Introduction

A customer of ours recently raised some questions regarding their current SharePoint Online site and site collection structure design. In the search for appropriate design guidelines, I found several interesting considerations which need to be taken into account when designing your corporate SharePoint Online site collection structure. I’ve listed these below.

Considerations

  • Customization of and load on the root site collection

As layed out in the article: http://www.vrdmn.com/2015/08/avoid-customizing-sharepoint-online.html it is advised to avoid customizing the root site collection of a tenant heavily and placing a too heavy load on this root site collection. Be sure your site collection structure incorporates this principle. For instance, when looking at the placement of your corporate intranet site collection it is much more convenient to use a not-root site collection like /sites/intranet or /sites/portal.

  • Using subsites instead of site collections for shared site content restricts all options which are site collection specific

Although it might currently seem that all content you currently place into subsites might have the same requirements regarding external sharing or quota, by placing all this content into subsites in the same site collection, all options for configuring these site collection specific properties differently are gone.

  • Site collections in SharePoint Online are (still) the main mechanism for scaling out and recovery

In comparison to the options for scaling out and recovery using site collections in SharePoint On-Prem, the options Online are more limited, but these are still the main mechanisms for scaling out and disaster recovery.

In case of a disaster recovery is needed, Site Collection restores are possible, and require a support call, see http://blogs.technet.com/b/uspartner_ts2team/archive/2011/12/16/office-365-backup-amp-recovery.aspx and https://redmondmag.com/articles/2013/05/01/read-beyond-the-fine-print.aspx for details:

“First: Microsoft backs up SharePoint every 12 hours, but those backups live for only 14 days. So if you do mess something up, call immediately. But that mess-up had better be significant, because you can’t restore individual items. You can only restore an entire site collection. A busy collection with continual changes, then, won’t be a good restoration candidate just to bring back a single item. Use versioning for that, and pay the price in storage.”

“Plan E3s do include site collection restoration, but it’s whispered that non-enterprise plans (the P and K series) don’t include recovery services. I couldn’t find anything definitive in the service description documents.”

As far as we know, third party tooling like DocAve or CloudAlly don’t provide site collection restore options, so are only a limited replacement for this. Be sure to properly test the restore possibilities of your site collections.

Conclusion

Taking these above mentioned considerations into account when setting up your SharePoint Online services will avoid a lot of potential hassle further down the road and provide you with maximum flexibility to provide a stable, user friendly and manageble platform. Please post some comments below if you have further considerations.