SharePoint Advice

Note: This may not be the appropriate forum for this discussion/questions.
I work for a small construction company as a project estimator. I'm not an IT professional and I have limited computing skills. I understand more than most mainstream computer users but almost nothing compared to someone that does IT for a living.
We are in the process of either purchasing or creating a file management system that can automate some of the tasks of managing electronic and paper communication. We are looking for something that can help us keep track of documents for each job including plans, specifications, purchase orders, contracts, RFI's, emails, estimates, etc. Also, we would like to be able to host some sort of file sharing site, preferably that is integrated with our company web site, for our vendors to view and or download plans, specifications, addenda, etc. We have an ftp site that is password protected currently. This requires us to periodically change the password and notify our vendors manually. We also have sharepoint and have made some inroads in utilizing the software for these purposes but do not have someone on staff that is familiar enough with the platform to use it to its full potential.
Our options come down to purchasing a software solution, hiring a contractor to create and implement a solution for us, creating and managing a solution ourselves, or remaining with the status quo. The problem with the last option is that it will stifle of potential growth.
So I think what I am looking for are reliable resources with which to educate myself on what we have available and what it will take to meet our needs. I'm not entirely sure I even understand all of our needs at this point but I know enough to know that our current system for handling files and information is broken at best. If we were to be audited for example, it would be a major endevor to recover information from previous jobs several years back. We are somewhat larger than we were several years ago and we are beginning to diversify somewhat into other areas of construction. This makes our need for a comprehensive file management solution even greater. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. I will do my best to answer as many questions as I can but there will probably be just as many "I had not thought of that yet"'s as actual definative yes or no answers.
Thank you for your help!

Mods: If this post is better suited for another forum, please feel free to move it. Thanks.
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  1. Something of this scope is best left to an on-site pro that is familiar with SharePoint and other collaboration needs. There are many companies offering comprehensive document and imaging/storage solutions.

    Xerox would be a good one to check out, just be prepared for a whole lot of spending for any solution you can't implement in-house with who you have on staff. A full-time Admin/database tech to manage an in-house system will be about $60-$80k a year depending on your area and IS job market. Training would run about 5-10k for a good course, but that of-course will not gain you the experience which is pretty much needed to avoid costly mistakes (getting trapped in non-standard based software/equipment, knowhing when enough tech is enough, what file formats to pick etc..)
  2. I had a feeling this would be the answer I could get. We aren't really looking to hire someone right now, the contractor that handles some of our network is not very familiar with SharePoint from the standpoint of creating a user-friendly program that utilizes it, a prepackaged solution will be in the range of a good class, and I don't have the time to take a class like that. (Not that it isn't somewhat tempting from a "increase my marketability" standpoint.)
    Well on the prepackaged side, are there ones that you would recommend over others? I'll do my own research as well, of course, but I'd like other opinions as well.
    Thanks hang-the-9.
  3. Best answer
    Any of the major players can help, IBM, Xerox, probably EMC, all have document solutions. Your first step though would be to identifiy needs of the documentation, what format it needs to be in (you want .pdf, Contactor A. wants Word, Contractor B. wants hard copy and PostScript files), who will have rights to create new areas, who has read only rights, and to what, really lots of things.

    There are sites out there that offer short term contracts to match people looking for work with companies, a bit like but more of a craigslist type deal. A person with doc management/Share Point skills puts out a resume/bid, a company looks it over and accepts. You got a temp. Maybe find a tech agency to go though as well for a short contact with someone to at least get you on the right path. You'd be looking at maybe $50/hour for your cost to the agency for the skills you'd need. Just keep in mind that if you get someone that they have not just one case like yours under their belt, once you start implementing and spending for software/infrastructure any changes will be costly. Say the guy states you need so and so software and so and so server back-end. You get it, and find out it's too slow, or crashes, or the software is missing features you need, now you are spending more money upgrading and migrating over to the new platform. You should make sure you ask not about the good stuff, but failures or mistakes also. One mistake that needs to be fixed will gain someone a ton of experience you just can't get from just checking off lists mindlessly.
  4. Thanks for the help!
  5. Best answer selected by BlueFireAngel.
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