How to Save Money by Replacing Your Toolbox With a Nail – In Support of WordPress as a CMS

Joseff Betancourt posted an article the other day on how to save money by replacing SharePoint with WordPress. Sadly, the comment system at the CTOEdge site didn’t work at the time, so I couldn’t post a response there.

So, here it is:

Joseff, I’m sure you’re a great guy and everything, but apparently you know very little about SharePoint. That’s no necessarily unexpected, after all, even those of us who spend most of our waking hours with SharePoint find it difficult to keep up with everything.

However, what surprises me most is how little you must also know about WordPress and small businesses. You say that you could replace SharePoint as a collaboration tool with WordPress and some plugins that mimic a social site. That is truly like suggesting that you can replace a toolbox with a nail because all you’d use a toolbox for is hanging pictures on the wall.

I come from the SharePoint camp, being a long-term SharePoint developer. However, I am also a seasoned solutions architect. I strongly believe you are making a grave mistake here, one that the SharePoint camp has been doing for years. I absolutely love WordPress, I can’t think of a better tool for putting stuff on the web at the moment, but with your claims, you are doing WordPress a great disservice.

SharePoint should never be used for public websites, especially not for small businesses. For that, it is far too cumbersome and was never really designed to handle those tasks. Even a modest site would require so much in development effort and backend hardware (virtual or physical) that it would kill any reasonable financial analysis. Sure, in specific scenarios, SharePoint may be an alternative for public facing websites, but as a general purpose web content management system, it plain sucks.

For the clients I have that need a public site, I often strongly recommend WordPress over SharePoint. Even for my own SharePoint university, we utilize WordPress in a multitude of websites both because it is easy to use, purpose built for public exposure, and has an immense backing. Many of the biggest websites dedicated to SharePoint (like EndUserSharePoint.com and SharePointMagazine.net) are backed by WordPress. As you, I absolutely love the ease of customization, I build plugins to do pretty much anything that doesn’t come out-of-the-box or as third-party plugins, and I’m amazed at the theme system, outperforming SharePoint by miles.

The error that the SharePoint camp does is forcing SharePoint into a role in which it is inherently not suited. As an analogy I’ve used before, yeah, you can use a Ferrari to swat flies. It’s extremely expensive, difficult to do, and there would be a lot of better ways of accomplishing the same task using other tools.

The same can be said, I’m afraid, for WordPress. Claiming that WordPress can replace SharePoint to save money is missing the point and doing WordPress a great disservice. What you’d end up with is a tool that was not built or even intended for a fraction of the features that SharePoint does. In the end, users will end up with a difficult-to-maintain system that is likely far more expensive to build and will never truly fit _their_ needs. Ultimately, what will happen is that you’re forcing tools to behave in manners to which they are not intended. That’s bad for SharePoint and it’s bad for WordPress.

Yeah, you could get the WordPress Ferrari to function as a charger for your iPod, but it’s not really using the tool for what it is intended, and I’m certain most people would see that it is less than optimal use for such a fine piece of machinery.

Use WordPress where WordPress shines and leave other tasks to tools better suited for those tasks. Leave SharePoint to do what SharePoint does and keep it away from tasks it shouldn’t handle. Both platforms can, in theory, be used for virtually anything, but that doesn’t say it’s a good idea to use it for everything.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

8 thoughts on “How to Save Money by Replacing Your Toolbox With a Nail – In Support of WordPress as a CMS”

  1. Hey Bjørn,

    I respect your opinion greatly and have been really analyzing SharePoint in the WCM space for the past while. I would be interested in hearing specific thoughts/arguements for SharePoint as a smarter purchase WCM since you are so strongly opposed to it.

    Would be awesome to compare against my own thoughts and see where we disagree or agree.

    Will ping you on twitter as well, but thought I would toss this out here.

    Laughed at the ferrari analogy.

    Thank you,
    Richard

    1. Richard,

      I think this sounds like a follow-up blog post. Honestly, I didn’t expect much attention from the community as this was primarily a response to the WordPress camp, but I think I’ll make another post to illustrate my point.

      .b

  2. I completely agree comparing WordPress and SharePoint is logical. If you want to save money on collaboration tools there are many open source solutions out there that are much better than using plugins in WordPress.

    1. Dave,

      Either you misspelled something or you’ve missed my point. Comparing SharePoint and WordPress makes no sense. One is a specialized tool for one task only while the other is a platform specialized for building virtually anything. Both are insanely good at what they do, but they serve completely separate purposes.

      I’ve been looking, very hard in fact, for open-source collaboration tools, even something that can closely compete with just parts of what SharePoint does. We have major collaboration problems at USPJA which would easily be solved with a SharePoint solution. Nothing I’ve found comes even close. We’ve needed to spend a lot of time patching together partial solutions that doesn’t give us the flexibility we’d have if we had a SharePoint solution.

      I’m not going to argue over each and every suggested solution that someone will come up with, because I’ve already spent the better part of a year looking and researching.

      So, why aren’t we using SharePoint? Well, two reasons primarily.

      Cost is the major one. SharePoint is expensive. Not necessarily in licenses, but in hardware and manpower cost. Running SharePoint on the scale we’re running platforms at USPJA would required at least three dedicated servers (two WFEs, one DB), which in turn would require a dedicated and skilled team of operations people.

      Second is access to customization resources. I know how to make SharePoint curl up like a small kitten in a corner when I need that, or flip around and be a fearsome lion if that is our requirement. However, I also know that my time is valued at $200 per hour for a reason; there aren’t that many people around that could deliver the customization tasks we need at a price we could afford, and I certainly do not have the time myself. Until far more people are trained in SharePoint development and administration, the cost of doing USPJA on SharePoint simply isn’t worth it.

      .b

  3. Bjorn,
    I agree 100% that WordPress and SharePoint are not the same. You can’t replace SharePoint with WordPress and vice versa. However, I look forward to the day endusersharepoint.com is hosted on SharePoint.

    I’ve been hosting my public blog on Sharepoint since moving it from wordpress in June 2008. You should try it.
    -Tom

    1. Tom,

      I appreciate you wanting to shout-out for SharePoint, but come on… Reasonably, moving my blog to SharePoint? Just look at the time it has taken Mark to get EndUserSharePoint over to SharePoint. Compare that to the time I spent migrating my blog to WordPress, which was just a few hours…

      And don’t think I haven’t considerable background to understand whether I should ‘try’ SharePoint as a blogging platform. Simply put, unless had unlimited resources and a pool of developers writing what I needed, it makes absolutely no sense. SharePoint isn’t even going to get to the starting line in a blog platform race against WordPress.

      .b

  4. Hi Bjørn,

    You’ve previously mentioned security as an issue but, like Richard, I’d definitely like to better understand your reasoning for not using SharePoint on the internet and am looking forward to the follow-up post. Is there a technical component to your argument or is it more about SharePoint being the wrong tool for the job?

    I wholeheartedly agree with the cost issue having come up against that barrier many times myself with multiple clients; on the other hand, I’ve been deeply involved with the westernaustralia.com site since it was migrated from MCMS 2002 to MOSS 2007 during the TR2 days. Until recently (and excluding DR) we ran production with a Linux proxy (and a high-end CDN, to be honest, due to latency issues between Perth and the rest of the world), one WFE and one database server hosting other farms and application DBs. Our team consists of an admin split between running the web sites and looking after the corporate network and two developers doing bug fixes and functional web site enhancments.

    As a CMS, 2007 does have a lot of useability flaws but it seems like a number of those problems are addressed with 2010 (I’ll also posit CMS is a poor idea altogether for business users but that’s just my jaded view from years working with heavily branded site and users unwilling to take ownership of their content!).

    I think it’s also critical to differentiate between a large “enterprise” hosting capability and a guy running one or two servers from a broom cupboard.

    Thanks as always for the insightful posts!

    Ps. Is it ironic Ferrari runs their web site on SharePoint? :-\

    1. Hi Michhes, a few things I can think of:

      1. Sharepoint produces very “rough” HTML under the hood. Not good at all for SEO.
      2. The vision behind Sharepoint was to be used internally as an intranet / SOA front end platform, not to serve public facing web pages.
      3. Public facing web sites often focus on presentation vs content. In my experience presentation on corporate intranets is often an after thought, the content and functionality is what is important. Customizing SharePoint is a lot more work than other cms platforms better suited for public facing web.

      Bjørn, I agree with your article, but we should be clear about specific implementations.

      If Mr. Betancourt is referring to a SharePoint site being a static information portal, then he could have a point about swapping it out for WordPress BUT SharePoint in its own right is pretty good (especially 2010) at being a static information portal to begin with – so imo no money saved.

      on the other hand

      If Mr. Betancourt is implying you can swop out SharePoint (The front end SOA application) for WordPress in a Microsoft SOA environment then I think he is gravely mistaken.

      Lets just for one minute think about this. At the heart of SharePoint is “The List”. Lists actions drive workflows and provide a front end to users. I’m not aware of a list equivalent in WordPress. WordPress is about Posts, Pages and Comments – That’s about it! It is a blogging platform with no AD integration, no Exchange integration, and no concept of Microsoft SOA integration. Sure you could do these things, but how many MS shops / partners have vast PHP skills? Even if you had these skills would you really want to have a mixed bag mess on your hands? I haven’t mentioned SharePoint the DMS, but also worth noting.

      I would say, a custom .Net app more suited to your organizations needs might be a far better alternative to SharePoint if you know what you want, but this wouldn’t come free or cheap.

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