Why you should avoid folders like the plague in SharePoint

In this article I hope to cover a few reasons why you should avoid using folders in SharePoint. In a perfect world there would never be a need for folders in SharePoint as every user would correctly tag up every document and the system would perfectly sort the documents into the correct area then display it to every user perfectly, however this is the real world and there are quite a few reasons you may want to or be forced to create folders.

My aim is to make you pause and consider if you really need to create that folder before you do though.

URL Length Restriction

SharePoint is only capable of handling up to about 255 characters when it comes to generating a link to your document, this takes into account the entire URL to get you to that file including the domain name, site names, library name, folder structure, and then finally the document name. Now SharePoint has some nifty tricks to handle long URLs that it generates itself but if the minimum amount of information required to get to your document get’s above about 255 characters then you’re going to encounter some bizarre issues due to SharePoint truncating the URL.

More details on this can be found at the link below, the information relates to SharePoint 2010 however the process hasn’t changed –

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff919564%28v=office.14%29.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396

Usability

Another aspect to consider is that folders are a pain to upload documents directly to in SharePoint and also take longer to navigate than a well-managed, metadata tagged set of documents. Again this can partly be avoided by creating views which don’t show the folder structure but then you’re simply doubling up on your work for little to no benefit. Metadata is the way forward.

Also just to give a very basic example of an issue I’ve recently witnessed, let’s say that you have a library which has two folders in it. For whatever reason your users upload documents to both folders regularly and eventually you notice that you’ve got two seemingly identical documents that may even have the exact same filename in the same library. To most users this is going to cause no end of confusion, and for those who decide to simply hide the folder structure using a view this will appear even more confusing as there may not be an obvious way to tell the difference between the files.

Security

I won’t go into too much detail on security as it’s been covered very well in the article I have linked to below however suffice it to say that managing security on individual folders is a nightmare and error prone, especially if you have multiple views, some of which hide the folder structure. If you really want to go down this route I would suggest at minimum creating sub-sites for each area of the business that requires it so that there is a definite break between areas that require unique permissions (for example a ‘Board’ site or ‘HR’ site).

Click here for further information on the numerous issues behind folder security – http://sharepointpromag.com/blog/sharepoint-folder-permissions-security-fallacy


 

I hope this has been helpful to you all and if you would like me to expand on any points or cover anything I’ve not covered feel free to comment below and I’ll try my best to bring it to you soon.

 

 

 

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