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SharePoint Folders vs. Metadata


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This presentation explains and illustrates why folders in SharePoint shall be avoided

Published in: Technology
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SharePoint Folders vs. Metadata

  2. 2. @gregoryzelfond About Me  Gregory Zelfond  10+ years of experience with SharePoint  SharePoint advocate, blogger  Love to solve business problems using code-free, out of the box SharePoint configurations  Owner of SharePoint Maven (
  4. 4. @gregoryzelfond What’s wrong with folders? 1. Usability (finding files) 2. URL Length limitation 3. File URL & Sharing 4. Security 5. File duplication 6. 1 lonely view 7. No filtering/sorting/grouping 8. Change is hard 9. Lost documents 10. No breadcrumb 11. 5,000 item limit threshold 12. Cost 13. Empty folders 14. Data Integrity
  5. 5. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 1: Usability  Can you (easily) make sense of this folder structure?  Would you be able to find the document easily?  Every person has their own “mental” map on how to organize files & documents
  6. 6. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 2: URL Length limitation Clients/Projects/Year/Agenda.docx Folder Folder Folder File The total length of URL (server name + list name + all folders + file name) cannot exceed 256 characters! Server List
  7. 7. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 3: File URL  Moving file from one folder to another means change of file URL!  Example: OLD: NEW:  Did you share the file with someone by sending URL to the file? – When you move file from one folder to another, “old” URL is no longer relevant…
  8. 8. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 4: Security  Managing security at a folder level is an administrative nightmare!  20 folders in a library = 20 different security configurations!!!  Also, each time you break the security inheritance from site/document library, your SharePoint performance is impacted!
  9. 9. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 5: File Duplication  Each folder can contain 1 “unique” file name  That means same file can be in multiple folders in same document library  Which one is the right document?  No single source of truth…
  10. 10. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 6: 1 lonely view With folders, not much choice for viewing files…
  11. 11. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 7: No filtering, sorting or grouping …In contrast to metadata, where you can group, sort & filter
  12. 12. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 8: Change is hard!  Changing set folder structures is hard  They just become deeper and wider with time  “Restructuring” folders is a challenge and is rarely done anyway  Metadata allows for quick and easy change
  13. 13. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 9: Lost documents  With folders, documents can easily become “lost” in nested folder hierarchy  This leads to frustration for users and unnecessary file duplication
  14. 14. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 10: No breadcrumb  Can you tell which library or folder I am in?  There is no way for users to know current folder hierarchy  Limited breadcrumb for navigation (does not show full path)
  15. 15. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 11: 5000 item limit threshold  View cannot contain more than 5,000 items (folders + files)  Displaying a folder with > 5,000 files will cause issues  Metadata and indexing resolve the issue  To learn more, read this blog post: to-overcome-sharepoint-5000-item-limit-threshold/
  16. 16. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 12: Cost  If you use folders in SharePoint, you essentially converted SharePoint into an expensive file share or DropBox – “We have always done it this way” mentality – You might be better off going back to file share
  17. 17. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 13: Empty Folders  Can you tell which folders contain files and which are empty? With folders, you can’t  Metadata allows you to see how many files belong to certain metadata property (in parenthesis, when you group)  Better user experience!
  18. 18. @gregoryzelfond Reason # 14: Data Integrity  What’s the difference between 2 folders? – Client A – Client A, Inc.?  If you rely on folder name to carry important piece of information (i.e. company name), you are prone to data integrity issues  Possible issues – Folder names can be misspelled – No single naming convention – You have to recreate same names somewhere else
  19. 19. @gregoryzelfond Should I never use folders in SharePoint?  Folders are great for: – Small teams – Informal file organization – Short projects  Metadata is great for: – Larger teams – When documents need to be shared with lots of people – When there are a lot of content contributors (users who generate/upload files) and consumers (users who find/access files) – Any time you need to easily find documents
  20. 20. @gregoryzelfond Need help with SharePoint?  SharePoint Site Configuration and Customization  Document Migration to SharePoint  SharePoint Implementation Strategy  SharePoint Training  SharePoint User Adoption  SharePoint Governance  SharePoint Project Management
  21. 21. @gregoryzelfond THANK YOU! Visit: Email: Follow: @gregoryzelfond Connect: View: Get in touch if you have questions