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What is SharePoint anyway? What's the difference between SharePoint and Dropbox or SkyDrive for example?

They all share files.

Why should anyone use SharePoint instead of SkyDrive or Dropbox?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

SharePoint allows you to share files (it's a document library), but it's also

  • a document management system allowing versioning, check-outs, etc
  • a CMS which can contain lists, blogs, wikis, etc
  • a notification system for advising when items have changed or are added
  • an extensible development platform allowing web parts that work much like desktop applications
  • a tool for data integration i.e. reports and dashboards

SharePoint is so many things that it is really very hard to categorize but I'd probably call it a 'portal' (a word that is vague enough to cover just about anything), as most places seem to refer to it.

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+1 for everyone but this one is the better answer. Hmm... What do you mean by "an extensible development platform allowing web parts that work much like desktop applications" – Jim Thio May 11 '12 at 9:47
You can build a lot of business processes into SharePoint. Think of creating something like a help desk application, just as an example. You can take many paper processes and make them into electronic processes by using SharePoint. You can create custom web parts to help users process this information. Workflow is also a big component of SharePoint. I agree with Kirk that there are way to many things that SharePoint can do. – Cory May 12 '12 at 1:12

Sharepoint is more than a fileshare. It´s more like a Application Plattform with a set of prebuild features and the Abbility to implement your own logic.

Have a look here for a list of features and compare it to what you can do with dropbox (Btw Skydrive is implented in Sharepoint aka Office 365)

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In an (larger) Enterprise settings - SharePoint is viewed as a 'knowledge' management & sharing platform that provides communication, collaboration & "content curation". The latter term is for aggregating content found dispersed across the Enterprise and brought together by search & metadata tools. This post gives a good oversight about it - Sharepoint and Enterprise 2.0: The good, the bad, and the ugly. (it's a bit dated but is still a very relevant reading).

In the above answer - Kirk Broadhurst's point of 'extensible development platform' is very important. SharePoint provides for integration points to external systems like databases, LOB apps like HR & Supply Chain via SharePoint's APIs, BCS, REST et al. Without these, SharePoint and its content will remain a standalone "stove pipe" in the environment.

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Microsoft SharePoint is a private intranet site, a data repository, a smart website, a built-in content management system, a development platform, an extranet site, a collection of websites, best-in-class portal software, a document management system, a project management system, a workflow designer, and more. You can collaborate, communicate, gather decision-making reports and data from multiple resources and publish those online, make visually presentable reports, create and view intuitive and real-time dashboards, do customizations, import theme templates, and do more with your SharePoint site.

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