Discover who wins the Sharepoint vs WordPress debate, and how to set up a SharePoint-style document library in WordPress for a fraction of the cost. It's the best way to avoid the usual SharePoint problems.
When you're creating an intranet or document library for your company or organization, your main choices are likely to be Sharepoint vs WordPress. It's not an easy decision, because it affects multiple people across your organization and you're likely to remain with the same provider for many years.
In this article, I will explain:
- Why WordPress is the most flexible and cost-effective choice for many intranets.
- How to use WordPress to create an intranet with private content.
- How to use the Document Library Pro plugin to add a searchable resource library to your WordPress SharePoint alternative.
Switching to WordPress is the perfect solution to your SharePoint problems, whether or not you already use WordPress for your main company website.
What is an intranet?
Before we get to the meat of the WordPress vs SharePoint debate, let's look at what people use SharePoint for.
Essentially, SharePoint is an enterprise-level intranet software platform. For those unfamiliar, an intranet is a private network that’s designed to support an organization’s employees enabling them to communicate and collaborate. Intranets serve a broad range of purposes for organizations depending on their objectives. Companies use it to share information and provide online tools for their employees and other internal personnel.
An intranet can be accessed from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection. However, it is hidden behind secure user login. As a result, only authorized people from your organisation can access the company intranet.
Intranets typically have certain features, although this depends on the organization. For example, most intranets include a document library area for sharing resources across the organization. An intranet might also have other tools such as staff directories.
SharePoint vs WordPress: Which intranet should you use?
While there are lots of platforms available for your company intranet, SharePoint and WordPress tend to be the main players. That's surprising because they are fundamentally different:
- SharePoint is an enterprise platform by Microsoft. While you can hire a SharePoint developer to customize it for you, it is very expensive to set up and there is no free version. SharePoint is only suitable for large organisations with deep pockets.
- In contrast, WordPress is an open source content management system. You can use it to build literally any type of website and - you guessed it - this includes a private internet. The basic version of WordPress is completely free to use, and you can extend it by installing a low-cost plugin to add extra features.
When choosing between SharePoint vs WordPress, we're not really comparing like-with-like. However, they both offer valid ways to build an intranet. Let's look at the pros and cons of each option next.
SharePoint pros and cons - unpicking SharePoint problems
SharePoint is an incredibly sophisticated system, designed around the needs of large organizations. Once set up correctly, it is very robust and stable, with good support from Microsoft.
SharePoint proprietary software i.e. it’s not open source and your developer won't have access to the actual source code. There are customizations they can make based on what SharePoint allows, but you don't have full control like you would with an open source platform.
You also need to consider the ethical considerations of using proprietary software compared to open source. Some people consider this a major problem of using SharePoint vs WordPress.
WordPress pros and cons
WordPress is the world's most popular content management system with a market share of over 40%. It’s huge just like SharePoint and Microsoft but in a less centralized, more democratic way.
Using WordPress, you can create a completely private intranet for your organization. WordPress is more like SharePoint Online than SharePoint Server or SharePoint Hybrid because it’s cloud-based and 100% online. The best part is that it doesn’t have any software for the end user to install. This ensures a frictionless user experience for your team and other users.
WordPress is completely free and open source. There are tens of thousands of plugins available to add extra features to a WordPress-powered site or intranet.
You can use WordPress to set up a SharePoint intranet or document library alternative yourself, with no technical knowledge. You own your data and aren't tied into anything long-term. A huge community of resources and developers are available to help you if you need it.
As an open source platform, WordPress is infinitely customizable and therefore much more flexible than SharePoint.
It's likely that you already use WordPress to power your main website. As a result, it makes a lot of sense to add an intranet and private document library to your existing site. That's far more efficient than starting from scratch with a separate standalone system. If you don’t already have a WordPress website, you can follow this tutorial to set up a basic website in a few steps.
Cost comparison: SharePoint vs WordPress
As I mentioned above, SharePoint is enterprise-level software. This means that it can have huge setup costs as well as a recurring monthly cost for every user. It's not suitable for growing businesses that are looking for a cost-effective SharePoint document library alternative.
If you need SharePoint for your organization then the costs are unavoidable - this is one of the main SharePoint problems. Microsoft recommends that you should budget at least 8x the cost of the software itself for successful deployment. You can expect to pay a lot of money for expensive SharePoint consultants to implement customized solutions for your organization. You can't even change your mind later because your documents are hosted on SharePoint, and you lose everything if you cancel.
In contrast, WordPress is completely free to use. You just need to budget for the cost of hosting, a domain name, and any plugins that you need to install (typically under $99 per year). If your company website uses WordPress then you're already paying these costs, so it doesn't cost any extra to add an intranet.
Even if you need to hire a developer to set it up or customize a WordPress intranet for you, WordPress developers charge significantly less per hour than SharePoint developers.
Why a WordPress intranet with document library is the perfect SharePoint alternative
Here, we’ll take a closer look at each of the main features on offer with SharePoint and how you can do the same (or better) with a WordPress-based SharePoint alternative. This is an excellent way to solve the main SharePoint problems, as it completely bypasses them for a better alternative.
If you already use WordPress for your main company website then you can easily add an intranet and document library (either publicly or privately). Alternatively, you can use WordPress to create a dedicated intranet site to host your document library.
WordPress is the perfect solution for any intranet, and easily wins the SharePoint vs WordPress debate in this area. You can use WordPress with Advanced Access Manager to get full control over who can access each part of your website and intranet.
Let’s step through some examples:
- You can use WordPress for your main company website with a private intranet area for staff members. This is ideal because it keeps everything in one place. SharePoint, while keeping your intranet separate from your public company website.
- Free plugins like Password Protected make it easy to create a 100% private intranet website with no public area.
- You can create an intranet that has sub-sites or separate areas for individual departments or teams. One way to do this is by using the free User Role Editor plugin to create additional user roles and Advanced Access Manager to control which user roles can access each area of the intranet. Or, you can use WordPress multisite to create websites within websites.
- As well as the SharePoint document library alternative that we’ll cover later in this guide, you can store any type of information to share with your organization. For example, you can create pages, internal blogs, forums, or a knowledge base. You could create a staff directory with contact details for each team member in your organization.
Document management system or document library
Organizations use a document management system or document library to store and share documents, either for public viewers, for internal use, or both. You can use WordPress with the Document Library Pro plugin to list unlimited documents.
Let's take a look at the key features on offer with Document Library Pro.
Appearance and usability
Documents are listed in a table layout which makes it easy to see specific data about each one. This is much more user-friendly than the basic grid layout for documents in SharePoint and solves a lot of SharePoint problems. In addition to this, you have full control over which columns to include in the table. For example, you can include columns for data such as title, excerpt, author, modified date, file type, category, tags, and just about anything else you’d like.
The Document Library Pro plugin also offers lots of options to make it easy for users to navigate and find specific documents. You can list documents in:
- One long table
- Multiple tables
- Automatically structured into collapsible folders based on their categories.
This is much more flexible than SharePoint’s grid-based document library layout.
Sort, filter, and search documents
The document library filters make it easy for users to quickly find documents based on categories, tags, and any custom data you might have added. The Document Library Pro plugin also adds an instant AJAX-powered keyword search box above each list of documents.
Users can also click on any column in the document library to sort the documents by that data. For example, users can sort by the date columns to see the documents that were published or modified most recently.
In addition, the Document Library Pro WordPress plugin supports all document formats plus online content. Each document can link to a downloadable file, a page directly on the website, or a third-party URL. It also supports a variety of other media files such as audio and video.
The Document Library Pro plugin supports internal or external sharing of files and other content. Sharing can happen both within and outside the organization. By using the Document Library Pro plugin with Advanced Access Manager, you can easily choose which files are available for internal users only and which ones are available publicly.
If you use WordPress for your main company website, you can even have one document library or resource section in the public area and another in the private intranet area.
If you’re looking to set up a SharePoint intranet alternative, you probably need a way to share information within the organization. WordPress offers many ways of doing this with multiple user roles. While SharePoint has collaborative and user management features too, they are probably equal in this part of the SharePoint vs WordPress debate.
Document Library Pro comes with a front end document uploader which allows employees to add resources without needing access to the WordPress admin. You can either add this straight to the library, or hold it for moderation by an administrator first.
For added flexibility, you can use WordPress with the WP Sheet Editor plugin to allow specific users or user roles to edit information from the front end without having to access or go through the WordPress admin. This adds a handy 'Edit' button above or below your document library (which you can show/hide based on user role) so that people can easily edit documents.
Alternatively, allow users to submit documents to the library from the front end, without having to access the WordPress admin.
Like any good document management system, Document Library Pro has built-in version control. It stores previous versions of each resource in the library. That way, admins can easily see previous versions and restore and delete them as needed.
Read our complete guide on version control in WordPress.
Access from any device, not just the office
With WordPress, you can create responsive websites that are accessible from any device. Setting up an intranet on WordPress means that users will be able to access it from any device, not just the office. They just need a web browser - no need to install any apps.
If you're creating a private intranet then the plugins mentioned above let you make the intranet site accessible to users outside the local network.
100% customizable and scalable
With a SharePoint document library, you have to hire a SharePoint developer to customize the user interface. With WordPress, you can install any of the thousands of off-the-shelf themes that are available. WordPress themes allow you to upload your company logo, customize the colors, modify typography, and much more.
Alternatively, you can create your own WordPress theme with a completely custom design.
A WordPress document library solution is 100% scalable and can grow with your organization without increasing your costs, unlike SharePoint. Proprietary software, like SharePoint, offers subscription-based pricing plans. You pay a recurring fee per user and, therefore, can’t predict future costs.
How to set up a SharePoint intranet alternative with WordPress
For full instructions on how to create a WordPress intranet and private document library, use these tutorials:
- WordPress intranet: How to create one for your organization
- Complete guide to creating a WordPress document library
Sharepoint vs WordPress: The verdict
In my opinion, WordPress is the clear winner of the SharePoint vs WordPress question. That's because it's 100% free and open source, infinitely customizable and extendible, and is supported by a huge community and massive market share. SharePoint's problems and the fact that it is hugely expensive proprietary software mean that it can't possible compete, except for a small number of very large organisations with even deeper pockets.
Instead of using SharePoint, most organization are better off using a SharePoint intranet and document library alternative. A great solution is using WordPress with the Document Library Pro plugin, which is:
- Easy to use - no technical skills or knowledge needed.
- Cheap to set up, and easy for your team to manage.
- Supports downloadable or online documents.
- 100% flexible and customizable.
- Love it or your money back!
Ready to set up a SharePoint-like document library for your organization? Get Document Library Pro today!