SharePoint Analogies

Analogies are essential to explaining SharePoint, especially to non-technical users.  I’ve always expressed that “SharePoint is a platform”, but what does a platform mean, and why would an end user care about “a platform” (after all, they typically interact with only a few bits of it)?  After all of these years, Microsoft has finally attempted to reach out to the business community and end user (without having to involve IT with the Productivity Hub) via  Here is an analogy to explain Web Applications, Site Collections, and Webs:

The Web Application is the apartment building with one or more floors.

The Site Collection is the (secure) floor with one or more apartments.

The Web is the apartment.

Going further…

A Library is like a bookshelf in the apartment.

A List is like an organizational container in the apartment.

Expand from here!  What are your analogies for end users and executive management?


  1. The apartment building is a good analogy.

    I’ve looked at it where each floor is a web application, suites/units/apartments are site collections, rooms are webs. The site collections delineate security permissions — members of one apartment don’t by default have access to other apartments, but members of one apartment can generally access most things inside an apartment. Services like electricity, water, phone, and cable are consumed selectively by apartments which is a bit unlike a farm — web applications usually consume services. So the analogy breaks a bit here, though in most apartment buildings there are demarcation points of services on each, or every 2-3 floors. Each suite has a unique look and feel and usually within there each room is similar overall look to the suite but minor differences depending on it’s use and primary users.

    Extending the other way, buildings (farms) exist in a city (network) — cities have buildings that provide services that are consumed by other buildings (published services). As well you can have different buildings that serve different purposes (residential, commercial, industrial) similar to having farms that serve different purposes (team sites, publishing sites, record management sites).

  2. I thought of adding that a directory would be like a filing cabinet in the room, a forum like a table (with chairs), One drive like a brief case and a secretary in the corner making a note of any kind of activity (and sending you emails of changes if you choose). I’d also thought about documents having photocopies stapled to them when changes are made (versions) but it falls down in the odd place.

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