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Stay away from folders in SharePoint!

I led and participated in several SharePoint implementations over the recent years and the number one organizational need I see is document management (file storage, sharing). I believe SharePoint is a superior tool for document management. Yet, it strikes me every time I see people replicating folder structures they used to have on their computers or shared drives.

I will be blunt about it and I know some will disagree with my opinion, but using folders in SharePoint is a really poor practice. The first question I want to ask pro-folder users is why users switched to SharePoint in the first place. If you are using folders in SharePoint, you have one very expensive network drive to administer, maintain and pay licensing fees for!

Here are some of the reasons not to use folders in SharePoint

  • Impact to search capability when files are hidden in nested folders. You are essentially recreating nested folders you had on network drives
  • URL length limitation. Folders increase URL length, which is limited to 255 characters. You are out of luck at that point
  • Security at folder level is a nightmare. Don’t even think about doing it
  • User experience (navigation, finding documents) just stinks with folders
  • File duplication – with folders you can deposit multiple copies of same file – not a good thing when you try to organize documents and data in the first place

So what’s the best practice to store documents in SharePoint? The answer is simple – by tagging them with document properties (columns of Meta Data in SharePoint terms) you can create ahead of migration.


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