Over the last six months I have repeatedly heard the same question: Is SharePoint 2013 really worth the migration effort? Should we build our next solution on SharePoint 2013 or just stick with 2010? Is the learning curve of a new platform justified by the new features?

After making a comprehensive review of Microsoft’s new release of SharePoint 2013, we here at DEG feel that the answer is yes.

SharePoint 2013

This version offers some significant opportunities with powerful new features. These include significantly upgraded search capabilities plus new advantages for intranet-related searches, improved web content usability and digital asset management, and cross-site publishing, more robust workflow as well as improved site performance. The new search and SkyDrive functionality alone bring the potential for huge efficiencies to an organization.

To help you better assess this innovation in group collaboration software, we offer the following overview of SharePoint 2013’s new features and functionality, plus comparisons to SharePoint 2010. If you have additional questions regarding SharePoint 2013 requirements or other issues, DEG would be happy to help.

New Licensing Model

The licensing changes made last fall by Microsoft were significant. In general, “external users” no longer require a CAL or “external connector” as in previous versions, which was a significant expense. This will be a substantial cost reduction for our clients in allowing customers, partners, vendors, and other outside users to access SharePoint solutions, such as websites, customer portals, or external project collaboration sites. While this isn’t exactly a SharePoint 2013 specific licensing change, it is something organizations considering a new SharePoint 2013 solution should be aware of. Read more on our previous blog entry Estimating SharePoint 2013 Licensing Costs.

New Search Features in SharePoint 2013

Microsoft purchased the FAST search technology for $1.2 billion in 2008, allowing it to add an industry-leading search solution to the Microsoft suite. However, due to the timing of the purchase in SharePoint’s product development cycle, FAST could not be integrated into SharePoint 2010. FAST is now fully integrated into the SharePoint 2013 product. With these new enhancements, Gartner analysts now consider Microsoft a leader in enterprise search.

Here are some more details on benefits of the improved search functionality, as well as its relevance to our clients.

Continuous Crawl: There has been a major upgrade to the crawling and indexing components in SharePoint Search. Content can now be indexed as frequently as every few minutes.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: Frequent crawling of large amounts of content was not possible with SharePoint 2010.
  • Why This Is Important: Files added into SharePoint can be found almost immediately by users. Search can also be used more efficiently in search-driven pages and applications, since new content will immediately appear on the page.

Query Conditions/ Rules Engine: This powerful feature allows your web pages to dynamically feature content most relevant for each user. At a high level, a new query engine has been added to search, which allows for rules to be applied and results displayed to be reordered based on specific conditions.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: This feature was not available in SharePoint 2010.
  • Why This Is Important: You now have greater control over how the results are sorted and displayed based on user attributes. This flexibility is a huge advantage for SharePoint 2013 over SharePoint 2010. It gives you flexibility to adapt the search as you learn more about your users and expand your solutions.

Search-Driven Page Design: Another powerful feature that allows your web pages to dynamically feature the most user-relevant content, while allowing the content (for example, project-related documents) to be stored in a central repository.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: Although we could accomplish this in SharePoint 2010, new web parts and improvements in SharePoint 2013 make this process much more efficient and practical.
  • Why This Is Important: Greatly improve content management efficiency by storing and reusing a large number of files from centralize repositories vs. scattering them across multiple libraries on your SharePoint solution. Leverage the granular control in the SharePoint 2013 search engine to surface the most relevant files anywhere on your sites.

Query Actions: These new features now allow you to control how the search results are presented. You can now specify which types of records in your search results will be displayed with custom HTML.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: Previously there was not an efficient way to customize how search results were presented.
  • Why This Is Important: This feature gives you multiple options for visually promoting or drawing attention to files presented on the basis of user attributes. This capability can be used in search results and also with search-driven pages.

Intranet-Related Search Advantages

In addition to the search enhancements mentioned above, the following improvements will also be important to your Intranet users.

File Preview: From the search results page, users can preview Microsoft Office files in search results by simply hovering over them. Search results are sorted and optimized based on users clicks. The ability to preview files before opening translates into more accurate search results for the end users, as the result set is automatically tuned.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: This feature was not available in SharePoint 2010.
  • Why This Is Important: This capability will make your search results more relevant as well as important files easier to find. It also makes browsing through search results much simpler when you’re looking for the right file.

Deep Links: In SharePoint 2013, chapters and major sections from a file are shown with the results. You can easily jump to specific sections without needing to download the file and then search for the relevant content.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: In previous versions of SharePoint, the file content is indexed but users need to download the entire file in order to locate the relevant content within it.
  • Why This Is Important: If you have large documents or PowerPoint files, this ability cuts down on a significant amount of time you spend searching for content.

Improved Web Content Usability

Improvements in the WYSIWYG: You can copy content directly from Word and paste it into the SharePoint text editor. The text will be displayed in the site’s defined style, meaning less editing is required. This is a big time saver (and solves one of the biggest requests/complaints we received from clients in the past).

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: There are some significant improvements in how the HTML is scripted when using the WYSIWYG in SharePoint 2013.
  • Why This Is Important: Editing web pages and content is easier and more efficient.

Friendly URLS: This feature basically gives a user-friendly URL for SharePoint pages, versus the very long (and unappealing) URL in SharePoint 2010.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: In SharePoint 2010, this was a custom feature that needed to be implemented.
  • Why This Is Important: This improvement allows you to send a simple, friendly page URL to customers and other key users.

Flexible Branding: Branding and page design can now be done through non-SharePoint tools, such as Adobe Dreamweaver and other third-party HTML editing tools.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: This feature was not available in previous versions.
  • Why This Is Important: A web designer without SharePoint experience can now use their favorite design tool to change the look and feel on your Intranet or corporate website.

Video Embedding: Videos can now be embedded natively in a page. The file can be stored in a third-party video hosting solution such as Vimeo or, in some cases, inside SharePoint.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: Easily embedding video from third-party hosting solutions was a custom web part that DEG formerly created for SharePoint. It is now available natively.
  • Why This Is Important: This allows an easy and efficient way to add video to your sites.

Digital Asset Management

Companies with a large volume of images, videos, and other content find it critical to have a robust and efficient way to organize their assets. SharePoint 2013 now includes more features and scalability that allows SharePoint to be used as your DAM system.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: DAM features in SharePoint 2010 were limited.
  • Why This Is Important: This feature allows for images to be efficiently stored in one central repository and reused on pages throughout the site.

Cross-site Publishing

Cross-site publishing lets you store and maintain content in one or more authoring site collections, and display this content in one or more publishing site collections. When you change the content in an authoring site collection, those changes are now displayed on all site collections that are reusing this content.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: This feature was not available in SharePoint 2010.
  • Why This Is Important: This feature helps ensure content is consistent when shared across several different areas and sites. For example, you could have the “source” content be part of the Intranet sites, but when published it would also update the public-facing website.

Other Significant Features in SharePoint 2013

SkyDrive

Users can now share documents and files from a personal SkyDrive or keep them secured for their personal use. SkyDrive files can still be indexed and located through search if they have been shared to that user.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: This feature was not available in previous versions.
  • Why This Is Important: This allows for very easy file collaboration without the user needing to email or store the file inside a SharePoint document library.

More Robust Workflow Platforms

This new platform allows for more no-code functionality and is much more scalable than SharePoint 2010.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: The new platform should allow for more flexibility and better performance than experienced with SharePoint 2010. SharePoint Workflow now includes much more scalable options with more flexibility.
  • Why This Is Important: Companies can expand their workflow capabilities, especially around higher volume workflow with automation.

Better Site Performance

Because of Microsoft’s focus on its cloud version of SharePoint, the new version of on-premise and SharePoint online has been optimized for faster load times and better overall performance.

  • SharePoint 2010 vs. SharePoint 2013: Although SharePoint 2010 was not exactly slow, the new load times have been optimized significantly.
  • Why This Is Important: Quicker page loads and site responsiveness improves overall user experience.

If you’d like to know more about our highly customized SharePoint solutions or our Fuse Portal Solution, let’s have a conversation.

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