Portals are great for acting as a central information hub. Most portals are built with the concept of a hierarchy. At the top level of the hierarchy will be the main portal landing page. The main landing page will be used for companywide communication and information. You may find announcements, a corporate calendar or perhaps your daily lunch menu available on the main portal.
Below the main portal will be various team or project sites. These subsites will be comprised of various information pertinent to the team or project that uses them.
Portals give flexibility in the type and amount of information you can keep on them. Portals typically have different types of content libraries that support unique sets of information. For example, some libraries are meant to keep documents such as Word or Excel spreadsheets. Other libraries may consist of a list of frequently used web URLs while another library may house a list of defects in your product. These libraries are the key to organizing and displaying your data.
With the organization around libraries, portals tend to be a bit more ridged with what you can do with the data you store. If a document library owner wants you to fill out a form with the document title, author and notes about the contents before you upload it, you will have to fill that out.
The idea of metadata is also a term you will frequently hear when talking about portals. Although the information you upload is data itself, there is often times other data that describes the original data included. This is called metadata. In the document library example above, the metadata such as document title, author and description are things that help classify the data itself. Everything loaded into a portal has some set of metadata with it. This makes it easy to organize data and create special views of your data based on the metadata. For example, you could create a view in your document library of all documents authored by a specific person.
When it comes to using a portal, organization and tracking are the key words. If you want to organize or track a set of data, use a portal.