The SharePoint Journey

SharePoint is one of the leading corporate/enterprise/business portal technologies. Part of Microsoft Office family, SharePoint provides scalable, extensible and customizable portal solutions for organizations of any size.

Microsoft have been delivering SharePoint as a two-fold offering until recently. Core services (STS/WSS/Foundation) which come free with Windows Server license and SharePoint Server which sits on top of core services. However, they deprecated core services offering (The latest core service offering was Foundation 2013) while rolling out SharePoint Server 2016.

Another paradigm shift is that, going forward SharePoint Online is where they will release new features. Later they will bundle all those new features into an On-Premises release. Maybe SharePoint 2020! Personally, I think once all organizations mature and embrace cloud approach fully, Microsoft will no longer release On-premises server release and SharePoint online will be the way forward.

We are embarking into new year with SharePoint providing a platform which is more open and vast. For me personally, it has been a fascinating journey to be associated with SharePoint for so long. Let’s look back and see how SharePoint has evolved since its inception in 2001.

2001 – SharePoint Team Services (STS) and SharePoint Portal Server 2001

Before SharePoint, Microsoft sold a number of different products for server management. However, 2001 saw the introduction of a new management tool that integrated functionality from several previous products into a single platform called “SharePoint Portal Server 2001 and SharePoint Team Services”. It provided integrated workflow, document sharing, and search features to help organize, share, and find important information located throughout the organization. Overall it was a solid project for its time, but it had an under-powered web store that limited the functionality of the product and a digital dashboard that was outside Microsoft’s core development platform, limiting support options for users.

2003 – Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (WSS 2.0) and SharePoint Portal Server 2003

In October 2003, Microsoft released a new version of Office, Office 2003, that included a new version of SharePoint, rebranded as Windows SharePoint Services (WSS 2.0). WSS 2.0 is free with Windows Server 2003 license but has limited feature. You need to procure SharePoint Server 2003 license to unlock additional features. This version provided a collaboration store, better web interfaces, search functions, improved management and taxonomy, and the ability to personalize the product. This made SharePoint into a more scalable portal product that relied on the same developer tools as other Microsoft products, making support much less cumbersome.

2007- Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS 3.0) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007)

In 2006, Microsoft released new edition of SharePoint, more commonly known as MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) on top of WSS 3.0. This edition represented one of the biggest steps forward for the product line and the point at which the software truly came into its own. This version not only fixed many shortcomings of the 2003 product but also vastly expanded the platform’s core functionality. New additions included Business Data Catalog and InfoPath Form Services. Also, a new client tool called SharePoint designer 2007 (successor of Front Page) was introduced to enable SharePoint customization.

2010 – SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010

The 2010 version of SharePoint enjoyed improvements: more tightly integrating features of Office into the functionality of SharePoint. A few of the most notable improvements included an enhanced user interface, superior ways to interface with business data, new workflow options, use of wiki pages in templates, social profiles and networking features, a re-designed client editor, and expanded support for a wider array of browsers. They also made SharePoint Designer 2010 as free download. They introduced client object model.

2013 – SharePoint Foundation 2013 and SharePoint Server 2013

The 2013 update to SharePoint was a more incremental change to a software suite that was, by that point, quite robust. Aside from a number of small improvements, bug fixes, and tweaks to the appearance and user interface, the biggest additions to this version included database caching, called Cache Service, and content-aware switching.
Hybrid SharePoint environment was a newer and exciting concept that was introduced outside of the regular version update cycle. It provides the flexibility of using SharePoint in both a local server and cloud-based setting. In other words, SharePoint can now live in the cloud, allowing a company’s workers to use its functionality regardless of where they are in the world.
This provides the ultimate balance between convenience, security, and redundancy. Moreover, the hybrid version is highly customizable, allowing network administrators to modify what features live on which servers, in order to best suit the needs of the company.

2016 – (NO FOUNDATION) SharePoint Server 2016

The current version is SharePoint 2016. One of the major development areas with SharePoint Server 2016 is its integration with SharePoint online. This is to accommodate organizations that want to keep some of their data on their local premises and in their own control but want to leverage some of the benefits of having Microsoft manage their SharePoint for them. This concept of using SharePoint online and some SharePoint On-premises is called a hybrid approach. And interestingly, there is no SharePoint designer.

SharePoint online

Times have changed, and Microsoft has said that going forward SharePoint Online is where they will release latest features. So if you want the latest and the greatest features, then SharePoint Online is the best way forward. However, if you want a tried, tested and stable release for your local premises, then On-Premises is the version for you.

SharePoint online is a subscription based SaaS application which is part of cloud-based Office 365 for business suite. SharePoint Server 2016 marks a shift toward a “cloud first” portal capability; it will increasingly use the code and architecture used to deliver the high performance and rapid innovation of SharePoint Online, rather than relying on legacy on-premises code.

LIMITATIONS

SharePoint is not as readily equipped for high-end customer and external-facing use cases as it is for intranet and digital workplace scenarios. Organizations that want SharePoint to support a variety of portals often require custom development, Microsoft partner expertise or complementary software.

Long-standing feature gaps remain in forms and workflow, enterprise administration, and governance. Customers often require third-party tools, enhancements or solutions built on top of SharePoint to account for these gaps.

Customers often characterize on-premises versions of SharePoint as rigid and troublesome to customize, and SharePoint Online is currently less customizable in some respects. Microsoft’s attempts to address the problem in the course of the cloud transition have left some customers confused and wary about custom development and integration.

FUTURE

With the introduction of SharePoint Framework (100% JavaScript), Webhooks and Graph APIs – SharePoint is now on its path to becoming more customizable than ever before and customization has become server-less, which brings down cost for smaller enterprises.

Microsoft also supports other modern browsers rather than supporting only Internet Explorer, which makes it more internet and device friendly. SharePoint is core of Office 365 which highlights the fact that Microsoft is showing a lot of love to it,

In my opinion, this product, starting in 2001 with mixed reviews, has seen some fast paced evolution and has slowly but surely acquired a center-stage in Microsoft ecosystem; and with its growing footprint in the  horizontal portal technology is benefiting enterprises of all sizes.

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