SharePoint WSS 3.0. Something for nothing that is actually worth something...

It's very to get something worthwhile for free these days. Just about everyone is trying to wring every last cent from you for every possible minuscule non-event or service they can. One that especially irks me is bank and credit card charges. You make a withdrawal...SLUG! You pay a credit card bill...SLUG! You have to pay these guys...well, I guess for the honor of paying these guys. In Australia, the DEFT guys are more brazen than any...perhaps a function of their Macquarie Bank origins.

And IT companies? Ha! They define the essence of getting blood out of a stone.

So it comes as a pleasant surprise when you actually do get something for nothing from an IT firm. And it comes as an even bigger surprise when that something is from Microsoft, the company that turned the blood-from-stone concept into a high-art. And the biggest surprise of all? What you get is actually damn good.

I speak, of course, of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0, the free version of SharePoint. This is a little bonus you get with Windows Server if you don't want to fork out for the more capable MOSS version. And whilst MOSS is certainly one impressive toolset for so many business needs, WSS is something that can truly helpful for so many companies where the IT spend is tough to get signoff on...and these days, isn't that just about everyone?

And yet, so many people don't really utilize it. In more than a few IT departments I have worked with, it sits in the background doing little more than glorified file storage, whilst solutions costing hundreds of thousands of dollars - or more - are sought for project management, enterprise risk management and competitive intelligence, amongst others. And all too often, these solutions are either too advanced for the requirement or too difficult to fully utilize by staff.

Whilst it's generally not going to set the world on fire for multinationals needing full ERP solutions, SharePoint WSS is often a superb solution for smaller to mid-size companies, with development costs that hover barely above "free". And with some good developers, it can often be transformed into a very powerful solution.

Guys, do a double take on this: when I occasionally put on my consultant hat and have a look at various business needs in many companies, SharePoint often comes out as a very effective answer that won't break the bank.