How a University used SharePoint to construct a real, scalable online portal

What happens when a major University finds itself at crossroads with regards continuing legacy software or upgrading to an industrial strength extranet and portal which can  deliver personal file storage to over 4,000 staff and additional departments, students and faculties?

If you chose the latter you would be correct.  The University of Brighton had no previous experience using the portal, but were aware the new ‘my sites’ feature could replace personal network shares on which staff had become increasingly reliant, in both an online and offline capacity.

The University made all the right moves to engage the Team Sites component and activate a number of security features for critical admins in different departments, schools and faculties.

Of course, this particular implementation was done in-house, overseen by an administrator with 8 years of technical experience including PHP / MySQL development.  The University decided to forgo a cloud-based hosted SharePoint model due to strict internal policies regarding data.

However, we would argue that the pain and skill required in deploying SharePoint in-house could have been alleviated by outsourcing to a remote hosting provider which offers 24/7 support from a team of experienced cloud based engineers.

Increasingly, government institutions, private companies and small businesses are pursuing gains in Capex and Opex by moving to a cloud-based model for SharePoint Server and Microsoft Exchange.

Part of the University’s aim was to evolve into a real portal with standard features such as online submission of expenses claims or holiday requests, and front ends into other areas such as finance or student information.

“Our 25,000 students could also perhaps use it as a front end to our Blackboard-based Virtual Learning Environment,” said a ZDNet article.

New Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models for hosted SharePoint Server environments allow organizations to work smarter using a pay-as-you-go pricing model.   Priced on a per user per month basis, budget planning is made simple and affordable while also allowing for infinite growth. All of this also includes a less complex IT operating model allowing institutions (including Universities) the ability to scale without hiring additional IT support staff.


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