7 Biggest Limitations of SharePoint Online And How to Fix Them

SharePoint benefits encourage businesses to migrate their file server data online. However, there are at least 7 limitations of SharePoint Online and OneDrive that need to be effectively addressed to reduce migration costs and eliminate OneDrive sync failures.

In this article, we'll identify some of the common issues that complicate SharePoint migrations and ways to simplify the migration and solve the issues.

Here's a list of common issues:

  1. 5,000 item limit in a document library
  2. 100,000 item sync limit for the OneDrive client
  3. NTFS permission reorganization requirements
  4. Maximum name length limitations
  5. Prohibitive costs of data reorganization
  6. 93 day recycle bin threshold
  7. Lack of support for legacy application data (databases, etc…)
Obviously, you may not hit every issue in each migration but migrator beware if there's a lack of awareness of how these limitations could impact user experience, productivity, and cost.

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.

5,000 Item Limit in a Document Library

This seems to be one of the most common causes of issues. Unfortunately, it is often misunderstood because it's not really a limitation of the number of objects you can have in a library. You can have orders of magnitude more objects in a library, but things start to break as the numbers increase. For example, according to the SharePoint Online Limits, copying or moving files in a single operation has 3 requirements:
  • No more than 100GB total file size
  • No more than 30,000 files
  • Each file must be less than 15 GB
So that lowers the practical limit to 30,000 files. But then there's also a list view threshold of 5,000 items that causes the following issues when you have more than 5,000 items in a library
  • Performance issues when accessing that library
  • Sync hangs and cannot be completed
  • Important operations like Copy, Move, Rename, Set Permissions simply don't work

Possible Solutions

  • Reorganize data across multiple libraries so none have more than 30,000 files and folders
  • Use CentreStack's mapped drive to access SharePoint libraries
100,000 Item Sync Limit for the OneDrive Client

"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 that have more files and they end up having to push users to the web interface. So only the smallest organizations with the smallest data sets can benefit from the usability advantages of a mapped drive. 

Possible Solutions

  • 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.
  • Use CentreStack's mapped drive to access SharePoint libraries

NTFS Permission Reorganization Requirements

The following quotes help to 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 in an effort to avoid manually breaking permission inheritance for elements in the list, library, or folder.

Possible Solutions

  • Reorganize data across multiple libraries so none have more than 100,000 items
  • Use CentreStack as a SharePoint alternative that removes this limitation

Maximum Name Length Limitations

This is another very common 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. 

Possible Solutions

  • Use tools that automatically truncate names to meet the requirements (good luck finding your files!)
  • Use CentreStack as a SharePoint alternative that removes this limitation
  • Use CentreStack's mapped drive to aggregate files that remained on-premises with those that were migrated
Prohibitive Costs of Data Reorganization

Many organizations just don't have the time or resources to fully address the scalability issues listed above so they either end up with a partial migration, deferred migration, or performance issues from a migration that did not properly complete the required reorganization and planning. 

CentreStack solves these challenges in one of two ways:

·        Integration and Aggregation: CentreStack's integration with SharePoint Online a mapped drive that eliminates the OneDrive scalability limitations and provides a simple, secure, unified, familiar interface to SharePoint libraries and file server shares

·        Replacement: Provides a cloud file server that can act as a SharePoint alternative

MSPs can also create a multi-tenant platform that offers these solutions to their customers.

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

Possible Solutions

  • Purchase a separate backup solution for SharePoint
  • Use CentreStack's bulit-in ability to backup SharePoint libraries.

Lack of Support for Legacy Application Data

Databases and other proprietary files for legacy applications often have to remain on-premises. This either prevents migration or forces users to deal with at least two different data sources and their access models. 

Possible Solutions

  • Train users to switch between file server access and SharePoint access
  • Avoid SharePoint migration completely
  • Retire legacy applications
  • Use CentreStack's mapped drive to access SharePoint libraries



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