SharePoint the ‘evolution’
SharePoint has been around now for quite some time. Its first iteration was as Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server in 2001, as largely a document management application. It was a traditional setup with little interaction from end users; instead they would come up with problems/requirements and hand them over to IT teams who would provided a solution to those problems.
In 2003 Microsoft made their first move to evolve SharePoint and brought it under the Office 2003 Application Suite, when they released a new version called Microsoft Windows SharePoint Server as part of Windows Sever 2003. This new version had an improved UI and better personalisation options for end users. However, it was still not a truly collaborative platform. This was to all change in 2007, with the release of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). End users could now create and manage team sites, they were given access to workflows and the platform embraced content management.
In 2010 Microsoft upgraded SharePoint to give a more enhanced experience for users with more services to enhance business connectivity, better integration with Microsoft Office’s application suite and more workflow automation, all with the goal of increasing business efficiency and better collaboration among business units.
The next iteration of SharePoint came with the release of SharePoint Sever 2013; this version was largely the same as 2010, with the addition of a lot of bug fixes and a few tweaks to the UI. The main additions were support for social media functions, support for mobile users, and support for large data sets. There were vast improvements to the underlying features of designing layouts and sites that need to adhere to brand guidelines. The biggest change however was the addition of SharePoint Online, a cloud based version of SharePoint, hosted on Microsoft Servers and bundled with the Office 365 package that is also maintained by the Microsoft team.
2016 has added a few new options to SharePoint. However, the platform remains largely the same as 2013, with a few new additions and removal of old features. Some of these include an App Launcher, a new tool to further align SharePoint with the Office 365 platform as this tool now provides an identical interface for apps whether using SharePoint Online on Office 365 or on SharePoint 2016 on premise. Microsoft also introduced the concept of Mini Roles, relating to Farm Topology. There are now six pre-defined roles that are available to Farm Administrators when creating a new SharePoint Farm. Another new feature Farm Administrators can take advantage of, if they have configured high availability on their farm, is Zero Downtime Patching. Last, but not least by any means, is that Project Server now comes integrated with SharePoint (however it is licensed separately so will require an additional licence to use).
The latest iteration of SharePoint to date is SharePoint Server 2019 and it continues Microsoft’s ongoing journey with improving SharePoint. It brings more changes to the way SharePoint and its users interact with the addition of Modern Sites, Pages, Lists and Libraries, Team News and Communication Sites. One big change in this area is the addition of Microsoft Teams which has taken team collaboration out of SharePoint’s hands and is now the go to destination for team-based collaborative work. That’s not to say that SharePoint collaboration is redundant, content for these teams still remains on SharePoint, with the collaboration work now done on Microsoft Teams.
One of the more interesting features to come from SharePoint 2019 was the announcement at SharePoint Conference #18 (#SPC18) of SharePoint Spaces. This new addition brings VR to SharePoint and will allow anybody to create mixed reality content experiences for a whole range of business processes.
One thing is sure; SharePoint continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, adding new and interesting features for users and businesses alike.
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Author: Paul Cuthbert, Software Developer, Aspira.