History of SharePoint: The Past, Present and Future

image
SharePoint has come a long way over the years, from its early days, as a simple server management tool, to its use today, as a sophisticated file sharing and management software suite. Over the years, SharePoint has been used by companies to maximize productivity, build incredible websites, and much more. It has grown with the Internet and changed over time, becoming more powerful and comprehensive with every iteration. Better yet, the future of SharePoint looks bright, with incredible new innovations on their way for the next generation of users.

About SharePoint

Created by Microsoft in 2001, SharePoint offers users a versatile tool for collaboration, productivity, and many enterprise based utilities. Network administrators may integrate SharePoint into an intranet network to allow end users—typically in a business setting—to store documents, organize files, and collaborate on projects all through one easy to use platform. Easy to deploy and to manage, SharePoint enhances productivity through well-engineered tools for collaboration.

Because it provides users with a Microsoft Office-like look and feel, IT professionals and network administrators love it. Due, in large part, to its familiar setup and navigation, SharePoint requires minimal training of team members that will use it. It is ideal for mid to large sized businesses, where time spent training team members can really cut into the bottom line. Indeed, the software caters to companies in this size range; smaller companies can still use it but may find some of its functionality a bit more than they need.

Today, thousands of companies around the world use SharePoint every day. In fact, ZDNet.com reported in 2011 that SharePoint added approximately 20,000 new users per day. A separate article by MyDynamicsWorld.com indicated that total worldwide users had topped 100,000,000 by 2013, and 80% of Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint for their daily operations.

The Beginning of SharePoint

SharePoint has evolved from two projects born during the development cycle of Office XP: Office Server and Tahoe. Office Server provided the simplest of network administration actions, while Tahoe expanded on the email, calendaring, contacts, and to-do list technology contained within Exchange. By combining the best features of Office Server and Tahoe into a single program, Microsoft created their natural progeny: SharePoint.

The SharePoint framework debuted in 2001 to mixed reviews. It allowed simpler network provisioning, making collaboration a much less labor-intensive process of IT workers. While this was useful, it was still clunky and unattractive. Thus, Microsoft developed successive iterations to address these shortcomings. Many of these revisions resulted from comments and concerns raised by the users, making the changes very natural, organic, and responsive.

In its early days, SharePoint experienced several setbacks, prompting concerned users to complain about malfunctioning services, lack of customization, and unattractive interfaces. Microsoft heard these concerns and responded by correcting authentication and server database issues, improving user interfaces, and providing more options for customization. The result: a platform that provides network administrators and users with a smooth, familiar, and intuitive experience that is easily compatible with a wide variety of third-party software applications. Earlier versions of the software also suffered from limited functionality; later versions added more powerful tools for collaboration, file sharing, access, and even cloud functionality.

Today, users on virtually any popular browser can take full advantage of all of SharePoint’s functionality, whether in the same office as the server hosting the software or abroad. Moreover, the breadth of available features has expanded to include function like social profiles, workspaces, customizable themes, and wiki-page templates.

2001

Before SharePoint, Microsoft sold a number of different products for server management. However, 2001 saw the introduction of a new management tool that integrated functionality from several previous products into a single platform. It started as a shared document management and indexing application, but it grew to become an early portal solution. Overall it was a solid project for its time, but it had an under-powered web store that limited the functionality of the product and a digital dashboard that was outside Microsoft’s core development platform, limiting support options for users.

2003

In October 2003, Microsoft released a new version of Office, Office 2003, that included a new version of SharePoint, rebranded as Windows SharePoint Services. This version provided a collaboration store, better web interfaces, search functions, improved management and taxonomy, and the ability to personalize the product. This made SharePoint into a more scalable portal product that relied on the same developer tools as other Microsoft products, making support much less cumbersome.

2007

In 2006, Microsoft released new versions of SharePoint: a standalone option and one bundled with Office. This edition represented one of the biggest steps forward for the product line and the point at which the software truly came into its own. This version fixed many of the shortcomings of the 2003 product but also vastly expanded the platform’s core functionality. New additions included Business Data Catalog and InfoPath Form Services.

2010

The 2010 version of SharePoint enjoyed improvements: more tightly integrating features of Office into the functionality of SharePoint. A few of the most notable improvements included an enhanced user interface, superior ways to interface with business data, new workflow options, use of wiki pages in templates, social profiles and networking features, a re-designed client editor, and expanded support for a wider array of browsers.

2013

The 2013 update to SharePoint was a more incremental change to a software suite that was, by that point, quite robust. Aside from a number of small improvements, bug fixes, and tweaks to the appearance and user interface, the biggest additions to this version included database caching, called Cache Service, and content-aware switching, called Management.

Hybrid SharePoint Environments

This is a newer, more exciting addition to SharePoint and was introduced outside of the regular version update cycle. Hybrid SharePoint Environments provides the flexibility of using SharePoint in both a local server and cloud-based setting. In other words, SharePoint can now live in the cloud, allowing a company’s workers to use its functionality regardless of where they are in the world. Cloud computing also protects the data stored and accessed with SharePoint, as it spreads the information among multiple servers across the Internet with multiple redundant backups.

High-end functions and those requiring the strictest levels of security may remain on the local server to provide as much security as possible, while more frequently used and less sensitive functions may be served from the cloud. This provides the ultimate balance between convenience, security, and redundancy. Moreover, the hybrid version is highly customizable, allowing network administrators to modify what features live on which servers, in order to best suit the needs of the company.

The Future of SharePoint

With all of these innovations, it may be difficult to imagine what the future may hold for this fast-evolving, highly versatile, and massively useful business tool. Yet, change is inevitable, and the future seems bright for this platform.

Microsoft has already announced plans to further improve the cloud experience of SharePoint before releasing the next generation, to be known as SharePoint 2016, to the public. The next generation should more deeply integrate cloud functionality, adding additional storage and backup options, into the core of SharePoint. Microsoft plans to integrate SharePoint into its popular Office 365 suite of online productivity tools, providing users with a constantly updated and up-to-date version of the software for the most powerful experience possible. Moreover, a number of additional features and tweaks, yet to be announced, should further enhance the platform’s clout and functionality in exciting new ways users are sure to love.