Introduction to SharePoint Architecture for Site Owners

Justin AntczakMon, 11/11/2019 - 14:42

There are many decisions to make when building out your SharePoint architecture.  It is critical that the site architecture is planned out in advance so that your SharePoint environment is scalable as more content is added. 

It can seem daunting at first, so here are some key points to consider when planning out your sites.

  • Determine how many site collections you need and what they will be.  Site collections share permission groups, content types, and other forms of enterprise content.  Each site collection is segregated and although sharing features across site collections is possible, they are meant to be separate for the most part.  For example, you may have a separate site collection for each department, such as Sales, Information Technology, Human Resources, etc.  This would allow each department to have their own customizations.  The Information Technology Department likely structures their content differently than Sales and therefore does not need the same content types.  However, there may be situations where you do want multiple sites in a single site collection.  For example, you may need to have the same groups shared across sites.  There are ways to address the need for both.  Security groups can be shared across site collections for example, but they are more difficult to maintain than a SharePoint group.  These are all important things to consider when deciding how to organize your site collections.


  • Determine what subsites you will need or if you will use them at all.  Many times, your SharePoint sites will mimic your org chart.  However, deep site structures can be problematic from a maintenance perspective.  Subsites can be difficult to move around and change if there is an organizational change.  SharePoint hub sites can help share navigation across sites thus allowing a flat architecture.  There are other considerations too, such as using subsites to differentiate permissions, especially for external users.  Evaluate your business needs thoroughly to decide which structure is best for your organization.


  • Evaluate how groups will be set up.  Office 365 Groups can be very useful for organizing your users.  Groups are shared across several applications, such as Outlook, Teams, SharePoint, etc.  You may have specific SharePoint groups set up for use on individual sites, especially if you have migrated from an older version of SharePoint on premises.  While utilizing the built-in group creation from applications such as Teams can speed up processes, caution should be used so that groups don’t get out of hand.  One common use case is creating a Team in Microsoft Teams for a specific project.  This results in a SharePoint site being created for the team as well.  After the project is complete, there should be a process for reviewing and archiving the site if it is not going to be visited frequently.  Orphaned sites can lead to poor search results, maintenance problems and other issues.


  • Decide how lists and libraries will be set up.  Lists and libraries are the building blocks of SharePoint.  It may be tempting to just throw everything into the default document library on a site, but that is not recommended.  Metadata is very useful for categorizing documents and items, but not all metadata makes sense for every document.  Plan out what metadata you will use for each list and library when you are creating your sites.  You may even determine that a whole site is not needed, and a library would suffice instead.  Although content can be moved around in SharePoint after the fact, it is much better to plan out the structure of the sites in advance.


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