• Microsoft Draws the Crowd – and the Key Players
    Back in the early phases of the computer, Microsoft was called out for copying Apple. After all, Microsoft was essentially the same system as the Apple variety. Both were, by today's standards, essentially scrap-worthy – requiring immense amounts of time to complete even the most basic functions. And both were, by any standards, essentially equal. Yet Microsoft quickly began selling more products than Apple. Why?

    Simply put, Microsoft had an "open" policy. While they weren't an open source platform by any means, they were open enough that software developers could use the basic framework to produce useful extras. Even hardware stopped being proprietary very quickly, allowing for greater flexibility and a competition between different developers in the marketplace. Meanwhile, most Apple users had to rely on Apple itself to provide software and hardware components.

    Image courtesy of the Daily iPhone Blog
    It's easy to argue about whether or not competition and a mass of ideas is actually a good thing. On the bright side, it's easier to find the sort of solution you're looking for. On the down side, however, it's also easy for those who lack expertise to find a solution that doesn't work well; the process to find the appropriate answer, even if it's "more" appropriate, becomes far more difficult. There's little doubt, though, that the mass of ideas bred innovation and flexibility, and led to market dominance for the Windows platform.

    Microsoft has kept this same concept very much in mind with other products, including Microsoft SharePoint. The SharePoint platform, while originally tricky, has quickly opened itself up to the huge crowd of developers. The custom web parts system is one of the major locations where this is seen, but you can also see a huge array of utilities from other software groups. While some of these "add-ons" are costly, others are free, allowing you to integrate a variety of additional features into your SharePoint without excessive effort.

    Of course, the same downfall that often happens with an open mass of ideas and competitors reoccurs here: It requires greater study and expertise to know which solutions will legitimately address your company issues. And, with the beautiful world of persuasive marketing, you can't generally turn to the developers of the software to give you the right answer. If you need a partner in deciphering these third party programs, consider SharePoint Engine. Our well-versed experts have worked with SharePoint, as well as the various attachments to it, since Microsoft made the product – and we've worked with similar ECM products for even longer.

    Ready to get started? Not sure whether you can put our services to good use? Contact us today to get a free consultation, and we'll get you the information you need.

  • When computers entered the business world, they changed everything. From the way we calculate information to the way we provide customer service to the way we share information and beyond, 20th and 21st century technology took nearly every function to an entirely new level. In the end, though, all the utilities of a computer are designed to maximize one resource: human intelligence.

    Human intelligence is still the single most valuable element in any company; without it, the company's future would disintegrate. And, on the reverse side, those companies that tap into that knowledge, allowing it to increase, be utilized, be shared, and otherwise be accessed will see the positive results clearly. One of the many ways in which SharePoint does this is through a "Knowledge Base" – one of the core components and organizational tools of the SharePoint platform.

    In this guide, we'll walk you through the incredibly basic beginner steps of creating your own knowledge base.

    1. Open SharePoint as you normally would.
    2. Log into a registered administrator profile on your SharePoint account.
    3. Click on Site Actions > Site Settings > Sites and Workspaces.
    4. Select "Create."
    5. Fill out the data for your SharePoint site.
    6. Select "Application Template" in the template menu.
    7. Select "Create."
    Your simple knowledge base will now be created. However, there's still plenty to do to make your resource both available and optimized for your company! A variety of free web-parts, built-in features, and other elements make this process far simpler for standard users. Be sure to check out features like:
    • The free templates for the knowledge base, provided by Microsoft and available via download from the SharePoint Services site.
    • The free Document Rating System for SharePoint.
    • The "search user data" feature, available in SharePoint 2007 and newer.
    Those looking to tap further into the functionality of the SharePoint knowledge base, or those who need more customized solutions, need look no further than SharePoint Engine for a capable and experienced partner. If this form of advanced use seems like the right path for your company, or if you simply don't know, contact us today for a free consultation.

  • In the early days of SharePoint (the 2001 to 2004 era), SharePoint itself was little more than an awkward conglomeration of diverse Microsoft products and services. Since then, SharePoint has synthesized the various components, added a great number of new features, and done so while maintaining compatibility with all its various Microsoft "cousins."

    Among the many bedfellows that are deeply integrated with SharePoint, the most powerful and diverse can be seen in the Microsoft Excel services. Those who use Excel to a great degree will see a lot of benefit from working in the framework of a well-structured Microsoft SharePoint server. Not only will collaboration opportunities increase, but organization, access, and presentational options. At the same time, those who enjoy the benefits of SharePoint have a lot to gain from learning the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel. The data processing, organization, and compilation features of excel magnify many of the utilities found within SharePoint itself.

    There are three simple keys to maximizing the synergistic benefits of SharePoint and Excel:

    • Learn how to export/import, organize, publish, and work with the advanced features of Microsoft Excel.
    • Educate your staff on how to use collaborative elements via SharePoint, as well as the other SharePoint features.
    • Create a solid framework to examine, work with, and present your Excel data.
    If you need help on executing, organizing, or understanding any aspect of the SharePoint features, we can help. Contact us today at (877) 368-7207 or info@SharePointEngine.com.
  • The World of Tomorrow: Yeah, SharePoint's on It
    SharePoint is a highly fluid system, and while many beginning users feel that the components are somehow "restrictive," that's generally just because they haven't tweaked the appropriate features for full accessibility. The reality is, beyond having open intranet and extranet options, SharePoint pages can be made accessible on any number of other mediums – including mobile devices.

    This started all the way back in 2007, before the rise of the modern smartphone (such as those created by Apple or Android). At this time, the SharePoint pages were reachable but difficult to use, decipher, and interact with. Since that time, two important things happened. First, SharePoint 2010 was released, and second, the world of public app development took hold of SharePoint's features.

    The release of SharePoint 2010 meant that additional mobile features were present and account for but, far more importantly, were also easier to use. The mobile pages could be accessed from any phone that could access the web, and while the pages weren't exactly "optimized for mobile," they were entirely functional.

    Apple's market of over 300,000 apps and Android's 200,000 plus, it's no surprise that some have been designed for SharePoint. Allowing access to various SharePoint pages, functions, reports, and more, these utilities for iPad, iPhone, Android-powered devices, and RIM (Blackberry) smartphones give users more mobility than ever before.

    In the world of technology, there's little doubt that tablets and smartphones are the future. Microsoft is lunging into both arenas with WP7 and the upcoming Microsoft tablets, not to mention Windows 8 with ARM support. We may see more mobile resources developed by Microsoft itself, but even without the contribution of the tech titan, the SharePoint consulting and customization community is hard at work creating beautiful, powerful apps for SharePoint on the go.
  • The "Classic" SharePoint Panel
    Like every other platform on the market, SharePoint has gone through rigorous testing both inside and (far more importantly) outside the parent company. Users around the world have criticized, adored, broken, and manipulated SharePoint in every possible way, leading to the most thorough "field reports" around. Users haven't always been satisfied with SharePoint and, looking back, it's easy to see why.

    How many of you actually used SharePoint back in 2001, when it was first released on the market? At that time, the services that had the "SharePoint" title on them were little more than a loosely connected string of services from companies Microsoft had just purchased. Microsoft integrated these new features with their existing "site server" and SQL services, but the entire thing was a pit of mess that left most users feeling like they'd been given a pop quiz on their first day of class.

    Of course, SharePoint didn't stand still. By 2004, everything was integrated far more smoothly and users were able to access features without accidentally crossing wires at each turn. Customization also started with the (difficult to use and implement) web parts available at that time. From 2004 to 2007, features were added that allowed for smoother use, faster additions, easier implementation, and more fluid dashboards.

    If SharePoint had stopped development in 2007, they would probably still be alive today. They didn't, however, which is why SharePoint is the industry behemoth even in 2011. SharePoint 2010 offered many great stability, business intelligence, customization, administration, and user-driven functions that it revolutionized the industry.

    Looking back to the beginning, it's almost impossible to recognize those first iterations as being "SharePoint" at all. You've come a long way, Microsoft, and we look forward to your innovations in the coming months and years.
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