SharePoint can seem like a very tempting choice for a collaboration and content management platform. Not only is the product well known, but it's got a large user base, and is backed by the might of Microsoft. But the complexity of the system, added to the lengthy and costly process of installing it on-premise, puts it out of reach for most small businesses.
With the availability of a cloud version of SharePoint, small businesses are more easily able to adopt the solution, but the enormity of the system still tends to overwhelm. The good news is that there are many SharePoint alternatives that are better suited for small businesses.
Here we run down our top 10 alternatives to SharePoint to help you choose the right software for your business.
Working out how much deploying SharePoint on-premise will cost is confusing, which is why many companies hire consultants to help simplify the process. You have to work out how many SharePoint Servers you will need (which are estimated to cost around $7,000 each), as well as the number of user licenses (internal and external users) you want to buy.
There are also two options for deploying SharePoint Server - Standard and Enterprise - but for the exact costs of these, you'll need to contact Microsoft.
SharePoint Online pricing is much easier to understand, with two price plans at $5 and $10 per month as well as an Office 365 plan for $20 per user per month, but even then you can still find more competitive options with SharePoint competitors.
Bitrix24 has done its own research into why it's a great alternative to SharePoint and one point which stands out is the price. Free for unlimited users with a whole host of features that compete with SharePoint makes it hard to beat. As your business grows, there are three more price plans that will give you access to more features, and more gigabytes of storage.
Executive assistant at New York Life Paul Anthony Santos says about Bitrix24's pricing model: "The free version offers a fantastic feature set for up to 12 users. Better yet, when you finally outgrow the 12 seats, the pricing model is the cheapest I've seen with this level of all around features. How can you beat an unlimited employees option with 100GB of storage for only $99 per month? It blows away the competition when it comes to the pricing model."
As SharePoint started life as on-premise software, it was more traditionally marketed as a solution for enterprises due to the prohibitive costs and complications of installation. Since the introduction of SharePoint Online, the entry barriers have lowered considerably, making it a more attractive alternative to smaller businesses.
However, you may still need to hire a consultant to help you get the most out of your solution, meaning that there are SharePoint alternatives that are better suited for a small business.
Social collaboration solution Samepage is a great freemium option for small businesses, as the price starts at free for as many users as you like. While you will only get a limited number of features and only be create and store a certain amount of content, it's useful to get any startup or small business off the ground with minimal investment.
Samson Loo, CEO /Founder at AisleIO, says: "As a smaller company we needed a cost effective platform to centralize our internal dealings. After scouting others we found SamePage.io delivers exactly what we wanted. An ease of use UX and mobile app that keeps us in the loop and on top of action items."
Given Microsoft's large app ecosystem with products for ERP, CRM, marketing, business intelligence, customer service, etc, and the fact that SharePoint Online is integrated in Office 365, SharePoint does pretty well on the integration front.
The product integrates with 150 of the cloud apps we have listed on GetApp, which is impressive for its category, but there are alternatives to SharePoint that have even more integrations.
Alternative: G Suite
G Suite boasts an impressive 220 total integrations with apps listed on GetApp. These include heavyweights such as Wrike, Insightly, TribeHR, Zoho CRM and the other Zoho offerings. Lots of our reviewers extol the virtues of Google Apps for Work's integration capabilities and how well it works with other apps.
Chisom Ekweani, a student health worker at the University of Texas at Dallas, says that it has: "Easy integration and sharing capabilities."
Alex Chapin, Principal at 3R Building Sustainability, lists one of its pros as: "integration with third-party software."
Business owner Jeff Ryan says that it offers: "integration with many other programs."
When this article was first published in March 2016, there were no SharePoint mobile apps available for any platforms, with the only options being HTML5 support, or third-party apps.
Since then, Microsoft has released Android and iOS mobile apps. While the Apple App Store reviews and ratings are positive, the app doesn't fare so well on the Google Play Store, with the lack of on-premise support being a major gripe.
SharePoint alternative Alfresco offers a well-rated mobile app on both the Google Play Store and App Store. Whether you've deployed Alfresco on the cloud or on-premise, you can still access your sites and content from the app.
Some of its useful features include the ability to send documents for review and approval to multiple colleagues at once, create or delegate tasks, view activity feeds, email documents from the app, and track document versions.
One reviewer of the Android app said: "I love this app! Perfect place for me to store content for my business. No more emailing documents back and forth."
SharePoint performs averagely in user reviews, scoring 3.95 out of 5 from GetApp reviewers. Its ease of use and outdated user interface are areas that consistently let the product down. While cloud software is often thought to be more user friendly than traditional, on-premise solutions, SharePoint Online still fails to impress on this front.
One reviewer remarked: "The layout and technology of SharePoint is out of date and there are better options out there that provide an updated look and feel and are also easy to update and manage."
Open source enterprise social collaboration offering Samepage scores well in all areas of GetApp's user reviews, with top marks for ease of use, value for money, and customer support. It averages 4.72 out of 5 overall from user reviews.
Users note that it is easy to use and intuitive, affordable, configurable, and has great customer support.
The problem with SharePoint and its scalability is that because - as we've already mentioned - it's been traditionally targeted at the enterprise market, there are factors that make it less suitable for growing a small business.
It takes a while before the on-premise version of SharePoint becomes a viable option in terms of cost, meaning you could be forking out a lot of money that your business can't handle.
There are alternatives to SharePoint that are better suited for all sizes of business.
Out of all the viable SharePoint competitors, Bitrix24 offers the most comprehensive pricing options, meaning you can stay with the solution as your business grows. You can choose from the free version which even includes a CRM, the Plus ($39 a month), the Standard (99$ month), or the Professional ($199 per month).
Dejan Lugonja, an independent senior consultant, says: "It is one of rare applications on the market that offers 90% of features for free for a small team of up to 12. For a decent price you can upgrade your plan and get some additional features and add more users."
If you're going to deploy SharePoint - whether online or on-premise, you're going to need training for your users, as it isn't a simple solution that you can get up and running on in a few minutes. Microsoft provides a wealth of resources for user training, from videos and tutorials to certified courses, while you can get help from Microsoft's SharePoint partner community.
Huddle provides a dedicated customer support team to help you get off the ground with this enterprise content collaboration platform. This team includes trainers, industry specialists, collaboration experts, and technical consultants.
Rishi Chowdhury, CEO at media company YHP, says: "The support team are fantastic, they took the time to train my team on the product, which wasn't hard to be honest as it's very simple, but it did help as sometimes when you first get started on a product you don't know where to look, it was also good as they gave lots of ideas on how to use it that I never thought of!"
If you're happy to hire a consultant to get your SharePoint up and running then you should have few problems, but this isn't an option for many small businesses. If you want to easily implement SharePoint, you'll need a proper strategy in place, with a team behind the move. But, with the advent of cloud solutions, there are SharePoint alternatives that can make this much easier.
Whether you're making your first foray into the collaboration space, or you want to move away from SharePoint, you don't want the hassle of a complicated app that takes ages to set up or one where you can't transfer over the data, meaning that you never get the most out of your system.
With Glasscubes, you don't need IT administrators, as non-technical staff can set the platform up quickly, especially as it doesn't require any end-user training and is intuitive to use. The company doesn't charge for telephone support and it also offers online chat help if you get stuck during implementation.
Microsoft SharePoint is a commonly-used product so there are many forums and support sites, as well as verified partner companies out there that can help you answer any questions. But what of Microsoft's own support services?
It received average scores from user reviews, however, the company does provide a variety of support options through its website, with email seeming to be the best contact option, as opposed to calling. It's also worth remembering that Microsoft phases out support for older versions of products as newer ones come on the market, such as with Windows XP.
Alternative: eXo Platform
eXo Platform is our pick of the SharePoint alternatives for ongoing support not just because of the support the company itself provides, but also because of the community that it has fostered where users can quickly find answers to their problems. This factor was cited again and again by our reviewers as a reason to use eXo Platform.
Another reviewer says: "Community support on eXo is outstanding. Responses are coming fast and guidance is always provided."
Microsoft delivers regular updates to SharePoint Server via automatic Windows Updates - something that can be a headache for IT administrators trying to manage the solution. With SharePoint Online, Microsoft rolls out regular updates and allows companies to decide when they want these updates. This could be as an early adopter (for select people or your entire company), or at a standard time.
While Microsoft's cloud option does work pretty well for updates, there are alternatives to SharePoint that focus on providing regular updates and feature requests.
Intranet software vendor Igloo delivers free updates and new features around every 30 days. This means you are always on the latest version and don't have to worry about the vendor not updating the app. The company also provides all the software, hosting, and maintenance, meaning if you have any trouble with the updates, it will help to get you back on track.
Jacquie Benjamin, program director, operations and innovation at Edu-Vision 2020, says: "Igloo is "up and open" always, no matter the time or the time zone."
The Microsoft name and the familiarity of the product will still inevitably lead many businesses, from enterprises to startups, to think it's the best option. However, there are many SharePoint alternatives that can deliver just the same, if not better features, while still competing on prices, and being much easier to implement and get up and running on.
If you're still using SharePoint, let us know why you like it or not by writing a review.
If you are using one of the above apps - or have another SharePoint alternative you'd like to mention - let us know in the comments below or email me at email@example.com.
This article was first published in March 2016 and has been updated.