As a Small to Medium Business Support outfit we get to see a lot of SharePoint in its various formats these days, sometimes its the Small Business Server companyweb setup.. great for document storage and management, collaboration, diaries, social tools etc. It really is a great little setup when used properly. Sometimes we see it in its big brother format – SharePoint Server, again.. used correctly its a pretty powerful tool. BUT.. and its a really big but.. people try to get too clever with it and that’s when it all falls apart. After some reading this weekend i came across an article that i want to echo back out.. 3 things you should NOT do with SharePoint.
Build a public facing website
To put it simply SharePoint is a complicated product and the websites it produces websites are hard work They are complex, rely heavily on Active Directory and usually a developer getting all the infrastructure installation points correct (and trust me, they don’t usually have a clue). SharePoint website builds require a disproportionate amount of effort and expense compared to most CMS and database tools available today. Obviously I’m generalising and there are some slick SharePoint sites out there – one being Ferrari, check it out here at the Ferrari site.
Customize the user interface
Microsoft has spent a small fortune on the user interface of SharePoint. The latest iteration (2010) brought with it the much maligned ‘Office Ribbon’. I think the new SharePoint 2013 will almost certainly have a more Windows 8 feel about it – I’m yet to see the product in action though. Sadly, despite Microsoft’s best efforts the interface can leave a little to be desired in areas and this leads us IT support companies to think we can do better.. typical really.. and you know what, we can’t. Unless you have very deep pockets don’t even try – you will only regret trying to re-invent the wheel. If you don’t believe me, even Microsoft are now saying the same thing on their SharePoint blog:
Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible — We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity, performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization.
Treat it as a database
SharePoint is a little unusual in the way it stores data, it likes lists to store its data. The only way these can be described is as Excel-like in format, its certainly easy to export data from SharePoint to Excel. SharePoint’s lists have columns and different data types, can be linked to external data sources and each other. So its a bit like a database in a sense, BUT they are certainly not a substitute for a properly setup relational database. SQL is a prerequisite of SharePoint, but this is only an underlying element and isn’t accessible via the SharePoint system itself.
Want to store a list of contacts? Greats stuff, perfect. Want to maintain a list of tasks for a project, again.. spot on. But as soon as you want to link to or look & query information in another list inside SharePoint you should stop and have a word with yourself. SQL server is one tool for a particular job and SharePoint is another tool for a different job.. Be careful not to get these 2 tools mixed up.