Help me choose an intranet.
June 29, 2006 9:47 AM   Subscribe

IntranetFilter. Help me choose a corporate intranet package.

My company really needs an intranet (not just my opinion), so I'm researching options, with a view to making a presentation to HR and other stakeholders in the next month or so.

Our IT person is suggesting SharePoint from Microsoft, as we run an Exchange server. My concern with that is mainly bugginess and security, as well as ease of customization--ideally, we'd probably want the intranet to have the same look and feel as our extranet.

I'm leaning towards the product found here, as it seems fantastically simple, infinitely customizable, and without the multitude of security flaws that MS is known for. It's basically an out-of-the-box solution.

Can anyone provide me with pros and cons, personal experience, etc?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
um...I actually kinda like sharepoint since it's integrated and easy to administer... *ducks under desk for safety*
posted by gregariousrecluse at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2006

Response by poster: Is it?

Can you give me more information on it? I don't need tech info about deployment or anything like that, more from the user end: is it easy and intuitive to use? Can access levels be defined? How about user groups, both permanent and on an ad hoc basis?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:25 AM on June 29, 2006

sharepoint. at my last company i rebuilt our intranet using a sharepoint team services 1.0 model, and it worked out great. and im not a programmer\web guy at all, im a network engineer.
posted by fumbducker at 10:31 AM on June 29, 2006

Sharepoint. Easy for novices to get set up with their own data and team sites, and very handy if you're technically savvy since it's a snap to share and collaborate on live data. I've been very impressed with it.
posted by aberrant at 2:24 PM on June 29, 2006

access levels can be defined based on domain\user authentication, transparently if you're using AD and IE. User groups are a snap, both ad hoc and permanent, again, especially if you're already a windows shop.
posted by aberrant at 2:25 PM on June 29, 2006

He, our Sharepoint just went down yesterday. It contained quite a few documents, which are supposed still to be there, but we are not able to access them at the moment. I even think we got it escalated to Microsoft at the moment.
I resent it a bit because of the extreme complexity that we have built into it, but that is probably just because nobody took time to think the structure through. I literaly give up searching for anything. Moot point at the moment, of course :-)
Any system may have defects, of course, and some are easier to troubleshoot than others.
posted by KimG at 2:42 PM on June 29, 2006

sharepoint is awesome unless you have to develop your own web parts. The more you have to customize it, the less you will like it.
posted by boo_radley at 2:43 PM on June 29, 2006

Oh, ha-ha. There's also a discussion on a sharepoint list on "what do we mean when we write 'web site'" because sharepoint is far and away the worst acronym soup ever. WSS and SPS use conflicting terminology for the same concepts, and they don't always mesh together well. They're trying to get things consolidated, but there's not one real conceptual hierarchy when it comes to sharepoint. Here's one developer's list of sharepoint hates, too.
posted by boo_radley at 2:51 PM on June 29, 2006

Lotus Notes/Domino 7 vs. SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (related Slashdot discussion).

I would also caution against going all out on a package like this. "Intranet" is so open-ended that it could easily encompass 100's of unique needs within your own department, let alone the entire company. Without getting a detailed list of business requirements from all the users (or a smaller group of subject matter experts) investing in a product like this could be disastrous.

As a user, what specific needs are you hoping to accomplish with this particular software? Document management, content management, web blogging features, calendar sharing, conferencing, whiteboards, project management, etc. etc. Some packages are good at some of those components, and some are horrible. I've used both Notes and SharePoint (and a lot of the open source groupware projects like Mambo -- which is very customizable) and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. However, I'd assume that you're probably running Active Directory (since you're using Exchange) and with both of those components already in place, a lot of the serious work is already done for SharePoint.

As with any product, the more out-of-the-box customization that it requires to meet end-users needs, the more difficult it becomes to manage or update. Get your list of requirements and then hire a contractor (or repost here) in order to come up with a product that will require the least amount (or preferably no) customization.
posted by purephase at 3:22 PM on June 29, 2006

I've implemented Sharepoint a couple of times a few years ago and while I think the concept is great, Microsoft’s execution is awful for various reasons.

I’ve found the UI is all over the place – both for users and administrators. For example you can’t customize the entire site design in a meaningful (want a nice pretty header through out your subsites? Not going to happen unless you wanna start hacking the ‘original’ files – not recommended) you have to do it on a page by page basis in Frontpage. If a user doesn’t have permission to edit the site, they’ll still see the ‘Edit this site’ link in the top right (among other edit options for lists, etc), while meetings will appear in outlook and can be updated from there – tasks wont at all. All these little things make it a bit of a mess if you’re trying to brand Sharepoint and have non-technically minded users using it.

I’m assuming your looking at Sharepoint 2003, do not go with Sharepoint 2001 – there is not a clear upgrade path (because Sharepoint 2003 is a combination of SPS 2001 and BizTalk server). I am aware there is a new version about to be released (a beta might be out) so these issues might be resolved.
posted by X-00 at 3:57 PM on June 29, 2006

Ray Ozzie (the guy that originally developed Notes and was hired a few years ago by Microsoft to get them into collaborative systems) has years of work ahead, if he lives long enough, to get Microsoft to the point of being all things to all people in collaborative software. Much of Sharepoint 2003 is an alternative to Groove Networks technology he brought along in the Groove acquisition that may eventually be replaced in later releases, but the messaging component integration with Exchange, and Exchange's integration with the SQL datastore, is all still a tower of backports and island codebases.

If you already have a Microsoft shop, getting something other than Sharepoint is going to be an uphill battle, and for simple needs in reasonable sized organizations, Sharepoint isn't all that bad. If your Exchange system is rock solid, and your Active Directory deployment is great, and you aren't going to be building all kinds of Web services applications down to the user level, Sharepoint might be just the ticket.

But if you can spend some time to decide what it is you need and want, and what you can do without, you can probably do better, by doing simpler. If what you need is a document management system, buy that. If later you need a workflow application, buy and deploy a workflow framework that is best of class, and deal with the fact that you have to do some custom integration in the case your workflow applications involve specific document retrieval. Don't buy a product like Sharepoint defensively, on the theory that you'll have whatever you need, when you get around to needing it, as that doesn't really work out all that well, in my experience.
posted by paulsc at 4:22 PM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

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