3 Biggest Limitations of SharePoint Online

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

Are you familiar with these SharePoint Online limitations?

  • 5,000 item - When you have a large number of items in a document library, the performance degrades to the point that it becomes unusable. 
  • 300,000 item - This is the limit on the number of documents users can sync using OneDrive sync client. Performance starts to degrade.
  • 400 Character URL Limit - 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). 

SharePoint Online is included as a part of the Office 365 offering.
The benefits encourage businesses to migrate their file server to SharePoint online, thus saving the cost of maintaining a local file server.

However, there are several limitations you need to know before you start the SharePoint online migration journey. It may not be the right solution for you if you run into these issues. 

  • 5,000 item limit in a document library
  • 10,000 item sync limit for the OneDrive client
  • NTFS permission reorganization requirements
  • Maximum name length limitations
  • Prohibitive costs of data reorganization
  • 93 day recycle bin threshold
  • Lack of support for legacy application data (databases, etc…) 

A Real-World Example 

Before we discuss each of these items, here's an outline from a real-world example from a recent customer conversation:

  • Company attempted to migrate more than 700,000 files from a Synology NAS to SharePoint Online to leverage their Office 365 subscription.
  • Data set included very long paths and file names which prevented migration of some files.
  • OneDrive sync client installed on over 50 laptops.
  • Sync kills their network for hours at a time.
  • Microsoft advised that OneDrive sync performance degrades above 100,000 items and advised them to create multiple sites with less than 100,000 items each
  • Company decided the reorganization costs and uncertainty was too high and started looking for alternatives that can work with their data as-is.
"Do you want to sub-divide and reorganize the original 700,000 single file repository into seven different SharePoint libraries? How about the re-training cost for employees to get used to the new SharePoint online locations?"

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..."

But anecdotally, performance starts to degrade after 100,000 items. And curiously, that number occurs in other contexts in the SharePoint documentation. Whether it's 300,000 or 100,000, the bottom line is that the OneDrive sync client ends up having severe performance problems in many real-world enterprise environments with more files, and they end up having to push users to the web interface. Only the smallest organizations with the most miniature data sets can benefit from a mapped drive's usability advantages.

Compared to OneDrive sync limitation, the 5000 view item limitation in a library is a more severe one. The moment you exceeded 5,000 items in a library, it almost became unusable. 

Possible Workaround

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

Limit #2: Maximum Name Length Limitations

This limit is another prevalent issue when migrating from file shares to SharePoint Online. It usually manifests as 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."

Migration is going to fail for any files which can't meet this requirement. And since this is the limit for the relative URL, which includes the entire path and document library name, it happens way too often. The result is an incomplete or abandoned migration. 

Another even stricter limit you might encounter is the 256 character limits on your Windows PC when users synchronize the SharePoint Online document libraries to their PCs. The error message may look like this:

"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 truncate names to meet the requirements. This is a scary workaround suggested because files are not isolated. Common file types such as Adobe InDesign or AutoCAD all have linked files from the main file to the supporting files. If the file name is truncated, the file bundle integrity is broken. Only use this workaround if your files are isolated.

Limit #3: Prohibitive Costs of Data Reorganization

In addition to reorganizing file server data into different silos in various document libraries, permission reorganization is also a big headache.

The following quotes help explain why some people think 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 permission migration and management into a nightmare of data reorganization to avoid manually breaking permission inheritance for elements in the list, library, or folder.  

Possible Workaround

Reorganize data across multiple sites and libraries, so none have more than 100,000 files and folders. Redo the folder and file permission when files and folders are reorganized. This is not a workaround but rather a tedious way of data migration. 

Honorable Mention #1
- 93 Day Recycle Bin Threshold

When you delete items in SharePoint, they are placed in the Recycle bin but they only stay there for 93 days. After that, they can't be recovered. So you'll need to have a backup strategy to address that limitation or train employees to understand the limitation if there are documents that they don't want to lose.

Employee training is also a cost that often got ignored. The price will manifest several months down the road when employees can't recover essential files or folders.

Honorable Mention #2
- Lacy of Application Support

Lack of Support for Legacy Applications such as database, AutoCAD, QuickBook, or even Adobe InDesign. 

Many legacy applications, especially databases, require block-level access to database files. SharePoint Online can't support these applications.

Other types of applications such as AutoCAD or InDesign create files as a bundle, including many supporting files in relative locations linked to the main file. Any file name changes through truncate or shorten will break these applications.

Are you ready to try something new ?

If the SharePoint limitations are holding you back from migrating file servers to Cloud, there is a better way!

A solution without such limitations

Hybrid Cloud File Server

Take advantage of the cloud efficiency and cloud mobility doesn't mean you have to live with SharePoint limitations.

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

Mapped drive over HTTPS channel to the corporate file server is a crucial 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 related Active Directory federation service and SAML single-sign-on. They don't need yet another set of credentials to access a file-sharing solution.

File Locking

Most of the file-sharing solutions offer manual file locking in the forms of "file check-in" and "check out." Gladinet provides automatic file locking by detecting file opening requests. When Microsoft Word is opening a file, the file locking process will be initiated automatically and finished automatically when the file editing finishes.

File Permissions

Finally, the ability to integrate with Active Directory and NTFS permission makes it so much easier for system administrators to set up the 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 across the globe. 
  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. Using on-demand synchronization is much better for the business use case.

Cloud Drive Mapping

Drive Mapping is an essential feature for online file access. It is easy for end-users to access files and folders over the Internet from within a mapped drive with drag and drop capabilities.

Global File Locking

File Locking is a vital feature for online file access and team collaboration to eliminate conflicts. End-users need to control global concurrent online access to files by using file locking to maintain consistency.

Secure Mobile Access

Did you spend many hours troubleshooting VPN links? Did both your employees and the IT support team lose productivity due to down VPN links? VPNs are complicated; there is a better way!

Collaboration Features

Cloud Network Shares

The network shares you are familiar with from the file server will become team folders directly accessible from Cloud.

Remote Drive Mapping

You will get a drive letter in Windows Explorer to access the files from Cloud.

Global File Locking

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

Compliance Features

Easy Active Directory

Active Directory integration is easy whether the file server is local or remote.

Audit & History Report

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Data Protection

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