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Posts Tagged ‘Sharepoint

Sitecore’s CMS flexibility, scalability and security make it an enterprise favorite, powering more than 32,000 websites around the world from financial powerhouses like American Express to some of the largest international sporting tournaments like Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Let’s try to find out why Sitecore is so popular nowadays especially among companies which have got high traffic sites.

What is Sitecore and why it is a choice for so many companies and businesses?

From the start, Sitecore’s architecture is able to meet every unique business need with speed, flexibility and dependability. The large variety of organizations are using Sitecore’s CMS solutions – companies (more than 3,000 of the world’s leading brands such as Experian, Toshiba, Canon, Nestlé, American Express, Carnival Cruise Lines, easyJet, Heineken, and Microsoft), schools, and government agencies all over the world in every vertical sector are leveraging from Sitecore CMS to create business advantage and online success.

Sitecore is one of the leading enterprise-level content management systems built on ASP.NET, enabling web content editors and marketers to have full control over all aspects of their website from social integration and blog posts to advanced personalization, e-commerce and more. Launched in 2001, Sitecore has used the .NET platform from the beginning of the language itself, and has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Nowadays Sitecore is a quite popular CMS in the U.S.A. and Western Europe.

Sitecore CMS brings the power of personalization and conversation management right in the hands of your marketers and business users. The CMS incorporates a powerful desktop interface that is controlled by a fully-customizable role-based system. This desktop is very similar in look and feel to a Windows desktop, which makes it easy for users new to Sitecore to pick up and learn the system. Developers will find Sitecore’s powerful technology platform and open API architecture provides them the flexibility and scalability they need.

10 main reasons why companies should use Sitecore CMS

Some of the top features of Sitecore CMS include solutions that offer better insight to website user behavior as well as tools to increase site visitors:

1) Insight to Website Traffic Conversion;

2) Targeted Content Based on User Behavior;

3) Repurpose Content for Different Devices;

4) Easily Integrate with Third Party Tools;

5) Improved Search Engine Optimization (SEO);

6) Fast Integration with Microsoft Technology;

7) Highly Scalable;

8) Intuitive and User-Friendly Design;

9) Optimize Web Experience with Multivariate Testing;

10) Web 2.0 and Social Media Integration.

.NET-based CMSs: Sitecore, SharePoint, Umbraco – how to choose the right one for your business?

Comparing Sitecore and SharePoint

Firstly, let’s look at SharePoint and Sitecore, as it is often asked about the possibility of using Sitecore for an intranet or SharePoint for a public-facing website. While the idea of using one technology solution to solve both problems sounds promising, there are many things you should consider before limiting yourself.

Here are some thoughts in which cases you should choose Sitecore CMS for your projects and in when it is better to stick to SharePoint (these points are based on experts’ views as well as on Altabel’s own experience):

  • it is better to use Sitecore for a platform to customize the web user experience based on non-authenticated users;
  • choose Sitecore for a marketing driven platform;
  • for an external content focus, choose Sitecore;
  • choose SharePoint for an IT driven platform;
  • it makes sense to choose SharePoint for a collaboration platform;
  • for an internal content focus with enterprise level security requirements,  choose SharePoint.

Following the beaten path, many companies continue using SharePoint for creating public facing sites – they are well familiar with it and have already invested a lot of time, money, and knowledge in SharePoint. But actually it should be kept in mind that SharePoint was not developed for such sites so it’s worth adopting another CMS to develop them. There are some advantages Sitecore offers over SharePoint as a CMS for a public facing website:

  • Sitecore allows high flexibility for content editors and a logical hierarchical structure;
  • SharePoint is very limited to List Viewsfor content entry;
  • Sitecore’s Web Forms for Marketers makes building forms and triggering goals simple;
  • Frontend development for SharePoint is restricted and requires a lot of customized work, Sitecore on the other hand, is free of restrictions and able to do anything you want;
  • Sitecore offers fantastic technical support;
  • Sitecore offers easy multilingual configuration;
  • A/B testing is included with Sitecore, a must for a modern website. SharePoint does not come with any kind of A/B testing;
  • Sitecore’s DMS (Digital Marketing Suite) – SharePoint has nothing like this. Any website that has marketing in mind can greatly benefit from this tool included with Sitecore;
  • Sitecore is developer-friendly – Development in Sitecore is much easier and requires a lot less specific knowledge. More developers are able to produce a better solution, faster, cheaper;
  • Sitecore has a clear line between data and presentation making content easier to manage.

The bottom line is simple: If you’re looking to build a public internet site on the Microsoft platform, SharePoint makes sense if you meet a certain set of criteria.  But Sitecore provides an extremely compelling alternative that, from a business owner’s perspective, offers superior tools for engaging with the customer.

Comparing Sitecore and Umbraco

Sitecore CMS and Umbraco CMS are two leading content management systems based upon Microsoft’s ASP.NET framework. Their flexibility, functionality, integration capabilities and ease of use is why many have chosen to focus their technical expertise on these systems.

Let’s have a look at the similarities between Sitecore CMS and Umbraco CMS:

  • Easy integration with Microsoft Office;
  • Endless expansion possibilities;
  • Easy-to use User Interfaces (UI);
  • Design layouts are separated from the content;
  • Due to the large open-source Umbraco community and the expert development teams within the Sitecore network both CMS platforms are constantly evolving at a rapid pace;
  • Easily scalable and customizable through modules (Sitecore) or packages (Umbraco);
  • Can be integrated with your internal systems like ERP and CRM;
  • Comprehensive documentation and online help & guidance.

And now let’s get acquainted with the differences between these two CMS:

- Sitecore is an enterprise solution whereas Umbraco is suited to small-medium sized businesses;

- Sitecore is a license-based product. This means a license fee is paid to acquire it. Licensing options can be chosen, taking in consideration a number of factors, making it possible to use Sitecore in a variety of projects: from small non-profits, with websites running on a single server, to big corporations with millions of visits per day;

- Umbraco is an open-source product, meaning there is no license fee;

- In both North America and Europe, you can easily find an existing Sitecore customer. This is very helpful to further increase adoption as it means that new customers have some experience they can tap into. In addition, Sitecore has many government references where Umbraco has almost none;

- Sitecore 7.1/7.2 has advanced feature set;

- Sitecore is an established global player; much more so than Umbraco. Sitecore is in particular strong in the important and highly competitive US and UK markets.

Our opinion is that if you do a proper CMS vendor evaluation, you will probably find that the license cost is only a fraction of the overall project costs. Your criteria should really be to look at which system will meet your requirements most efficiently.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a .NET-based CMS, all these products will work – but right now, at Altabel we would lean toward Sitecore when looking for a pure CMS that provides fast development time, stable platform and ease of use for non-technical content creators.

Of course, each organization is different, and it makes sense to check out the products and run them through your technology selection process to determine which is best for you.

Hope you have found the article interesting and helpful for you.

Also it would be nice to hear your opinion and practical experience. What CMSs do you use and for what kind of projects? What is your favorite CMS and why?

Thank you for your attention and looking forward to your comments.

 

mk

Marina Karabanova
Marina.Karabanova@altabel.com
Skype ID: m.karabanova
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

 

Today I would like to draw your attention towards Business viewpoint in comparison of SharePoint and Drupal.

So let the story begin.

 Initially SharePoint was created as a document management system and has over time, through continuous expansion and new features, taken on some similarity to a content management system. So for today SharePoint is being positioned as not only an intranet platform, but also a web framework that can power big sites and be on the same playing field as other larger CMS platforms. Drupal in its turn has been developed to provide the foundation to build something, whether it’s a corporate website, web-shop, customer portal, CRM, intranet or extranet, or all at once. So theoretically, we can admit that since then, Drupal and SharePoint has seen the light, both platforms have been more in each other’s way and the debate of Drupal vs. SharePoint  has been part of their history. Still what is a wiser choice?

Time for setup

In this point Drupal knock SharePoint out. Firstly Drupal is based on PHP that makes it very easy to run on any environment. With SharePoint, it needs to run Windows locally to be able to set up even the development environment. If you do not have Windows, you will need run it on VMware or other virtualization software. In this case you will have to beef up your local machine to manage the memory requirements.

Today SharePoint Online definitely obviates the set up hassle for companies not looking for self-hosted solutions. Even so, the configuration steps are not as easy and shiny as they might look on the surface.

Drupal allows to quickly set up an intranet site or something on a public domain in a few hours. From a business point of view, you can get rolling within a few hours!

Integration with other services

In this case SharePoint definitely has serious advantage of how well it integrates with the other Microsoft services. So, if as a company you are invested in Microsoft and its other services, SharePoint is a natural choice. Firstly, you would already have Windows developers and system administrators and secondly, the tight coupling SharePoint offers with other MS services is golden.

Though Drupal can be configured to interact with other MS services, it is much easier in a non-Windows scenario.

Deployment

While SharePoint solution need to have not only developers but an in-house SharePoint system administrator to be able to carry out deployments, Drupal does not required any extra developer or CPU resources.

Activities beyond intranet

One of the claims of SharePoint is how it helps companies launch multiple websites apart from just setting up an intranet platform. Still to pull this off it requires a humongous number of human resource and the technical ability . The same can be achieved with Drupal but easier.

Maintenance against paid upgrades

SharePoint today is in a much better shape than what it was a few years ago. But  the progres has been very slow and every upgrade means digging deeper into your pockets.

With the community based model, Drupal has seen a far better progress in a much shorter time. The progress has not just been in the core platform but also the kind of plugins and extensions for rapid site assembly available to make Drupal a fuller platform.

Look

In the market Drupal being an open source option has a lot of low cost and free available themes, that can be integrated without much effort. SharePoint  in its turn charges for the themes and plus designers have to know XSL to be able to tweak the themes.

Cost

What do you think who will have more advantages if we compare an open source option with a Microsoft product? JStill it’s important to note that, SharePoint as an online hosted solution is much more affordable than its predecessor downloadable versions. The licensing fee and the developer licenses were prohibitively high which now can be circumvented by going for the online versions.

From business point of view open sourсe solution seems more profitably than corporate one and Drupal wins. Still if we compare them from technical point of view…who knows, may be the Microsoft’s family product will gain revenge. It would be interesting to know your thoughts about it.

Elvira Golyak

Elvira Golyak
Elvira.Golyak@altabel.com
Skype ID: elviragolyak
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

It is doubtless that both SharePoint and Windows Azure can each work well on their own, but when put together, the doors open for developers to extend the features of SharePoint by leveraging the infrastructure that is the Cloud.

So let’s have a look at the advantages of using these two technologies together and new opportunities for expansion.

Storage
SharePoint document libraries can store files. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should store all of your files, or every type of file. For example, a document library is not an ideal home for big video files. Such files are better suited for a hard drive or a file system. Further, the premise of document libraries in SharePoint is to share and as a result, the more users there are using SharePoint, the more they are sharing, and subsequently, the more files accumulate.

The more files that accumulate the more room they take up. Whether it is because of an accumulation of files or because files are large, you encounter a need to be able to store data on an infrastructure that can keep up with your growing data needs and shrink when files are removed. This need is easily serviced by Windows Azure’s Storage Services, specifically Blob Storage. Rather than using SharePoint to store files, Blob Storage can do the job, expanding and shrinking as your demand requires. Blob Storage is also ensuring that your files are stored secured and are replicated to another datacentre in the unlikely event of a datacentre disaster.

Large Data Sets
You can store and work with data in SharePoint using lists. But the more complex the data becomes, the more inefficient lists become as storage mechanisms and the more difficult it becomes to work with the data. With Windows Azure in the mix, you can outsource your data needs to Azure, specifically SQL Azure.

From a storage mechanism perspective, using SQL Azure gives you the power of SQL Server with the elasticity needed to keep databases growing with data and prevent performance degradation of your SharePoint cluster. From an ease of use perspective, using SQL Azure also allows you to work with the data as you would with SQL Server, no longer needing complicated code and interactions with SharePoint’s APIs to get at and work with the complex data. Once the data is in SQL Azure, you can connect it to your SharePoint solution either through direct calls to the SQL Azure database, or through a web service hosted in a Windows Azure Web Role connected to SharePoint via BCS.

Code Execution
Chances are your SharePoint environment is locked down pretty well in order for your IT folks to keep the environment highly performant, scalable, and secure. But being locked down can also limit the type of solutions you can build for SharePoint. Let’s say you wanted to build a solution that uses SharePoint as a front end, but then takes the actions and data from the user and goes off to do something else, or perhaps feed the information into different systems. That code needs to run somewhere. A natural inclination would be to have SharePoint run the code within a solution. However, if you’re environment is locked down, and let’s say you’re only able to deploy Sandboxed solutions, you’ll be constrained as to what you will be able to do.

Working with Windows Azure as a backend system also allows you to work with the restrictions imposed by sandboxed environments. To do so, you outsource the “work”, your code that does stuff, to a web or worker role in Windows Azure, have those instances run the code for you, and then expose the result via web services that can then be read back into SharePoint or SharePoint Online. Keep in mind that this can be two-way. By using SharePoint or SharePoint Online’s web services or client-side object model, you can reach into SharePoint to return or save data.

Integrating with SharePoint Online
There’s also a great story of SharePoint Online and Windows Azure working together to enable working with internal systems and/or protecting sensitive data that you don’t feel comfortable storing in SharePoint Online (but do feel comfortable having it in your own data centers). A hybrid solution is in order here. Have SharePoint Online as your front end. It will then talk to a Windows Azure service that will then communicate with your internal and securely transfer the result/information back to SharePoint Online.

Reach
When you see the cloud as a place to deploy applications, your reach naturally widens. For example, deploying your services and applications in Windows Azure, they are available to many SharePoint clients. By leveraging the Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket or deploying your own custom WCF services or ASP.NET applications, you not only are able to better monetize on optimization, but the opportunity to take advantage of your Windows Azure applications and services can be extended to your customers as well. This is a tremendous opportunity for you because it means you can write once, sell many times, and let Windows Azure worry about scale.

Reusability
The cloud is about reusing your existing skills and your existing code; it’s not all about reinvention and multiple code bases. With .NET, you are able to reuse already-built .NET applications in the cloud, or reuse your existing skills to build new ones. Further, the cloud provides the opportunity for service layers that enable cross-device (e.g. phone, web and PC) connectivity and cross-platform integration.

As you can see there’s a natural fit between the two technologies to fill in gaps and make better solutions possible.

Read more here.

Kind regards,
Aliona Kavalevich
Altabel Group – professional software development

When thinking about electronic document management system, firstly, expensive solutions from famous vendors, such as Microsoft, EMC, 1C etc. come to our mind. But there is an alternative to closed source – Open Source Enterprise Content Management System Alfresco.

A number of world famous companies, such as Toyota, KLM, SNCF, La Poste, FOX, SAP AG and others have begun to practice systems based on open source Alfresco. In the list of those who use Alfresco there are also administration of Catalonia (Spain), administration of Nebraska and Louisiana states (USA).

Alfresco peers are closed source software, such as EMC Documentum, Open Text, Sharepoint. The Alfresco developers themselves say about their rivals like about 90’s heritage that is:

- too expensive
– too difficult to use, to unwind, to scale
– too difficult to be modified to your needs
– too proprietary

What is actually Alfresco?

Initially Alfresco was planned as a Microsoft Sharepoint alternative with an open source. But during the development process Alfresco has taken the sideline and now perform some unique functions that are exclusive for other similar systems. It’s enough to say that Alfresco sustainably works with Sharepoint protocol through HTTPS.

The main advantage of Alfresco I see in its open system: there is no lock-in for some vendor, the system itself is free. Another Alfresco advantage, as far as I see it, is that it is built with the help of modern Java technologies, such as Spring Surf, JSF, Hibernate, Lucene.

Users work with the system through browser. It is also possible to work with the files through Windows explorer, as with a usual network folder (CIFS protocol) or through FTP.

Alfresco provides you with the possibility of creating, storing, modifying documents and many others. You can create a document right in the system, an empty one as well as based on your company patterns. The system allows content based retrieval, supports document version control. Change history is stored, you can always look it through and see, who has made the changes, when, and which changes exactly.

Is Alfresco suitable for your tasks? Expandability.
Alfresco is fully ready to use. You can download free Community Editiion, install and start using it right today. It’s all very easy. There is also commercial Enterprise Edition. The main difference is technical support availability.

The delivery includes built-in OpenOffice to convert between various types of documents, extract of text data for indexing and the possibility of full-text search. Also, there is Tomcat in the package that can be replaced if needed with any suitable web-container.

Although Alfresco has its own users database, it is possible to practice users auto-creation while the first logging on or reconciliation with an external source: LDAP, Microsoft Active Directory, company domain etc.

Already accepted in the industry ECM standards are supported. So, the system of data storage slips smoothly from its own realization of JSR-170 to data access through CMIS, consequently removing the last limitations for using the deliverable storage from Alfresco.

The system works with all the document formats: Microsoft Office, Open Office, pdf etc. If there is no needed format in the list, you can add your conversion module to one of the supported ones, and conversion strings to all the needed formats in output will be built.

The advantage of Alfresco as an open system is a full access to source codes, the possibility to change any part of the system, as the license allows this.

The system allows enhancing its functionality with the help of add-in modules. Modules can contain anything you want: business logic, pages styles, new pages, extension of data models, new services. Extension modules can work with Alfresco using a range of protocols. Best of all the protocol REST is supported. User interface can be realized through Spring Surf, and there are no limitations for everything else. Most often Java is used, server Javascript, Groovy, Jruby – less frequently.

It is also possible to refuse from standard web-interface and realize your own. In this case Alfresco will be used only as storage.

Various types of authentication are supported to be integrated with other software; and it is also possible to catenate them. For example, a user can get into the system with the help of single sign-on. If the user comes unauthorized, Alfresco will try to authorize him (will ask for login and password, or the certificate – it depends on how the system is set).

There is a very flexible data model in Alfresco, many possibilities for its extension, but this is a topic for another article :). Shortly, it is worth mentioning that the model supports multiple inheritance (with the help of aspects). The inheritance is dynamic which means that some aspect can be added to any object, and the object obtains all the characteristics of this aspect.

Access to the data and functionality can be flexibly set. Authoring system operates with such notions as: data object, authorization, user, group, role. Roles are appointed to users and groups while the application works. Besides, you can appoint the roles factorably, for the whole data subtree.
There are a number of ready Alfresco extensions as well.

The number of users. Scalability.
Due to the openness and free-of-charge Alfresco basis you are not restrained by the quantity of client access licenses. It’s more likely that you are restrained by your servers and databases productivity, possibility of system scalability.

Basing on our experience, a server Intel Core 2 – 2,4 GHz with 8 GB will be enough for maintenance of up to 1000 registered active users. When the quantity of users grows, it is necessary to analyze which parts of the system are mostly loaded. The system works securely in cluster, ensuring data completeness and relevance.

Alfresco is a good base for building up the company’s document system. I think in the nearest time Alfresco can substitute many obsolescent systems. As in all the other systems there are still some unsolved problems, and its hardly possible that Alfresco will capture the whole world, but, in my opinion, it is fairly possible for it to occupy essential part of the corporate document storage market.
It would be great to see your Alfresco implementation experience in the comments!

Thank you :)

Nadya Klim

Nadya Klim
Nadya.Klim@altabel.com
Business Development Manager
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

I’ve found that people have a general idea of what SharePoint is, but many have no idea how to apply it to their own business. I’d like to share with you the top ways that SharePoint can solve common business needs. And I want to emphasize that these are only a few of the many ways to utilize the SharePoint Services. Once you start using it, you will begin to realize the many other valuable benefits that can easily be accomplished by the everyday user. Hope you’ll find a few productivity solutions here.

With SharePoint you can:
1. Store all your emails on a secure and centralized Website for easy archive.
2. Keep a central task location for assigning tasks to team members. These tasks will also link to your projects so you can easily find out what tasks are still open for each project.
3. Organize large events and store the related documents, assigned tasks, and generally post anything and everything related to the events. It will also integrate with Outlook for added efficiency.
4. Collaborate with team members on all documents and stay on top of who did what. Earlier versions can easily be restored in case someone has made too many mistakes. Projects can also be linked to related documents.
5. Assign tasks to your team members, and automatically notify them that they have a new task. Alerts are sent when there have been updates to the tasks.
6. Quickly manage all projects for your team or organization so there’s no need to explore buying an expensive project management solution.
7. Use the efficient check-in / check-out management feature to sort your documents.
8. Implement a help ticket resolution for your organization or team without breaking the bank.
9. Start a private company blog to communicate and share ideas with your team that’s viewable only by those you give access to.
10. Gain more control over your company’s documents with the content approval function.
11. Offer training materials to your teams, clients, and/or partners in a password-protected Website that can be accessed anywhere in the world.
12. Offer a secure and private place to share documents and other information with clients and/or partners.
13. Access and work with your data using your Internet-enabled mobile phone for added convenience while traveling or out of the office at client meetings.
14. Create better team communication and brainstorming sessions where everyone can participate when their schedules permit.
15. Centralize where company and team project announcements are posted. Everyone will receive a notification via email or mobile phone automatically, anywhere in the world.
16. Work offline on the files, project tasks, tasks, discussions, contacts, calendars, blogs, etc. and then sync the updated information later on.
17. Create “central” documents (and synchronize), so all team members, clients, and/or partners are able to work on the same document and make changes. Updates are accessible with a click of a button. Everyone can then sync back to the “central” document and have all edits merged into that single document.
18. Easily add custom fields to any area and capture the information that’s most important to your company, all without the help of a web designer or IT person.
19. Pull up and update Microsoft Access database from a local desktop and sync information to a central location that can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
20. Create a project dashboard where on one page you can view and filter on common project elements, such as: project details, project documents, project tasks, project issues, project calendar, project milestones, project lessons learned, project risks, project change orders, and more.
Keep in mind that a little training goes a long way in increasing productivity in the products you use in your business.

Altabel Group highly recommends taking the time to learn this efficient and effective tool and watch your productivity, along with your profits!

Happy SharePointing!

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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