3 Biggest Limitations of SharePoint Online

Are you running into limitations when migrating file servers?
Are you frustrated with the limitations of SharePoint and OneDrive?

Our partners & customers

Trusted by
1000+ IT Solution Providers and Enterprises

 TeamLogic IT
OGL Computer
Red Bull
Connectis IT Solutions Provider

Are you familiar with these SharePoint Online limitations?

  • 5,000 items - If you have a large number of items in a document library, performance degrades to the point where it becomes unusable.
  • 300,000 items - This is the limit on the number of documents users can sync with the OneDrive sync client. The performance starts to degrade.
  • 400 characters URL limit - The URL path for all files and folders cannot exceed 400 characters (and no more than 400 characters for a single file or folder name in the URL).

SharePoint Online is included as part of the Office 365 offering. The benefits encourage businesses to migrate their file server to SharePoint Online, saving the cost of maintaining an on-premises file server.

However, there are some limitations that you should be aware of before you embark on SharePoint Online migration. If you encounter these issues, this may not be the right solution for you.

  • 5,000 items limitation in a document library
  • 10,000 items sync limitation for the OneDrive client
  • Requirements for NTFS permissions reorganization
  • Limitation on maximum name length
  • Prohibitive costs of data reorganization
  • 93-day threshold for the recycle bin
  • Lack of support for legacy application data (databases, etc.)
SharePoint Online limitations

A Real-World Example

Before we go into the individual points, here is a real-life example from a recent customer conversation:

A Real-World Example
  • The company was trying to migrate more than 700,000 files from a Synology NAS to SharePoint Online to leverage its Office 365 subscription.
  • The data set contained very long paths and file names, which prevented some files from being migrated.
  • The OneDrive sync client was installed on over 50 laptops.
  • The synchronization brought the network down for hours.
  • Microsoft pointed out that OneDrive sync performance degrades when there are more than 100,000 items, and recommended creating multiple sites with fewer than 100,000 items each.
  • The company decided that the cost of restructuring and the uncertainty were too high, and began looking for alternatives that could work with the existing data.

"Do you want to sub-divide and reorganize the original 700,000 single file repository into seven different SharePoint libraries? What about the cost of retraining staff to get used to the new SharePoint Online locations?"

SharePoint Online Limitation

Limit #1: Items to Sync and Items in Library

According to the SharePoint Online documentation:

"Although SharePoint Online can store 30 million documents per library, for optimum performance, we recommend syncing no more than 300,000 files across all document libraries. Additionally, the same performance issues can occur if you have 300,000 items or more across all libraries you are syncing, even if you are not syncing all items in those libraries..."

Anecdotally, however, performance starts to degrade after 100,000 items. And oddly enough, the SharePoint documentation mentions this number in other contexts. Whether it's 300,000 or 100,000, the bottom line is that in many real-world enterprise environments with more files, the OneDrive sync client has serious performance issues, so users eventually have to switch to the Web interface. Only the smallest organizations with the smallest data sets can benefit from the ease of use of a mapped drive.

Compared to the OneDrive sync limitation, the 5000 view item limitation in a library is a more serious issue. Once you exceed 5,000 items in a library, it becomes almost unusable.

Possible Workaround

Reorganize data across multiple sites and libraries so that none has more than 100,000 files and folders. If the OneDrive client connects to sites with more than 300,000 total items, switch to the web interface and don't use OneDrive sync. If the total number of your files is small, this workaround is OK.

Maximum Name Length Limitations

Limit #2: Maximum Name Length Limitations

This limitation is another common problem when migrating file shares to SharePoint Online. It usually manifests itself in an error like this:

"The specified file or folder name is too long. The URL path for all files and folders must be 400 characters or less (and no more than 400 characters for any single file or folder name in the URL). Please type a shorter file or folder name."

The migration will fail for any files that do not meet this requirement. And since this is the upper limit for the relative URL containing the entire path and name of the document library, this happens far too often. The result is an incomplete or aborted migration.

Another, more serious limit you may encounter is the 256-character limit on your Windows PC, when users synchronize SharePoint Online document libraries with their PCs. The error message may look like the following:

"The file name(s) would be too long for the destination folder. You can shorten the file name and try again, or try a location that has a shorter path".

Possible Workaround

Use tools that automatically shorten names to meet requirements. This is a scary workaround suggested because the files are not isolated. Common file types like Adobe InDesign or AutoCAD all have linked files from the main file to the supporting files. If the file name is truncated, the integrity of the file bundle is no longer guaranteed. Use this workaround only if your files are isolated.

SharePoint Online Limitation

Limit #3: Prohibitive Costs of Data Reorganization

In addition to reorganizing file server data into different silos in different document libraries, reorganizing permissions is also a major headache.

The following quotes illustrate why some people feel that breaking permission inheritance is not supported by SharePoint, while others point out that it is. It's confusing because the support is there, but only for relatively small data sets. The documentation explains:

"A list can have up to 30 million items, and a library can have up to 30 million files and folders. When a list, library, or folder contains more than 100,000 items, you can't break permissions inheritance on the list, library, or folder. Nor can you re-inherit permissions on it. However, you can still break inheritance on the individual items within that list, library, or folder, up to the maximum number of unique permissions in the list or library..."

This can turn permissions migration and management into a data reorganization nightmare to avoid manually breaking permission inheritance for elements in the list, library, or folder.

Possible Workaround

Reorganize data across multiple sites and libraries so that none has more than 100,000 files and folders. Redo the folder and file permissions when files and folders are reorganized. This is not a workaround, but rather a tedious way to migrate data.

Honorable Mention #1
- 93 Day Recycle Bin Threshold

When you delete items in SharePoint, they're placed in the Recycle Bin, but they remain there for only 93 days. After that, they cannot be restored. So you need a backup strategy to work around this limitation, or you need to train your employees to understand this limitation if there are documents they don't want to lose.

Employee training is also a cost that is often overlooked. The cost won't be felt for several months if employees can't recover important files or folders.

Honorable Mention #1 - 93 Day Recycle Bin Threshold

Honorable Mention #2
- Lack of Application Support

Lack of support for older applications like databases, AutoCAD, QuickBook or even Adobe InDesign.

Many older applications, especially databases, require block-level access to database files. SharePoint Online cannot support these applications.

Other types of applications, such as AutoCAD or InDesign, create files as bundles, including many supporting files in relative locations associated with the main file. Any file name changes by truncating or shortening will cause problems with these applications.

Honorable Mention #2 - Lack of Application Support

Are you ready to try something new?

If SharePoint's limitations are keeping you from migrating file servers to the cloud, there's a better way!

Hybrid Cloud File Server

Take advantage of cloud efficiency and cloud mobility without having to live with the limitations of SharePoint.

With Gladinet solutions, you can either cloud-enable existing file servers AS-IS or use Amazon S3 or Windows Azure to set up a hybrid cloud file server environment with your current file servers. Either way, there are no limitations.

Mapped Drive

A mapped drive over the HTTPS channel to the corporate file server is an important feature. Employees are familiar with a mapped drive, and no additional training is required.

Active Directory

Corporate users already have corporate identities in Active Directory and the associated Active Directory federated service and SAML single sign-on. They don't need additional credentials to access a file-sharing solution.

File Locking

Most file sharing solutions provide manual file locking in the form of "check in" and "check out". Gladinet provides automatic file locking by detecting requests to open files. When Microsoft Word opens a file, file locking is automatically initiated and automatically terminated when file processing is complete.

File Permissions

Finally, the ability to integrate with Active Directory and NTFS permissions makes it so much easier for system administrators to set up permission control. The permission features make the Gladinet solution stands out among the peers.

How do we overcome these limitations?

  1. File Server AS-IS - We add a cloud layer on top of your existing file server to enable HTTPS access for Active Directory and SMB/CIFS protocols. Your file server has no such limitation.
  2. Cloud Storage Services - We use cloud storage services such as Amazon S3 and Windows Azure Blob Storage. These services are highly scalable globally.
  3. Avoid Synchronization - 100% file synchronization is a terrible idea for corporate data. First, the dataset is huge. Second, it is not secure at all with an increased attack surface. On-demand synchronization is much better for the business use case.
Cloud Drive Mapping

Cloud Drive Mapping

Drive Mapping is an essential feature for online file access. End users can easily access files and folders from a mapped drive via drag and drop over the Internet.

Global File Locking

Global File Locking

File Locking is an essential feature for online file access and team collaboration to avoid conflicts. End users must control global concurrent online file access by using file locking to maintain consistency.

Secure Mobile Access

Secure Mobile Access

Have you spent hours troubleshooting VPN connections? Have both your staff and IT support team lost productivity due to downed VPN connections? VPNs are complicated; there is a better way!

Collaboration Features

Collaboration Features

Cloud Network Shares

Your familiar network shares from file servers become team folders that you can access directly from the cloud.

Remote Drive Mapping

You get a drive letter in Windows Explorer to access the files in the cloud.

Global File Locking

You will get file locking when you work on files from the cloud.

Compliance Features

Compliance Features

Easy Active Directory

Active Directory integration is easy, whether it's a local or remote file server.

Audit & History Report

Keep compliance and control in mind by tracking all administrative tasks and activities.

Data Protection

Data protection comes with military-grade encryption, secure connections, and more. Automatically use existing users and permissions to save time and money on setup.

We are ready to help.

Contact us to discuss what your organization need in regards to
deploy the secure remote access and file sharing solution.
We'll provide best practices, product expertise, reference design, demo, and assistance right away!

Ready to boost mobile productivity and enable workforce to work from home today?