• SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 Highlights

    SharePoint 2013 comes with an important decision right off the bat…cloud or on-premises? As part of Microsoft’s marketing strategy, they’re offering SharePoint in two different modes: SharePoint Server that can be installed on-premises just like all previous versions; and Office 365, which is a version of SharePoint that runs in Microsoft’s own data centers as part of a cloud. There is enough overlap of features between the on-premises and cloud versions to say that SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 are essentially the same, but they are clearly designed for two different market segments.

    Microsoft publicly stated they will develop and support both versions for the foreseeable future, but the hosted version is likely to be the winner since all technology is trending towards the cloud.
    This blog post, as the title suggests, is focused on the highlights of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365. However, the fact that SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 allow you to leverage either on-premises or cloud computing speaks volumes about the deep transition taking place in how software is delivered and consumed. Clearly, cloud computing is a big part of the future for Microsoft and all other manufacturers of commercial software.

    SharePoint 2013 represents a major new release in the product’s lifecycle, and this blog post is intended to give you a quick reference guide of five points that rise to the top.

    Better Branding

    Branding your web presence used to be a rather difficult and time-consuming process that involved specialized knowledge of the designer tool and assets, UI expertise using style sheets, and an understanding of how to package the entire branding concept. This is not to say that branding in SharePoint 2013 is fall-off-a-log simple, but a competent web designer with proficiency in HTML, Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript can brand a SharePoint site and create a public-facing or internal site that looks very professional. This feature will reduce the time required to brand a site and make it less costly to support SharePoint as a platform for public-facing sites.

    Public-Facing Website Improvements

    SharePoint 2013 greatly improved its ability to host public-facing websites. SharePoint has evolved since the 2007 version and, even though 2010 was an improvement, 2013 is now much more full featured. It includes numerous capabilities that help with SEO, including XML-based sitemaps, user-friendly URL’s, SEO settings by different site collections rather than individual sites, and even robot.txt support to define out of bounds areas for search engine crawlers. These new features make it much easier for companies to adopt SharePoint and centralize their knowledge base, increase collaboration and deliver a better overall experience to end-users.

    Business Intelligence Enhancements

    Business Intelligence (BI) is top of mind for most CIOs and CEOs today. Using SharePoint as a platform to tap into and leverage business intelligence opportunities is vastly improved. With Big Data taking center stage, SharePoint 2013 expanded its capabilities over the 2010 product and enables the users to delve much deeper into trusted data sources to perform analytics. Additionally, for those using MS Excel, integration between SharePoint and Excel is much tighter too.

    The PowerPivot program has been given more power in SharePoint 2013, allowing you to work with billions of rows and columns directly in memory. Other features such as PerformancePoint Services, Dashboard Designer and Visio Services also work together to provide a more complete dashboard showing your company’s financial health.

    Deferred Site Collection Upgrade

    SharePoint 2013 has a very useful new feature called ‘deferred site collection.’ This lets a specific set of site collections run as SharePoint 2010 while SharePoint 2013 is being installed. This means you can run SharePoint 2010 code within the 2013 product. Obviously, this is advantageous when needing to maintain compatibility with any custom code and applications you may have built on top of SharePoint 2010.

    Improved Mobile Device Support

    With bring-your-own-device (BYOD) all the rage and mobile computing becoming a business necessity, Microsoft had to meet the challenge of making SharePoint deliver a better experience for users of mobile devices. There is now an HTML5 coded view that is called the ‘contemporary’ view which has been optimized for fast access across iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices.

    Office 365

    To close out this blog post, let me mention a few things about Office 365. This product is all about saving money while still accessing the familiar features of Microsoft Office. This is primarily a cloud-based product, hosted by Microsoft and comes with a 99.9% uptime Service Level Agreement. Office 365 puts the power and agility of MS Office (including SharePoint 2013) within reach of individuals, small businesses, large businesses and other organizations…and with a lower upfront cost.
    • SecurityOffice 365 is built from the ground up with security and privacy in mind. Unlike other cloud based services, Office 365 is not supported by advertising and there is no risk that your information will be targeted by advertisers or compromised.
    • High Availability
    • Office 365 is available when you are. It is not limited by an Internet connection, if you are online or not, you can still access your information anytime, anywhere.
    • No Training RequiredBecause Office 365 is also Microsoft Office, the world’s most useful and recognizable software, little or no training is required. Since most people are already familiar with MS Office, Office 365 is ready to use as soon as it is installed.
    • Simple to Set UpOffice 365 is designed to set up right away and start using immediately. No IT staff is required to provision a desktop or set up user permissions.
    • Cloud or On-PremiseWith Microsoft you can choose either a cloud solution or on-premises, or even a hybrid mix of the two. Because Microsoft has the largest partner ecosystem in the world, you can easily find a qualified consulting firm to help you move forward and provide ongoing support.

    SharePoint has grown into a multi-billion dollars a year business for Microsoft that is still growing, increasing the company’s vast market share year-over-year. Businesses large and small have to do more work with few resources, develop customer intimacy, improve operational efficiency and establish product leadership. The only way to meet these important business requirements is with technology and Microsoft’s SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 are two of the leading tools in this effort.
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