In the previous post we looked at how SharePoint can help improve collaboration within an organization. In this post we will look with more detail at the capabilities in SharePoint that make it more than just a web front end to a file share.
As discussed before, each department could have its own site within SharePoint, allowing them to make the site more relevant and to present their information to the rest of the organization in a more meaningful manner. A Document library offers an easy central location to store information and share documents, but for a department the library offers more. One feature is Workflow; out of the box, SharePoint Server 2010 provides a set of predefined workflows that can be used to guide and track common tasks such as document review or approval. For those outside the process, what this means is that when they visit the library they will see the final documents and not ones that are halfway through a review cycle. If the built-in workflows do not meet your needs, you can also use Office SharePoint Designer to define your own workflows, or you can use Visual Studio to create code-based custom workflows.
For Workflow, or for that matter, Documents Libraries to work, documents have to be added. As soon as you start to post and process documents in this manner, security becomes a factor. Security in the form of, who can read documents, who can write to the documents, who can upload and download documents from a library, and finally how to recover documents in the event of an incident.
To address this, SharePoint security features include:
- User Permissions: The first line of security within SharePoint is permissions on users. SharePoint includes six permission levels by default, which enables you to secure your libraries and sites to a high degree.
- Information Rights Management: Information Rights Management (IRM) enables you to both control and protect your documents. The documents are encrypted and supplied with an issuance license that imposes restrictions on users. These restrictions vary depending on the level of users’ permissions. Typical restrictions include making a document read-only, disabling copying of text, not allowing users to save a copy of the document, or preventing users from printing the document. This safeguard helps insure that confidential company information can remain within the organization.
- Secure Collaboration: Using Forefront with SharePoint provides the ability to ensure documents loaded into SharePoint are not infected and so will not pose a risk to other users.
- Versioning and Recycle Bin: SharePoint 2010 has two methods to help retrieve documents, when Recycle Bins are enabled, users can restore items that are in them, including deleted files, documents, list items, lists, and document libraries. When a site owner turns on versioning in a document library or a list, the library or list keeps multiple copies of a document, item, or file. In the event of an unwanted change, an overwritten file, or document corruption, the previous version can be easily restored by the user.
Up to now we’ve covered items such as document libraries for collaboration, but SharePoint goes beyond that. Social media sites have become a massive engagement platform in the world: Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, and Youtube all boast millions of users. SharePoint 2010 has social computing and collaboration functionality built in to enable organizations to use similar techniques to spread and share information. Since SharePoint 2007, the Wiki functionality similar to Wikipedia has been available.
Organizations now have an arsenal of tools available to them to improve collaboration and tools that are familiar to a new generation of the employees entering the workforce.