One of the more potent applications in both Office 365 and Google Apps is their intranet application. Microsoft’s offers TeamSite ─ hosted SharePoint; and Google’s, typical of their imaginative naming conventions ─ “Sites”. These apps differ fundamentally from standard web development environments in two ways. 1) In addition to text and graphics, SharePoint and Sites offer the ability to “easily” share the content generated by the other applications in their respective suites such as documents, calendars, contact lists, etc. 2) These apps are “easy” to use that you don’t need to hire a web developer to build your own business intranet site. On the first point, both platforms succeed. On the second point... not so much.Content Publishing
Both apps make it relatively easy to publish individual documents and document libraries, as well as shared calendars and contact lists. Microsoft’s ‘Insert’ menu makes the standard items readily accessible.
|TeamSite's Insert Menu|
|Sites' Insert Menu|
While the options under Microsoft’s ‘More Web Parts’ is just that ─ parts of the existing TeamSite; Google’s ‘More Gadgets’ menu offers Google Moderator pages, a very powerful collaboration tool that allows you to reach out to your stakeholders, or the public and, in Google’s words, “create a meaningful conversation from many different people's questions, ideas, and suggestions.” Watch this blog for a future post covering Google Moderator in depth. Google also makes it easy for you to setup a storefront or process transactions using
Ease of Development
Google also surpasses Microsoft in user-friendliness. While I learned SharePoint long before I took up Sites, I found Sites to be much more intuitive. Essentially, anyone with the skills to create a nice looking Word document could easily develop a decent intranet or even a public-facing web site using Google Sites. Conversely, while you could, without formal training, bushwhack your way through setting up a basic SharePoint intranet site, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a SharePoint expert programmed into your phone’s quick-dial list.
With all this said, there are several reasons to strongly consider SharePoint. For one, if you already have a significant investment in SharePoint, it doesn’t make sense to re-create the site in Google, presuming you didn’t want to start-over anyways. Second, SharePoint has been around for a while longer and it shows in the finished feel of the development tools. While Google’s capabilities are far more robust, you notice the roughness around the edges. It’s not that things don’t work as advertised, just that the whole environment has more of a feel of the work in progress that it is. You can get a sense of what I’m talking about by looking at the two insert menu screen shots above. Of course this cuts both ways. With Sites, I am often pleasantly surprised to find new features that didn’t exist just a month earlier.
Both products allow you to develop and deploy a rich intranet site to share resources with your staff. Both allow you to share specific resources with stakeholders outside your domain. Google provides a more robust platform by enabling you to add many more content types to your intranet site. Google Sites are also robust enough to develop rich public-facing content, including electronic commerce. And, Google’s environment is significantly easier to learn and use. However, if you have a significant investment in SharePoint already, and your needs don’t go beyond sharing Microsoft Office content, then I would recommend you go with Office 365.