Earlier this week someone asked me about using Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services to create an extranet (apparently, his IT department had proposed this as an alternative to them using an external application service provider, ASP). I expressed some reservations, mainly focused around two areas: first, support for common architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) file formats and for AEC processes, and, second, getting the most appropriate licensing structure.
On the first issue, while I have no doubt that SharePoint could be used quite successfully to help a small workgroup share a body of documents largely created using Microsoft Office products, I wonder if a SharePoint-based extranet could easily manage the numerous CAD files commonly exchanged within construction project teams. Even if access and viewing issues can be overcome, would such an extranet be able to manage AEC-specific workflow-type processes such as requests for information (RFIs), change orders, architect’s instructions, etc.
Compared to the simple single license-per-project approach (no limit on number of users, number of documents, etc) commonly employed by UK providers of web-based construction collaboration technologies, I had concerns about how easy it would be to license a multi-user extranet using SharePoint. My concerns, its seems, were correct. I found a post in Aimless Ramblings from a Blithering Lunatic . . . which describes the license requirements – lots of talk about having enough licenses to cover the expected number of concurrent users, plus licenses for the underlying SQL database.