The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market has evolved continuously over the last two and a half decades to a point where many vendors have similar features. This makes differentiating between ECM vendors quite difficult for decision-makers due to their similar current capabilities.
SharePoint and Alfresco approach ECM from different directions.
SharePoint was introduced in 2001 as a web application platform in the Microsoft Office Server Suite to address a number of uses around Microsoft Office. Starting with the 2007 release, Microsoft has kept adding more ECM capabilities to SharePoint.
Alfresco, on the other hand, was launched in 2005 as part of the open-source movement to specifically address the ECM market. Alfresco leveraged the best of the open source movement together with its own innovative technology and an exciting subscription model to quickly grow as an ECM stalwart, replacing many legacy Enterprise content management platforms.
We compared both solutions and found that the following factors combine to make Alfresco the preferred choice over Microsoft SharePoint when dealing with complex document-centric business solutions.
Product Features: Both Alfresco and SharePoint have Content Management, Collaboration, Records Management, and Workflow capabilities. Alfresco provides broader capabilities and a more robust repository with its core installation by leveraging open source components as opposed to SharePoint which leverages only Microsoft products including the requirement to use SQL Server for content storage. SharePoint is very useful for Office-based collaboration and some document management scenarios. Alfresco, while supporting Windows environments and Office-based document management, is better suited for high-volume ECM applications and integrations with non-Microsoft products and environments. Alfresco also provides higher scalability, better ease of customization, as well as the option to extend features using Add-ons – none of which are available in SharePoint.
Technology: SharePoint infrastructure has matured based on the Microsoft standard for both user interface development and back-end server infrastructure. Alfresco has a more open and modern infrastructure as a younger company and is more upbeat about incorporating additional capabilities and support of open standards, particularly from the large open-source community. SharePoint’s back-end infrastructure is proprietary and limited from expansion due to reliance on Microsoft components (Windows, Active Directory, and SQL Server) and technology, which makes it slower to react to new technology trends.
Pricing: SharePoint on-premise has a traditional software purchase fee structure with maintenance costs, while SharePoint Online is a part of the Office 365 suite, and is priced via a subscription model. SharePoint comes with hidden costs that include additional license fees for underlying Microsoft components like SQL Server, Active Directory, Windows Server, etc. Unlike SharePoint, Alfresco has a pure software subscription model consisting of a simple price list with the user and CPU-based pricing. Like any subscription service, Alfresco must “win back” clients every year as part of the renewal process, which makes them more motivated to keep their customers happy, as opposed to the traditional software purchase with the ongoing maintenance model of SharePoint.
Support: The number of Microsoft resources who are focused on SharePoint, versus other capabilities of the Microsoft Office suite, can vary from year to year as Microsoft shifts priorities to other software goals. On the contrary, the experience with Alfresco support remains very consistent due to the continued loyalty of most of the engineering resources, who have remained in place since their hiring. So, all dimensions of the Alfresco software products are well known, understood, maintained, enhanced, and serviced.
Community version: Alfresco, of course, keeping the spirit of its open-source roots alive, offers an open-source Community version at almost negligible costs. Alfresco has a global, thriving community base, so the community version receives almost all major updates along with the option of community support. This is ideal for early-stage, low-hurdle start-ups who can compromise with the non-availability of enterprise-level features for a functioning Enterprise content management solution. SharePoint, being a Microsoft enterprise product, does not have a community version.
Alfresco, therefore, clearly trounces SharePoint on most counts as a superior enterprise ECM product. However, there may not be a need to choose one over the other if one knows how to exploit both cohesively for their niche speciality. Many SharePoint clients have brought in Alfresco for more comprehensive document management, workflow, and records management experience. For these types of clients, leveraging SharePoint for its strengths in collaboration between Office products while leveraging Alfresco for its strengths in ECM/BPM and related technologies results in a win-win coexistence strategy.
Taashee Linux Services is an Alfresco Gold partner with dedicated teams specializing in Alfresco development, consulting, migration, support, maintenance, training, Alfresco-SAP integration, record management, mobile implementation, and e-commerce integration.