What is SharePoint? A introduction to its most useful features

If you’re wondering “what is SharePoint?” you’ve come to the right place!

SharePoint is a server environment from Microsoft which makes collaborating on and sharing documents within an organisation much easier. This makes it an incredibly resourceful application when working on projects in groups.

You can customise its appearance so it reflects your company’s branding, or use an intranet-in-a-box that transforms the SharePoint experience with more bespoke templates and functionality for your business.

As an online document management and storage system, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and more can be uploaded to and stored in SharePoint. It is usually deployed as an intranet site within a company’s network. Like with other websites, you access a SharePoint site by using a URL that’s unique to your company.

What types of SharePoint are there?

There are a few different types of SharePoint available. It’s worth taking a look at the options and seeing which one is most suitable for you. 

SharePoint Foundation

SharePoint Foundation was at the core of all SharePoint sites, and you can deploy it for free. You can use it to create sites and collaborate on files. However, it is not available as part of the latest Office Suite update – Office 2016.

SharePoint Server

If you want to use SharePoint as an application on your desktop, then SharePoint Server is the option you should go with. You can set it up and manage it from your workplace. It has a couple of additional interesting features on top of the Foundation version, including a newsfeed and an enterprise search capability.

SharePoint Online

Instead of deploying SharePoint as an application on your desktop, you can subscribe to Office 365 and access SharePoint Online through the cloud. Alternatively, you subscribe to SharePoint Online on its own.

Here’s a guide to a typical SharePoint intranet project.

SharePoint Designer 2013

This is another SharePoint add-on which you can deploy for free. You can use it to to develop lists and sites, and customise page layouts. Designer 2013 was the latest version released, but you can use it with SharePoint 2016.

OneDrive for Business Sync

This is a desktop program which you can use to sync documents from a team site to your desktop. You can then edit these files whilst you’re offline. Any changes you make to documents offline will automatically appear online the next time you log in.

Check out our 5 minute cheat-sheet on the Next OneDrive for Business Sync Client for more information.

What are the Popular SharePoint Features?

There’s a lot you can do with SharePoint. Here are some of the most popular things that companies do with it. 

Permission and Restriction

You can give people access to certain areas of a SharePoint, and restrict them from accessing other areas. This is handy for when you’re in charge of several teams and you don’t want anyone to get hold of the wrong files by mistake.

Similarly, you can set limits on how people access files. You can give permission to view a document whilst preventing editing and deletion, which is useful in cases of sharing important company news.

Learn about removing external users from SharePoint Online.

Restoration and Recovery

Let’s say you make changes to a document and want to see its previous version, or somebody else accidentally makes a change to a document that wasn’t authorised. SharePoint automatically keeps a record of all iterations of your files, so you can easily restore previous versions.

The great thing about this feature is that it removes the need to send emails back and forth with amended versions of one document. You can grant people within your company permission to access previous versions too, and you can find old versions of documents at any time.

If you delete a file from SharePoint, or somebody else does and you need it back, you can get it. There’s a Recycle Bin in SharePoint where you can recover deleted files.

Updates and Notifications

When you’re working in a group, it’s a good thing to keep track of who’s doing what, and when. Luckily, you can set up alerts in SharePoint so you and you peers will be notified whenever somebody changes, uploads or removes a document.

When given the right permission, individuals within your organisation can set up their own alert preferences. This is great, as they can keep track of all the things that they’re involved in.

Accessibility and Customisation

SharePoint is designed to be managed by the people who’re using it. You don’t get as much creative freedom on a SharePoint site as you would with a normal website. However, there are lots of things you can customise. This includes colours, fonts and images. You can also create lists and sites within your main site. These are know as sub-sites.

Read our blog on displaying SharePoint Online lists to parent or sub-sites.

What are the benefits of SharePoint?

With so many popular features, it’s no wonder there are some great SharePoint benefits out there. Here’s some of the best. 

Easy to Use

You don’t need lots of developer or design experience in order to use SharePoint. It comes equipped with the tools you need for building and customising your own environment.


Since you can set permissions and restrictions, SharePoint helps to prevent files from being accessed by the wrong people. And as SharePoint Online is an Office 365 programme, it will automatically update itself and always be safe from the latest cyber threats.

Increased Collaboration

With the right permissions set, anyone in your organisation can view and edit documents at any time. Everyone can be notified of and comment on the changes made to files.

It’s no longer a case of one person having the master copy of a document and sending back-and-forth emails. SharePoint makes it easier for everyone to have a say.

SharePoint – an integral part of digital transformation

SharePoint is one the leading Office 365 applications in driving digital transformation – the transition from using paper documents and spending all day in the office to cloud computing and remote working.

Technology should enable people to do their best work, and the services and applications that make digital transformation should be easy to use on any device.

Find out how you can transform your organisation into a digital workplace booking a free consultation with one of our SharePoint experts. Book a discovery call below: 

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