Office 2010 can act as the front-end to a full-featured enterprise content management solution using the metadata and workflow capabilities of SharePoint 2010.
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Microsoft Office 2010 In Pictures
Let's revisit the aforementioned example with a deployment of SharePoint Foundation 2010, a free version of SharePoint that works with a licensed copy of Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server. You'll start by installing a server farm containing a database server and a web server. Within the web server, which will have its own URL for use only within the company intranet, you'll set up what's called a "Site Collection," with its first site containing one item, your original list of retail outlets. That's five levels of hierarchy if you're keeping track (server farm -> web server -> site collection -> site -> list), just to replicate information that used to reside within a single Excel file.
But now, you'd have a scalable infrastructure that could easily incorporate other sources of data -- both structured and unstructured -- into a comprehensive enterprise repository. In SharePoint 2010, a list can contain not just text and numbers, but also multimedia elements including audio and video, Office 2010 documents, and other binary objects.
Out of the box, a SharePoint installation includes blogs, wikis, team workspaces and document libraries. You can set item-level permissions, enable employees to check documents in or out, and have the ability to retrieve previous versions of documents for auditing and revision control. From within Office 2010, your users would be able to create their own lists and store their own documents online, your department managers could create their own sites, and your IT department can deploy new site collections as needed. Although moving that first list to SharePoint may take significant effort, building successive lists and sites gets easier and easier.
Furthermore, because the underlying data is being stored on the enterprise server farm instead of on an isolated PC, you can easily point external and mobile users to versions of shared data. You'd be able to create a parallel list containing just the data elements that you want to make public. That list would be contained within a site collection on an externally-facing web server, tapping into the shared database server on the enterprise server farm.
However, this transition from the private intranet to the public internet does require an upgrade to SharePoint Server 2010. There's only so far you can go with the free version of SharePoint, and if you're truly taking an ECM (enterprise content management) approach you'll hit the limits soon enough (see the comparison chart for details).
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