How Are You Using Document Libraries In SharePoint?


SharePoint is well known for its content management ability. We can store files --  or rather tons of files -- in SharePoint (inside Document Library) and use search and approval workflow features on top of it. I have seen many organizations are using only the content management feature of SharePoint by uploading tons of files. But, is it the right way of using SharePoint?

In SharePoint Online, document library can hold 30 million files. Refer to the SharePoint software boundaries and limits ( Although please refrain from using this upper limit in a single document library. Try to classify and store your documents within multiple sites and document libraries. Also, having a nested folder structure in the document library is a good idea.

Using SharePoint as File Share?

If you are planning to store a large number of documents inside SharePoint like a file share, the below points are worth considering.

Point #1 - Threshold limitation

SharePoint document library has a classic threshold issue of a 5,000 item limit. If you try to move files or folders beyond this limit, you will start experiencing slowness while retrieving the documents. Folders also get the count in the threshold limit.


A document library can have more than 5,000 documents, but try to place them in a folder structure. A single folder should not have more than 5,000 documents unless you have indexed columns to overcome the threshold issue.

Point #2 - Open Document Library with Windows Explorer

SharePoint out of the box supports opening a document library with Windows Explorer. With this option, you can move the documents faster to SharePoint as a normal windows operation of copy/paste.



This option has certain limitations,

  • Open with Windows Explorer option is only available for Internet Explorer users. In other browsers, it is simply grayed out.
  • Metadata for the document does not get copied over along with the document.

When we have a combination of point 1 & 2, that means when we try to open a document library using Windows Explorer which has already exceeded threshold limitation we may face the following issues:

  • Windows Explorer can hang for a longer time
  • Windows Explorer may crash
  • Windows Explorer may open as a blank folder, although there are files existing

Point #3 - User experience


SharePoint document library shows only 2 parent folders in the breadcrumb, unlike the full path in Windows Explorer. Having a complex nested folder structure might be an issue while easy navigation is present from folder to folder.


Search experience

The keyword search for documents might not return the documents until you include them in a search explicitly.


Point #4 - Versioning

Versioning provides the ability to track the changes for documents by comparing one version with the previous version. If you use network mapped drives to move your files to SharePoint, you will lose out on the versioning feature.


Modern Document Library Experience

The classic SharePoint experience for Document library did not allow you to copy or move the files. Manage Content and Structure was one way to move or copy documents from one library to another. The modern library experience in SharePoint online offers the same features as Windows Explorer to move or copy files between folders, library, or sites as a browser experience.


A better way to handle documents in SharePoint

You can sync the documents from your local folder to SharePoint using OneDrive for Business sync client. OneDrive may be a better place to store your documents and share with other users on an as-needed basis. This allows to you work on documents offline and sync as needed.



As you hit the threshold limit for SharePoint document library you will start experiencing performance issues. The deeper folder structure you have will lead you to URL length issue over the 255 character limit. OneDrive could be a better place to store your documents, work offline and share with users on an as-needed basis.