I have a company that needs a document management system.

I have looked at SharePoint but it has far to many bells and whistles. The company wants something that doesn't have intranet portals, app downloads and all the other waffle (they simple don't have the skill nor the inclination to spend thousands learning it).

I am finding that SharePoint is a little like a fork-lift bus truck car. It trying to be everything to everybody which usually ends up useless to all.

My question is does SharePoint Foundation work out of the box as a document management system or is it like an engine you put your own code upon.

The more I read through Google the more conflicting information I come across without any clear definitions.

What I want to end up with is a document management system that has authentication and a simple page / screen / whatever to link / admin to those documents. Developing a front end is not a problem as I am a .net developer.

3 Answers 3


Don’t be put off by a “no” conclusion - the answer is clearly “Yes” when SharePoint Foundation provides doc storage, metadata, editing, version-control, security and workflows – all out-of-the-box. I do understand frustration that it does too much at the same time as having limitations and some clunkiness – but those are things to assess against requirements, price and user-adoption.

Tiago’s link is to Huddle which is merely a competitor and although it has many good points, as he noted they are not all correct or updated. I expect he is a skilled but slightly jaded SharePoint developer – and any programmer can empathise with that! Plus, SharePoint has certainly evolved from your 2001 version! Allow me to address your concerns about Foundation a little more...

It’s not really valid to undermine any product because of limitations with its free (Foundation) edition. But it is expected to use that to prove off the basics, and surprisingly it does that very well, mainly because Foundation is the core of the fuller licenced editions, and not a different codebase. We went to some effort to make Foundation work as a DMS for our client (a few hundred users) and they are very happy with it for 2 years, even though previous supplier SharePoint implementations failed due to lack of planning and development ability. Budget a couple of weeks for prototype provision (not always an option, admittedly) – Office365 now saves time setting up but is not the on-prem Foundation edition.

Your suspicion of too much work and whistles is valid – it definitely helps, often critically, if you are able to spend time developing web/app-parts, event receivers etc, because otherwise the bare system lacks a single place to view all document statuses (CQWP Content Query WebParts can help but are limited in Foundation), send emails after approving etc. The workflow system should help and has been overhauled for 2013 Server licenced, but for Foundation you’ll have to stick with 2010 workflows or event receiver code. However, as a .NET developer (back end code shouldn’t be much more taxing than front end), you should be able to write the code and be confident you are adding value, not patching a dog. It is this type of awkwardness which jades developers though, when customers expect everything for peanuts.

Unique DocumentID, Document Sets, Content Organisers etc are great and may become essential for any business – but not necessarily for everybody (at the cost of upgrading). Metadata management is much better now (tags can be managed, not just free text) but that again is only in the licenced Server edition. However even in Foundation you can create a new Custom Template for documents and libraries, then add extra fields there – we do it for Review Dates and then use a developed WebPart to show all the docs coming up for review – works fine.

Be sure to check Designing large lists and maximizing list performance and also deal with the inevitable thorny question of metadata-vs-folders, as many users still expect folders and custom Permission Levels may need to be structured around that.

There are no doubt easier out-of-the-box solutions, eg Huddle, but there are also a lot more clunky Enterprise DMS, and the extensibility of SharePoint is excellent, as this Stack Exchange portal attests. Hope you are able to get into the system!

  • I have decided to look at Nuxeo. The more I pull Share-point apart the less impressed I become. Thanks for the feedback. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 20:47
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    Always wise to compare features and usability... DMS is definitely at the heart of SharePoint though and does work OOTB, even on free Foundation and without code or pulling apart. Codeless implementation to save hassle is probably better served on the fuller licenced edition - Office365 SP Online trials can make that easier and cheaper. Best of luck with the products and support! Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 10:45
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    @WilliamHumphreys it seems your question to "is SP Foundation an OOTB DMS" has been answered with details and after a week further additions seem unlikely. This is not an opinion forum (as per the help info) so please ask if further info required, otherwise selecting an answer would be nice to close. Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 10:31

I don't know how to start, but here it goes

You are apparently still keeping you options open, which is not good for the whole "ask a question", "get an answer" scenario

"Is SharePoint a Document Management System?"

My answer is "No". although I don't entirely agree with everything written here, some valid points are raised to confirm this theory

If you are still on the lookout, you may want to consider other alternatives.

SharePoint could be a base for a good DMS, but then again you mention Foundation, perhaps taking price into the equation. however, you are giving away features such as managed metadata, document sets and content organizer, just to name a few. with time your lists can easily reach the list view threshold and you don't have records management or any good sustainable solution.

you may be able to get away with plain versioning, office client integration and others, but it all depends on your definition of document management system and whether it can be achieved with the limited foundation features

more about SharePoint and document management on technet

  • "Is SharePoint a Document Management System?" My answer is "No" I find this an unusual answer. I remember when SharePoint 2001 was originally released and the big sales pitch was that is was the new paperless office / document management system. It wasn't promoted as anything else. Maybe that has changed I genuinely dont know as its very difficult to get a non conflicting opinion even from new MS sales reps. And yes I am keeping my options open as if its not right for the job it would be stupid to use it. Thats exactly I'm trying to find out. :-) Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 0:21

SharePoint works pretty well as a document management system out of the box. It has the following readily available:

  • Document Libraries with granular permissions
  • Document approval workflows
  • Automatic document versions
  • You can easily create your own custom document types with mandatory metadata
  • Search capabilities

Open it up a bit more and there's a lot more you can do with it, with more complex workflows and advanced search features.

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