Can SharePoint and Google Apps coexist?







Just recently, we switched over to Microsoft SharePoint for web page development for our department and teacher websites. Having a website and using FrontPage for several years as a classroom teacher, I was not exactly overwhelmed with the idea of switching over, learning a new interface, and moving all of my materials over to the new site. I felt worse for other early adopting teachers who made the move to Moodle only to find limited support not too long after. Thus, I am being cautious with how I handle the rollout of Google Apps in my new position as Technology Staff Developer. On one hand, I see this great potential for an application that is for the most part, very user friendly, allows for nearly real time collaboration, and is all housed externally. On the other hand, I can already hear the teachers (and I wouldn't blame them) yell and scream about yet another technology tool that in their minds and with good reason could soon be replaced.

In what might be the subject of a future presentation, here are my thoughts on the possible coexistence of SharePoint and Google Apps:

MS SharePoint: We are currently using SharePoint for all of our Intranet websites, and thus, we can control what pages are accessible by teachers, students, and staff. Permissions are at the heart of what SharePoint does well. Although it can get confusing quickly if left unmanaged, the ability to allow access to certain documents, pages, and sites is a huge advantage for SharePoint, and I feel comfortable recommending its continued use for department internal sites and documents. We are just starting to delve into using Workflows, and I believe that this will also generate some positive momentum for SharePoint.

Google Apps: We are currently piloting Google Apps for teachers and students with a small group of volunteer faculty members. Initial feedback has been very positive, and with Google Apps, each and every student has an email account, as well as access to a word processor, a presentation generator, and a website creator. Teachers have been pleased with the relative ease of use and increased collaboration on the part of their students. Students seem to enjoy this new technology and its popular status as an "in" technology. Computer lab staff have noted that access to documents in the cloud has been a nice feature, as they were experiencing some problems with lost files on our server.

With regards to teacher web pages, I have been working with faculty in creating pages through SharePoint. However, I could see Google Sites being a possible alternative as it is easier in my opinion to customize things in Google rather than in SharePoint. Still, with one of the most popular features of teacher web pages being the storage of and access to documents for students, SharePoint definitely has the edge through its integration and familiarity with Windows Explorer.

So, it seems that these two tools can coexist in a school as they are still unique enough in their features. If Google decides to strengthen its permissions component, I would consider dumping SharePoint for economical reasons. Similarly, if SharePoint made it easier to customize the site design (coming in 2010 version?) and build in better collaboration tools, I'd be tempted to leave Google behind. As it stands, I am comfortable recommending a relationship that uses the best of both worlds: Secure, Stable SharePoint, along with Collaborative, Classy Google.

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