SharePoint Online Site Collection Management: Best Practices

SharePoint Online Site Collection Management: Best Practices

Microsoft SharePoint is the most popular information management and communication platform.

It gives businesses the information management, collaboration, workflow, and data integration capabilities needed to advance business processes.

However, in order for the SharePoint solution to be effective, it must be properly set up and secured.

In this article, you will learn the best practices when it comes to SharePoint Online site collection management.

Let’s get started.

What is a site collection in SharePoint Online?

Site collections are groups of SharePoint sites that share similar features (like templates and permissions). Site collection administrators can share documents and other files with site members.

Site collections provide several advantages over independent SharePoint Online sites:

  • Managing multiple SharePoint Sites as one project is easier. You only need to set up permissions once, rather than for each individual SharePoint site.
  • Larger amounts of data stored in one place enable organizations to share the same content and SharePoint sites in a more effective way.
  • Permissions of a site collection administrator automatically apply to all sites within the site collection.
  • You can share a common, customized look and feel for your SharePoint Online environment by using masterpages and page layouts.

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    What are the components of a SharePoint Online site collection?

    A SharePoint Online site collection consists of components like the following:

    • Manager: This is the person in charge of managing site collections.
    • Site Template: This is a pre-built template you can use to share documents, organize by project, create workflows, and share data. You will find this on the “Site Settings” tab on the home page.
    • Security Groups: These permissions are automatically given when you share an item with someone outside of your organization. When you share with someone in your organization, you can set permissions manually at that point.
    • Site Content Types: These items help you share documents across sites within the same site collection. They also allow for different types of workflows to be used.
    • Site Features: These are optional features you can enable to share content more effectively.
    • Site Collection Audit Logs: Records who, what, where, and when changes were made within the site collection. It is stored within the “Site Collection Administration” tool.
    • Quota Template: This controls how much data can be stored within a site.
    • Site Collection Administrator: This is the initial person who will share access to the site collection. It can be changed at any time, so make sure to share access with caution.
    • Content Organizer: When you store files within libraries and lists, this tool automatically organizes your data based on your file naming conventions and metadata settings.

    What are the best practices when it comes to manager SharePoint Online site collections?

    When it comes to managing site collections, there are important things you need to consider. If you manage a site collection, make sure to apply the best practices listed below.

    The Principle of Least Privilege

    Whether you’re managing team sites or communication sites, always make sure to follow the principle of least privilege.

    This means that each person, group, and device, gets only the access they need to get their work done. In addition, ensure to share content appropriately with your team members by using permissions or site sharing settings.

    When you share a link with someone, make sure to use the “Send an email” option. This way, they will get proper permissions and there is no chance of them accidentally (or on purpose) accessing content without permission.

    When giving permissions to users, make sure to use permissions inheritance. It will ensure you have one administrator for the site and share permissions, instead of having to manage this across all your sites.

    New Site Collection vs New Site in the Same Collection

    Before you create a new collection or a new site, establish first the considerations or guidelines to apply. There are times when you need to create a new site collection instead of a new site within the same collection.

    When it comes to making a decision, consider the following:

    • Number of Sites: Is there a limit to how many sites you can share within one site collection? If so, will the number of new sites and site collections put you over that limit?
    • Data Retention: When data is deleted in SharePoint Online, it only gets deleted from the index. It is still there in the database and can be restored, but it requires extra steps to do so.
    • Compliance: Will your business data be subject to regulatory or legal compliance? In this case, you may want to consider a new site collection instead of creating sites within an existing one. This way, all your data will be easily shareable with anyone with the right permissions.
    • Size of Content: If you are building a site that will require a lot of content, it may be best to create a new site collection instead of creating individual sites within an existing one. This way, you can manage all your content in one place.

    Plan the Entire Site Collection First

    Before you create or delete sites within the site collection, it’s best if you plan the entire collection first so you can avoid the usual struggle of having too few or too many sites.

    Creating a site collection with the correct number of sites is important to maintain good performance. It also ensures that you have shareable content without having too many collections to share across.

    When creating your first few sites, think about how they are related or share some common characteristics. You can always create additional sites later on. For better manageability, you can create a template to speed up the process.

    Use a Content Organizer for Folders and Files

    If you share files across your site collection or share files between sites within one site collection, it’s best to use a content organizer. This will automatically organize them based on file naming conventions and metadata settings.

    Make sure that any subfolders you share are also organized. This will help users share files with anyone within your organization, without having to worry about where they’ll land on the site.

    Use a Sharing Policy with Conditions to Save Time

    SharePoint Online site sharing can be time-consuming if you share your sites one by one with everyone. To save time, use SharePoint Online’s share policy with conditions instead of the traditional method.

    To make this work:

    • You first need to share all the relevant people and groups with the share policy.
    • Then you need to add individual people or groups from there, so they automatically get access to sites when created or updated with the share policy.

    This will save you a lot of time when sharing content with everyone in your organization across one site collection, even if it has multiple sites and subsites.

    Use Different Permissions for Different Sites

    If you share different sites with different groups, be sure to use unique permissions. Otherwise, they will have access to all the content on your site.

    This is very important if you share site collections with external customers or partners. If you want them to see only some of the content within your site collection, then share separate sites with them and give them unique permissions.

    Make sure that you also share any specific subsites for each group in the correct permissions. This will help you share specific content without risking accidentally sharing too much when using the same share policy across all of your sites.

    Use Metadata-Driven Navigation to Simplify Access

    Metadata-driven navigation can be configured within your site collection to share content across different sites. You can also use this if you share the same types of sites with many groups outside your organization.

    To make this work:

    • You first need to share all relevant people and groups with these metadata values through share policies. The share policies need to be applied at the site collection level.
    • Then you need to share each of these relevant site collections with specific groups using share policies or manual sharing. This will set up metadata-driven navigation for them, depending on what you share with them and how you share it.

    Once this is in place, all sites that share the same metadata values can share content with each other through metadata-driven navigation.

    This way, your organization’s most important sites can share content across the site collection without too much additional effort.

    Manage Your Site Collections in the Best Ways

    The SharePoint Online site collection management is a complex process. It requires the right tools to be successful — which I hope this article provided those tips for you.

    All the best practices shared in this article will help SharePoint site collections managers handle sites under their care without too much effort. Whether your SharePoint site is a single site or many, these best practices will work for you.

    Do you have anything to add? How about relevant questions?

    If you have anything you want to share, feel free to drop it down below in the comments sections. You can also reach me directly through the contact form on this page.

    About Ryan Clark

    As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments. I am also a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for Office Apps & Services.

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