This is part 1 of 2 blog posts. Part 1 is focusing on “Hard” features and Part 2 on “Soft” features 

Although this SharePoint 2010 edition comparison is available here http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us/buy/Pages/Editions-Comparison.aspx, I think it could be confusing for the untrained eyes. So I decided to write this blog to hopefully help you decide on your own. Let’s dive in into the subject.

So you know you want SharePoint but the dilemma is should I go Standard or Enterprise?
Well, read along and hopefully the following will help you decide which route you should go.

I will cover what I call “Hard” and “Soft” features. I will start in that respective order.

Hard Features

Those features are available out-of-the-box on SharePoint Enterprise and are ready to use and be consumed pronto.

Access Services: create once, reuse anywhere

You have tons of those Access databases lying around on the network, on local hard drive and who knows where. Management is a mess; you are stuck with the DLL nightmare of multiple versions; you have iOS/Mac/Unix users begging to get MS Access because they want to be autonomous because IT is not “agile enough” for them; in a nutshell: you can’t take it anymore.

Let me introduce you to Access Services: the same power and flexibility of Microsoft Access to your users without the hassle or pain of installation and maintenance. Create or import in MS Access 2010, publish to SharePoint 2010 and voila, it becomes available in a web browser for the user on any platform.

 

External Data: protect your investment

You’re in a meeting planning for the “Architecture of the future” where you just got excited explaining how SharePoint will play a big role in that architecture. You are still presenting some of the cool features of SharePoint when your boss cuts you off and asks:
- “interesting stuff but what about our current investments in SAP, Siebel, Oracle, DB2, Notes etc. Is SharePoint capable of interacting with them? Can it pull information from our investments?”

You smile and reply promptly “I’m glad you brought it out because I will explain why I insisted we invest on the Enterprise version of SharePoint instead of the Standard version”.

Yes you guessed it, the Enterprise version of SharePoint gives you External Business Data tools such as Web Parts to consume right out-of-the-box data coming from external content from SharePoint, preserving the security added to the single-sign-on as well. You have access to external data content in SharePoint or Office.

 

Business Intelligence: Advanced analytics at your fingertips

The demand is growing. Users want more and more access to insights to better make decision. Requests vary from advanced interactive and dynamic dashboards, rich scorecards, calculated Key Performance Indicators (KPI), PowerPivot, Excel Services (Excel on the Web), Decomposition Tree, advanced analytics reports, etc.

SharePoint provides tools to give professional and advanced BI easy to use tools for your organization. Using the SharePoint 2010 Insights capabilities, people can turn raw data into usable reports without involving developers or server dministrators in the process. They can increase their productivity and make prompt, informed decisions using the familiar, decentralized user interface in SharePoint 2010. They can also interact with data, work with key performance indicators, perform analytics, and create their own data visualizations.

 

Enterprise Search: Spend less time searching and more time finding information

You fire up your preferred browser (Internet Explorer for example ), type in the URL of your favourite Internet search engine (www.bing.com for example ), put crappy key words with lots of typo in the search text box and what do you get? Great results on the first page. Now don’t lie… how many of you actually click on page 2 of a search engine on the net? You usually either change the search engine or type other keywords.

Now back at work, you fire up your mandatory company standard browser (usually your 12 years old browser), you type in the URL of your mandatory company standard search engine and… hold on… you just remembered you don’t have a central Intranet search engine. Still, after a couple of browsing, you finally find what seems to be a search engine for your Intranet stuff. All excited, you type in perfectly polished and precise keywords on the search text box and what do you get? I will let your imagination answer this one.

Bottom line is you expect the same kind of richness and results whether you search on the Internet, Extranet or Intranet.

Quick summary first: Most of time in the Internet, you search for unsecured HTML pages. In the Intranet world, security is prime and very important and most of the time you are looking for documents (office, pdf, etc.)

Perhaps one of the main reason some customers use the Enterprise version. The enterprise version of SharePoint gives you access to FAST search engine, all integrated seamlessly in SharePoint. FAST delivers an exceptional intranet and people search experience and a platform for building search-driven applications. Some key features are explained below:

Advanced Content Processing: extremely powerful content processing based on deep linguistics and text analytics technology. This processing adds tags and structure to unstructured information, creating metadata directly from the content. This gives users the ability to search using terms and language that are familiar and unique to the business.

Contextual Relevance: give people results that are meaningful and dynamically tailored to their jobs, roles, and functions within the company. For example, the sales teams will be able to quickly find product information, collateral, and answers to RFP questions, while the
engineering teams will see specifications and requirements documents at the top of their results sets.

Visual Search Experience: document thumbnails and scrolling previews of PowerPoint presentations, so people can find what they are looking for quickly, without opening the documents. Also, with Visual Best Bets, easily add visual banners and applications to highlight essential nformation

Extreme Scale: Handle 500+ millions of items with a very scalable and flexible infrastructure.

 

Electronic Web Forms: Design complex eForms without code

You in the midst of designing what seems to be a full life cycle information process involving information gathering, approval workflows, routing and rerouting content, interacting with diverse data sources, handle multiple devices, has to be multilingual. And as if it was enough, your boss asks you also to not forget the analytics reports, dashboards and KPI to monitor the progress of this process.

At that precise time, your colleague knocks at your door and says:

“I just came back from an InfoPath training. It is an electronic web forms tools in SharePoint Enterprise that allows us to design a full life cycle information process involving information gathering, approval workflows, routing and rerouting content, interacting with diverse data sources, handle multiple devices, all that multilingual. Also, since it is integrated directly in SharePoint we can leverage the analytics reports, dashboards and KPI to monitor the progress of these processes”.

With Microsoft InfoPath 2010, business users can design sophisticated electronic forms to quickly and cost effectively gather information required for an immediate business need. It is possible to customize forms with features such as calculated fields, setting default
values, conditional formatting and screen tips, all without writing code. When used together with SharePoint 2010, these forms can be used for information stored in SharePoint lists.

InfoPath Forms Services in SharePoint 2010 help people seamlessly render InfoPath forms within different clients, such as Web browsers, Office clients, and SharePoint Workspace.

 

Visio Services: Put Visio on a web browser

You are exhausted of all the work you’ve done above so far. So you’re about to call it  day when someone knocks on your door (it’s always the same guy by the way ) He asks you:

“You know those nice Visio 2010 files we designed last week? All Mac/iPad/iOS/Unix can’t really use these files, neither  users on Office XP and 2003. Any idea how we can give them access to Visio 2010 files?”

SharePoint 2010 now includes Visio Services, which lets people render Visio diagrams and charts within a Web browser. You can also link Visio to external/internal data sources for dynamic rendering. Additionally, it indexes the contents of the Visio diagram so they will be fully accessible within search results. With a rich JavaScript object model, people can use Visio diagrams to create new and interactive business applications such as mash-ups, to solve immediate business problems.

 

This post summaries the Hard features and I will cover the Soft features in my next post. Stay tuned.