While Microsoft SharePoint is a great tool to ‘share’ critical data across the entire project team from the office to the field, the technology does have some limitations. Rockford Construction, www.rockfordconstruction.com, Grand Rapids, Mich., has been using the SharePoint technology for a number of years—and it works very well for sharing information internally and externally on a project.

Rockford Construction uses SharePoint as a way to give field representatives access to information about projects. Shawn Patridge, vice president of IT, Rockford Construction says, “That is the main reason that we started using SharePoint—more than half of our employees are out in the field on the jobsites so they don’t have direct connectivity into our network drives. So by using SharePoint they are able to get to all the same information externally that the employees are internally.”

Since that time, the company has expanded the use of the technology, allowing subcontractors, architects, and owners to access SharePoint as well. Rockford is able to configure SharePoint for each job, and inside of SharePoint there are different intranet, extranet, and Internet sites for the various departments and project stakeholders—corporate office, jobsite, owners, etc. This allows each user to view the most critical information related to their aspect of the project.

For many construction companies file size, storage, and documentation can easily become a hurdle when using a platform such as SharePoint. Patridge says, “The problem that we have is obviously with size because of the retention period that we need for our documentation. Because we are keeping up with all of our documentation only on SharePoint, our data storage has become quite large.”

In order to solve the storage challenge, the construction company decided to move its documentation to the cloud. StorSimple, www.storsimple.com, Santa Clara, Calif., takes all the information out of the sequel database and puts it in RBS (remote blob storage). This technology increases performance of SharePoint for Rockford Construction.

Patridge says, “That is what we first started looking at it for was just to improve our SharePoint performance. Once we had it in place, we started to see the other value that we had on that appliance as well.” Other big benefits of the cloud solution includes instantaneous backup of project information; the ability to do replication; and a disaster-recovery solution.

Going forward, the company plans to extend its disaster-recovery plans. The company is setting up a new disaster-recovery site, which will be fully tested and synchronized through the StorSimple solution.

For construction companies the cloud can provide a real competitive edge. Not only does it improve performance, but it also provides storage, a backup device, and offsite disaster recovery. But some construction companies may still be worried about security and wonder ‘is my data safe in the cloud?’ Patridge says for him the cloud is very inexpensive and has incredible security capabilities.

As the solutions become more secure and technologically advanced, this opens the door for contractors to take advantage of low-cost backup, storage, and disaster-recovery options.