Comparing NetDocuments and SharePoint: A Real-World View
It is the IT conference time of year. NetDocuments has celebrated successful conferences in Salt Lake City (US), London (UK) and our customers from across the Asia-Pacific region are congregated in Sydney, Australia this week. Similarly, Microsoft held its massive Ignite conference a couple of weeks ago. Of course, just as NetDocuments announced new features and functionality at Elevate, due to its size and scale, Microsoft usually inundates the IT industry press with product announcements from across its broad product range.
From a SharePoint perspective, many of the announcements this year were of a somewhat geeky, admin nature such as the improvements to the admin center, increased site collection limits, and the ability to run SharePoint Server 2019 on Azure Stack. Last year’s conference introduced the idea of Home sites, Hub sites and other enhancements to the potential of out of the box SharePoint Online to provide a great corporate Intranet.
I have had a personal love-hate relationship with SharePoint since it was invented. I remember loading a CD into a Dell server and building a SharePoint 2001 installation for the Science Faculty of the Open University (UK) back in 2001, and it became a handy little intranet site for 350-ish people. Looking back at the features and functionality of that first version 18 years ago, no one can argue the product has come long way since then; NetDocuments has evolved at a similar pace in that time, of course we had the advantage of being cloud from the get-go, so no CD / DVD’s required for installation on Windows 2000 Servers! Back in those original days, my focus was on SharePoint as an intranet, I later became head of an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) initiative for the University and implemented what back then was EMC Documentum, for “serious content management”. Of course as SharePoint has evolved on it’s path to the current SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server 2019 variants, it’s document management capabilities have improved greatly but it has never been a tightly focused, specialized document management system; really it is more a collaboration platform with some DM functionality, and as there is now a ‘hidden’ SharePoint site providing the storage for every Teams instance, it seems to continue along that evolutionary path.
So why has it been a “love-hate” relationship? Well because for much of that 18 years, SharePoint could do somewhere between 50% and 75% of what I wanted it to do, but was often missing certain functionality, or required me to buy third party add-on’s or spend a lot of money to customize. At one time or another, the platform has been marketed as a do-everything development platform, to an out of the box intranet. Right now, with recent experience as a digital workplace leader, I would say I am back in love with SharePoint’s ability to create a highly functional intranet, pretty much out of the box.
NetDocuments on the other hand, is not a suitable tool to build a corporate intranet for a large global organization, because we provide a specialized document management platform. Being much smaller than Microsoft, we can have a laser focus on our main mission – to provide a premier cloud-based, highly secure Legal Document Management platform. Our journey over the same period has been focused on developing our core document management functionality, our security and compliance features and levering our cloud technology to provide similarly focused collaboration technologies; allowing Law firms, corporate legal departments, and customers with similar needs to securely and safely share information across corporate boundaries. That is why we were recently honoured by the readers of KMWorld with the inaugural KMWorld Readers’ Choice award for Best Compliance and Information Security platform.
While SharePoint has evolved into a great product set, it has never been on the same evolutionary path as NetDocuments, and we have evolved the award-winning, highly secure, matter centric document management functionality required by the legal industry.