Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sub sites are evil, don't use it!

A while ago I read an excellent post (by Gord Maric). This post made it clear: treeview style folder hierarchy is not suitable for information management, and I completely agree with it.

But, if that's true, what about sub sites?  It also follows folder hierarchy. Following the traditional SharePoint governance best practice, it's always recommended to utilize "retention policy" to manage data. SharePoint 2013 even implemented "site retention" to help users to manage their sub sites.

I understand that "retention" concept came from stone age. When all data are stored in paper, people use "retention policy" to manage them. However, things have changed.

Data is not pure data any more. They are integrated with workflows and meta data (site columns, site content types), they have their "Test Environment" or even "Development Environment".

That's why we should avoid "sub site" whenever possible.

What's the advantages of "site collection"?

1. Easy to replicate it among different environment.
If we want to add workflows to a site, we can easily copy the whole site collection to development environment to get identical background.

2. Easy to lock it.
Through "Central Administration" --> "Site Collection Quotas and Locks", we can prevent new content to be added, or make the site collection "read-only", or make it not accessible.  This is needed when we decide to archive or remove a site.

3. Easy to move to different content database or different web application.
If a site grows too big, we can easily move it to a dedicated content database. Compare to a site collection which has many sub sites, this can minimize the chance of reaching SharePoint size threshold.

4. Easy to manage.
Quite often with the changes of business structure, we need to move sites from one location to another. For sub sites, it could happen in one site collection, but may also have to cross site collections.

To change the relationships of site collections, it cannot be easier: just change the links. However, you may feel frustrated to manage hundreds of site collections, but it's not as hard as what it looks like.

We can create a dedicated module(site collection) to manage all site collections.  The major list in that module should have structure like below.
list structure

list view

5. Easy to implement flexible backup and auditing policy.
For important data, we need to back it up every day, but for the rest, we may only need to back them up every Saturday.
We can audit viewing and searching of sensitive site.

6. No chance for site owners to (accidently) discrupt other sites.
One of the major reasons that I like SharePoint is because it allow "power users" to manage their sites. If there is no sub sites, then the changes of site columns and site content types will not affect other sites.

OK, what we will lose if use site collections to replace all sub sites? Folder hierarchy. That means we need to manually build "navigation section" for each site.

Is that acceptable? In my opinion, it's wonderful! Keep in mind: it's site owners (business users)'s responsibility to build and maintain the "navigation section". They know what site members need to see in their site. In my past experience, 5 minutes training can let them know how to do that.

The only situation that we need sub site is for security reason.  If the site owners have some confidential information, and only want to allow a group of users to be able to access it, they may want to create a sub site.  But as I know, that is really rare. In most of the cases, a sub folder in a list or library will do the job.

Do you agree with this post?  Please let me know your thoughts.

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