Businesses of all sizes use Microsoft® SharePoint® for cross-distance collaboration and file creation. SharePoint’s cloud-based approach means it offers a more sophisticated setting for mobile and remote teamwork than traditional document-sharing programs. But although SharePoint uses an intuitive, nontechnical interface, its many services—especially security options—mean that managed services providers (MSPs) might need to educate some of their customers.
As businesses begin to flock to SharePoint, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to make SharePoint as safe and effective as possible. Making sense of SharePoint’s diverse selection of features and corporate capabilities is key to understanding how to maximize your SharePoint program before you set up shop. MSPs, business administrators, and associates alike could all benefit from SharePoint best practices for team collaboration sites.
What is SharePoint?
Microsoft SharePoint is, at its heart, a document management service. SharePoint allows multiple co-creators to contribute to the same projects, from anywhere they have internet access. The flagship version of SharePoint is SharePoint Online, which integrates a multitude of applications into a centralized, online platform. The online version allows for collaborative data and content creation, document upkeep, and maintenance of your web content—all from one centralized account.
The most essential component of your SharePoint Online account is the cloud. Within the SharePoint Cloud system, each of your contributors can have varying levels of access to company content, the same way as if your project were hosted on a network server. The difference between SharePoint documents and local documents is your ability to work with co-creators on SharePoint from anywhere in the world—because of its cloud-based interface, SharePoint contributors can access and modify data remotely.
In the age of the internet, SharePoint offers a solution for global businesses—but also for local businesses whose associates are not all in one place. The SharePoint Cloud meets you where you are, for optimal productivity no matter where your team members are located. Because SharePoint is a Microsoft product, it can be easily integrated with your Microsoft Office® suite, including Office 365.
Is SharePoint good for document management?
SharePoint has quickly become an industry standard for document management. The central control of the SharePoint document management process is called the Document Library, in which all the different files in your SharePoint system can be located by users. When you set up a SharePoint Document Library, make sure to configure the Library view for your ideal setup, in case SharePoint’s default Library isn’t set up in your preferred format. Once you configure the Document Library that best suits your business, you can save this interface as your SharePoint View.
To sort and store documents, SharePoint offers a choice between storing files in folders, or storing them in metadata. Folders are the default organizational method for your SharePoint document inventory, but they might not be the most useful for streamlined collaboration. While some organizations prefer data to be organized in folders, SharePoint also allows a metadata configuration—this means you can tag your files and data with searchable items for easier access and sorting.
The creators of SharePoint understand that in a cloud-based, shared workspace, document collaboration needs to be as transparent as possible for everybody involved. That’s why SharePoint includes co-authoring capabilities based on access privileges. These privileges can be set by a central administrator within the customer’s organization or by the MSP. When co-authoring occurs, you can further increase document transparency by enabling alerts to see when changes are made, and by whom.
If you have concerns about security in your document management system, SharePoint Online offers both document history records and offline syncing. These two features work in tandem to protect the integrity of your document. If a document was incorrectly modified, a detailed history report can show you exactly what changes were made, when, and by whom—it can also help you restore changes to a previous version. Similarly, offline syncing allows in-progress versions to be downloaded in case unintended changes have been made in the online document.
SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint Server
SharePoint Server offers a nearly identical interface to SharePoint Online, except that data is stored on your local server instead of on the SharePoint cloud. For smaller businesses, or for businesses with immediate security concerns, SharePoint Server can be an effective way to collaborate on team projects without having to constantly pass around the same file. SharePoint Server also has the ability to sync with SharePoint Online to create a hybrid environment that can help businesses adhere to compliance regulations and potentially save costs on storage.
Tips for using SharePoint Online
Now that some of the basic features of SharePoint have been covered, new and experienced SharePoint users alike might benefit from some key best practices you can share within your MSP and your customers:
- Make an administrative plan
One of the most important first steps in establishing an effective SharePoint system is to figure out who is in charge and who can make edits to your files. Deciding on roles and responsibilities early on can make managing a SharePoint account much less confusing.
A SharePoint account in which every contributor can equally adjust data can quickly become hectic, especially if you are managing a SharePoint Online account with a large number of users. Additionally, your chances of data security are improved when you set different permission parameters for administrators than for associates. Some businesses might even conclude that administrators and their MSP should be the only members with full capability to modify data and view edit histories.
- Track your changes
SharePoint allows users to store a historical record of changes made to your files. In editing documents on SharePoint, make sure to enable the most comprehensive history settings possible. SharePoint allows you to save all previous versions of your file, meaning you can retrace your steps in the case of an unintended edit.
- Stay secure
Your SharePoint files might contain sensitive data. With a large, cloud-based network of users, even the most vigilant SharePoint users might be susceptible to a bad actor who has password access to company data. To help protect the data stored on your SharePoint account in the event of a breach, it never hurts to create a backup on your hard drive. You can also take additional security precautions by limiting editing capabilities, or by limiting access permissions to your Document Library.
SharePoint is a highly versatile program with very little overhead—in fact, SharePoint Online has no overhead at all due to its cloud-based operation. Content creation, collaboration, and team building can happen no matter where you are, which is perhaps why SharePoint has been such a growing success in today’s business world. Another selling point of SharePoint is its highly intuitive user interface. Nevertheless, SharePoint users might need some additional advice in making the most out of their experience. As an MSP, guiding customers with little SharePoint experience through the process can help ensure key security protections are in place and maximum efficiency is enabled.
For document management, SharePoint can help any business, big or small, with its easily searchable Document Library, its ability to delegate different responsibilities to different users, and its documentation of changes made to your files. With the right understanding of SharePoint tips and tricks, it could save businesses lots of time and money—whether co-creators are in the same office or across the globe.