I love to promote SharePoint as platform for public-facing websites because it has such a rich feature-set to build upon, lists, libraries, ease-of-use, workflow. SharePoint Foundation is even better, especially for smaller businesses or companies looking for something more affordable. If you don’t need MSS, Foundation has a great suite of features to offer, but it can’t be a contender in the CMS arena unless it becomes easier for web designers and developers to find realistic options for their clients that aren’t limiting. It definitely seems like a road less traveled.
Sure, there are a lot of hosting companies out there with shared-hosting, virtual server, cloud-based options for you to choose from, but there is a LOT missing. It seems like there should be a push to make SharePoint more accessible. I have had a difficult time, as a web designer, with a few key areas that are paramount to hosting any public-facing site in 2011 and beyond. I finally found some options that fit my customer’s needs as well as mine, but it wasn’t easy. SharePoint Foundation should be on par in its accessibility to WordPress IMHO, but right now it just isn’t, so maybe there’s a potential for improvement…
Granted this is great for your company portal, your intranet, your docu-share site, but this is completely unsatisfactory for any public-facing site. If I can’t control the mobile view (yes, yes I know you need to modify compat.browser – ehem server-side!"), what self-respecting web 2.0 and beyond designer would choose to move forward? This is a deal breaker IMHO. If more hosting providers don’t give their customers a way to switch this on/off, then SharePoint will never give other platforms like the Drupals, Wordpresses and Joomlas of the world a run for their money. Be warned, not many hosting providers give you this option and obviously if you’re using your own server, be sure to take a few seconds to make the quick and easy mods to compat.browser in order to truly offer a “mobile” version of your site.
Locking down the Back-end
Do you really want users or, for that matter, search bots, poking around in your backend? I mean, your site’s backend silly! …I didn’t think so! So, in that case, again you’re going to want to lock down those pages using one technique or another that inevitably requires server-side access. If you don’t, anybody can look under the hood of your site and check out lists, libraries, etc. That’s not really a great idea, especially if your backend isn’t customized and then you’re ruining the User Experience (buzzword!) for the visitor. This is a biggie IMO for a public-facing site. The experience needs to be consistent. It needs to look good inside and out, or else don’t show me your insides! Again, not possible in most hosted environments, so bear this in mind.
Yes, you can, in most cases, use SharePoint Designer to modify your site and go hog wild with branding, data view web parts, etc. However, you can’t deploy any custom web parts in most hosted environments, so plan ahead. Do your research and definitely assess the website’s content needs up front before settling on SharePoint.
Please keep in mind that I still drink the SharePoint Kool Aid! This is just a diatribe to warn my fellow fan girls/boys that SharePoint isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s not open source, it isn’t always flexible, and hosting options are relatively limited – especially when you’re talking about the type of client that is looking to Foundation and not Server.
So, what options are there? Host it yourself, on your own hardware. Host it with Rackspace on their hardware and with their stellar support. But…
If you just want to one-click-publish, i.e. purchase a hosting plan and go-live, here are my thoughts… (Please keep in mind this is my personal opinion/experience and also I’m strictly looking at Foundation hosting)
These guys are number one b/c they offer FTP access to the virtual site collection files. This was perfect for me and gave me access to fix pretty much every one of my issues listed above except deploying custom web parts. However, I wouldn’t doubt that if I asked for that option they would turn me down without a support call or email and a really informative response. Customer service is also A+!
They have great packages for Foundation hosting of all sizes/price ranges. They have great support and offer a team of SharePoint gurus at your disposal. You are definitely in good hands w/ these folks. They don’t allow you to access any of the config. files though