SharePoint is a very big product. I’d even go so far as to say huge. It has a wide range of capabilities in a variety of areas. This is a very good thing in terms of what you get for your money. It’s a very bad thing when you’re trying to get your head around the product for the first time.

It probably doesn’t help that people will use the term SharePoint to refer to the three different levels: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise. So, if someone says that they have SharePoint, it’s hard to be sure exactly what capabilities they’re talking about.

So I’m going to try and summarise what you get in each of the three products. Note that the products build on top of each other. You don’t run MOSS without also running WSS, and you can’t buy the enterprise version without having the standard version (well, you might be able to buy the licenses, but you’d never be able to configure the servers). This means that anything I say is in WSS will also be there in a MOSS deployment, and the same with the standard and enterprise editions.

 

~~~ Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 ~~~

WSS is really the foundation for SharePoint. It gives collaboration capabilities and some project management features. Users have the ability to set up team workspaces, wikis, blogs, task lists, discussion boards and document libraries. In fact, most of the features that come under the “collaboration” heading are available in this version. Employees can use SharePoint to share their ideas, their knowledge and their resources.

WSS is built on the Windows Workflow Foundation, so this version allows users to create, deploy and maintain workflows. These can be either no-code workflows created in SharePoint Designer, or coded workflows created in Visual Studio.

WSS gives the framework for a content management system. It provides document repositories, versioning, metadata and basic document management capabilities.

There is an infrastructure for the sites created in SharePoint and also for the roles of the users. This provides a simple structure for the administrators to maintain.

The search capabilities of WSS are quite limited. Users can perform text search on the sites, but cannot search the documents stored within SharePoint.

 

~~~ Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard ~~~

As mentioned, this includes all the capabilities of WSS 3.0. This version also includes some out of the box workflows, such as approval and collect signatures – processes which are quite common in a range of different companies. There are also content management reporting capabilities.

The content management features are increased. With this version, it’s possible to set policies over document libraries and site collections – for example, deletion and retention policies. There are also auditing capabilities and records management features, such as records routing and the ability to place legal holds on documents.

The site model and management allows for greater personalisation than in WSS. MOSS standard also provides a site manager for ease of maintenance.

The search features are massively improved, allowing SharePoint to work as an enterprise search solution. With MOSS standard, users can search not only the sites and libraries, but the documents stored within them. There are useful search features such as “did you mean” as well as best bets, federated search and glossary options. MOSS also provides people search. When users have a specific question about something, it’s a lot easier to ask a subject matter expert rather than searching around all the information on the intranet in case they can find the answer. People search allows users to search for people in the company, not just by name. If I were to search for “SharePoint” in our people search, I would find everyone who has SharePoint in their job title, skills or recent projects.

 

~~~ Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise ~~~

The enterprise version includes the Business Data Catalog. This can be set up to allow users to search other systems, such as back-end database, legacy systems, file shares, CRM systems and so on. This means that users only have to go to one place to search a range of locations. The Business Data Catalog can also be used to display information from these systems in web parts, meaning you can include in your sites filterable tables filled with information from a source outside SharePoint.

This version includes InfoPath Forms Server, which lets users deploy InfoPath forms that can be opened in a web browser. The rich controls and the data connection capabilities of InfoPath can be provided in forms that can be opened in an internet browser or sent through Outlook. I talk about browser-based forms in other posts, so I won’t go into too much detail here but this can be a very valuable tool to companies that deal with a lot of forms, particularly given how smoothly InfoPath integrates with workflows.

All the business intelligence capabilities of SharePoint come with the enterprise version. These include dashboards, KPIs and Excel Services – which allows server side calculations on spreadsheets. It’s possible to host Excel spreadsheets as web parts so employees can always see the latest figures. Due to the change in licensing, buying the enterprise version of SharePoint also entitles users to PerformancePoint licenses, given an even greater set of BI features.

 

So there you have it. This is a very brief summary, given that I can talk about SharePoint all day, but it should hopefully make it clearer what features come with which licenses. There is a clear upgrade path so it’s pretty common for companies to deploy WSS, then upgrade to MOSS standard, then upgrade again, allowing the adjustment to a SharePoint solution to be a gradual one.