I was at a client site this week and they currently have Confluence and are moving to SharePoint 2007 and wanted to understand the differences between the two products. I have personally implemented both products in different environments and like both of them. Each as its strengths and weaknesses.
Here is a side by side comparison:
Made by Atlassian in Australia. In my experience, Atlassian has wicked customer service, a great support network, etc.
|Made by Microsoft. SharePoint is one of Microsoft’s most successful products and Microsoft has made a major commitment to the product. Support in my experience is standard product support but doesn’t have the tender love and care you get from Atlassian staff.|
|Consulting Support||Limited, but in some markets quite good. Look for open-source experts as Atlassian has strong ties to the open source community. The software itself is Java based.||Huge consulting market from small shops to major consulting companies such as Accenture. One of the major pluses of the platform is the talent pool to help implement and configure it.|
|Price||Free if you are a non-profit company and you ask them nicely. Server license is available ranging from $800-12000 depending on number of users.||Pricing starts at about $5000 but for intranet cost is per named user at about $75-94 a user. 200 users would cost about $20,000 vs. about $4,000 for confluence.|
|Search||Good with confluence content and Microsoft documents. No federated search model included. Did you mean feature allows for synonym searches.||Enterprise level search engine with relevance ranking, synonyms, large scale searches (up to 500,000 documents easily and up to 50 million in theory), and federation model. Out of the box search can index other web sites, file servers, etc. and plugins through third party products can index other systems such as OpenText, Oracle, SAP, etc.|
|Look and feel customization||If you’re changing the logo or basic colours you’re fine. If you want to create a whole new interface, you will find it a challenge. Confluence uses SiteMesh templates which are a set of XML/HTML files that need to be customized directly. In my direct experience (and I have done lots of HTML editing), wading through the library of templates is not a trivial undertaking.||SharePoint supports customization at multiple levels through separation of layout, look and feel, and master pages. SharePoint Designer is provided as a GUI based tool for creating new themes as well. Template system is significantly simpler than Confluence in my experience to customize.|
|WIKI||Stronger than SharePoint in supporting WIKI mark-up. Rich text editor is not bad but not as strong as SharePoint.||WIKI template provided as a site template. WIKI mark-up is limited to embedding links in text, but rich text editor make WIKI mark-up less needed in most cases.|
|Security||LDAP based. Authorization model is 100% stored in Confluence, so groups need to managed within the product. Single Sign On is not provided.||SharePoint is Active Directory based by default. Single Sign On is provided with Windows using Internet Explorer – users already logged into Windows are automatically logged into SharePoint. Groups in SharePoint can map to Active Directory groups which makes management somewhat easier than Confluence.|
|Web Parts||Confluence supports a plugin model and there are some available. Product availability is small in comparison to the third party web part market for SharePoint.||Long list of web parts are supplied out of the box for SharePoint. Massive third party market for Web Parts including integration with major vendors such Oracle, SAP, OpenText, etc. Web Parts can be easily built in .NET if custom parts are required.|
|Document Management||Version control, linking and embeddable. However, there is no check-in/out, content types, workflow, etc.||Much stronger in SharePoint including features such as check-in/out, content types, meta-data, integration with Office 2007, workflow, authorization models, etc. that are typical of an enterprise document management system.|
|Integration with Office||No support.||Very strong integration as long as you’re on Office 2007.|
|Other Features||Blogs, discussion forums, etc. are provided.||Too many features to name, but SharePoint is an enterprise portal with dozens of additional features including: reporting integration, dashboards, dozens of web parts, workflow, forms server, etc. See this link for a complete list of features.|
Comparing the two products is a bit of an apples to orange comparison because the markets for each are quite different. Confluence is primarily a collaboration tool for small to medium size enterprises. SharePoint is an enterprise portal that includes collaboration but also dozens of other portal features.
In my direct experience, SharePoint is more user friendly for end-users – creating pages, changing content, managing documents seems to be more intuitive than in Confluence. If you’re a power WIKI user then its less of an issue but I handed it to an HR department and found they struggled with it. SharePoint requires a lot of pre-configuration to get it right but if its set up right I find the adoption tends to be easier.
If you really want a strong WIKI collaboration tool and don’t have much money then Confluence is a very good product. The support you will get from Atlassian is awesome and they are constantly improving it. However, if you’re looking at enterprise collaboration, document management, search, etc. then in my experience you may be looking at an upgrade to SharePoint in the long run as your user base becomes more sophisticated.