Microsoft SharePoint is a Web application platform developed by Microsoft. First launched in 2001, SharePoint has historically been associated with intranet, content management and document management, but recent versions have significantly broader capabilities.
SharePoint comprises a multipurpose set of Web technologies backed by a common technical infrastructure. By default, SharePoint has a Microsoft Office-like interface, and it is closely integrated with the Office suite. The web tools are designed to be usable by non-technical users. SharePoint can be used to provide intranet portals, document & file management, collaboration, social networks, extra-nets, websites, enterprise search, and business intelligence. It also has system integration, process integration, and workflow automation capabilities.
Free (Foundation)SharePoint Foundation is the free product that contains the basic collaboration features which includes lists, document libraries, workflows, calendars, team sites and more.
It is the essential solution for organizations that need a secure, manageable, web-based collaboration platform. SharePoint helps teams stay connected and productive by providing easy access to the people, documents, and information that they need to make well-informed decisions and get work done. Use SharePoint Foundation to coordinate schedules, organize documents, and participate in discussions through team work spaces, blogs, wikis, and document libraries on the platform that is the underlying infrastructure for SharePoint Server.
Paid (Server)SharePoint Server 2013 is the advanced product that you may license for a cost and includes all the features of Foundation as well as social computing, enterprise search, web content management, business intelligence, business connectivity and electronic forms just to name a few.
In SharePoint 2013 includes the ability for users to tag, rate and bookmark content. Hash-tags are a newly introduced social tagging feature and if you’re a Twitter user you’ll know what they are. Social networking is possible through My Sites and user profiles. Finally, new to SharePoint 2013 is the Community Site. Community sites act as forums for users to communicate through discussions on topics.
Allows different sources of content to be indexed and searchable through SharePoint. You may index SharePoint sites, external web sites, file shares and other types of repositories and systems. The search component is now a part of the SharePoint engine itself and is used to power many components within SharePoint 2013.
Web content management
Enables organizations to publish 100% custom branded web sites through structured templates. Content can be maintained at the editorial level instead of having to go through IT. SharePoint 2013 also supports multilingual web sites.
Solutions can be implemented through a variety of services the are packaged with SharePoint 2013 Server. Dashboards of information and data can be created through knowledge performance indicators, views and reports, MS Excel workbooks and MS Access components. Some of the services used to create the BI components include SQL Reporting services, Excel services and MS Access services.
Can be developed using Microsoft InfoPath and hosted within the browser using Forms services. The data can be saved as xml files or directly within a SharePoint list. Infopath enables users to create forms without the need of a programmer.
For DevelopersSharePoint is a .NET platform that developers can use to build applications and take advantage of it’s features. For example, lists in SharePoint now support the capabilities of relational databases. Advanced data models can be built and relationships between lists established through lookup columns much in the same way as foreign keys in database tables. This means that joins are now possible through LINQ or collaborative application markup language .
Other things developers can take advantage of when using SharePoint is it’s document management capabilities, security system and workflow engine.
As you can see SharePoint is a very large platform that can help organizations in many areas. It’s important to have a general understanding of the different products and all the major features in order to use SharePoint more effectively.