Optimal Designs for Managing Documents in SharePoint
This blog post is an extract of a MacroView White Paper. Download the full White Paper here.
As more organizations explore the potential of using Microsoft SharePoint for Document Management and Email Management a question that arises frequently is “What is the best Information Architecture for a SharePoint DM store?” In other words, what is the best way to arrange the various SharePoint 2010 ‘building blocks’ – Site Collections, Sites, Document Libraries, Document Sets, Folders and metadata columns – to come up a design that is optimal in terms of volume handling, functionality and ease of use? That last objective – ease of use – is critical because if the users do not find it easy to interact with the document store they will likely store their documents in file shares or local drives and their emails in Outlook folders and the SharePoint DM project will not be successful.
Deeply Nested Folder Trees
There is now general recognition that deeply nested trees of SharePoint folders in one or two large document libraries is NOT a good design. When SharePoint 2007 was first released these designs appeared to offer an easy means of migrating existing File Shares into SharePoint – the tree of folders from the ‘P:’ drive were simply reproduced, one for one, with SharePoint folders. The fact that the full SharePoint folder names become part of the URL for a document stored in SharePoint rapidly led to URLs exceeding their maximum permitted length of 255 characters – especially if the Folder names were long and meaningful. These designs also led to very large numbers of documents being stored in a single Document Library, which in turn caused poor performance when viewing the lists of documents in those libraries.
So if deeply nested folders are bad, what alternative design is best? How about using Document Sets instead of Folders? Isn’t it better to use metadata columns – particularly Managed Metadata columns - instead of either Folders or Document Sets? Don’t you need to have lots of Site Collections if you want to store a large volume of documents? Maybe we should just use Search and not attempt to have a hierarchy of storage containers at all?
The first point I would make is that there is no single design that is right for every organization. To come up with an optimal SharePoint DM design you do need to take specific business requirements into account.
A second point is that size does matter – lots of designs work well enough if you have only a small volume of documents or users, but good design makes a major difference when there are hundreds of terabytes of documents and / or thousands of users. A related observation is that document stores tend to grow very quickly so you should be designing your SharePoint DM store to cope with volume.
Viewing and Navigating the Structure of a SharePoint document Store
MacroView DMF is the best-available tool for viewing and navigating the structure of a Microsoft SharePoint
document store. It shows you the complete tree structure of your SharePoint document store – it automatically (and efficiently) displays all areas of the store that contain document content for which you have access permission, or where you have permission to save new documents and emails.
The MacroView DMF tree-view display extends down to the hierarchies of those metadata columns that have been defined as being available for Metadata Navigation.
Unlike the OOB SharePoint web browser UI, the MacroView DMF tree display does not stop when it encounters a break in permission inheritance.
Efficient Display and Navigation of Large SharePoint Trees
MacroView DMF copes with very large SharePoint document stores. It never attempts to display more than a threshold number of sub-nodes when you click to expand any node in the SharePoint tree. Instead MacroView DMF will prompt you to enter some characters contained in the titles of sub-sites or libraries, or in the names of the document sets or folders, and then display only those sub-sites, libraries, document sets or folders whose titles or names do contain the nominated characters.
This filtering has excellent performance and minimal bandwidth consumption, thanks to purpose-built MacroView DMF components running at the SharePoint server. The overall result is efficient, not just in terms of machine resources and also for the ‘real human’ user – who is able to quickly drill down to the library, document set or folder that they want to work with. This filtering works even when the number of document sets of folders exceeds the List View Threshold.
MacroView DMF displays the full SharePoint site and library tree, from web application level down to metadata navigation ‘virtual folders’.
Familiar, Even Better User Experience
MacroView DMF makes SharePoint feel familiar for users coming from Windows file shares and Outlook folders. If anything, the experience is better than that in Windows Explorer or Outlook because MacroView DMF provides a number of ways of efficiently navigating around a large SharePoint tree to find the container that they want to work with – e.g. a specific library, folder or document set.
Much Better than the OOB SharePoint web Browser UI
Compared to using the Out-Of-the-Box SharePoint web browser UI, MacroView DMF provides a much better user experience for viewing and navigating the tree structure of a SharePoint document store. MacroView DMF respects the SharePoint security model and has the following advantages over the web browser UI:
- Lets you view and navigate the SharePoint document store while you work in familiar applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Word, Adobe Reader, etc.
- Shows the complete SharePoint tree, but not ‘furniture nodes’ such as Pages, Images, Site Collection Pages, Site Collection Images, Style Library, etc.
- Copes with breaks in permission inheritance.
- Avoids issues with the List View Threshold.
- Is not subject to the 2,000 sub-site limitation.
- Facilitates efficient navigation around a large SharePoint tree.
MacroView DMF Enables Optimal Designs
The inherent limitations of the OOB SharePoint web browser UI tend to have a major and negative impact on the way organizations design their SharePoint document stores. By making it easy for the end user to view the full tree of sites and libraries, document sets and folders for which he / she has permission, and efficient to navigate across those nodes, MacroView DMF designs that can be optimal in terms of volume handling, manageability and ease of use, but which would not really be usable if all you have to work with is the OOB SharePoint web browser UI.
The paper looks at three optimal designs for a SharePoint document store and examines some alternative design approaches that tend to be less optimal.
Integration with LOB Systems
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