Is WordPress a viable alternative to SharePoint?

Intranet managers at some small businesses say they prefer the free content management platform often used for blogs over Microsoft’s collaboration software.

That’s how Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology describes the difference between Microsoft’s SharePoint, an intranet and content management platform the software maker calls its “collaboration software,” and WordPress, a publishing tool often used for blogs.

Sharepoint licensing can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $60,000. WordPress software is free, though there are costs associated with hosting. That cost difference has led some communicators on Twitter and elsewhere to wonder if it’s worth ditching SharePoint for WordPress.

“Allegedly others have done it with success,” Valerie Hoven, an intranet administrator in health care, tweeted in a chat about internal communications.

In spite of the wide gulf between the two software packages, intranet managers have indeed chosen WordPress over SharePoint. But experts such as Holtz raise a few concerns.

Too expensive, ‘too proprietary’

Neil Gehani, CEO of Eco Displayware, says he used SharePoint along with Microsoft’s enterprise resource planning software, but decided to dump it. “It was way too complicated for a small business like mine,” he says. “It is too proprietary.”

Bill Simser, a software developer and blogger, wrote that SharePoint could stand to make some of its features as easy to use as WordPress. “Simple things like themes and look and feel should be a pleasant [user experience], not a complicated IT task,” he says. “WordPress is all about dynamic look and feel and provides a lot of ‘previews’ to what will happen before it’s done. This is in stark comparison to SharePoint’s ‘do it, and we’ll tell you if something broke’ approach.”

Gehani says he uses WordPress for his e-commerce site, though he would prefer an option to post content to the WordPress site, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all at once.

He says switching from SharePoint meant he was able to move almost completely from Windows PCs to Macs, though he does still have to use a Windows machine to use Quickbooks.

Cesar Abeid, project manager at Remontech, says his company never made a switch. He went straight to WordPress. He says it made sense for his small company to use WordPress rather than invest in SharePoint.

“For communications needs, WordPress seemed like an ideal fit since it is 100 percent Web-based and uses very few resources to run,” he says. “It also requires no plug-ins for your browser, which means we can use it from virtually anywhere.”

Specifically, Remontech uses WordPress to manage project communications, Abeid says. Employees create posts, put them into categories and label them with tags to make them searchable. For security, he says the company uses the Restricted Site Access plugin to ensure only registered contributors can access the WordPress site.

Abeid says WordPress is “working fine” for Remontech, though better integration with Gmail would be helpful, because the company uses Google’s online email service.

Not for everyone

In a post aggregating a Twitter chat on the topic, Sean Williams of CommunicationAMMO noted that WordPress isn’t intended to be a platform for intranets.

“As intranets are more than just content vehicles, it probably makes more sense to work with tools that are built for that purpose,” he wrote.

Toby Ward of Prescient Digital Media says WordPress “is almost never a suitable platform for an intranet.” SharePoint is much more robust, he says, with its various team collaboration tools. WordPress would only work for “a very small organization that only has simplistic corporate news function requirements.”

“It is a suitable website platform, if the website’s requirements are chiefly communications and marketing functions,” he says. “It’s like comparing a Lexus with a bicycle. Both are transportation vehicles. The latter has a limited range and options, but is quite inexpensive. In other words, the work requirements scenario determines which technology is more appropriate.”

Other options

Ward points out that there are “hundreds of other respectable solutions that fall in between both SharePoint and WordPress.” Among them areKentico, Sitefinity, IBM Websphere and MindTouch. What works depends on culture, the existing technology environment and business needs, he says.

“Companies looking to invest in technology should be careful in developing their criteria, requirements and plans so that they may evaluate solutions accordingly and to make a well-informed decision and investment,” Ward says.

Abeid says Remontech uses some auxiliary tools in addition to WordPress; employees use Evernote to share messages and MindMeister for brainstorming.

BOX

SharePoint/WordPress alternatives

Toby Ward of Prescient Digital Media listed the following content management/enterprise resource management/social platforms as possible middle-of-the-road choices between SharePoint and WordPress:

Content management systems

Portals / enterprise resource management

Social media platforms

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