Leveraging SharePoint and Office Technologies
I would be remiss to not at least mention SharePoint when talking about user data. While it is still more common for data to be stored on file servers, a better option for many types of data storage is SharePoint. Not only does SharePoint provide a platform for storing and managing documents, it also offers a rich collaboration environment that enables many users to check out and check in documents and even work on the same document simultaneously (with the new versions of Office).
SharePoint is a very extendable platform that covers several areas of functionality, of which the most relevant here are content management, search, and data “insight.” The SharePoint portal can be accessed through comprehensive interfaces that leverage specialized Web Parts, such as a calendar Web Part or a picture Web Part; many third parties create Web Parts to integrate their functionality with SharePoint. Any data storage solution must take into account the type of data stored and how it is handled by the users. SharePoint can provide a much more robust experience with better organization than just placing files in an ever-growing file structure. SharePoint also provides the capability to maintain versions of documents and metadata and offers highly configurable workflow and search capabilities.
Another nice feature of SharePoint is that Office documents can be accessed directly from a browser using Office Web Apps. Office 2010 and SharePoint are very ...