When we think of the enterprise, aside from Fortune 500 companies, we also need to think of organizations with robust IT departments, including many medium to large organizations and most universities and colleges. Such institutions often have enterprise license agreements directly with Microsoft so that for a flat fee, all of its members have free access to desktop software (usually the OS and some version of Office). Some enterprise users MIGHT be able to get by with Windows 7 Professional, but many won't -- so why offer it?
Small business is just different. Most small businesses have no IT department and only minimal in-house systems administration expertise. For them, Windows 7 Home Premium might be sufficient, but for slightly larger small business customers with some systems administration expertise, the use of a domain controller (instead of workgroups) might make sense...in which case Windows 7 Pro is a must. In the end, the consumer can now buy ANY addition of Windows 7, but unless you KNOW you need Professional (or Ultimate/Enterprise) you probably don't. And if you find out later you need the more robust edition, Microsoft offers an Anytime Upgrade so you can get it online.
The Santa Barbara Police Department has been using SharePoint for about five years. It replaced a very static intranet. By far, the thing IT likes most about it is the ability to put changes in the hands of the various divisions -- creating appointment calendars, logs for court requests, daily notes, forms and policy posts. Officers log problems with cars and computers on SharePoint, and internal news and interesting crimes are updated several times per day.
I work in a federal agency -- the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the Department of the Interior -- in a small field offfice. I built a site in SharePoint to keep folks current and to help managers control the currency of the information we use. Rather than leave information-gathering to the four winds and the four corners of dozens of PCs, we save time and disk space by putting it in one place, using SharePoint like one of those old bulletin boards. SharePoint's secondary role will be to provide an online offsite back-up (all three of our Oklahoma locations are in Tornado Alley; SharePoint is hosted by BLM's Denver office).
We're new at this. We've a lot to learn about how to make the most use of SharePoint. But for now, the bulletin board function is a big help. We hope it will grow to carry records management load and reduce our paper management floor-space requirement. We're using the equivalent of a small barn -- a 31-feet-square room for paper management. We look to SharePoint to help us reclaim that space for human use!
We have been using SharePoint since the 2003 Portal version came out. We have had the MOSS 2007 Portal for a year and are now consolidating on to a server farm for MOSS 2007. We added the product to our EA, which may be the only place that some have SharePoint licenses. The initial costs were high. Add to that the licenses for third-party products, and I would say we have hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in the system ($300,000 estimated, not including labor). If we were to roll this out today and do what we have done to this point, SharePoint would not fly because of the cost.
However, users love SharePoint. They love the empowerment, the ease of use and many other features. Add to that the integrations with Office, Exchange e-mail and secure serving of SharePoint through ISA, and you have a whale of a system...provided you have all the other parts and pieces.
I live and work in the Philly area for a gold partner, and our SharePoint work has been non-stop. I would say that most of our work is "early stage" SharePoint (i.e., discovery sessions to explain/demo SharePoint, or initial installs and configurations for companies wanting to learn how to use the product). A few upgrades from 2003 sites, particularly at firms that had "rogue" installs of SharePoint, and now they want to use the platform mainstream.
When it first came out, SharePoint seemed like an ordinary intranet portal software for a Web site but with a lot more features and power. I believe it has evolved into much more than just portal software, too. With the built-in abilities to store documents and interact with Office and other programs, it has become an essential desktop tool. We first began using SharePoint as a centralized document management system. Our company seemed to have many documents, contacts and paper going everywhere and a poor filing system; no one who really needed the information could get their hands on it. Then along comes SharePoint. Everyone who needs read or write access can get to the documents and information without bugging someone else to find it.
Some of the down sides to SharePoint are its lack of a good way to link tables (lists) and display master/detail records. SharePoint also lacks a good time control where you can record every minute instead of every five minutes. There are some quirky things that take time getting used to; for instance, navigation buttons on lists do not contain First and Last controls, just Previous and Next controls. But all in all, SharePoint is a great tool! We haven't even tapped into all of its functionality and I don't think any one installation will do that.
Check in on Friday, when readers share their thoughts on thin vs. fat clients, Cisco and Windows 7. Meanwhile, leave a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.