What is SharePoint Online?

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By Kurt Fuller, Consultant

Kurt began as a web developer back in 2005 and has transitioned to delivering solutions focused around Office 365 and SharePoint. Predominantly working with clients to deliver Intranet solutions focused around collaboration, document management and centralisation communications.

SharePoint Online is a cloud-based intranet solution with a fully-fledged document management system accessible via an internet connection and your favourite browser. Sitting either within an Office 365 subscription or as a standalone application, SharePoint Online offers flexibility and an interface into other cloud-based applications. It offers a hub for centralising company news, company documents such as Policies and Procedures, as well as company collateral such as logos, letterheads and the like.   

Key Features

Accessibility 

SharePoint online is accessible via a browser on any device, or the native app via for IOS or Android (please note, there is a Windows Mobile app currently in preview). Sick of having to use a VPN client or Remote Desktop to access work files outside of your company's network? SharePoint Online offers an access-anywhere solution out of the box, whether it be via your favourite browser or tablet or phone device. 

Being that SharePoint Online is hosted in the cloud, Integrating external applications through either a custom built apps or through links can be a game-changer for your employees. If multiple systems are using Active Directory as the Identity Provider, there are ways in which pass-through authentication can be achieved, presenting a single-sign on (SSO) environment.  

Document Management 

Historical versioning of documents in file systems is achieved via adding suffixes to files to indicate the version, such as a v1, v1, v3 or date methodology. In SharePoint Online document libraries, you can enable versioning which takes care of this for you and as a result you will always see the latest version of a document. Viewing previous versions of documents is as simple as a couple of clicks, and to compare versions, you can use the Compare feature in Microsoft Word for example. 

Have a remote workforce or have the need to access documents outside your network? Take advantage of the Online office apps, enabling you to view and edit documents directly in the browser. Please note that these are limited versions of the Office apps, if you have the need for the full features of Word for example, you can choose to open the document in the fully featured desktop application. 

There's also OneDrive for Business integration for synchronising document libraries for online & offline editing capabilities. Sharing (Internal / External) directly from your intranet means you can not only reduce your mailbox and network traffic, but also control permissions directly on documents.

Team Sites 

A Team site is a collaboration space for your teams, where you can centralise information, have resources readily available and allow the sharing of information in a meaningful way. Popular examples include Finance, Human Resources, Marketing & IT. 

Key Apps that are available within Team Sites include Document Libraries (think of these as a network share in the traditional sense), Calendars (can be added to your Outlook as an "Other Calendar"), Task Lists, Discussion Boards, Announcements, Newsfeeds, Links Lists, Custom Lists, and the options go on. 

Search 

SharePoint has a very powerful search engine built in, that not only indexes the name of the document, but also the content (images being the exception). The fact that there is a continuous crawl running behind the scenes means that the content is re-indexed frequently, meaning search results remain relevant with all of your content. 

The ability to define searches around the whole SharePoint environment, as well as by the current site you are in or people, as well as refine on key document information (known as metadata) strengthens the SharePoint search story as well as helping users gain efficiency from easily locating data. 

Security/Permissions 

SharePoint implements an inheritance model where the current item takes on the permissions of the parent item, while all the while you can assign unique permissions at any level in SharePoint. There are 4 key levels in which a permission can be applied: 

  • Site Collection (top level) 

  • Site (ability to apply permission at each site & sub-site) 

  • List & Libraries (Individual apps in the site can have unique permissions, and users will only see the apps that they have the permission for) 

  • List item (individual folders or documents for example can have unique permissions applied) 

How can SharePoint Online help me?

There are many ways implementing SharePoint Online can improve business productivity and efficiency. Contact us to gain an insight on ways we can help you make this happen. Or learn more about SharePoint Online here: 

https://products.office.com/en-us/sharepoint/sharepoint-online-collaboration-software