SharePoint as an all-in-one document management solution

Document management is the lifeblood of SharePoint. Being able to save Word documents (and all other Office programs) to SharePoint, file documents in public libraries, and check files in and out are everyday applications for the platform. But where functions go from being just practical to empowering is in the Task Pane. Within the Task Pane, you can track the status and revisions of documents, define who has site/document access, monitor task progress, and create alerts.

7. SharePoint as a spreadsheet specialist

Exporting data from SharePoint to Excel is easy and convenient. This function is crucial for graphing and printing, simple manageability, and even creating linked spreadsheets. You can generate a spreadsheet on Excel, link data points to SharePoint, and push data changes from the spreadsheet to Excel with the Synchronize List option.

8. SharePoint as a one-stop shop for site backup

Anyone who has had to migrate sites component-by-component knows how exasperating it can be. By using two utilities—STSADM and SMIGRATE—SharePoint gives you the ability to move a whole site and entire site collections in a single operation. This makes site backup easy and efficient.

So the question to take away is: Are you utilizing these and other unexpected and underrated SharePoint features, and if not, how can you start?

Let one of our SharePoint professionals at Innovative Architects guide you through the proper implementation of SharePoint by finding out which practices are best for meeting your business goals.

Our Microsoft-certified SharePoint consultants are always eager to help companies in a wide range of industries reach their maximum potential through our technology solutions. Contact us today to get started!